What Are Strategies for Handling Unexpected Structural Issues During Home Improvement?


    What Are Strategies for Handling Unexpected Structural Issues During Home Improvement?

    When a home improvement project reveals unexpected structural challenges, the expertise of industry leaders like a Project Manager becomes invaluable. They navigate these surprises with strategies ranging from engineer assessments to activating contingency plans. Alongside these expert approaches, we've gathered additional answers that include pausing to reevaluate budgets and updating home insurance, providing a well-rounded perspective on tackling such unforeseen obstacles.

    • Engineer Assessment and Water Diversion
    • Insurance Claim and Structural Support
    • Implementing Structural Stars for Facade Safety
    • Consult a Licensed Structural Engineer
    • Pause to Reevaluate Project Budget
    • Activate Contingency Plans from Contract
    • Obtain Permits for Structural Alterations
    • Update Home Insurance for Structural Work

    Engineer Assessment and Water Diversion

    Denver saw an abnormal amount of rain this past summer (Summer '23). With the deluge of rain, our single-family homes, in particular, experienced foundational stress like we had never endured before (check your gutters, folks). One property, in an up-and-coming neighborhood near Edgewater, saw the foundation wall at the front of the home crack along the interior wall. The foundation moved to such a degree that the front door no longer opened. We hired an engineer to scope the damage, provide a report, and create a plan of action. With the plan in hand, we added downspout extensions along each corner of the home (and our entire portfolio) to redirect water away from the home for good. Additionally, we hired a contractor to install a lolly column near the damaged wall to support the building further. Finally, we marked the cracks in the wall to provide a reference for continuous monitoring. The best of projects experience unexpected problems; having a Rolodex of qualified contractors to call on is key.

    Cole BakerProject Manager

    Insurance Claim and Structural Support

    When the contractor removed two walls next to each other to create a larger, more open family room, a major disaster happened. Everything seemed to be going well until the contractor accidentally demolished a load-bearing wall, causing a section of the room to collapse completely. It was an unexpected disaster that was beyond our worst imagination.

    "I was at work when my husband asked me to come home. I called him, and when I went inside, I almost fainted. Our TV was crushed under the wall, the TV stand was destroyed, and a recliner, lamp, and side table were also gone. I couldn't hold back my tears and walked out in distress."

    My husband advised the contractor to contact their insurance company. This was done, and to preserve the open area we had originally wanted, we needed to install braces in the center and on the ends of the wall for support, due to it being a load-bearing wall.

    We opted to have big, beautiful columns installed, which not only accentuated the room and gave it a stately look but also gave us the desired openness.

    Tammy Sons
    Tammy SonsCEO, TN Nursery

    Implementing Structural Stars for Facade Safety

    During a recent renovation of a row house in NW Washington, D.C., we encountered a significant structural challenge. As we began the interior demolition, we discovered that the front brick facade was not securely attached to the adjoining party walls. This detachment was causing the entire front of the building to separate from the common party walls, posing a serious safety concern. To address this, we implemented structural stars with tie-backs, effectively anchoring the front facade to the main framing of the building. This solution stabilized the facade, ensuring the structural integrity and safety of the building. It was a complex challenge, but our adaptive approach and strategic use of structural reinforcements successfully resolved the issue.

    Daniel Steinkoler
    Daniel SteinkolerPresident, Superior Construction Services

    Consult a Licensed Structural Engineer

    When unexpected structural issues are discovered during home improvements, a key step is to consult a licensed structural engineer. The engineer can assess the extent of the structural issue and recommend the safest and most effective solutions to address the problem. Seeking expert advice ensures that any modifications comply with building codes and structural regulations.

    The professional guidance will help prevent further issues, maintaining the integrity of the home. Once you receive the engineer's report, take the appropriate measures as soon as possible to ensure a sound structure.

    Pause to Reevaluate Project Budget

    Upon encountering unexpected structural problems, it is essential to pause the current home improvement project immediately. Taking a step back allows homeowners to reevaluate the project budget and timeline realistically. This strategy helps in managing the unforeseen expenses without compromising the quality of the work.

    Reassessing also provides an opportunity to discuss the situation with the contractors and develop a revised plan that accommodates the changes required. In light of new information, it is crucial to make informed decisions moving forward, so take the time to reassess and re-plan your project.

    Activate Contingency Plans from Contract

    The handling of unexpected structural issues during home improvement often necessitates the activation of previously established contingency plans. These are strategies included within the original contract that anticipate potential problems and their solutions. The existence of such plans allows for a smooth transition into dealing with the issue without significant delays or cost overruns.

    These predefined steps help maintain control over the home improvement process, despite unforeseen challenges. It is crucial to refer to your contract and activate these procedures to stay on track.

    Obtain Permits for Structural Alterations

    Should structural issues surface during renovations, one must quickly obtain the required permits for any structural alterations that need to be made. The process typically involves submitting detailed plans to the local building authority and awaiting approval before proceeding. Securing the necessary permits ensures that all changes are legally compliant and inspected for safety.

    This bureaucratic step is crucial in maintaining the legality and safety of the renovation. Make sure to prioritize getting these permits before continuing work to safeguard the legality of your home's improvement.

    Update Home Insurance for Structural Work

    Discovering structural issues during renovations could necessitate changes in one's home insurance coverage. It's prudent to contact the insurance provider to discuss updating the policy to cover the potential liabilities associated with the structural work. Increased coverage can protect against unforeseen damages that might occur during the repair process.

    This update is important to avoid possible out-of-pocket expenses in the event of an accident or further damage. Reach out to your insurance agent as soon as possible to ensure that your policy reflects your home's current needs.