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Slab deviation between driveway & walkway


McBride
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Hello..

We just had our 11-month inspection and though we have MANY problems with our home, I thought I would get some opinions on one of the major problems we have. By no means am I an expert, so please have some patience with me!

Right after moving-in to our new home here in AZ, we noticed water was draining into our garage anytime it rained. So, we called our builder to have it fixed. They tore up 2 driveway slabs and re-poured the cement to attempt to eliminate the water leak. Well, the water no longer comes into our garage, however, it now ponds on the slabs anytime it rains. Water was present after our last rain storm for nearly 2 days. Even worse, there is a huge trip hazard now between the slabs. There is about a 3" deviation between the garage/driveway slabs and the walkway leading to our front door.

We mentioned this to our builder at the 6-month mark and they basically blew us off saying they would take a look at it later on at the 1-year mark. Anyway, we've had 3 inspections done on the home and it wasn't until the last one where our inpsector really took notice of the problem. Please note that our home is built on a post-tension slab. Our inspector noted that no matter what they do now there will always be a problem. If they attempt to somewhat level off the trip hazard as they did with the original pour, that will just push any water right back into the garage.

We even looked into selling our home, but our agent said that this problem will be noticed by any decent inspector and that any potential buyer will want it fixed before they agree to purchase the home. It just seems unacceptable to me that we are looking at losing a decent chunk of change because of the builders mistake. There are at least 10+ identical models of our home on our street and NONE has a problem like this. All their driveways are level with their walkways.- This is in addition to the fact that our upstairs flooring is about 1/2" uneven as well and they refused to fix that. We have loose floorbaords in just about every room upstairs, which I would have to think is associated with the fact the entire upstairs is not close to being level. We also have a "dip" in our main hallway downstairs that we measured at 3/8".

Anyway, sorry for the ramble. I have many pictures if needed. Any opinions on what we should do from here will be greatly appreciated. Also, any advise on whether or not this slab problem can be ever repaired to code will be appreciated as well. Thanks!

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Originally posted by McBride

Even worse, there is a huge trip hazard now between the slabs. There is about a 3" deviation between the garage/driveway slabs and the walkway leading to our front door.

I can see the obvious differential but wouldn't describe this as a trip hazard. A reasonable transtition has been made from the driveway to the front walkway.

Please note that our home is built on a post-tension slab.
Not a post-tension expert but it appears the house slab is isolated / separated from the driveway. One really shouldn't affect the other.
Our inspector noted that no matter what they do now there will always be a problem. If they attempt to somewhat level off the trip hazard as they did with the original pour, that will just push any water right back into the garage.

Can't see the whole picture but why isn't it possible to re-pour the slab after re-grading and sloping everything to where its supposed to go? I've seen all kinds of creative slab work that looks decent and performs like its supposed to.

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Hi Randy

Thanks for your response. The only reason I use the term "trip hazard" was because that's how our inspector noted it in his resport and when I looked up the codes on-line they define a trip hazard as any "vertical displacement between any two adjacent slabs". And truth be told, if you are walking from the far side of the driveway up to the front door, you can easily trip over the difference in elevations. I've included a picture here of what all the other similar models look like and you can see the difference in pretty obvious.

We were actually told by our builder that they can't do anything at all to the walkway, not sure if that means it's also on a post-tension slab or not. I would imagine that if they could do anything they would have when they initially tried to fix the problem. Thus, I think that may be the problem. If they did the original pour 3" off. They can't re-grade the garage at this point nor can they re-grade the walkwak. The walkway does extend about half the length of the driveay, and then wrapes around the front of the house.

Picture of a similar model:

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Originally posted by McBride

Right after moving-in to our new home here in AZ, we noticed water was draining into our garage anytime it rained. So, we called our builder to have it fixed. They tore up 2 driveway slabs and re-poured the cement to attempt to eliminate the water leak.

The sub responsible for placing the original concrete should have recognized the slope into the garage. The builder has, however, done what he can to fix that mistake.

Well, the water no longer comes into our garage, however, it now ponds on the slabs anytime it rains. Water was present after our last rain storm for nearly 2 days. Even worse, there is a huge trip hazard now between the slabs. There is about a 3" deviation between the garage/driveway slabs and the walkway leading to our front door.

I wouldn't call it a huge trip hazard unless you lived someplace where water freezes. Still, it's an annoyance. I'm curious as to why yours is so different from your later picture of a similar model. Do you have a sunken living room? What is different? Something must be.

We mentioned this to our builder at the 6-month mark and they basically blew us off saying they would take a look at it later on at the 1-year mark. Anyway, we've had 3 inspections done on the home and it wasn't until the last one where our inpsector really took notice of the problem. Please note that our home is built on a post-tension slab. Our inspector noted that no matter what they do now there will always be a problem. If they attempt to somewhat level off the trip hazard as they did with the original pour, that will just push any water right back into the garage.

That's correct.

We even looked into selling our home, but our agent said that this problem will be noticed by any decent inspector and that any potential buyer will want it fixed before they agree to purchase the home.

That might not be true. Two of the three hired by you did not view the slope as a problem. Even if the inspector did note it, many buyers may decide it's no big deal (since water into the garage is fixed).

It just seems unacceptable to me that we are looking at losing a decent chunk of change because of the builders mistake. There are at least 10+ identical models of our home on our street and NONE has a problem like this. All their driveways are level with their walkways.- This is in addition to the fact that our upstairs flooring is about 1/2" uneven as well and they refused to fix that. We have loose floorbaords in just about every room upstairs, which I would have to think is associated with the fact the entire upstairs is not close to being level. We also have a "dip" in our main hallway downstairs that we measured at 3/8".

Now you're talking. Rather than describing the outside walk/driveway differential as a trip hazard, perhaps you should use the Sesame Street quiz - "Which of these is not like the others?" You surely have asked the builder why your home is different from the other homes of a similar model. What did he say?

And why do you have a half inch differential in your upstairs flooring? Issues like that always have a verifiable cause.

Anyway, sorry for the ramble. I have many pictures if needed. Any opinions on what we should do from here will be greatly appreciated. Also, any advise on whether or not this slab problem can be ever repaired to code will be appreciated as well. Thanks!

You aren't rambling. This is a forum of inspectors. We care about such matters and appreciate your concerns. Although we are used to being kinda rough with one another, we all respect our clients.

Careful with that word, code, however. If your home was not built 'to code', then you should not have received a cert. of occupancy. The code is a minimum. Homes can have serious issues and still be to code. We look at much more than the code. For example, I notice you have a water softener. Be sure to drain the bottom of your hot water heater at least once a year. Salts can settle and cause premature rust.

You may not realize it, but you can hire an inspector during the construction phase to catch such issues when they can still be fixed.

When you choose an inspector, be sure to look for real credentials/experience. Licensing and certification by no means imply qualified. And never rely on a realtor for the name of a good inspector. Good luck.

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Chris:

That's nice. NY state does not license contractors. I'd love to have a document like that to point to up here (Any New Yorkers got something for me???)

BTW, if the homeowner is still reading - Chris would be an excellent choice!!!

Originally posted by chrisprickett

http://www.rc.state.az.us/Acrobat/Public/Workmanship_Standards200610.pdf

These are the state standards. Read page 13, it's a slam-dunk.

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I would not worry about the slope up to the house. As for the water that is ponding on the drive, this is not an easy fix. If it was me I would not want the driveway removed and replaced, it could come out worse then before. If it was me and the water standing was a bother, I would have a trench drain installed. Depending on how the drive was built it could be a fairly simple process when compared to tearing up the entire drive and replacing it.

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Hi,

Yeah, a trough drain was what I was thinking too. They're pretty simple - snap together plastic sections for whatever length you need, cut a slot, scoop out a hollow, line with mud, insert trough and tool the edges. You could put the right end where that puddle lies, terminate the other just short of the other edge of the drive and connect the outlet end to a bubbler placed lower than the drive.

I agree that Chris is an excellent choice, if you are located within an area that he services, but it sounds like you've got other problems with the house, and hiring inspector after inspector, without the builder having agreed to consider the inspector's findings, isn't going to achieve anything.

Builders know that they don't have to do anything that a private home inspector comments about, unless it's a violation of a code or some other lawful regulation or standard, such as Chris has posted. All that money spent on home inspections to this point, would have been better spent on a single attorney, who would have hired his own inspector. A letter from an attorney would probably get the builder's attention much more effectively than anything posted here.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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If he's in an expansive soil zone (which is likely) a trough drain would only make matters worse. There is absolutely no way you could make a retro-fitted trough drain watertight. Once the water seeps around the drain, the driveway will heave. Replacing it is the only real solution.

It's likely only a 4" slab with no re-bar. the replacement should be at least 6" (8" is better) with turn-down footings at the perimeter. We have no frost lines in this area, so frost heaving is not an issue.

What McBride is describing is as common out this way, as gators in south Florida. The builder should know better.

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Hey Guys...

Again I definitely appreciate all your responses. So, I did confirm today that the walkway leading to the frontdoor is also on a post-tension slab, as of course is the garage.

The main thing we are upset with is the fact that our home is the only house in our entire subdivision that has this problem. I counted today 15 exact models of our home and ZERO had this problem. The grading all looked exactly like what I showed you in the last picture of another house. I am by no means a lawyer but based on everything I've read wouldn't this be considered a construction defect?

We hired a new inspector at the 6-month mark and he tested the area and noted that the slab was ponding water in his report.

So, for our final inpsection we really asked around and he was by far the best of the 3. He noted in his report that it is a trip hazard and that it ponds water. He just sat there shaking his head at what they did and said that no matter what they do this will always be a problem. He recommended that we fight them as hard as we can on this because by no means should this have ever happened.

Basically, at this point our builder won't even give us the time of day on this so I am thinking we might have to hire an attorney. I hate having to do that, but if we do make reports to the AZ ROC, BB, AZ Attorney General's office, etc. I want the complaints to be worded correctly. Plus, I fear we have major issues with the upstairs not being level. I swear you can't walk into any room without stepping on loose floorboards, etc.

Anyway, do you all think we should look into hiring a structural engineer or someone like that to write up an official report on this or should we just get an attorney and let them decide what to do?

PS- Anyone here in AZ that might know of a good construction defect lawyer, please send me a PM!

Thanks Again!!

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Just find a good attorney. If need be, the attorney will find the appropriate expertise. I don't know of an attorney in your area, but others might. Good luck.

Originally posted by McBride

Hey Guys...

Anyway, do you all think we should look into hiring a structural engineer or someone like that to write up an official report on this or should we just get an attorney and let them decide what to do?

PS- Anyone here in AZ that might know of a good construction defect lawyer, please send me a PM!

Thanks Again!!

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I agree. Hire a good attorney that has experience in residential construction matters and let them decide on the experts that are needed. The State Bar in your state can direct you to attorneys that specialize in the area you need, or you can ask around. You need to be prepared for a long battle. I have been working on a new construction case for the past 27 months and it has finally been set for trial this summer.

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Scott Warga, where are you???

http://www.nationalbuildmasters.com/

That being said, my experience (if you find anyone in AZ who has done more construction inspections than me, I want to meet him) is that 9 out of 10 times, you want to exhaust all avenues with the builder before you hire an attorney. Make a complete list of your complaints and send it to the President of the construction company, registered letter.

If you get no/bad response with the builder, file a complaint with the ROC.

Next, call Channel 15 (602-685 6328) and ask to speak with Vanessa Weber, the producer for "The Investigators". Tell her I sent you.

If all else fails, then call an attorney. Be prepared to shell out $5-$10K before you get any action. also be prepared to fight for a few years and possibly end up divorced, crazy, and/or in jail for homocide.

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Chris....WOW, you are awesome..If only we had used someone like you from the beginning I doubt I would be sitting here spending hours each day on-line researching what we should do.

I guess the main reason I mentioned getting an attorney now would be because they would have the experience in writing these formal complaints. My biggest fear is that we would attempt this on our own only to have the builder come back and use something we wrote against us later on. This is the reason why we have yet to contact the AZ ROC, simply because I want to make sure the complain is properly phrased, etc. We would not only need to make a complaint in regards to the driveway issue, but also the upstairs floor not being level along with the hallway downstairs having a 3/8" dip in it. It gets even "better"....Our inspector documented that every single window seal should be replaced. We also have a bedroom right at the front of the house that is downstairs and has it's own roofing. Anyway, last Summer it was so hot in there we couldn't even use the room and now in the winter we can't use it because it gets so cold at night. Our inspector documented that he feels there wasn't any or enough insulation installed. Of course there is no attic entrance to confirm it so we would need to hire someone to create one to get a look. Anyway, this house has been a nightmare and our complaints to our builder have always seemed to fall upon deaf ears. You can't take but so much of this before you decide enough is enough already.

I guess I'll get back to my research as to what our options might be....Talk about pain and suffering! LOL

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Originally posted by McBride

. . . I guess the main reason I mentioned getting an attorney now would be because they would have the experience in writing these formal complaints. My biggest fear is that we would attempt this on our own only to have the builder come back and use something we wrote against us later on. This is the reason why we have yet to contact the AZ ROC, simply because I want to make sure the complain is properly phrased, etc. . . .

Um, you might want to consider that, if this comes to trial, every word you've written on this forum will be scrutinized by the defense and possibly entered as evidence.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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I am right here, I am trying to get ready for a ASHI CoR meeting, an ASHI, Board meeting and to teach to Classes at Inspection World, Damn, can't a guy get a break?

Don't call Vanessa at news 15. She got a job with Good Morning America.

This person has contacted me through the TIJ e-mail and I will help him out. His home is in the town of Maricopia. Very expansive soils, little code enforcement and some of the worst Post tension work I have seen. (not his home, I haven't seen it yet)

I will do what I can and if he needs an attorney, I know one.

I work with one of the best construction Defect attorneys in the state. We are teaching the expert Witness class together at Inspection World.

Chris would be a great inspector if you could get him out of the tub, er, I mean his office. Now that he runs a big company, he doesn't do inspections any more. (Wimp)

The Standards Chris posted are from the Arizona Registrar of Contractors.

They are supposed to regulate contractors in AZ. The bottom line if the contractor screws up they tell them to "correct by appropriate means" What does that mean?

If they try and fail then they are told to "correct by approbate means".[:-banghea

This continues until the home owner asks for a hearing, the the contractor is told he had better "correct by approbate means".

If they fail then the homeowner can put in a claim to the AZ. Consumer Recovery fund. This fund pays up to $30,000 per item per home owner up to $200,000 per contractor. Then they spend the next year pulling the contractors license.

I have seen several cases where the contractor had several claims against them but the first 6 drained the fund money so no one else can make a claim against that contractor.

And You want an attorney at your hearing and the Recovery fund hearing. However the recovery fund money is only allocated for cost of repair, not attorney fees or forensic/expert costs.

You need to know the system in order to make it work for you

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Hey guys....Still no luck with our builder...We've been waiting about 3 weeks now to hear from them in regards to our last walk-through, in which we noted the trip hazard and the water ponding. In the past they always had a response/work schedule back to us within 3-4 days. So, I'm guessing they must be deciding how they are going to respond to this situation.

Anyway, we still would like to get the house looked at by an expert such as a structural engineer. So, if anyone knows of a good one in the Phoenix area please let me know! Thanks!!

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Sorry to hear it, but not surprised. If you don't see a satisfactory reply here in the next couple of days, please know that many ASHI (the best) inspectors are in California for a major conference. The couple of guys you have read here, who also happen to be in your state, are the best.

Just didn't want you to think we stopped caring...

Originally posted by McBride

Hey guys....Still no luck with our builder...We've been waiting about 3 weeks now to hear from them in regards to our last walk-through, in which we noted the trip hazard and the water ponding. In the past they always had a response/work schedule back to us within 3-4 days. So, I'm guessing they must be deciding how they are going to respond to this situation.

Anyway, we still would like to get the house looked at by an expert such as a structural engineer. So, if anyone knows of a good one in the Phoenix ara please let me know! Thanks!!

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Thanks Gary,

You guys have been awesome and I've definietly learned a great deal from this site. Scott has already contacted me and left me some solid information. Hopefully we'll get back in-touch when he gets back from the conference in CA.

I just am trying my best to explore all possible options before hiring an attorney to proceed forward. But man, as I sit here and write this I can literally hear my house "cracking" and "popping" around me. My patience is defintely being testest and when you get zero help from your builder it just makes it that much more frustrating. And it's supposed to rain tomorrow, so I can look forward to having a mini-pond right in my driveway. Maybe I should just stock it with some fish and kick back and relax! :)

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We all understand the frustration. There are no magic bullets, but Scott's a sharpshooter with the tools available. Good luck!

Originally posted by McBride

Thanks Gary,

You guys have been awesome and I've definietly learned a great deal from this site. Scott has already contacted me and left me some solid information. Hopefully we'll get back in-touch when he gets back from the conference in CA.

I just am trying my best to explore all possible options before hiring an attorney to proceed forward. But man, as I sit here and write this I can literally hear my house "cracking" and "popping" around me. My patience is defintely being testest and when you get zero help from your builder it just makes it that much more frustrating. And it's supposed to rain tomorrow, so I can look forward to having a mini-pond right in my driveway. Maybe I should just stock it with some fish and kick back and relax! :)

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well, it finally happened! I knew it was just a matter of time..Yesterday some guy was going door-to-door selling the usual crap, and as I opened the front door he was wiping off his pants. He said he tripped on our driveway as he walked from our neighbor's house over to ours. I asked him where he tripped, and of course it was right where the driveway slab slopes up to the walk-way. He didn't seem to bothered by it but he did actually ask me why ours was like that? Of course I just smirked and had to bite my tongue! Still, I can only imagine what trouble this might have caused if he had really hurt himself. That would not have been a pretty situation!

Anyway, today is the 30th day since our 1-year walk-through and we still have yet to hear back from our CSR. I need to look into it further, but I think remember reading somewhere that in AZ. the builder/contractor had to at least do some kind of work within 30 days?

I've tried to contact a few concrete experts and am waiting to hear back from them on whether or not this is something that can be fixed as it should be.

Based on the window cracks, unlevel floors, etc. I wonder what really is going on here. I swear if we ever get out of this house ( which I doubt ) I will never buy another home in the state of AZ as long I live! I even looked in the garages of some other homes on our street ( same builder ) the space in their garages below the baseboard (not sure what it's called) never got measured more than an 1"....In our garage it is about 3.5". At about the halfway point of our garage it just drops from about 1" to 3"+. Again, in the other garages it pretty much stayed at 1" for the entire length of the garage. Also, this past week when it rained our side door in our garage leaked water, this even after they "fixed" this as well many months back. This was at about the same time they that they "fixed" our driveway.

Anyway, sorry for the vent, fellas. I think my blood pressure is shooting through the roof and I'm probably on the verge of a heart attack from all of this. - Just for kicks, I included a picture as well of the dirt that enters our home through our windows...This occurs on every single window that opens.. We were of course told that this is normal and nothing can be done about it! I also included a picture of one of our windows that is cracking along the inside. During the day you can actually hear the window make "popping" sounds as the crack gets larger. This is happening on quite a few of our windows. Again, I apologize for my ramble!

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Mike,

Sorry, it took so long for me to get back to you. I got back from California and had to go to bullhead city to teach a class for building officials. I am back in town now and can schedule a time to come check out your place.

The dust coming in the windows is not normal and I have no problem telling D.R. Horton's VP Rick McDowell why he is wrong.

Call me.

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