By Walt Keaveny, MS, PE, PG
Risk Manager, 2-10 Home Buyers Warranty
Walt Keaveny, is a specialist in risk management for 2-10 HBW, and has more than 25 years of experience in the engineering and home building industries, with a focus on new warranties, claims and repairs. In this second of a two-part article series, Walt shares the remaining four of eight key takeaways developed after evaluating the data from over 10,000 structural claims.
*Article developed from a presentation by the same name to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)
Click here for Part 1 of “Eight Lessons Learned from 10,000 Structural Claims”
In part one of this series, I addressed the foundation as the greatest structural claim liability, and focus on active soils and fill material as main causes of structural claims. I also shared when most claims are reported (between years 4 and 7), and building code standards to which builders should adhere to protect their craftsmanship and reputation, and avoid costly repairs. Here are four additional lessons learned from the evaluation of over 10,000 structural claims:
Lesson 5: Geotechnical investigations can substantially reduce the risk of structural claims.
Builders in some areas can cut their risk of structural claims by up to 50% by using geotechnical investigations. Investigations are needed for questionable soils, expansive soils, shallow groundwater table, deep pile and pier foundations, and for footings on fill material more than 12 inches in depth.
Lesson 6: Active soils should be identified and considered in the foundation design.
Design plays a major role in a home’s ability to resist volume change. Design options for active soils include removing active soil, stabilizing active soil, or designing for expected movement, such as extending foundation below active soil.
Lesson 7: Fill Material should be compacted and tested per engineering specifications.
Building on fill material without proper compaction can have serious negative implications. The amount of settlement that can occur is potentially unlimited and varies with the density, quality, consistency and thickness of the fill. It is important to note that even properly compacted fill can settle 1- 2% of the fill thickness. Thus a five-foot thickness of properly compacted fill may still settle more than one inch.
Lesson 8: Rain water should be collected from the roof and drained well away from the foundation.
Drainage away from the foundation is critical. Since expansive soils shrink and swell with moisture changes, good drainage can reduce moisture changes and thus prevent damaging shrink and swell cycles.
Builders may choose to pass their warranty liabilities to a third-party home warranty company to effectively manage their risk and for added peace of mind. Be aware that in the warranty industry there are great differences between companies and products. The warranty should not exclude soil movement; otherwise it excludes 80% of structural claims. Also make sure the warranty provider is backed by a stable, reputable insurer and can offer a long track record, ensuring that provider’s ability to positively represent and protect the builder for the entire 10-year warranty term.