Friday, August 07, 2009

When my job sucks... when I have to tell people about stuff like this.No big shock. It's crummy construction from the 1950's, no drainage behind it, chinzy little footing, just falling apart like you'd expect. But the poor homeowner has a retaining wall that's retaining two things right now, jack and shit, and jack just caught the bus outta town.Sometimes I feel like the Angel of Wallet Death, giving people the bad news about stuff like this.


Ael said...

When delivering the news, is it usually confirming something they already knew?

Are people often surprised at the bad tidings?

Also, what is the expected lifespan of these things? To me, something built in the 50s and failing now seems like a pretty good run (of course, I was built in the 50s, but I have been failing for quite a while, now)

rangeragainstwar said...

I just had a house built by a Architect who is also a builder and my results were about like the retaining wall you show.
If you want some entertainment go to my new site-Stephan L Waldoch, My building experience.
Since you're in the building trades this may interest you and your readers.
I will soon follow with a you tube.
I still haven't decided what to do with the web domain that I own- Stephan L but I'm leaning to a site discussing builders and architects and resultant problems.

FDChief said...

Ael: In theory, a well-built structure will outlive generations of people. This was not well-built, I'm afraid.

Although this one wasn't a surprise for the owner, it depends on what the insurance company does with our information. Hopefully they don't use it to deny the woman's claim...

Jim: Sorry to hear about your builder. Sad and infuriating how many piss-poor people are in the construction game. They are far fewer than the competent people, but their fuckups far and away negate the good work done by others...

bigbird said...

Best I can judge, that retaining wall was built with cinder blocks that have been deteriorating for years.

The house I grew up in was built in 1950. All had garages beneath the house, with cinder block retaining walls along the driveways, including weep holes to get the water from behind them. By the 1970s, all of the walls were leaning towards the center from earth pressure. In addition, the cinder blocks of the back porch began to disintegrate during the '70s.

I'm not a civil engineer by education - a lot of what I learned was in the Army. I can see where a cinder block wall can be used for a house's foundation where most of the loading is vertical and the floor joists can push back against the earth pressure. If you'r building a bridge abutment you build it out of concrete and make it with a trapezoidal cross section, with the wide part under the earth so the weight of the earth counteracts the pressure from the soil that is pushing outward.

I've had my own bad luck with contractors. My present house was well made, but the electricians and plumbers cut corners, the worst case being the cheap sinks that were porcelain covered metal rather than ceramic. The porcelain began chipping in short order. The difference in cost for the replacement sinks was perhaps $30 between the porcelain and ceramic.

I've also had to replace the builders grade windows with something better - all of the original windows were fogging and drafty as anything.

Ael said...


Seems like over-engineering to me.

At the rate the world changes, building solidly, while aesthetically pleasing, is just vanity.

If something has lasted 75 years, it has done its job.

Note that there is a big difference between lasting 5 (or even 15) years and lasting 75 years.