Complaint Category: Defective, damaged, or incorrect product received
Complaint: The front steps on the house were not constructed correctly.
We bought the house in 2007 after it was built the same year. The steps started to sink the first year we bought the house, and they were cosmetically repaired. However, as we know now they continued to sink and are a safety hazard now. They should have been tied into the house better with the correct fill, prior to the concrete being poured.
Business' Initial Response
Thank you for the opportunity to respond to this complaint stating that the front steps of his home were not constructed correctly. This home met all applicable building codes prior to receiving a certificate of occupancy when the homeowner closed on this home on 6/29/07. At the time of closing, he was given The Jones Company 1-10 Guarantee outlining warranty coverage for the home. Per our builder, the top front step developed a small hairline concrete crack after closing that was repaired by re-mortaring the crack. Our warranty guidelines state; "The Jones Company will also take whatever action may be deemed necessary or appropriate to repair any stoops, steps or garage floor which, during the first year of the Guarantee, settle, heave or separate in excess of one (1) inch from the residential structure." The crack was repaired although it was hairline and did not meet the 1" requirement for repair.
On 12/28/11 the homeowner contacted us regarding his steps settling. The homeowner was told at that time that the steps were covered by his 1-year warranty, which expired on 6/28/08. However, we offered to send out one of our warranty representatives to inspect the steps and give him advice on having them repaired. He was unable to meet with our representative but this was discussed by phone with the representative and he was again told that this was not warranty.
On 3/31/13 he contacted us again regarding the steps sinking. Our area manager inspected the steps and determined that the steps had settled and was not covered under warranty. Per our e-mail to the homeowner he was told that this issue would not be covered by our structural warranty as our structural warranty covered the load bearing systems of the property. Steps and porches are not load bearing systems and therefore not covered by our 10-year structural warranty.
We feel we have met our warranty obligations to this homeowner. If you have any questions, please let us know.
Consumer's Final Response
(The consumer indicated he/she DID NOT accept the response from the business.)
The excerpts below describe the published standards for construction that is available to the public for an understanding of how the industry works and (as in my case) what they will get for their money. The business standards can only be defined as what is understood by the industry and the contractors who successfully build proper construction.
The 1st paragraph below is the standard from the published information "Technical Notes 29 - Brick in Landscape Architecture - Pedestrian Applications July 1994." This explains to the general public how brick steps should be supported so they do not sink like the steps build for our home.
Support and Bonding. Brick steps and ramps are usually supported by a concrete base, but any material capable of supporting the brick properly could be used, if designed properly. Deflections or settlement of the support must be minimized to avoid cracking in the brickwork. Figure 6 shows a concrete support system for a step and ramp. Brick should be adequately bonded to the support or restrained around its perimeter to avoid loosening of units. Mortar is usually used to bond the brick to the concrete. This paving system is very effective when proper materials and installation are used. Dowels or ties into the mortar joints are not necessary since the mortar provides adequate bond. Newer types of adhesives are now being used to bond the brick directly to the concrete. These adhesives must be durable to withstand the severity of its environment. Adhesives can only be used when the concrete surface is fairly even and free of contaminants. Caulks and sealants are not appropriate for this purpose.
Adequate footings should be designed for the step or ramp support. The depth of the footings should extend below the frost line. Since the paving assembly is supported on its own footing, an isolation joint should be used between the pavement and building and between the pavement and ramps or steps.
The 2nd article below is an explanation of how concrete should be compacted for residential construction. This was not done correctly when our steps were built, and the Jones Company should understand the problem was created and did not just happen over time. The city codes (that The Jones Company refers to) may not cover the correct techniques, but are not meant to determine the way construction is managed. Proper standards of construction should be managed correctly to ensure the workmanship is completed so that construction will last.
From: Residential Concrete September-October 2007
Posted on: September 20, 2007
Proper subgrade compaction reduces concrete failure concerns
Concrete slabs perform best when they are even thickness. The worker shown here is using a 2x4 to strike flat subgrade. Drylines serve as a guide to ensure that the subgrade has proper elevation.
When it comes to compacting a subgrade for a residential application, consistency, quality, and good practice by the contractor are critical to prevent concrete cracking and sinking concerns for the homeowner.
A residential contractor must ensure that the site builder avoids the temptation to poorly prepare a subgrade. A low-quality subgrade results in unexpected settling and water accumulation against the foundation leading to seepage and a weakening of the foundation. Poorly compacted subgrades also can be cited for the cracking and sinking of sidewalks, driveways, and patios. Ultimately, it is the homeowner who will bear the repair expenses, especially when settlement causes slabs to move water in the direction of the house.
According to the Portland Cement Association, cracks, slab settlement, and structural failure can result from an inadequately prepared and poorly compacted subgrade. In the case of slab on ground for residential applications, an ideal subgrade should be well drained, have a uniform bearing capacity, achieve the appropriate compaction density, have the correct slope, and be free of sod, organic matter, and frost.
What causes an uneven subgrade in a residential project? First, the presence of soft, unstable soil mixed with hard and rocky soil. Another reason addressed later in this article may be filling low areas or backfilling without adequate compaction.
Vibratory plate compactors do a good job of compacting fill. Surfaces are flat afterward, making slab shrinkage possible with little resistance from the ground.
In order to achieve a level, firm subgrade, soft or saturated soils and rocks must be removed during initial excavation. During excavation, dirt is pushed into low areas (fill) from other areas (cut). For compacted fill in low areas, the soil should have the same density as in cut areas.
It is important that contractors identify what is cut and what is fill when constructing a subbase. Operators of heavy machinery can unknowingly move or mix the cut and fill materials creating identity problems between the two.
Depending on the environment and geographic location of the project, builders may encounter native soils that offer the ideal strength for supporting a slab, which can then be placed directly on the soil. However in many areas, finding an onsite soil adequate for use as fill may be difficult.
With slab-on-grade foundations, an alternative to native soil material may be used to restore grade. These imported fills may include granular materials such as sand, gravel, or crushed stone. These high-strength and permeable materials offer low compressibility, which is ideal for a slab-support system.
"Six inches of well-graded gravel or crushed stone material properly compacted will give good results," said *************, a sales engineer manager for ***********************************
When properly compacted, both native soils or imported granular materials can provide good support. It must be noted, however, that using good material cannot fix poor compaction.
"Granular material placed under the slab can be open graded, which some believe is self-compacting. Sand and other material should be compacted," says **********, owner of ***********************, *************
Whether it is a foundation, sidewalk, driveway, or patio, native soil or granular material cannot be simply placed in the fill area and then covered with concrete.
It is critical that the contractor require the compaction of all fill materials in proper lifts, regardless if it is a native soil or a granular material to provide a flat, dense subgrade. If the fill material is not compacted in a uniform fashion, uneven settling will occur, resulting in cracks in the concrete and destroyed work.
It is advisable to compact the soil near optimum moisture content to achieve required density levels. This is most likely to occur when the soil is freshly excavated. Maximum compaction is possible before the material has dried out too much or been exposed to periods of rain where water can collect. If the soil is compacted during or shortly after the grading process, there are fewer pores in the material that can absorb water.
Primarily used for larger home site developments, proof rolling is a measure that allows contractors to identify whether or not the subgrade has been adequately compacted. Unstable or improperly compacted soil can be identified by driving a fully loaded dump truck or a similar piece of heavy equipment over the compacted area to reveal unusual soil movement or notably deep tire rutting.
The measured density of the subgrade material for a residential application should be 90% to 95% of the Standard Proctor Density. This density can be achieved using a combination of three to four passes **** a vibratory plate compactor or rammer, in addition to good moisture content in the subbase.
Ideally, compactable fill should be watered or "processed" so that it contains approximately 12% moisture throughout, in order to achieve maximum compaction.
Some fill materials also provide good drainage properties and can be used to avoid moisture concentrations beneath the slab.
A proper moisture level in the subbase not only helps with consolidation, it also reduces bleeding out of the water from the base of the concrete slab.
In order to keep the concrete as close to its design strength, forms should be dampened to keep water from being drawn out of the concrete.
All too often, builders do not adequately prepare the subgrade for concrete foundations, sidewalks, driveways, or patios. The concrete contractor is responsible for ensuring that granular backfill receives proper compaction, density, and moisture levels prior to the placement of concrete. Some contractors will specify in their contracts that they are responsible for the proper compaction of any fill materials that they place, but not materials placed by others. It becomes the builder's responsibility to ensure that fill placed prior to th
Business' Final Response
I would like to address this homeowner's response dated 7/15/13 alleging faulty workmanship when building his home. The front steps of his home were poured per building codes and were warranted for defects in materials and workmanship for one year by The Jones Company. This home closed on June 29, 2007 and the homeowner was given a copy of our 1-10 Guarantee at that time. This home also carries a 10-year structural warranty covering load-bearing systems. However, steps are not load bearing and not covered by that warranty. I have enclosed a copy of the page from our 1-10 Guarantee that covers steps and settling. As previously stated, this issue is no longer covered by our warranty.
Please let me know if additional information is required.
Complaint Resolution: BBB determined the company provided proper verification that indicated there was no obligation to resolve the issues of the complaint.