Forensic Engineers and Consultants

Archive: Residential

T is for Temporary – Issues with Extension Cords and Other Temporary Wiring Applications

Temporary wiring is just that….temporary, and is typically used for repair and maintenance projects.  In this blog I am going to discuss guidance offered by Article 590 of the National Electric Code (NEC), as well as some points to consider when using temporary wiring, including extension cords and holiday lighting.

Before each use, extension cords need to be inspected for visual damage.  Cords with cuts or splits to the insulation need to be discarded.  Cords with damage to the connectors, including those that feel loose when connected, need to be taken out of service.   Failure to properly select and use extension cords can have a catastrophic result.  Read More

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Moisture Intrusion into Concrete Slabs-on-Grade

Scenario:  A young couple is excited about buying their first home.  They pick it out from a catalog of house plans from the developer of a new neighborhood in town.  It will be a brand new construction starter type bungalow home on a slab-on-grade foundation.  For a cost adder, which is considerable to them, they decide to upgrade the finished flooring from carpeting to hardwood laminate.  Unfortunately, after only a few weeks of residency, the hardwood planks begin to buckle and separate from the slab throughout the house.  They do not know what is causing it, or what to do to remedy it, Read More

Spontaneous Combustion…Is it hot in here or is it just me???

In the old-timey Fire Triangle, you have heat, fuel, and oxygen.  Get these three together in the right quantities, and you get fire.  What if the fuel provides its own heat?  That’s spontaneous combustion, or spontaneous ignition.  NFPA921 defines this as “initiation of combustion of a material by an internal chemical or biological reaction that has produced sufficient heat to ignite the material.” Read More

Issues with Moisture Intrusion through Flashing into Wood-Framed Structures

Flashing is a hot-button topic amongst residential designers, builders, and claims adjusters alike. In fact, currently one of the most prominent construction defect claims that we see involves moisture intrusion around improperly flashed window openings in wood-framed structures. Other trouble spots include the roof penetrations at chimneys and vent pipes. Read More

Installation of Structural Sheathing on Wood-Framed Structures

The facts presented in this blog lead to an interesting story.  During the heyday of the residential construction boom in coastal South Carolina circa 2005, many General Contractors were forced to go out-of-state to find framers and other subcontractors due to the demand creating a local labor shortage.  It turned out that the state of Texas had excess capacity and availability of framers and carpenters. Many Texas framing crews came to South Carolina to satisfy the shortage.  It soon became apparent that the Texas crews, many of which were from inland locations, were accustomed to installing 4’x8’ exterior wall sheathing with the long dimension vertical, i.e., parallel to the studs.  It is especially important and required that the long dimension be oriented perpendicular to the studs.  Laboratory testing has shown that Read More

Uplift and Shear Restraint Techniques for Residential Structures in Hurricane Wind Zones

Hurricane and Tropical Storm strength wind forces can wreak havoc on wood-framed residential structures.  One of the primary hazards is the negative pressures which can develop on the exterior building envelope when the structure is subjected to the high encircling winds.  These negative pressures act like the suction of a giant vacuum on a dwelling’s roof diaphragm, which produces enormous uplift forces throughout the entire structure.  The leeward walls are also subjected to negative pressures, while the windward walls take the brunt of the positive wind pressures.  The uplift on the roof is caused by what the author dubs “the airplane wing effect”.  In other words, Read More

Improper Hearth Extension Leads to Structure Fire

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The fire service affords you the opportunity to witness and observe things that a lot of engineers and even most people do not get the chance to see.  An example of this is the situation where extended elevated temperatures combined with poor construction techniques to result in a structure fire.

I have personally observed several occasions where a structure fire was initiated due to improper construction of the fireplace hearth extension.  The most recent one followed a multi-day cold snap, at least by South Carolina standards.  The thermometer read 17 degrees F as I drove to the call of smoke in a residence Read More

Proper Construction and Maintenance Can Prevent Deadly Chimney Fires

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There are few things as comforting to me during the winter months as a warm fire burning in the fireplace.  And in this case, I am talking the real deal, the kind that warms you multiple times; from cutting, splitting and stacking the firewood until finally lighting a fire in the fireplace.  However, just like your parents taught you, fire can be dangerous.  And having an actual fire in your home fireplace comes with some required maintenance to ensure you can safely control the fire and keep it where it belongs. Read More

Heating System Losses, Part One

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When fall and winter arrive and temperatures drop, it is a great comfort to have a heating system to warm your home or office. Several categories of heating equipment exist to provide both primary and secondary heating. Primary heating systems include fuel gas/fuel oil/electric forced air furnaces, heat pumps, hydronic heating/steam systems and even wood-fired heating systems.  Secondary heating equipment includes electric, gas and kerosene space heaters of both fixed and portable design, and fireplaces. Each of the different types of heating systems have unique hazards that, uncontrolled, can result in fires, explosions, burn injuries, and carbon monoxide poisoning.  Read More

Staying Connected on the Loop: Two by Two’s Mobile Internet Setup

After completing the sit-stand workstation in the guest stateroom of our 47’ Nova Scotia pilothouse trawler, Two by Two, that I reported in a previous blog, I found I needed an internet connection with reasonable speed and reliability.  While almost every marina will give you a password for their WiFi, the quality of most marina connections is unreliable and too slow to effectively work as a forensic engineering consultant. When I tried to download a simple photograph through any type of remote connection to the Irmo, SC office, I could go make a cup of coffee and come back before the download finished.  To upload a group of photographs Read More

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