Forensic Engineers and Consultants

Archive: Residential

Testing…testing… Is this thing on?

Many people just take for granted that something is just going to work, and in many cases assume that it will work forever.  One such device that does not get enough attention is the Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI).   Simply put, a GFCI is a protective device that compares the current flowing on the hot and neutral wires of the circuit and will “trip” to disconnect power to the circuit if a small imbalance of current is detected.  The imbalance of current is an indication of a dangerous alternate path for the current to flow from a damaged line cord or a fault inside an appliance and constitutes a shock hazard to a person. Read More

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Water Damage from Leaking Shower Stalls

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Have you ever had to have a leaking shower pan for a tiled shower stall replaced, only to have a recurrence a few years later? If so, it is likely that it was not properly built and/or repaired. In most installations, the shower stall is constructed with an underlying one-piece flexible membrane of PVC that is attached to the wall studs before the backer board and wall tile is installed. No nails or screws should penetrate the membrane below the level of the curb of the shower stall. The only opening in the membrane below the curb must be the hole for the shower drain to connect to the house plumbing. The shower drain is designed to allow water on top of the membrane to flow into the drain via weep holes for that purpose. Read More

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Ready, Set, Fly! – Understanding Another Technology for Forensic Investigations

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This is the first blog in a series on integrating new technologies into the process of forensic investigations.  Documenting the scene of an incident accurately, efficiently, and safely is a key step in every investigation.  Busy roadways and unstable structures present hazards to the investigator during the investigation process. The use of remote sensors can reduce these risks and provide data that otherwise could not safely be obtained. Read More

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Should I Trust My Nail Gun?

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Can you imagine framing a house with the tools of our forefathers, using hand saws and hammers, rather than power saws and pneumatic nail guns? Power tools have made the job much easier and faster, that even the amateur is well equipped for this kind of work. Read More

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Graphitic Corrosion – Difficult to determine before a failure!

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Graphitic corrosion is a process that may happen in equipment made of iron, particularly grey cast iron, but also ductile cast iron. Graphitic corrosion can lead to unexpected catastrophic failure of the affected part because the cast iron can lose its strength without a visible warning such as a change in size, shape, or appearance. Read More

Steve Hunt using an Excel Tribometer measuring a floor surface.

The Impact of Technology on Slip and Fall Incidents

I have investigated hundreds of slip and fall incidents in my career. Today, we have new tools and technology available to assist investigators in conducting forensic investigations to determine the cause or causes of these incidents and to assist owners and operators in loss preventions efforts to minimize the potential of slip and fall incidents. Read More

Ground rod installed in the earth with clamp.

Grounding versus Bonding – Understanding the Difference in Building Electrical Systems

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While a teenager might be very familiar with being “grounded”, there is confusion over the meaning of the word in the electrical sense. In building electrical systems, “grounding” and “bonding” are two terms that are often misunderstood. Improper application of the concepts of grounding and bonding may create lethal shock and fire hazards. “Earthing” is a term which comes from the European International Electrotechnical Committee (IEC). Earthing is synonymous with grounding but often thought to have a different meaning. Read More

Figure 1:  A view of the improperly constructed fireplace alleged to have caused the subject fire. 
 The hearth extension has been largely consumed in the fire.

Improper Fireplace Construction: Testing the Impact of Non-Compliant Clearance to Combustibles

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As the weather turns cold, many people use fireplaces to provide supplemental heat. The warmth from a fireplace is a comfort and the aesthetics of a glowing fire are a pleasure.  However, there is nothing pleasurable about a residential house fire that results from an improperly built or used fireplace or chimney. Read More

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Post-Fire Inspection of Steel, Concrete, Masonry and Wood – Tips for an Insurance Adjuster, Part 2

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This is the second part of a 3-Part series to help insurance adjusters during a claim inspection to make a post-fire assessment of a building’s structural framing system.  Part 2 investigates and assesses the future use of common post fire structural framing elements such as steel, concrete, masonry and wood.  These more common structural elements take on different and specific characteristics when they are exposed to a fire.  It’s important for the adjuster to make reasonable, cost saving assessments on what remains, what is to be repaired, what gets demolished and what gets replaced. Read More

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Painting of Handicap Ramps

As an experienced safety consultant, I’m called on to investigate a wide range of premises liability incidents. One common premises liability incident that often results in serious injury is a fall on a handicap ramp. There are at least four types of handicap ramps – flare side, parallel, returned curb and built-up. Read More

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