Monday, April 12, 2010

3008 Clearview Part 2

This is the rest of the discussion at last weeks council meeting. You might want to watch the video in the previous post first.

There is additional information here on the Homeowners of Texas site. Bottom line, this home site required special handling because it has expansive soil. This type of soil is very sensitive to moisture content and will swell and shrink as the water content varies. This puts a great deal of stress on a foundation and can lead to early failure. The International Residential Code and International Building code, which our city and the state of Texas have adopted as the baseline building code require special handling for expansive soils. Copies of these codes as adopted by various states can be downloaded here but be warned: these are several hundred pages.

Bottom line, the city can make a case that testing was not specifically required at this site. After all, it had already been done in 2004. They can't get by the fact that these building codes require special handling for foundations in areas of known expansive soil. They dropped the ball and didn't do that.

There is not much we can do for the Montgomeries now but we need to get on top of this because there are many homes in the city that are potentially at risk. Living in a home built on expansive soils requires special care. Simple things like where you plant a garden or how a swimming pool is built or how you water the lawn or use gutters and down spouts all impact expansive soils and the foundation of a home. We need to alert homeowners to the potential problems they face.


  1. Actually they adopted the “American Standards” Building Code which replaced the outdated Southern Building Code.

    Call it what they want but it is still the American Standards Code which has been used in the Northern USA and Canada since the 1950's.

    Just what do "the experts" expect three feet of clay sitting on top of caleche (hardpan) to do? It expends when it is wet and contracts when it dries out.

  2. Anon, there have been some consolidations of the various codes under the ICC organization and the IRC/IBC absorbed the ASBC.

    There have also been many changes in how to deal with expansive soils starting with the BRAB in the late 60's. early 70's. These codes and design specs were not followed. It doesn't appear any experts were involved in building this house.

    As an FYI, what chapter 4 of the code of ordinances says is as follows
    (a) The following codes, as published by the Southern Building Code Congress International, Inc., International Code Council, Inc., and the National Fire Protection Association are hereby adopted by reference as though they were copied herein fully including all appendices, except where expressly excluded herein:
    (2) International Building Code - 2006 Edition in its entirety, save and except ...

    (3) International Residential Building Code - 2006 Edition in its entirety, save and except


    The sections on expansive soils are included. There is currently no mention of the American Standards building code in the ordinance or the state statutes.

  3. Anon, your post got me thinking, and this is how I see it.

    What is important here is not what the experts expect but what the home buyer and citizen expects from the city and a builder.

    A home buyer has an expectation that a builder will use good building practices and follow codes and specifications and do what it takes to produce a home fit for sale and that will last a long time. Even in our throw away society, the expectation is that a home will last a lifetime.

    A home buyer also expects the city to enforce building codes on the books. In addition they expect the city government to be aware of special construction needs in certain areas. They expect the city to make sure that homes built here are fit for use.

    That wasn't done at 3008 Clearview.

  4. JWT...

    I find this issue interesting. In areas here in the Metroplex expansive soils are a significant problem, which explains the huge number of ads we see on TV for foundation repair services. However, foundation problems can be headed off, and not at great cost, if one just knows the situation with the soil and reacts accordingly.

    Admittedly I know little of the details surrounding this particular homeowner's nightmare. Given my statement above, however, it would seem that the builder and the city have a LOT of explaining to do. I wish there were redress available to these people.

  5. Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if there weren't some redress available to the Montgomeries.