What is "Unbalanced Fill?"


  #1  
Old 06-12-07, 10:51 AM
T
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What is "Unbalanced Fill?"

I sold a house and the woman who bought it is suing me because she got water in the basement.

One of the things that her attorney states in the complaint is that I have "66 inches of 'unbalanced' fill outside the foundation walls which is in violation of current and pior building code requirements."

I only need to know what the means!!

I google-searched and one definition is the difference between the gorund level outside and the finished level in the basement. Is that right? If so, what is the 66 inches referring to I wonder?

With this home there were concrete steps leading from the basement to ground level (about an 8 foot rise). I highered a masonry contractor to lay new block to close off the steps (they were an eyesore) by tieing into the block of the existing basement walls. I then highered someone to fill in the cavity left by the concrete steps with dirt which was level with the ground there.

Was that against code?

Thanks in advance for your help and comments everyone.

-Tony

P.S. This was done 2 years ago (I think there is now a requirement to have an exit door for a basement, but I believe this was before that).
 
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Old 06-12-07, 12:03 PM
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You are probably right on your definition. I am in construction of addition and have 8" poured walls. the inspector told me I can only have 72" of fill on outside. actually the difference between the finished floor on inside and the fill level on outside can't be more than 72". I think he said if I had 10" wall I could have 84" difference. interestingly, I wanted to have a slab on outside that would line up with existing porch. But to have standard 4" slab I would have to exceed the 72". I asked if the thickness of slab would count in that 72" and he said no. so I can backfill to 72" with dirt and then pour a thicker than usual slab to get it to line up (heightwise) with my existing porch. I am working out details to see how thick slab will have to be. Inspector says OK but will check with structural engineer to verify that sounds OK and won't put too much force on my wall. May get pricey, but only other option is to have a step in middle of front porch!

so are they saying that too much fill (and therefore lateral force on wall)caused failure and leakage of water? Is there cracks in your masonary wall and is the masonary wall where the water is coming in from? Did you have water problem before you did this? How thick is your masonary wall? 8' (96") is a lot of fill! Hate to say it, but probably should have checked code first on that one. would be nice to think that mason would know this, but either they don't or really don't care. My general built an unreinforced masonary wall next to my existing foundation instead of underpinning it. I kept questioning him, but they acted like I was just in the way and told me they knew what they were doing. The structural engineer said they did it all wrong and wall can't handle lateral forces. I told my lawyer to try to go after concrete company that did footing cause they should have known that foundation needed underpinned as plans showed it. the general is out of business--bankruptcy! imagine that! Does rest of your basement have that amount of fill around it? when you add masonary wall after the fact, I don't think it really has weight of house bearing down on it like it would if house were built on top of it. I don't think you can stuff morter in gap between top block and sill plate to be actually supporting the house unless you would lift house and position top block and then put house back down on it after morter set. Therefore wall not good at handling lateral forces and can be pushed in by the weight of fill. you can easily push over masonary wall if it is not supporting weight above it to stabilze it. My garage will have area where I need to fill about 4 1/2 ' on inside. concrete guy said if I get in with bobcat to fill interior I could easily topple wall just trying to pack down dirt because when you push down some force directed outward on wall--and it is only 4 1/2 ' wall!! yours is 8'

As far as getting rid of door-are you sure this only became against code within past 2 years?? that one could REALLY be an issue if someone gets trapped in basement in fire!! I would check that out. If done against code, would rather pay for someone to come in and undo work than pay for wrongful death!! or see if they can sign some kind of waiver if they would rather not have door. Actually, if done against code probably don't have any choice legally than fix it, or hope something NEVER happens. I am not lawyer so don't know if you will always be liable for this work if done against code or if new owner assumes the responsibility at some point.

good luck!

Bill
 
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Old 06-12-07, 01:00 PM
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What is "Unbalanced Fill?"

The "unbalanced fill" is the difference in elevation between the top of the floor slab and the outside grade against the wall (soil and concrete, if any).

Under most codes, the maximum allowed unbalanced fill is really dependent uopon the type of soil (IRC 2006 for empirical foundation walls). - Does the attorney have a soil analysis report? You you just have "dirt" or cly, etc. and not granular material, the loads could be greater - only an engineer can say if this was a cause of the leakage.

If there were documented signs of previous leakage before she bought it, it would be difficult to say you were at fault.

If you have an interior egress from the basement, there should be no need of an exterior egress.

The water in the basement may not have been as a result of the higher unbalanced load, but because of the lack of a slope of the grade away from the house. - Did the buyer have a pre-purchase home inspection that pointed out negative drainage?

Did you have a pre-sale home inspection before you sold your house?

Just being in violation of the code is not enough to be at fault. There must be some proof that the leak was only where you had the work done and no where else in the basement.

Dick
 
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Old 06-12-07, 01:14 PM
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Thanks for the input so far.

Actually the water in the basement isn't related to the unbalanced fill.

They are wanting to recind the sale of the home and they are bringing up as many different things as they can to suport their request. ...And one of them happened to be unbalanced fill.

I see houses being built every day here in PA with full basements. I guess they must have the thicker block ...the house I sold most likely has 8" block but was built in the 50's. It's a ranch home.

What's the best way to find the code with fill in my area? The house is in Palmyra, PA. I guess I was to fill in the steps only half way of dirt? How ridiculous is that? I'm still wondering what the code required me to do ...since the whole basement is underground.

Thanks again for the comments!
 
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Old 06-12-07, 01:30 PM
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the interior egress may not be enough. what if fire is in room where door is? or door is blocked. thats why in bedroom you need alternate way out--window sized for egress. If there is a bedroom down in basement pretty sure need another exit. a window probably not big enough for egress. If no bedroom, not sure if door required, but not bad idea to have one. I am not sure if code specifies finished vs unfinished or just mentions bedroom? I saw this before in book at home-depot about finishing your basement and they had lot on this issue. have to see if I can find it and skim through it.

Bill
 
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Old 06-12-07, 01:39 PM
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What is "Unbalanced Fill?"

Egress windows are required for bedrooms, but a basement only has to have one egress or exit. It all depends on the USE of the spaces, not necessarily whether it is finished or not.

Some people have tried to get away with an "unfinished" room in the basement that was used as a bedroom. - Creative, but asking for trouble.

Dick
 
 

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