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Utility Failures

Causation of Settlement Cracks in the Foundation Block and Broken Pipe


Background Information: Indications of large structural failures often start off as insignificant, peculiar problems. Our homeowners reportedly noticed water bubbling up from a floor drain in the finished garage area. There was also a bouncy wooden floor in his family room area in the rear of the home and new horizontal cracks in the front corner bedroom walls. A plumber had been previously called to investigate the bubbling and found the cause of the floor flooding to be due to a plugged main sewage drain line. The homeowner believed that the structural damage to his floor and walls to be related to the plugged drain, but needed technically accurate, precise answers. The clients turned to Forensic Analysis & Engineering to help ESTABLISH WHY a structural failure was occurring in the home.


Assigned Task: The assigned task was to examine the circumstances surrounding possible damages to the subject residence relating to the causation and timing of the failure of the home’s sewage drain line. We were asked to determine whether or not this cast iron main line began to leak as a result of localized freezing or settlement or due to another instigating affect. An FAEC engineer was promptly at the scene to begin the investigation.


Observations and Findings: Based upon the information identified during the course of our onsite investigation, FAEC was able to determine the following:


              1. The subject piping failed due to age-induced deterioration and possibly the added

                  stresses induced during some attempt to unblock a clogged drain or toilet in the


              2. The likelihood that any of the cast iron piping failed as a result of the direct

                  freezing during this past winter is extremely remote as the previous winter period

                  is on record as being one of the most moderate periods of winter weather

                  experienced in recorded history.

              3. Observed tree roots have been allowed to grow up to and under the home’s

                  perimeter block wall foundation. The presence of these growing roots was shown

                  to be directly causing many of identified stress cracks in the home’s perimeter

                  block wall.

              4. The cracks identified in the interior bedroom and dining room area of the home

                  are the result of localized settlement of the corners of the home where the soil

                  has been washed out over time from direct drainage of rain water via the

                  downspouts into very localized areas of soil.


Results of the Investigation: Forensic Analysis & Engineering was able to determine the cause of the structural damage, ESTABLISHED WHY each of the damages occurred and whether or not it was attributed to the blocked drain pipe. From FAEC’s detailed, comprehensive report and full-color pictures, the client was able to correctly identify the source of the problems, received consultation regarding future repairs, and was able to remedy them without further incident.


Contact Forensic Analysis & Engineering Corporation for investigations of utility failures at (800) 224-3595 or directly submit an assignment online.

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