Imgur | AlphaStructural

13+ Distressing Discoveries That Came Up During Structural Inspections

mason.zimmer 7 Aug 2019

Even if we're not avid viewers of HGTV, there can be something fascinating about watching people who know what they're doing sharing their building expertise.

For some reason, there was even a show called Paranormal Home Inspectors and it sounds hard to believe, but the best part was watching the home inspector calmly go through a "haunted" house and explain how its structural failures were being mistaken for paranormal activity.

But of course, like with all professions, the most fascinating stories come from the worst and weirdest things they discover on the job. And lately, a California structural engineering firm known as Alpha Structural has taken to sharing their wildest discoveries on social media.

Let's see what weird wonders they uncovered.

1. It's pretty much unrecognizable, but this is supposed to be a steel beam.

Instagram | @alphastructural

As Alpha Structural wrote on Instagram, finds like this confirm the need for a thorough "discovery period" before they get to work.

When a house has this much rust and decay at its foundation, they need to know about it.

Load Comments

2. This isn't just a bizarre growth on a pillar. It's a warning to never use Medium Density Fiber Board on anything that's supposed to support a building.

Imgur | Alpha Structural

As the company said on Imgur, that's because this material usually isn't prepared to handle a lot of moisture, which means the wood can start falling apart after spending even a short time in a damp environment.

And that's exactly what we're seeing happen here.

Load Comments

3. When you're spending the whole day in a crawlspace, some problems just can't wait.

Imgur | AlphaStructural

This building featured a perfect example of this reality in the form of a broken, exposed sewage line that was still seeing a lot of action when Alpha's people arrived.

Yuck.

Load Comments

4. You really shouldn't be able to pull pieces of foundation away with your hands like this.

Instagram | @alphastructural

That may seem obvious to you, but it apparently wasn't for whoever decided to put this together without including any rebar.

Load Comments

5. In California, a column like this presents a huge risk.

Instagram | @alphastructural

Alpha Structural wrote on Instagram that the building they were working on looked fine above ground, but was being supported by this steel column that had decayed over the last 40 years.

Worse yet, a recent earthquake had split it in half.

Load Comments

6. Apparently, these two pieces are normally supposed to be bolted together.

Instagram | @alphastructural

So not only does this big gap between them not inspire a lot of confidence in this foundation's strength, but it looks like a big ol' welcome mat for any rodents that want to stop by.

Load Comments

7. As worrying as it may seem, Alpha Structural comes across this approach to propping up beams so much that they've given it a nickname.

Instagram | @alphastructural

And if the word "Jenga" immediately comes to mind when you see this, congratulations! You just guessed it in one shot.

Load Comments

8. Alpha Structural have tackled some daunting jobs, but even they have pretty limited options when things get this bad.

Imgur | AlphaStructural

As they wrote on Imgur, the concrete in this foundation has deteriorated so much that it can't support bolts that one would normally put in for retrofitting.

That white stuff shown throughout also indicates water damage as it's a mineral deposit that gets left behind after water enters the foundation.

Load Comments

9. The big cracks that they found in this wall were less than encouraging.

Imgur | AlphaStructural

Alpha Structural wrote on Imgur that someone tried to fix these cracks with epoxy, but they simply reopened and spread out even further as the house settled.

Load Comments

10. The difference between me and a professional is that I wouldn't be able to tell how much is going on here.

Imgur | AlphaStructural

But in reality, not only is the structure in the left foreground now made of rotting wood and decaying bricks, but the house's framing apparently isn't connected to the actual foundation in the background.

The more you know.

Load Comments

11. Still some issues like this are obvious even to the untrained eye.

Imgur | AlphaStructural

Not only is the underside of this house from the early 1900s pretty gross to behold, but these decaying bricks are the only foundation with no reinforcement.

It's kind of amazing that it's lasted this long.

Load Comments

12. Apparently, somebody decided that the best way to support this post was to attach it to this big rock.

Imgur | AlphaStructural

I'm sure this will come to the surprise of no one, but this is not an acceptable way to reinforce your foundation.

Load Comments

13. Apparently, this is not what you're supposed to do with these metal retrofitting plates.

Imgur | AlphaStructural

As Alpha Structural wrote on Imgur, they're intended for concrete and won't do any good in a brick foundation.

Which leads them to teach us an important lesson: If somebody tells you they can retrofit a brick foundation, don't hire them.

Load Comments

14. This was such a bizarre decision that Alpha Structural left it to us to figure out what was wrong with it.

Imgur | AlphaStructural

And the answer was that at best, this is bolted to a single brick. Not only does this accomplish nothing, but that assumes that this bolt is connected to anything at all.

Load Comments

15. You know a building has some structural problems when foundation looks more like an ancient crypt.

Imgur | AlphaStructural

As Alpha Structural wrote on Imgur, behind all these cobwebs was some major wood rot and some seriously decaying bricks.

Load Comments

16. It's pretty hard for the base (also known as a pier) to support this post when the two aren't even touching each other.

Imgur | AlphaStructural

According to Alpha Structural, this will likely create conditions that allow the floors above to start dipping.

Load Comments

17. Unless a samurai broke into the basement to practice their swordplay, there's no reason this post should look like this.

Imgur | AlphaStructural

It seems that somebody found out their post was shorter than expected and thought they could just attach it to another piece of wood.

Yeah, that's a big no-no.

Load Comments

18. There's a pretty surprising reason why this concrete foundation has such a massive hole in it.

Imgur | AlphaStructural

As Alpha Structural discovered, it isn't concrete at all, but rather plaster that a particularly unscrupulous contractor painted to look like real foundation.

Apparently, you can simply kick it and cause this kind of damage.

Load Comments

19. When wood rot gets bad enough, it's pretty easy to confirm that there's a problem.

Imgur | AlphaStructural

In a short video, this person used barely any force when poking this wood with a knife and it all but disappeared into the spongy mess.

Load Comments

20. Normally, you would have some girders between the posts and the floor, but whoever did this house apparently skipped that step.

Imgur | AlphaStructural

So now we've got these big wooden posts sitting on steel I-beams and supporting the floor directly. Doesn't look too secure, does it?

Load Comments

21. Whoever did this wanted to claim they had laid down a concrete foundation, but didn't actually want to go to the trouble of doing that.

Imgur | AlphaStructural

According to Alpha Structural, you're either supposed to replace the existing brick foundation or install a concrete sister foundation when you do this, but this person just poured concrete around the brick.

It looks the part, but that's about it.

Load Comments

22. Apparently, this concrete foundation looks like this because somebody added what is known as a "parge coat" to it.

Imgur | AlphaStructural

This is a coat of mortar that the user put on to try and hide structural damage, but this is actually known to speed up a foundation's deterioration.

So yeah, don't do that.

Load Comments

23. If a concrete foundation starts to resemble a rocky cliff, that's really not a good sign.

Imgur | AlphaStructural

As is the case here, it generally means that it's seen more than its share of decay.

Load Comments

24. Somebody apparently thought it would be a good idea to support a concrete pier with wood and bricks, instead of the other way around.

Imgur | AlphaStructural

Unfortunately, this means that the moisture we can see building up from that white stuff on the ground would rot the wood quickly, which would make the pier tilt until it eventually falls over.

So, not a great idea.

Load Comments

25. When a house is depending on the support of these pillars, it's probably a good idea to ensure they remain as sturdy as possible.

Imgur | AlphaStructural

Not only are the pillars "disagreeing with each other and can't come to an agreement on where to go," as Alpha Structural put it, but that cracking going on above them is pretty worrying as well.

Load Comments

26. It doesn't take a particularly trained eye to figure out that this beam isn't supposed to bend like this.

Imgur | AlphaStructural

Nor is it all that surprising to learn that this building's owner has to deal with sloping floors.

Load Comments

27. Although decaying foundations, cracks and water damage are hazardous for a building, it's easy to forget that some things are hazardous to the crew working on it.

Imgur | AlphaStructural

With that in mind, it's not hard to understand why the folks at Alpha Structural wouldn't be too thrilled to find a bunch of mousetraps littered around where they're supposed to work.

Load Comments

28. Apparently, this pile of rubble was spread throughout this area, making it hard to even navigate.

Imgur | AlphaStructural

It doesn't help that this wooden beam had decayed so much that it actually felt like a sponge.

Load Comments

29. This isn't a structural problem, but it's apparently not unusual for the folks at Alpha Structural to find dolls under the houses they work on.

Imgur | AlphaStructural

With that in mind, it's hard to tell whether we should take comfort in the fact that this is the creepiest one they've found so far.

Load Comments

30. We've seen bad piers and bad posts, but one building managed to have both in the most bizarre way possible.

Instagram | @alphastructural

Yup, there's nothing like propping up a structure with a bunch of random logs, rocks and two-by-fours to make it feel safe and secure.

Load Comments
Next Article