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Re: Oversight in foundation design
ibeam support in garage
I want to put an ibeam up on two posts. one post at the right wall and one at the left wall of a garage. The ibeam will flush with the ceiling. span is 20 feet. I would appreciate your help to find the minimum dimension for a standard steel ibeam that will carry 400 pounds load in the center (10 feet from the wall) with a deflection of no more than 1/2 inch.
How much extra cost are we talking about to remedy the problem? Generally a competent building designer will be sure to "shoot the grade" with a transit to determine if any elevation changes may be required on the foundation or surrounding pad. Proper grading is essential for drainage and runoff. Generally, the rule of thumb is to slope the grade at a 2% pitch away from the foundation. There should typically be at least 6"-8" from the top of the finished grade and the bottom of any exterior siding, stucco, or wood. Failure to do this will result in rainwater and landscaping irrigation migrating towards the foundation, rather than away from it. This can lead to future moisture problems, including excessive under-house moisture as well as premature rot of the floor joists, girders, etc.
This is a gray area because your general contractor may also have some liability if an important grading issue was overlooked. Experienced GC's know that field conditions are often quite different from what the plans show and they also have some responsibility to verify that the plans are appropriate for the conditions. In situations like this, your first step should be to sit down in a pro-active manner with both your designer and your contractor to work out a fair remedy. Indicate that you're a reasonable person, but that you hired them to design a suitable structure that meets standard practices and you expect them to catch fundamental issues like grading during the design phase. Find out if the designer hired a surveyor. If not, ask why. When the designer says, "because I didn't think we needed it," you've got good leverage because results proved in hindsight that this was a critical error in professional judgment. In any case, it's now "water under the bridge" so giving them a chance to work it out is your best first step.
If after that meeting, no one is willing to accept responsibility, then tell them that you have no choice but to escalate your concerns to the agencies that license them. In the case of a designer, there may not be any such agency, unless he/she is a member of the AIBD (American Institute of Building Designers). If you hired an architect, then the state in which you live handles grievances. For your general contractor, the state has a mechanism for filing complaints and may help to intervene. You might also be able to contact the BBB for assistance in filing a complaint.
As a last resort, you may have to file a lawsuit in small claims court...or if the expense is significant, a full blown suit. Since this is an ugly and time consuming process, I strongly encourage the three of you to work out a settlement. In the long run, it will be cheaper for everyone and you'll be able to enjoy your new home without a lawsuit looming.
Good luck and let us know what ends up happening.