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Is this building Sink-ing into itself?

Hi everyone. I’d like people to weigh in on if my assumption here is correct because I’m a little flummoxed. This is a dorm-type building with a CMU foundation and wood stud construction. The ground floor walls do not really align with the second floor walls, except at the exterior and stairwells. The second floor is a double loaded corridor. On both sides of the corridor the hollow metal door frames appear to have “dropped” up to an inch below the original installation. They look fine at the floor, it’s just the heads that look damaged. The insides of the dorm rooms also have drywall cracking at the meeting with the ceiling. I’m assuming the corridor walls are Sink-ing (get it?!) into the first floor? No obvious evidence at the first floor ceiling, though.

I suppose the roof might be pulling upward somehow? That’d be a pretty strong uplift tho. 

 
Aug 3, 21 5:25 pm

Pictures are:


1. Plan diagram


2. Door head in corridor 


3. Wall inside room



Aug 3, 21 5:27 pm  · 
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First floor ceiling deflection?

I'd set up a laser level and take some measurements. 

Aug 3, 21 5:37 pm  · 
1  · 

The second floor framing is probably deflecting as Miles said. 

Aug 3, 21 5:43 pm  · 
1  · 
JonathanLivingston

Dorm Party on Level 2 !

Aug 3, 21 6:24 pm  · 
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JonathanLivingston

I'm almost willing to bet this is what happened. Too many people too many times. Especially if the walls below do not align with the party walls on either side of that corridor. You could get a really large live load in that corridor. Look at how the floor is framed. "Dude you can feel that bass through the floor! Yeah, rock on bro!"

Aug 4, 21 11:52 am  · 
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Almosthip

What kind of roof does it have?  We have similar issues in our office building and it is due to uplift of the roof caused by lack of roof ventilation

Aug 3, 21 6:33 pm  · 
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Almosthip

Our office has a sloped roof with very little ventilation

Aug 3, 21 6:34 pm  · 
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Almosthip

Its actually scary here at night due to all the cracking noises in the roof and the drywall

Aug 3, 21 6:35 pm  · 
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Uplift? That’s weird. I’ll bet the Sink has a gang-nail truss roof, which is why the second floor ceiling isn’t settling.

Aug 3, 21 6:49 pm  · 
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Could be a combination of floor settlement and roof uplift.

Aug 3, 21 7:07 pm  · 
1  · 

The antigrav unit is malfunctioning.

Aug 3, 21 7:21 pm  · 
1  · 
Almosthip7

We are way up north (road to Alaska north) and get high swings in temperature in short time spans.

Aug 3, 21 8:23 pm  · 
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geezertect

How can lack of ventilation cause roof uplift?

Aug 3, 21 10:19 pm  · 
1  · 
Almosthip7

Differential air pressure

Aug 3, 21 11:48 pm  · 
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Roof is a standard centered gable, I believe the attic has trusses but I’ll have to check my pictures.

Aug 4, 21 6:53 am  · 
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Almosthip

Donna I have all the same cracks above doors and at the ceiling as you posted above and its all due to an improperly ventilated roof.

Aug 4, 21 12:20 pm  · 
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Wood Guy

Truss uplift is caused by changes in moisture content in the truss. Wood doesn't move as much along the grain as it does across the grain, but it does move some. I've had a 40' truss uplift almost an inch in winter, then settle down in summer. Uplift happens when the top chord is dry relative to the bottom chord. In summer, especially if the A/C is running, you would have the opposite condition--a relatively wet top chord and dry bottom chord would push the truss down. Venting an attic helps keep the moisture content consistent, but if the bottom chord is buried in insulation, even ventilation can't solve the problem.

Aug 5, 21 9:53 am  · 
2  · 

Wood Guy I replied to Almosthip below that I do suspect this might be the problem. But I also wonder: could truss deformation happen if the truss wood is “green” when they are installed? And would that be sufficient to deform the walls below?

Aug 5, 21 8:18 pm  · 
1  · 
Wood Guy

Yes, wood going from fiber saturation (~28% moisture content) to "dry" (around 10% MC in most locations) will shrink roughly 0.1% along the grain. That's much less than the 5-10% shrinkage across the grain, but it's the same issue. Kiln-dried lumber is still in the 20% MC range, higher if left out in the rain.

Aug 6, 21 8:47 am  · 
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rcz1001

How is the ground floor connected to the wall? I am assuming the ground floor is a slab floor. There could be some settlement issues and possible deflection issues as well. If the ceiling systems are connected to the walls but the ground floors and the interior wood-framed walls are connected to the underlying concrete slab.... if there are settlement issues, it might be an issue. I've seen some odd stuff similar to this. It's more questions on my part than an answer.

Aug 3, 21 9:25 pm  · 
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geezertect

Are the corridor walls in bearing?  If they don't align with ground floor walls below, could it be that they are just resting on wood subfloor (plywood or whatever) in a mid-span condition and the plywood is deflecting because there is no blocking or support to transfer the load to a first floor structural wall or beam?

Are there problems with where the stair or exterior walls meet the ceiling?

Aug 3, 21 10:24 pm  · 
2  · 

There’s a beam wrapped in drywall below the corridor, and it’s not showing cracking or anything; it looks totally fine. There are small cracks in the joint where the wall meets the ceiling on the ground floor, but they look like normal age - no popping.

Aug 5, 21 8:23 pm  · 
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mightyaa

Lol. This is why I earn the big bucks. You need a lot more information because the structure is moving. What year? What kind of foundation? Slab on grade? What is load bearing, what is not? Is the floor sloped? Ceiling slope? 

Form different hypothesis on what might cause this kind of damage; then start investigating ruling out various culprits. 

Pure guess here: Because your door head is separated and the frame looks racked (gap at door panel isn't tight), and you know a hollow metal frame is clipped to the jamb studs... you know that corridor wall is moving. So first step is popping a ceiling tile to see how it is attached to the roof truss. What that will tell you is whether or not roof loads can transfer to that wall. If there's a slip track, you can rule out roof. But based on my guess, this is an older 60-70's era building where they didn't believe in no slip joints. Additionally, cmu foundation suggest cheap arse developer, so you aren't going to find 'quality'. 

Next step is figuring out the floor framing. You said walls aren't aligned. My guess is steel beams and columns at first floor? I'm also guessing slab on grade below. Do a rough survey or at least throw down a level. Older construction often used thickened slabs, square footings under columns, even if the exterior is pier and grade beam. You'll be looking for movement. So, in your head, because you are a wicked smart architect, visualize what happens if you drop one column; how it racks the whole frame, each joist above, the individual wall studs, up to the truss. 

Also walk the perimeter looking for separations and cracks. Heave is possible. Like that 3d in your head, if you have localized heave at the outside which lifts the floor joist, lifts the trusses, etc. Since the second floor framing isn't aligned below, those joist might do a lever arm over the beam like a see-saw if the outside edge is lifted. That results in the corridor dropping too.

All sorts of things can cause these issues. You just have to narrow it down. Since I think you are probably doing a 'should you buy' assessment, you want to narrow it down to know if it's an expensive fix (foundation) or simple (slip joint at the wall head).



Aug 4, 21 11:50 am  · 
4  · 

.

Aug 4, 21 1:20 pm  · 
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Thanks for this mightyAA! The building was built in the early 2000’s. I need to go back to research it a little more. One thing I did notice today, looking at pictures, is that (trigger warning LOL) the concrete sidewalk surrounding the entire building was poured *after* the vinyl siding was installed. It’s shoddy workmanship, to be sure!

Aug 5, 21 8:29 pm  · 
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atelier nobody

Donna, you're in CA, right? In addition to all the valuable comments above, I wouldn't rule out seismic activity as a possible cause.

Aug 4, 21 1:29 pm  · 
1  · 

Nope, I’m in Indiana.

Aug 5, 21 8:30 pm  · 
1  · 
atelier nobody

Hmm, I wonder why I had it in my head you were in CA?

Aug 6, 21 5:15 pm  · 
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randomised

With all the information provided I believe it’s to do with the rooms being chopped off at the bottom of the plan.

Aug 4, 21 1:30 pm  · 
3  · 
archiwutm8

The floor above is deflecting. Are the walls out of plumb significantly anywhere?

Aug 4, 21 2:07 pm  · 
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Almosthip7


this is just one wall / ceiling joint on our office. Same as yours Donna   Our door jambs all look as perspiration too



Aug 5, 21 1:37 pm  · 
1  · 
Almosthip7

Jambs look the same as yours do.

Aug 5, 21 1:39 pm  · 
1  · 

Almosthip I really think , as weird as it seems, that this might be the problem. The trusses are small members, and the bottom chords are buried in insulation (as Wood Guy mentioned above) AND I suspect the attic is pretty significantly under-vented.

Aug 5, 21 8:16 pm  · 
1  · 
joseffischer

I like Donna... that said I'm surprised by the comments and I feel like anyone else would get the usual "hire an architect" plus a healthy dollup of snark from NS... I'll be appeased if NS could give me my daily dose.


Aug 5, 21 4:02 pm  · 
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I think because I’m a regular everyone knows I’m not here to try to cheap out on hiring a professional. I’m just trying to give good service to my client. But I also embrace all of y’all’s snark! Throw it at me!

Aug 5, 21 8:13 pm  · 
1  · 

Big difference between someone we know who contributes a lot here and some unknown first time poster looking for a freebie, homework, thesis topic, etc. Bottomline is Donna has earned respect and gets treated accordingly. Even if she is a bit of a mother hen.

Aug 5, 21 9:21 pm  · 
3  · 
randomised

Simple, yo
u get out what you put in

Aug 6, 21 12:43 am  · 
2  · 

I suggest we direct all the snark to joseffischer. Only seems appropriate.

Aug 6, 21 10:00 am  · 
1  · 
joseffischer

Well, a lot of input already, but my personal professional experience would say to reiterate what some have said that there are too many possibilities, let the owner know that exploring those possibilities are not in the original scope of the PCA and offer services for further explorative demolition, all written into the original PCA. We similarly do this when we discover the possibility of hazardous material. Phase I vs Phase II ESAs. Leaking Underground storage tanks, etc. The overall picture is to inform the client that the first pass is just that. We hope to not find anything that could default the deal, but if we do, we hope it's obvious enough to totally kill the deal. If the client is still interested in a building that 'has hair', then you start quoting fees... but usually they drop it after that.

Aug 6, 21 10:16 am  · 
1  · 
joseffischer

I'll also add, LM Consultants is a good national level firm that can do the due diligence you require, but I'm sure there are cheaper local services or even a few contractors who could assess the situation. I'm glad to hear you aren't trying to avoid paying for professional due diligence.

Aug 6, 21 10:27 am  · 
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Volunteer

Perhaps the ceiling didn't rise as much as the walls shrank, possibly from green, or unseasoned, wood being used for the framing. As the wood dries out it shrinks.

"A number of problems can result from the use of green lumber. Nail “pops” – as framing members dry and shrink, gaps are created between nailed together framing members, as well as between exterior or interior sheathing and framing members."  

Above quote from the website of a lumber yard that has been in business for 50 years.

Aug 6, 21 7:28 am  · 
1  · 

As wood shrinks mostly across the grain any height shrinkage is confined to the plates and is generally consistent throughout if not interrupted by a multiple plates in one area, steel posts, etc.

Aug 6, 21 9:41 am  · 
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curtkram

wood shrinkage should be done by the second winter. this building looks too old for that to be happening, but we can't be sure.

Aug 6, 21 9:44 am  · 
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Wood Guy

Wood will continue expanding and contracting forever, with changes in humidity. It does not move as much along the grain as across the grain but it does move some, and with a large truss compounding the effect, it can add up. 

Aug 6, 21 10:09 am  · 
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mightyaa

Also her photos looked like an older building. The wood would have long since acclimated to move that much.

Aug 6, 21 10:17 am  · 
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This building was built in the early 2000s and the owners offhandedly mentioned that these door frame issues have been there from the beginning.

Aug 7, 21 9:28 am  · 
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b3tadine[sutures]

Why does this seem like a builder's special? I keep thinking that there were shortcuts taken, and that the floor framing is undersized, or frame spacing is incorrectly figured?

Aug 7, 21 9:54 am  · 
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I'm guessing that the floor framing is gang-nail joists. When these are overloaded they take on permanent defection. I saw this decades ago while troubleshooting a large townhouse project for some really cheap-ass developers (as if there was any other kind). 30 or so sheets of 12' drywall were loaded in a hallway, permanently deflecting the gang-nail joists over an inch.

Aug 7, 21 10:36 am  · 
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