DIY Dangers and Structural Collapse Hazards
DIY Dangers - You Can Cause Structural Collapse
I live in rural central New Hampshire. It’s the Live Free or Die state. I believe in that motto to a very large degree but I’m also interested in making sure innocent people don’t get hurt or killed should a building or deck collapse.
Just a few days ago I was driving along the main backroad I have to take to get groceries. Lo and behold out of nowhere a small pole barn was taking shape. I was stunned simply because I had not seen any excavation or foundation work in progress. Understand that I travel up and down this road at least four times a week.
I decided to stop by, say hello to the owner, and ask if I could look at the large framed building. The homeowner was very cordial and welcomed me. “I’ve got four days labor into this and just yesterday the building inspector nailed a STOP WORK sign on it,” said the perturbed man.
“The inspector told me not only was it too close to the road, but it had to come down. He said there are all sorts of mistakes and it’s unsafe,” said the DIY homeowner. I offered him as much consolation as I could muster as I didn’t want to share with him I was in total agreement with the inspector. There were far more things wrong with the structure than were right.
I felt his story was worth sharing with you because had this structure not been seen by the inspector, there’s a very good chance someone could have been killed or severely injured when it would collapse in the next windstorm or snowstorm.
Allow me to share many of the mistakes I saw standing just 20 feet away. Then I’ll offer up how to build something the right way should you get the itch to swing a hammer.
First and foremost this small pole barn had no foundation. I’ve seen some New Hampshire barns built where the giant timber base plate is set on stone. But this homeowner had tacked together treated landscape timbers and simply laid them on the grass and some coarse gravel he scattered about. He did a very poor job of leveling the ground and one wall had a huge sag in it.
The vertical wall supports were just the same landscape timbers as was the top plate of the walls. He had used regular 16-penny nails toenailing these thick timbers together. It was the worst framing job I’ve ever seen. Any structural engineer would have nightmares about this while personal-injury lawyers would be salivating.
There were crude small diagonal braces at the base of some of the vertical supports, but these were no doubt temporary. They would have to be removed to install whatever siding was going to cover the walls. Diagonal bracing in walls is necessary so they don’t rack and fold up like a row of dominos might fall when you tip the first one.
The roof rafters were the correct size but the center ridge board was very much undersized. The well-intentioned DIYr installed small collar ties just under the ridge but their location offered minimal resistance to the roof collapsing under three or four feet of wet snow which is quite common in this part of the state.
Great Homeowner Structural Book - Easy to Understand
How do you avoid this situation if you’re trying to be a weekend warrior or hire the job out to a carpenter? Step one is to obtain a very basic understanding of all the structural elements in what you’re building. There are all sorts of books you can read but I have a nifty PDF e-book written specifically for homeowners like you.
No matter what you’re building or remodeling, this is something you should have handy. You can get it by going here.
Once you have an idea how to build something, visit your city or town zoning office to see what laws or ordinances are in place you must follow. You’ll discover that most residential building lots have no-build zones adjacent to the property lines. The zoning employees will share what the distinct setback lines are.
Assuming you can build what you want on your lot, now it’s time to secure a building permit. You’ll need some plans for this. There are any number of websites that sell plans that should enable you to secure a permit. If there are deficiencies in the plans, the plan reviewer will instruct you on what you need to add to the plans to get the permit.
This will give you a good start, but realize that plans are no substitute for decades of building experience. If you intend to do the work yourself, it would behoove you to establish a lifeline with a seasoned pro who can offer advice. If you decide to hire the work out, you must invest the time to go visit finished jobs of the pro to prove to yourself she/he can meet or exceed your quality expectations