Weird Weather and Building Failures

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Last spring and summer, the wettest weather ever recorded in Maine led to a rash of paint failures here on the coast, and at least one costly siding failure (on my own house, dang it). Washington, D.C., is still digging out from an unprecedented wave of snowstorms. Of the three members of my immediate family who live down there, two had water intrusion through their roofs, and another lost gutters and had a chunk of ice plunge through a skylight. So in the past 12 months, all four of us have experienced damage directly attributable to weird weather. And the phenomenon seems to be widespread, with changing rainfall patterns, in particular, wreaking havoc on foundations.

After a particularly dry summer followed by deluges in the fall, Psonya Wilson, a lawyer in Brandon, Miss., noticed light streaming in where the wall had separated from the baseboard in the bedroom of her 5-year-old son. “I could stick my finger through it,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it. The whole back part of the house had sunk about six inches.” To stop further collapse, not to mention to control the draft, she is having several stabilization piers installed to shore up the foundation of her two-story garden style house; it will cost more than $5,000.

Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association indicates that since the 1990s there has been an accelerating trend nationwide toward more extended dry periods followed by downpours. Whether due to random climate patterns or global warming, the swings between hot and dry weather and severe rain or snow have profoundly affected soil underneath buildings.

Are you seeing an increase in property damage and building failures due to extreme or unusual weather? If so, do you view them as a business opportunity, a headache, or a little of both? --Bruce D. Snider




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