Forensic EngineeringIndustry InsightsOwners BlogFrank L Bennardo PE Presents findings on Sandy to homeowners and industry peers

With our 4th team deployed to New York & New Jersey, 80+ Sandy Damage Inspections and counting, 9 presentations given to hundreds of affected homeowners and colleagues, and after my 5th trip to Sandy affected areas in New York and New Jersey, our firm is gathering significant information about the damage we’re seeing as a result of Hurricane Sandy.  In this article, I offer 4 informal assessments homeowners can do to help better identify and document damage that relates to your Sandy claim.  This information should be shared with YOUR hired engineer, attorney, and/or adjuster before submitting to your insurance carrier or their experts.

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Tip 1: Arm Yourself

Scott Mager speaks about how homeowners can help document their damageThe first tip is to document everything you say and do regarding your claim and to arm yourself with all publicly available information on the topic.  Search the Internet for combinations of relevant terms (such as ‘Sandy Insurance Help‘) to learn more about the resources, do’s, and don’ts regarding your Sandy damage claim.

I’ll pass along this from an adjuster’s blog.  Documentation is the key here, and my 3 self-created assessments below are extended methods of documentation.  Click Here to read a blog post from an anonymous author on the subject of documenting your insurance claim.

Another take is offered from industry Insurance Expert Scott Mager on this TV interview. Click Here for one of Scott’s many resources of  information or visit his helpful website at www.stormhelpteam.org.

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Tip 2: The Door Marker Assessment

Engineering Express offers informal assignment to homeowners to uncover progressive Sandy Damage

An informal ‘pencil assessment’ homeowners can do to help identify progressing damages to their homes from Sandy

There are many houses affected by Sandy where wind and water both not only shifted the foundation, but created a whole new foundation profile where both differential settlement and structural ‘racking’ from continued settlement, soil saturation, and wind gusts cause homes to continue to shift over time.  Water infiltration and increased humidity issues are also causing wood doors and partition walls to expand months after the storm.

With engineers and adjusters visiting most homes a single time, trends cannot be established and homeowner assistance is helpful.  If you feel you are one of many who are experiencing doors not closing as they used to, we need your help documenting.  This informal assessment is easy:

1) Mark the date, time, weather temperature, and humidity (get it from a smartphone app and list the source of your information).

2) Take a pencil to the door that’s affected and rub it along the portion of the door that seems to be sticking.

3) Open and close the door a couple of times until the pencil area rubs off on the door jamb.

4) Mark the limits of the pencil rub on the door jamb and date it on the door and photograph.

5) Repeat this test once or twice each week to gather a set of data points for your engineer to correlate to the weather and other items found during their inspection and help render an assessment or substantiate more formal testing requirements with your insurance carrier.

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Tip 3: The Marble Roll Assessment

Engineering Express offers informal assignment to homeowners to help document Sandy Damage

The ‘marble roll assignment’ – an informal assessment homeowners can use to document progressing foundation movement due to Sandy

This is an informal method to document floor and foundation settlement conditions over time.  It involves a marble and a smart phone video camera.

1) Place 2 pieces of tape along the high and low sides of an area of floor in question.  It doesn’t matter how far apart (3-5 feet or so will do), what matters is the change in the marble roll.

2) Mark a spot on the high floor side to roll the marble from.  Find a large sized marble that’s as evenly weighted as possible.

3) Note the time, date, weather, and humidity (and the smartphone app you got the information from).

4) Clean the floor area.  Place the marble to roll from the high line of tape to the other and let it roll while video taping  the marble rolling.

5) Note the ending point of the marble on the low tape side.  The video camera will capture the time it took for the marble to roll to the endpoint.  Repeat the test to ensure a continuous result and establish a basis of control.

6) Repeat this assessment every 2 weeks and share the information with your engineer to help render an assessment or substantiate more formal testing requirements with your insurance carrier.

 

 

 

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Tip 4: The Window Lift Assessment

Engineering Express Illustrates Informal Window Lift Assessment

Using a digital luggage scale, homeowners are able to monitor window performance over time

This assessment involves a digital luggage scale and something to grip the bottom of the window (I used a paint can opener in the picture).  This informal assessment is intended to notate differences in window and sliding door operations due to deteriorating structural conditions (from building movement, swelling of framing materials from water infiltration, movement of walls, decaying window components, etc.).  The purpose of the assessment is to document that damage is occurring at a faster pace than before the triggering event.

1) Note the time, date temperature, weather conditions (sunny, cloudy, rainy) and humidity (and the smartphone app that you got the information from).

2) Mark a spot on each window to be assessed to provide a consistent reference point.

3) Slowly lift the window while video recording the event if possible.

4) Record the highest weight it took to lift the window form the luggage scale.

5) Repeat the assessment every week to capture enough data points to determine trends and help your engineer render an assessment or substantiate more formal testing requirements with your insurance carrier.

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In Summary

Doors progressively out of alignment from Sandy Foundation Settlement

Report any anomalies from this assessment or other damage appearing in your home (such as mysterious wall cracks, newly exposed nails, and other symptoms of building movement) to YOUR engineer, attorney, or your adjuster (not the insurance company’s adjuster just yet) for further consideration in your claim.   These methods are an effective way of identifying damage occurring over time that might not be apparent during a one time visit. While not scientifically admissible, these assessments do pave the way to warrant certified testing and other research to items that would otherwise mysteriously appear damaged or defective at a later point in time that might be reimbursable by your insurance carrier (like the doors in the racked building taken in Bay Head, NJ after Sandy in the photo to the right).

These assessments are the brainchild of Engineering Express and created to provide clues over time to help identify ongoing storm damage. They are not bound to any formal test procedures and not admissible for use without review and certification by a licensed engineer.  These assessment instructions are not to be publicly reproduced without written permission from Frank L. Bennardo, P.E.