What Lies Beneath Maintaining Your Concrete Foundation

 It’s true that a building is as only as strong as its foundation—and while New Yorkers don't have as much active concern about the foundations of  their buildings as residents of an earthquake-prone area like California might  have, it's still important for boards and managers alike to be aware that their  building’s foundation does require a certain amount of attention and maintenance. Since  it's literally underground, your foundation is easy to ignore, but its health  is crucial. A little bit of education from the professionals can go a long way  toward raising building administrators' awareness of the importance of a sound,  well-maintained foundation.  

 What's Down There?

 Perhaps even more important than the concrete or stone of a given foundation is  the ground providing support beneath the man-made structure itself. In the  tri-state area, there are a number of natural elements such as bedrock and  sandy soil that determine how a foundation should be constructed, and if—or when—that foundation will falter. As a result of these differences, there are  different types of foundations used, even within a relatively small geographic  area.  

 “The most common foundation type in New York City are the spread footings,” according to Jerry Misiewicz, a professional engineer and senior associate with  The Eipel Engineering Group in Manhattan. The footings mostly “consist of steel-reinforced or plain concrete ‘thick slabs’ that provide support for the weight of a building above it. The weight of the  building is transferred to the footings through bearing walls and columns.” He adds that the term “foundation” may also include walls below the grade level.  

 The majority of buildings, if not all, may experience some degree of cracking  and fracturing during their life span. There are a handful of factors that  contribute to this problem, many of which are directly related to Mother  Nature.  

 “Here, in this region, we have freeze-and-thaw cycles, and when this occurs at  the ground level you begin to see horizontal cracks,” says Bob Cherry, general manager for Quality 1st Basement Systems in Staten  Island. “Often times people will say, ‘Oh, that crack has been there for years,' and they do nothing about it. If you  catch these things in the beginning, it's a quick fix; if not, it becomes more  involved and more expensive.” If cracks are weather related or due to “thermal cycling,” property owners can expect to see signs of stress between seven and 10 years of  construction.  


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  • What does NY Housing code define as "livable" in order for a windowless basement to be legally inhabitable? Is it only as a bedroom or as any sort of dwelling/living room with a bathroom?