The leaning Tower of Isaan

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The leaning Tower of Isaan

Postby ratsima » Thu Sep 13, 2012 3:44 pm

The wife's family has this most amazing house. It is 3 storeys tall and really quite a substantial building, all concrete and proper (=heavy!) roof tiles. Inside has been done up a treat, with beautiful wooden floors. A DesRes you might say. Just one problem, it has a helluva lean to it! The House is 7 years old I believe.

From the front you just see a normal building but from the rear, the lean can be sen with the naked eye. Inside it is worse, with some floors looking as if they came from Ripley's Believe It Or Not (I exaggerate). I say "looking as if" cos I don't think the lean is huge but it is still quite odd when walking on even a slight slope. I didn't spend a lot of time in the house for other reasons but it was really odd to see such a nice house having this "anomoly".

I did get the wife to ask. "It is safe". Well, they had an engineer (Structural? Aircon? Motor Mechanic? :) ) to have a look and he said it was alright and perfectly safe, so no problems there then. No report on headed notepaper of course! The husband, wife and kids continue to live there, blissfully unaware of any danger, if indeed danger there may be

I asked the wife some questions. Had it got worse over the years? No, the lean was evident before the house was finished, the builder promised some magical remedial work and then promptly disappeared. It has to be said that every other aspect of that builder's work seemed of a high standard (from a fairly quick look, I admit) - maybe he subbed the foundations work, if that's where the problems lie? Have there been any cracks? No, never - and I saw no sign of any cracking, or cover-ups when I was there. Hmmm, but it just doesn't feel right.

Is it possible to have a SAFE leaning building? And with no cracks, is that a good or bad sign, eg no warning of a catastrophic failure to come? Is there a class of Thai engineer who can- for a sensible amount of money of course - assess the house and the risks? What is the likely problem and can it be fixed? It's not my problem and the wife is not that close to the family but I'd hate for the thing to come crashing down around the ears of the kids!

Thanks for any input/feedback
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Re: The leaning Tower of Isaan

Postby Roger Ramjet » Thu Sep 13, 2012 4:20 pm

ratsima,
The first thing you should notice is hairline cracks, normally, where the beams join the columns. In some cases the structure will "groan" which is caused by the concrete pulling away from the rebar. The building can be stabalised by digging besides the footings and piles being added. It can also be lifted with hydraulic jacks onto piles. To be honest I wouldn't want to be the contractor who did the lift as it's a three story building. I doubt there is a contractor, other than foreign in Thailand, that would touch it. It requires a structural engineer to go through the whole building to certify that it can be done first, for that he needs the plans and also has to know what was used (rebar, type of concrete, type of footings and piles) when it was built.
I would say that no piles were used in the construction and that they just used footings, or if piles were used they weren't driven or bored into the rocky soil. To be quite honest I've seen many buildings in Thailand that lean, including multi storied buildings in Bangkok, and each and every time it has been caused by bad pilings and sub standard footings.
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Re: The leaning Tower of Isaan

Postby ratsima » Thu Sep 13, 2012 8:09 pm

Thanks Roger Ramjet for the info.

I've been told "no cracks, no creaks, no groans". But I will pass on the advice to be on the lookout for "hairline cracks, normally, where the beams join the columns". And of course, if there are any groans, to run for the hills rather than just think that the "pee" is being disturbed tonight!

But for my peace of mind, assuming the absence of cracks and groans, is it SAFE? I know neither you or any other thinking human is going to say "yes" it's safe but I would like to understand the risks, in the next years. Like you I've seen many leaning buildings in Thailand but I've never seen any fall down, tho I've seen youtube videos and the like of such falling buildings in other Asian cities. So, in the absence of cracks and groans, is it at risk of catastrophic failure? And if no cracks or creaks/groans ever appear, could this building have a long life span? My house here in Bangkok has got render cracks everywhere but this Leaning Tower of Isaan hasn't had a single one!

I've read on the web about lifting the building and using new piles. More likely they woudl have to knock down and start again but that would only happen if they won the lottery. All the cash was invested in this grand house. Now - almost literally - it is a money pit! As for getting the building records - plans, permissions, materials (which should have been?) used etc - no chance of that.

Roger Ramjet - as you have seen many leaning buildings, can you give an indication of whether they were eventually fixed or just left well alone and continue to exist albeit in a Pisa fashion? Thanks again for the input, well appreciated.
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Re: The leaning Tower of Isaan

Postby geordie » Thu Sep 13, 2012 9:15 pm

The type and way they construct here is pretty safe if they did not get silly with the cement and rebar to save money
Something puzzles me are all the floors sloping consistently throughout the house ?
You could underpin the corner sinking with a new foundation to stop any further movement and if there are no cracks now its likely to stay that way especially as its leaning as a whole
Personally like Rodger i have seen lots of buildings with the same problem not neccesarily to the same degree but i can think of one worse !
A 250 year old building that had the floors dipping in several directions in different rooms
You can and do get with buildings settlement as the mass becomes greater the ground compresses slightly you may even get a few cracks and the structure develops a lean but all happens slowly over a period of time usually nothing to worry about
The time to worry is if there is a leaky toilet pipe or water pipe or underground stream washing the dirt from your foundations or a water source (cess) softening the ground on one point only near a foundation
this will cause subsidence the difference between the two being subsidence can appear overnight and continuouly deteriate the structure given the lack of cracks after seven years i suspect the problem was there when the concrete was poured for the frame it was buit distorted that being so it should have a normal lifespan its just going to be a bit odd looking
My guess would be you will get plenty of warning before it becomes unsafe the doors jamming in their frames or windows the same then its likely some cracking diagonally or vertically through the blockwork will take place the weakest path usually the windows and doors provide some stress relief
You could set up a couple of reference points just a fixed post or a block concreted into the ground totally seperate from the building then mark dead level check every few months and see if its stable or still moving it may well be settled now and require -no fix other than retile the rooms but extra cement to bring them back to level
Again thinking about it tiles snap easily so chalk them up with doors and windows for signs to look out for
my comments may be wrong but never deliberately
If it aint broke, dont fix it
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Re: The leaning Tower of Isaan

Postby Roger Ramjet » Thu Sep 13, 2012 9:40 pm

About 14 years ago there were two 8 storied buildings that leant inwards so that they actually touched. The whole subsistence thing had been going on for a while and until they started to show signs of fatigue the BMA allowed them to be occupied. When they started to show hairline and large cracks in the walls they were declared unsafe and the people moved out. As nobody would accept responsibility and pay for the demolition they were still standing 9 years ago from memory, but may have been pulled down since as the land was regarded as "prime". Both were located along the Chao Phraya River and I looked at them a number of times from the ferry, until I stopped travelling that way.
When we were house hunting, before we bought this townhouse we were shown a number of three storied townhouses that all "leant" backwards around Lat Phrao. We declined all their "discounts" and instead moved to Pak Kret.
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Re: The leaning Tower of Isaan

Postby ratsima » Fri Sep 14, 2012 3:48 pm

Geordie, thanks for your input too. Given the detail and issues you and Roger have mentioned, I have asked my wife to ask for more detail and a couple of photos emailed if possible. Turns out people quite keen to get to the bottom of this issue, so I'll get back to you soon. Thanks again.
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Re: The leaning Tower of Isaan

Postby Mike Judd » Fri Sep 14, 2012 4:25 pm

It rather seems as if the leaning building has a foundation problem if the floors slope one way and there are no cracks etc;. As mentioned it would be wise to have some method of checking the lean from time to time. Any further sinking might not happen until excessive water soaks the ground. If it was a Raft type foundation slab I can imagine some settling over all on soft ground with-out any cracking. But strip footings would have to be pretty big and deep to sink on one side with-out some cracking, especially 3 storeys. My Partners 2 storey old house in the village had sinking foundations at one end through no gutters , but it was pretty obvious what was happening with huge gaps appearing between the walls and the columns at the top. If you are reasonably alert you should get plenty of warning of what might happen.
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Re: The leaning Tower of Isaan

Postby geordie » Fri Sep 14, 2012 9:23 pm

If it soft ground inadequate footings the fix is simple but labour intensive dig down further see if solid ground can be found and underpin the footings with more concrete and a larger footprint in the uk now they have small tracked drilling rigs that will fit through a door they drill piles aloong the outside and inside then link them with groundbeams to support the structure
Definately needs a reference point to check if it has in fact "settled or is still moving if its settled and you pin it the building should survive ok with no further movement or its still moving it should be treated as urgent before faliure does occur if you do underpin do all the footings not just the side that is sinking
if you were to intefere by pinning one specific footing which is tempting the building may well still settle
on the other footings causing damage
Having watched a local builder 2 doors away building a two floor extension he should be prosecuted for reckless endagerment he dug down barely a meter a round hole probably half a meter across ??
That is his idea of a foundation 1given the whole moo baan is built on piles i am assuming they did not do that for fun so a disaster waiting to happen next door obviously did the same with a rear extension we are renting the house for storage but the rear extension has sunk breking away from the main house and sloping floor pretty much the same i will try and get a couple of pictures up but with windows seven i have problems reducing :mrgreen:
my comments may be wrong but never deliberately
If it aint broke, dont fix it
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Re: The leaning Tower of Isaan

Postby Mike Judd » Sun Sep 16, 2012 6:53 am

Get a Mac Geordie !
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Re: The leaning Tower of Isaan

Postby MGV12 » Sun Sep 16, 2012 6:55 am

More like ... Get a grip Geordie!

“Some days I am an optimistic pessimist ... other days I am a pessimistic optimist”
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Re: The leaning Tower of Isaan

Postby elgato » Sun Sep 16, 2012 12:33 pm

How about some pics of this engineering masterpiece?
I thought I was wrong once but I was mistaken.
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Re: The leaning Tower of Isaan

Postby ratsima » Mon Sep 17, 2012 3:10 pm

Can anyone tell me how to add an image inline with my post? I've tried searching - found how to insert a youtube video but cant seem to locate simple image upload instructions, or is the image an attachment? :(
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Re: The leaning Tower of Isaan

Postby geordie » Mon Sep 17, 2012 3:15 pm

ratsima wrote:Can anyone tell me how to add an image inline with my post? I've tried searching - found how to insert a youtube video but cant seem to locate simple image upload instructions, or is the image an attachment? :(


If you scroll down on the reply page it invites you to upload attachments the from memory browse it easy after that :lol: i am just having problem making the pictures smaller and finding them again :(
my comments may be wrong but never deliberately
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Re: The leaning Tower of Isaan

Postby ratsima » Tue Sep 18, 2012 2:44 pm

I managed to get some pics send down and can update some of the info.
For clarity (I hope!) I have annotated the 4 corners of the house as A, B, C and D. The extended columns holding the balconies are E and F.
The walls are: Front = AB; Side Rear = BC; Rear = CD; Side Front = DA. There are doors in walls AB and CD
Internally, there are no current cracks but evidence of a previous long crack on the staircase wall - see photo below
Internally, all doors and windows of rooms and built-in furniture open freely.
Sides DA, AB (except at corner B) and CD (except at corner C) at ground level are free of external evidence of lean or movement
Side BC of the house shows a lot of disturbance at ground level
Pillars B and C seem to be leaning inwards ie towards side DA. Even in the photos you can see it but it is more obvious when seen by the naked eye. In leaning, they have "pulled up" the concrete slabs surrounding the bases of these pillars.
There is some cracking of the cement balusters on the balconies.

This is the house overview.
1.jpg


Some cracking on Side Front
2.jpg


Balcony column E showing some cracking, balusters cracking
3.jpg


Column B leaning, major ground slab upheaval
4.jpg


Another view of Column B and ground slab
5.jpg


Column C, major slab/drain upheaval
6.jpg


Column C again, showing major upheaval at drain - looking along to Column D where the drain goes back to level with the base of the house
7.jpg


Another two photos in the next reply.
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Re: The leaning Tower of Isaan

Postby ratsima » Tue Sep 18, 2012 2:51 pm

The only place where there is cracking from window to column
8.jpg


The only place showing any real internal damage/cracking on a lower internal staircase which is adjacent to wall DA
9.jpg


So, a biggish lean from the Side Rear of the house - where movement is obvious - presumably to the Side Front of the house, where there is very little evidence of movement (perhaps the crack on the internal staircase).

My first question still applies -does this building look to be at risk of catastrophic failure? Second question - how seriously difficult to fix this lean, do you think> I really appreciate the input, thanks again.
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