Important Questions and Answers on Building Repair Part-1

Building repairs are expensive and the more they are delayed, the more costly they become. Many times, the Contractor selected for repairs has very little or no technical knowledge of what is required to be done and he somehow manages to complete the work. After a few years, the building needs further repairs to give it a fresh lease of life.

Reliable Consultants and experienced Contractors are difficult to get and therefore many times the common man is just lost in this unending maze. The persons in charge are the worst sufferers. Even if they are honest & disciplined, they are rarely appreciated. It mostly becomes a thankless, honorary job that persons are burdened with, and in return, they develop unnecessary stress and also become unpopular.

Some helpful tips with useful recommendations and suggestions are covered in this article through questions and answers by which we hope to have made a small beginning to solving the complex problems of millions of citizens in our country.

Why should we repair our building?

A building constructed using any material, ages like the human body and therefore needs repairs to strengthen its weaker members and lengthen its life. Materials like steel, concrete, and wood deteriorate due to the gradual ingress of moisture and aggressive chemicals which weaken the structure. A structure, which is poorly constructed will deteriorate very fast as compared to properly constructed structures.

Besides, the occupants most often abuse the structure by technically unsound modifications. If these are not prevented in time and rectified, the structure may collapse. They also increase the load on the structure by installing additional water tanks, partition walls, terrace gardens with heavy potted plants and lawn, mezzanine floors, etc. This weakens the structure and therefore it needs repairs and strengthening. If the building is not repaired in time, it collapses killing or injuring its occupants and destroying property worth millions of rupees.

What is the useful life of a building and on what factors does it depend?

The useful life of a building is the number of years it can serve the occupants without costly repairs but with some reasonable maintenance.

The life of a building depends on several factors. They are more or less similar to the factors on which the life of a human being depends. These are as follows:

  • Attention is paid during its construction i.e., selection of materials, construction practices, and proper supervision.
  • Attention is paid to its maintenance i.e., timely maintenance of factors like leaking roofs, drainage, and water supply lines, ascertaining reasons for cracks and attending to their repairs, and timely/periodic protective painting.
  • Preventing or attending to the removal of vegetative growth on buildings due to bird droppings and leaking drainage and water supply lines.
  • Attention is paid during its extension or modification. There are several cases wherein reasonably healthy structures have developed defects or have even collapsed during their extension work or renovation work.
  • The change in environmental conditions around the building e.g., as the city gets more and more polluted, chemicals like carbon dioxide, chlorides, nitrous oxide, moisture, and sulfates can cause serious damage to the concrete and steel structures and the life span of the structure gets reduced.
  • Overloading the structure or weakening its structural members due to alteration/renovation.
  • Weakening the structure by chipping concrete and removing reinforcement steel to conceal or pass-through water supply/ drainage lines or electric/telephone wire conduits. This generally happens when interior decoration and alterations are carried out by unqualified and technically incompetent persons or agencies.
  • Weakening the structure in the stilt portion (parking area) of the building by chipping off the beam concrete and removing the steel reinforcement to create headroom and attempting to shift RCC columns to create wider space for parking like in the case of Navre Apartment at Sion, Mumbai.

Who should spend on the repairs?

All those who are concerned about their lives and the lives of their dear ones and their property should spend on the repairs. It is often observed that individuals are willing to spend on lavish lifestyles, lavish interiors of their flats/offices, posh cars, and/or on increasing the amenities in their buildings like water supply, power supply, etc. but are very reluctant to spend on structural repairs which is the prime necessity.

How do we start repairs?

It is very necessary to appoint a Structural Consultant for repairs. Physical examination and testing of the structure are first done and weak spots/areas are identified.

Testing can also help to identify areas wherein repairs need not be done. It can also help identify areas that need repairs but visually look satisfactory. This can help reduce the financial burden and unnecessary expenses on repairs. However, most of the time physical examination itself is good enough to identify the areas which need immediate repairs. After detailed inspection and testing, the Consultant prepares and estimates the cost by preparing a bill of quantities of various items/areas of repairs.

How do we identify or appoint a consultant?

The process is quite similar to identifying a medical practitioner when you have health complications.

  • The best is to go by hearsay from a friend, colleague, relative, or professional friend who has already undergone a similar experience.
  • Another alternative could be the reputation of a professional. However, never go by big publicity, volumes of work done, video film shows, speeches, and promises. Visit the earlier works and ascertain from those occupants the performance of the consultant you are opting for. A small exercise in this direction will help considerably.

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