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Raised concrete poses tripping hazard

Your Home Improvements

Posted: October 30, 2009 10:31 p.m.
Updated: October 31, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Dear Robert,

I am a member of the board and according to the last contractor at our property, we have approximately 50 areas of raised concrete throughout our complex that are trip hazards. Recently one of the homeowners complained that she almost fell as a result of one of the raised areas. Although she was well aware of this part of the sidewalk being raised, we are now very concerned about possible lawsuits. We have received bids from three different contractors. Hopefully, these bids alone will show that we are concerned for the safety of our residents until the problems are resolved.

Two of the bids are calling for grinding, and the other says it is best to replace the concrete, but his bid is astronomical compared to grinding. Either way, we are going to have to special assess the residents and that will not be pleasant. Could you recommend any advantages of how to proceed, one way or the other? Thank you,

Rhonda T.

Hi Rhonda,

If you have a difference in height of 1/2 inch or more between two adjoining sections of sidewalk, that is a trip hazard.
Having a stack of bids from contactors will not help you in this type of lawsuit. They might show you are concerned in addressing the problem of trip hazards, but after the fact. Your responsibility is too keep the property maintained, not to respond to problems only when faced with legal action.

The homeowners have rights to a safe living environment as provided by the HOA. If sweet little old Ms. Jones does a Flying Wallenda off a sidewalk trip hazard, it won't matter to the Judge if she was aware of the problem beforehand or not. What matters is when were you aware of the problems because it is your fiduciary responsibility as a Board member to bring the property back to its original, safe condition as soon as you are made aware of the problem. If not, it is considered gross negligence. In any event, trip hazards are dangerous and must be repaired regardless of the expense.

One of the problems many HOA's are facing is they have a record number of residents that are going into foreclosure, so they are not paying their association dues. As the dues decrease, reserves get low. When maintenance and repairs are needed, there is a lack of funding and special assessments must be made. Some residents can no longer afford to make these assessments.

There are pros and cons to grinding. Contractors charge about $17.00 per linear foot to grind. If your sidewalks are 4 feet wide x 50 locations = 200 linear feet which is $3,400. That's the only pro - the price. Everything else is cons. First of all, grinding is ugly. You are scraping the finished top section of concrete off to reveal the aggregate underneath. Sometimes this cuts grooves in the surface. The end result is largely due to how the concrete was originally finished when it was first mixed. Secondly, grinding does not fix the cause of the problem. Why was the concrete lifting in the first place? Maybe there are some roots pushing up that section?

Or, you might have expansive soil so the sidewalk is literally sinking. If you only grind, the problem will return and you will be faced with the same decision in the future.

Based on your reserves, you have to do what's best for you. The only way to repair this problem as far as I'm concerned is to R & R - remove and replace. Sawcut, demo, remove, pin with steel, re-form and repour. At about $28 per sq.ft., it is more expensive, but it's done once and done right. It looks good - it's brand new concrete and it lasts. The ground is compacted or roots are removed as needed so you don't have to worry about it next year.

Hi Robert,

We live in a condominium that sits at the bottom of a hill. There have been several lawsuits against the developer and the builder. The latest problem I'm concerned with is there is always water in our crawlspace. I am tired of my house smelling wet and mildewy and this smell permeates throughout the entire house.

We opened up a little door and you can see the dirt is really wet. There is white stuff all over the bottom of my exterior wall.

The builder was found "not at fault" with this water issue. We've had a couple of contractors come out and say that it would be too difficult to waterproof, but there has to be a solution. I would really appreciate anything you could offer. Thank you very much for your time,

Ed C.

Hi Ed,

I have seen the same situation happen with other homes. Water is seeping down the hill - whether from natural ground water or from irrigation, that takes the path of least resistance and is ending up in your crawl space.

The white material on your wall is salt deposits or efflorescence.

Being at the tow of the hill, you are exposed to all of the drainage. Instead of thinking about waterproofing, there is a better solution. I would install a drain pumping station. It is a system that works very well for homes and wet locations at the bottom of the hill.

You will need to dig down about 2 1/2 feet and install a French drain, a leech line, that you would attach to a pumping station. We use the equivalent of a 55 gallon drum and allow the water to fill inside.

We would let all of the water gather into the drum and then discharge it into the storm drain. We would just pump it out with a check valve to make sure it would not back flow into the drum. In the meantime, to help speed the drying process, you can bring in a thermostatically controlled attic fan and get the air circulating in that crawl space. Make sure you've got plenty of good ventilation and get the air moving. This will help dry out your wall and the wet dirt and will clear up that mildewy smell.

Robert Lamoureux has 25 years of experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contracting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor, after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Send your questions to


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