Friday, October 24, 2008

Building Codes Are Expensive to Ignore

My family has a vacation town home in Oregon. It's a beautiful place to be during the summer and fall.

It's a nice community outside of Portland. The grounds at this place are spectacular!

There are plenty of trees, large grass areas, and a wetland area within short walking distance where geese, ducks, blue herons, and other critters spend their time. It's like living in a park.

Now the buildings people live in are a different story. They were built about 30 years ago and they're some of the oldest residential buildings in the immediate area.

Don't get me wrong, it's a fine place to live and most buildings are sound.

But a crucial mistake was made 30 years ago. I'll get to that in a minute... but first what's happening now...

Many of the units in this community sit on a slope. Most of the units that do sit on a slope are flat top structures with a foundation that has only cement footings. The floor of each unit is about a foot or two off the ground. So the whole unit is held up by only four footings.

After 30 years and that many winters of Portland rain, you can probably imagine what is happening now. The foundation has weakened. Some homes have bend of up to 2.5 inches.

This makes a home difficult to sell here, and it's a safety hazard. So the association here is doing the right thing, it's getting it fixed.

Here's the thing though and the "mistake" that was made 30 years ago... not only is not up to code now, it was not built to code 30 years ago!

Now I don't know if someone working at the county building department back then was negligent, dumb, or corrupt... the original developer and engineer must have been one of those things too.

But in Oregon, the statue of limitations passed a long time ago for cases like this one. So the association is stuck paying the bill.

The contract now calls for additional cement footings underneath the units and helical piers around the outside. Units that need raising will be raised to the maximum recovery possible. This will bring the buildings up to code and reinforce the foundation.

The association did a fine job finding a good engineer and contractor who made a reasonable bid. But it's still relatively pricey, particularly for the younger residents or retired persons living on fixed income.

The moral of the story is this...

Building codes and dealing with building inspectors can sometimes be a real pain in the a**. And some building codes may seem like unnecessary bureaucratic clap trap... some probably are. So it may be tempting to cut corners, especially for something like an above ground pool deck.

But, most building codes are theoretically there for safety reasons and to protect the value of your home. So while it may be frustrating at times, you're usually better off going along with it.

Rest assured, if a building inspector notices you built something that was not up to code... or you try to include your pool and deck in a home sale and it's not up to code... the cost will likely be a lot more than what you may have saved by cutting corners.

And if you hire a contractor to build your pool deck or for any project, insist on seeing the plans and make sure the contractor followed codes before letting him walk away... and double check before the statue of limitations ends.

I imagine our place will be fine and our neighbors will be relieved once it's done. Heck, we might even get a new deck out of it. But it comes at a price and I'm sure everyone would have preferred to spend that money on something else... like a trip to Italy or Hawaii for instance.

So, once again, the point here is this...
bureaucratic rules are annoying, sometimes a pain, and some of my libertarian friends think they're totally unnecessary... but it's the world we live in right now and it's the law. Best to build your pool deck with that in mind.

As always, enjoy your pool!

Best regards,

Paul Ottaviano
How to Build a Deck Around Your Pool

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Floating Foundation for Your Pool Deck

A common question people have when planning an above ground pool deck is, "what foundation should I use?"

As many of you know, decks need a foundation for load-bearing posts. Pool decks are no different. What type of foundation you'll decide to use depends on a few key things.

  • How high will your deck be?
  • The materials you're using.
  • The ground's freeze depth.
  • How much weight can your soil handle?
Wood that has contact with the ground will eventually degrade. So for post support you'll need concrete footings that are above-grade.

If you decide on foundations that require digging a hole, be sure to dig according to local building codes, which could be up to 5' or more depending on your building codes and soil.

However, there is any easier way. Consider using the floating foundation for your pool deck.

Many above ground pool deck owners who build a deck use a floating foundation because it does not require digging and you won't have to worry about frost levels.

If you're looking to build a pool deck relatively quickly during the summer season... then the floating foundation is the way to go because the process is much simpler than mixing concrete, digging holes, and dealing with a more complex set of building codes.

The safety record of floating foundations is very good too.

Our eBook How to Build a Pool Deck, uses the common wraparound pool deck on a floating foundation as a step-by-step example because it is the most simple foundation for a pool deck.

Floating foundations are very popular for a reason and if you have limited time during the swim season to get an above ground pool deck up, then this is a very good option for you.

As always, enjoy your pool!

Best regards,

Paul Ottaviano

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Above Ground Pool Deck Photo's

To those of you who will spend the winter planning your pool deck and would like some visual examples, you can go to our website where you'll see some above ground pool deck pictures we've put together.

Once you're there just go ahead and click on the photo gallery link.


Paul Ottaviano