Five signs your building is about to collapse

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The collapse of a five story apartment building on the 15th of January in the Beirut district of Achrafieh has triggered a wave of concern over building safety in Lebanon. So before you panic, here are the five things you need to worry about before you evacuate your house.

1- Check for foundation wall cracks and as well as cracks in the main columns located in your basement

Foundations can crack because they’re poorly built or made of insufficient materials, or because the house is poorly engineered. Walk around the outside of the house if you can, looking for cracks in the concrete, stone or brick foundation.

Look for horizontal cracks, wide cracks (the thickness of your fingernail or greater) or a pattern of cracks starting on one side of a corner and picking up on the other side. This shows the foundation is unable to bear the home’s weight.

P.S: A few hairline vertical or stair-step cracks in concrete are not significant.

2- Sloping floors and uneven spaces

Sloping floors are not uncommon in older homes, especially for houses built before the end of the Lebanese civil war. Look at the house from the street. Is everything — the front entrance, the windows, outside doors, foundation and walls — straight and square?

3- Weird sounds and cracks

If you happen to hear weird sounds and cracks especially during winter storms or strong winds, it’s not a good sign.

4- Failed siding

Siding provides protection from the elements, moisture and damage. They are located both inside and outside your home walls. Time-tested siding materials are wood, aluminum, vinyl, stone and brick. Make sure that these materials are in good shape.

5- Mold and water stains on ceilings and walls

The cause of mold and rot is simple: Water got in where it shouldn’t have. The pros call it “moisture penetration.” The longer it’s there, the more damage it creates.

Also check your basement’s inner walls for evidence of leaks or seeping water, especially where walls meet the floor.

Make sure you consult an expert or a specialized engineer in case you notice your building is in a very weak state and that most of these signs are there. Better be safe than sorry!