Crumbling Concrete

The HBRA of CT became very involved in the "crumbling concrete" issue as soon as it was brought to our attention.  Our goal from the outset was and remains to better understand both the extent and the cause of the problems occurring in certain concrete foundations in the northeast quadrant of the state.  We immediately also understood the need to refute what has proven to be unjustified claims that the issue resulted from how contractors poured concrete foundations.  Below is a summary of the how the legislature dealt with the issue in 2016, further legislation in 2017 and related news accounts.

House Bill (HB) 5180, PA 16-45, AAC the Documentation of Concrete Foundation Applications, was enacted into law in the 2016 session.  This was the primary vehicle to address the crumbling concrete foundation issue that has plagued hundreds (and potentially several thousand) home owners in the northeast quadrant of CT. 

The concrete company known to be involved, JJ Mottes, blamed builders and foundation installers for the failing foundations.  There were also outrageous proposals, such as Rep. Kelly Luxenbergs’s (D) demand to have home builders post a 30-year performance bond to guarantee foundations.  The affected homes were built in the 1980s and 1990s (and possibly into the 2000s). 

The HBRA noted that residential foundation pours are done the same way by builders everywhere (not just in CT, but across the nation) yet the crumbling concrete problems have occurred only, to the best of anyone’s knowledge, in pours using Mottes’ concrete.  The underlying problem has been traced to the mineral pyrrhotite found in the aggregate (stone, gravel) used by the company.  Similar issues apparently have occurred in Canada and some European countries, all traced to pyrrhotite in the aggregate used in concrete batching (mixing).  The Attorney General's office and the Dept. of Consumer Protection (DCP) each completed investigations of the issue in 2016 (see links to reports below).

The real estate market in the impacted area has been in turmoil.  Buyers of homes and their banks are balking at closing or lending on homes unless the seller can identify the supplier of their concrete and who installed their foundations.  Given the damages suffered by affected home owners (each fix is $100,000 to $250,000), there was much political pressure to do something.  So, under the 2016 new law, in order to determine in the future the origin of the concrete used in foundations in case further problems occur, home builders must report to local building officials as a condition for getting a C.O. the name of the supplier and installer of concrete foundations poured on or after 10-1-16.  This may also help set new homes apart from existing sales that cannot identify the origin of the concrete in their foundations.  The bill also provides some property tax assessment relief to affected home owners and has other provisions to encourage home owners to come forward and report foundation problems to state officials. 

Further legislation in 2017 has been filed.  The HBRACT participated in an information hearing on February 2, 2017, before the Planning & Development Committee.  We continue to offer our construction expertise and policy guidance to find solutions to the issue.  Another information hearing with insurance companies, banks and real estate firms is scheduled for later in February.

The HBRA originally proposed that concrete companies be required to meet certain ASTM aggregate standards (i.e., test aggregate used to avoid the pyrrhotite problem) to prevent future issues from occurring.  However, based on an examination of these standards, they do not actually test for the mineral.  There is, in fact, no standardized or reliable test for pyrrhotite that can be used on a regular basis.  However, geomapping has been done, according to the concrete industry, of areas known to include the mineral.  The aggregate quarry used by Mottes occurs in this area.  Thus, the appropriate solution to prevent future issues is to ban the use of aggregates from this geomapped area in the production of concrete.  The aggregates can be used for other purposes, such as fill material, track beds on construction sites, etc.  

We also support the state supplying some funds, e.g., through bonding, to help homeowners with the problem fix their failing foundations.  This would be only seed money to start the repair process.  Given the extent and the expense of the fix, and its natural cause, we urge all stakeholders to continue to urge FEMA to step in with federal dollars to help homeowners.  We urge the entire state to support this effort because the devasting impact on a significant number of homeowners is having ripple effects throughout the northeast CT real estate market and it will eventually adversely  impact the entire state.

See also Connecticut Coalition Against Crumbling Basements.News reports and other information:

Gov Malloy Announces State Begins Providing Reimbursements to Homeowners for Crumbling Foundations - Homeowners advised to begin application process ASAP; Homeowners With Crumbling Foundations Qualify For Federal Tax Break - Hartford Courant

Feds bring technical aid, not cash, on crumbling foundations

Crumbled Insurance: Commissioner defends change excluding failing foundations from homeowners insurance policies

Governor Malloy commits $5 million in bond funds to assist homeowners in areas impacted by crumbling concrete to conduct tests of foundations in order to help determine the extent of the problem.

Dept of Consumer Protection releases its "Report on Deteriorating Concrete in Residential Foundations" (12-30-16).  According to the report, the presence of the mineral pyrrhotite "is necessary in order to cause one of these foundations to fail."   See NBC Connecticut report on the DCP report.

Two state senators release legislative proposal to help those with crumbling foundations - would authorize municipalities at their option to bond for loans or grants to assist homeowners.

FEMA rejects Malloy's request to have FEMA set up a field office in Northeast CT - NBC Connecticut; FEMA's letter, however, acknowledges that the cause is due to naturally occurring pyrrhotite, but the act of pouring foundations is a man-made event and, thus, the problem is not a natural disaster.

Attorney General's Office releases its investigation report: Investigating the Deterioration of Basement Walls Made of Concrete in CT; Scientific Reports Find Pyrrhotite a ‘Contributing Factor’ to Crumbling Concrete Issue - NBC Troubleshooters story.

FEMA official rebuffs Malloy appeal on crumbling foundations - CT Mirror (10-20-16)

Gov. Malloy Calls on FEMA to Help with Crumbling Foundations - NBC Troubleshooter (10-19-16); Gov. Malloy Calls Crumbling Concrete Foundations a Natural Disaster, Asks FEMA for Help - Hartford Courant (10-19-16) - State concludes that the issue is the result of a natural disaster; NBC Nightly News reports on the issue.

Gov. Malloy Discusses Financial Solutions for Homeowners with Failing Foundations - Hartford Courant (9-17-16)

Concrete Coalition upset with Malloy response to crumbling foundations - Journal Inquirer (9-13-16)

HBRA testifies on crumbling concrete issue - Our 2-prong solution is logical and will solve future and current issues.  We proposed: 1. require concrete companies to test the aggregate used in batching its concrete to ensure pyrrhotite and other oxidizing minerals are not present at levels that can cause the problem, and 2. establish a grant or revolving loan program, managed by DCP, possibly funded through issuing state bonds, to help affected homeowners fix foundations caused by crumbling concrete.  [Note:  Our position on testing aggregates for pyrrhotite has been amended.  See the issues description above.]

Contractors, experts rebut concrete maker - Journal Inquirer (3-22-16)

J.J. Mottes blames builders' installers - but argument debunked by HBRA (see our testimony above and news stories).

State won't sue companies over crumbling foundations.

Deal Could Help Homeowners Pay to Fix Crumbling Foundations - $50 million fund being negotiated with insurance companies.

Two CT companies to stop selling products after allegations of crumbling foundations - WFSB Eyewitness News.

NPR Radio interviews affected homeowners, DCP Commissioner Jonathan Harris and State Rep. Bill Aman - a 40 minute segment.

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