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Why are so many Tennessee homes slipping off their foundations?

On Behalf of | Jan 29, 2024 | Construction Law

In recent years, Tennessee has been hit by devastating tornadoes that have destroyed older homes as well as those constructed within the past few decades. Some of these tornadoes, which were accompanied by winds clocked at well over 100 miles per hour, have exposed serious construction concerns.

One of the most devastating involves houses that weren’t correctly attached to their foundations. The National Weather Service (NWS) and others that have studied damaged and destroyed homes after tornadoes and other weather events, have reported that some of the homes that moved off their foundations were attached with nails and even adhesive tape. In some cases, concrete foundation blocks were filled with gravel and dirt instead of cement.

Some houses were found to have nothing attaching them to their foundations. One study found “glaring deficiencies” in the load path that connects all parts of a home from its foundation to its roof. People have died in homes that slipped off their foundations during a tornado.

Building codes haven’t kept up with weather changes

Building codes in Tennessee aren’t as strict as they are in states that have been traditionally known for having extremely high winds from events such as tornadoes or hurricanes. One civil engineering professor says, “[I]n the interior portion of the country, we choose to design for a much lower wind speed than the coast.”

As weather becomes more extreme and unpredictable, stricter building codes may be necessary to save homes – and, more importantly, lives. This may require the state and/or local building officials to amend their building codes to require homes to be able to stand up to these higher winds.

Even solidly built homes can be destroyed by tornadoes

One inspector notes that “even a properly constructed home can be damaged with 130 mph rotating forces from a tornado.” That means a contractor and their subcontractors can do everything right and still have a home come crumbling down in a catastrophic weather event.

Construction professionals always have to be wary of lawsuits in the aftermath of tornadoes. Proving that your business and those working for you abided by the local building codes and didn’t cut corners is crucial to saving your company from financial and reputational harm. Getting experienced legal guidance from an experienced construction attorney is an important first step towards shielding yourself and being prepared when the inevitable happens.