Fire escape repair
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  1. #1
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    Default Fire escape repair

    I went to look at another fire escape at a college dorm in Ann Arbor, they anchor these things into the brick veneer and make them out of unistrut.
    The one and only 18' tall column is 1-3/4" unistrut ????
    Why do they allow architects to seal structural drawings ??? They might know how to make things look pretty but they are not engineers.

    He is calling out to fix a rusted area when this thing needs 2 major 5" x 5" columns and horizontals to give it real support.
    This ( Its grandfathered in is a bunch of horse crap ) I wouldnt put a paint brush on this thing due to liability reasons.

    In the event of a ice storm and a fire with 10 kids bouncing on it..., no way.
    I don't hesitate to tell them ( No Way ) I don't care if a architect signs off on it or not.

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    If you attempted to fix it, I'd worry about the liability when it does fail. I'm not in the construction/architecture world, but OEM responsibility has been known to vanish as soon as someone starts "fixing" things, regardless of how successful or well meaning they were.

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    No problem-O

    Press brake up some 1/4" plate into 5" x 5" angles, enough for the full 18' height.

    Field weld these in place forming a box tube around the unistrut columns, encapsulating it....

    Drill a hole in the side of one of them, so the inspector can look in, and see the unistrut is still in place, thereby satisfying the "historic" requirements....

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    digger doug, I'm a little worried I might only find a fence pole chunk of concrete since they put a 12" long pc. of unistrut horizontal on top of the ground.
    I'm thinking 18" diameter x 42" chunk of concrete under each column..., they are likely to find a beginner welder to weld it up...

    I'm surprised we don't see more of these things failing, they are so rickety...

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    Have any pictures? Sounds like they would be better off without it at only 18ft haha. Though at only 18ft I think 5x5 columns is a bit overkill if it is tied into the wall. You could fit 3 people on it at the same time realistically, so only needing to support around 550lbs give or take.

    Quote Originally Posted by Portable Welder View Post
    Why do they allow architects to seal structural drawings ??? They might know how to make things look pretty but they are not engineers.
    They usually don't. My experience is that unless a structural detail is a standard piece in the IBC then the architects will almost always hire out a structural engineer to stamp off on it in addition to them(and be required to do so). Especially on a commercial project. If your description of this thing is accurate then I doubt any of the architects I work with would touch it either due to liability, but of course all trades have bad apples. Though it requires enough time and experience to get to the point of being a licensed architect that I would think most* completely inept ones are weeded out.

    I have turned down jobs where I have advised people that a repair is not safe/possible, and a full replacement is needed. Some people don't like to hear that of course, and I make a mental note to gladly show up to court for whomever potentially gets hurt by it if I heard of an incident later.

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    johfoster, 5" x 5" is not overkill, this column is actually about 29' overall and the escape is a good 20' across, the columns I would put in would be 6.5' away from the house and designed to bear the weight should it get detached from the house, would a 4" x 4" x 1/4" do it, probably, but a 5" x 5" x 3/16" would be stronger and cost a little less.

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    This sounds like one time I wouldn't hesitate to let the fire department
    and/or some Government entity hear my(your) concerns.

    Just the what if would make it difficult to sleep at night.

    Edit:

    In after thought maybe let who ever contacted you know that.... knowing what they know (and theirs probably a paper trail to allocate the funds to "fix")

    in the event of a fire escape failure
    everyone who name is on this could be in some deep s..t

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    This definitely looks like a fix to at least 4x4x3/8 or 5x5x1/4 angle minimum. Preferably 4" square x 3/16.

    I always remember the saying of no deal is better then a bad deal.

    Sent from my SM-G960U using Tapatalk

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    Also remind the party requesting the work that all of the communications are "discoverable documents".

    Meaning they can be used in any suit.

    So if they are advised it is not safe and the do not make it safe then they can be in trouble in court if any injuries.

    Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G930A using Tapatalk

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    They called me back asking what I can do, they are going to shut the dorm down for 4 years and they just need enough until the kids get out..., so they don't want the big job done..., so what happens when it gets a temporary fix and doesn't get shut down.
    No thanks.
    Its the big fix or no fix.

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    If they want a temporary structure why don't they rent commercial scaffolding and have it erected until end of term?

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    Hobbyman, that might be there plan. Good idea ???

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    I agree. Don't touch it.

    Let somebody else ruin their financial future. Any major contractor would tell them that is a tear out and replace situation.

    Maybe the original installation is "grandfathered" (or maybe not!) but even replacing one bolt could expose you to liability.

    Them: "what can you do?"

    You: "Nothing! My lawyer won't let me touch a job like that."

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    i have repaired fire escapes that were 100 years old and in bad shape. we were told any handrail needed to hold over 200 lbs continuously in any direction
    .
    obviously if a group of people on fire escape together they can easily apply over 200 lbs
    .
    some rusted bolts holding fire escape to side of building were originally 7/8" dia but rusted down to 3/8" dia in the wall bolts were damp from humidity and could not see how bad til they were removed. a lot of stuff was in extremely bad shape when looked at more closely
    .
    worst is brittle welds that fail with little warning. stuff badly rusted and often covered in paint

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    Scottl..., all valid points, as soon as you do the least amount of work, you own the liability of it.

    DMF, I agree, the bolt just inside the masonry sometimes is thinner than a pencil while the rest of it looks good, its only as strong as its thinnest part.

    New codes require removing the brick and attaching into the bond beam and then reinstalling the brick.

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    just one of those time when you run as fast as you can away from a job
    some things you either do it right or get as far away as possible,
    and well this appears to be one of those cases.

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    If this dorm is part of the college system, not privately operated. Why don't they turn it over to the engineering department, provided there is one, and let them design and build a new one for the dorm?

    Regardless, they are going to be forced to build a new stair escape for the building. Doesn't manner if the building is going to be tore down in a few years. Codes do not take that in consideration. Code will not allow repairs to an existing one that old without tearing it completely out and starting over. Plus, if I was doing this I would build a self supporting structure that would not be attached to the building at all. Like the idea of using portable scaffolding, but I bet code will not allow it.

    Ken

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    No pictures of this thing? I was picturing more of a ladder when I made my first comments, but seems to be a set of stairs rather? Sounds much more sketchy than what I was imagining before. Though I still highly doubt an architect had anything to do with supporting it with a length of Unistrut. Maybe added by the university maintenance guys at some point.

    Similar to what Scottl suggest. I always just say that "I spoke with my insurance and they said no way they can let me do that". People seem less likely to argue over it then.

    I would also say that if you feel like it really is a safety issue please do report it to the local Fire Inspectors if you haven't. In my experiences here they are typically the quickest to act and only ones with real power for immediate fixes out of the different code enforcement type entities. Fire safety measures are completely useless until circumstances become deadly, so I guess it is easy for people to shrug things off thinking nothing will ever happen.

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    This dorm is not owned by the city, however, its the city inspector that made them get it inspected, so they are aware of the issue.
    I don't need to make any stories up, I told them it needs more work than they want to put into it, and that I would only touch it if we were installing real columns.


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