Building structural integrity & failure: problems, inspections, damages, defects, testing, diagnosis, repair

Structural integrity and failure is an aspect of engineering which deals with the ability of a structure to support a designed load (weight, force, etc…) without breaking, tearing apart, or collapsing, and includes the study of breakage that has previously occurred in order to prevent failures in future designs.

Structural integrity is the term used for the performance characteristic applied to a component, a single structure, or a structure consisting of different components. Structural integrity is the ability of an item to hold together under a load, including its own weight, resisting breakage or bending. It assures that the construction will perform its designed function, during reasonable use, for as long as the designed life of the structure. Items are constructed with structural integrity to ensure that catastrophic failure does not occur, which can result in injuries, severe damage, death, or monetary losses.

Structural failure refers to the loss of structural integrity, which is the loss of the load-carrying capacity of a component or member within a structure, or of the structure itself. Structural failure is initiated when the material is stressed beyond its strength limit, thus causing fracture or excessive deformations. In a well-designed system, a localized failure should not cause immediate or even progressive collapse of the entire structure. Ultimate failure strength is one of the limit states that must be accounted for in structural engineering and structural design.

These articles explain the inspection, detection, diagnosis, and repair of all types of structural defects on residential and light commercial buildings and will answer most homeowner concerns. We address brick and other masonry structures, wood frame structures, log homes, modular and factory built homes, even mobile homes.

Chimneys, crawl spaces, decks, building flood damage, foundation crack and movement damage, rot or insect damage, sink holes, and water entry are examples of topics for which InspectAPedia provides inspection, diagnosis, and repair advice. Our page top photo illustrates Story Land[26] a remarkably askew wood-framed structure that would have been quite challenging to frame.

Guide to Detecting & Evaluating Structural Defects: Inspection, Diagnosis, & Repair of Settlement, Improper Construction, Rot & Insect Damage to Buildings

Articles found in this section address just about all types of residential & light commercial building structural construction, inspection, diagnosis & repair topics such as foundation damage, leaning, buckling, bowing, and cracking, FRT plywood failures, chimney inspections & safety concerns, causes and cures for rot, mold, & termites in buildings, sinkholes at building sites, stair and rail fall & trip hazards, & also special inspection methods for mobile homes.

Most structural problems can be avoided by proper design and planning; but structural failures have been common for a long time, and sometimes are costly to handle properly.

The sketch at left( courtesy Carson Dunlop) names the major structural components of a typical wood frame house set on a masonry foundation.

Structural Defect Recognition, Repair, Prevention for Building Structures, & Building Structural Failures

This photo of the leaning tower of Pisa was sent to us by our friend

Tom Smith who knows a crooked building when he sees one.
Smith points out that the problems with the Tower have been known for
generations and must have been apparent even during construction, as
the upper level was constructed with an offset to try to re-balance the

Modern reinforcement has permitted removal of cables that used to be tied to the tower of Pisa. As Bernie Campbalik says about old buildings, “Yep, we had guys like that back then too.”

Metal chimney during installation (C) D FriedmanChimneys, flues, wood stoves & fireplaces: chimney inspection, defects, safety concerns, Articles about Chimney Inspection, Collapse, Damage, Repair

Pier construction, Northern Maine (C) D FriedmanFlooded Building Mold Prevention how to respond to avoid mold


Framing & Wood Beams / Timbers Damage Inspection, Diagnosis, Testing, Repair

 Photograph of  severe roof structure damage from an unattended roof valley leak in a historic home.FRAMING DAMAGE, INSPECTION, REPAIR

Photograph of  severe roof structure damage from an unattended roof valley leak in a historic home.

Collapsing barn (C) Daniel Friedman

Rot, fungus, Termites, Carpenter Ants, Powder Post Beetles, & other Wood Destroying Organisms

Buckled siding at ground level indicates sill crushing (C) Daniel FriedmanOur photo (left) illustrates a combination of factors leading to a
strong indication of serious structural damage at a home: aluminum
siding at ground level (risk of insect attack) combined with buckled
siding at the bottom course (a condition that only occurs long after
original construction) point to crushed wooden sills under this
structure, most often due to insect attack or rot or both.

  • INSECT INFESTATION / DAMAGE – complete guide to wood destroying insect inspection, diagnosis, evaluation, repair, and prevention at buildings
  • The Sick House/Sick Building Information Website
    Organized, un-biased, in-depth advice about mold, allergens, and other indoor contaminants: finding, testing, cleaning, clearance testing, and preventing mold, mildew, wood destroying (rot) molds (fungi). Explains how to assure that testing for toxic or allergenic molds is performed using valid field and lab methods. Advice and test procedures are provided for
    odors and odor source detection, toxic gas testing and gas source identification.
  • “House Eating Fungus”
    Meruliporia incrassata (also called “Poria” the house eating fungus) in the U.S. or Serpula lacrymans in Europe) can cause severe structural damage. Evidence of hidden “poria” may be found by expert inspection methods which include tracing sources and paths of probable Building leaks and moisture traps. Further, careful indoor particle sampling methods can often permit the presence of this mold to be identified in the laboratory.
  • WOOD DESTROYING INSECTS carpenter ants, powder post beetles, & other wood destroying organisms

Continue reading at BRICK FOUNDATIONS & WALLS or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.

Suggested citation for this web page

STRUCTURAL INSPECTIONS & DEFECTS at – online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

More Reading

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 By InspectAPedia®

Structural Integrity and failure:

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