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Friday, May 23, 2008

The Chips in the Concrete - Richmond American

KSL did a news story a few days ago about the vast amount of homes that have defective driveways. This is not the first time that they have done a story on this subject. At about this time last year KSL did a news story about homes in Stansbury Park in Tooele County. Richmond American Homes constructed a large amount of homes in the area and many of the driveways were falling apart. This story struck a chord with many of the viewers and soon KSL was inundated with similar complaints about their driveways. Homes all over the Wasatch Front were exhibiting the same crumbling driveways. One seemingly common thread was that many of the homes were built by Richmond American Homes. The problem with this accusation is that other home owners who bought houses from different builders had the same problem. Indeed many other builders were accused in the comments section of the article online. Almost every home builder in the Wasatch Front that does “tract” housing has been blamed for poor quality concrete driveways.

Accusations are flying about every part of the process and it seems everyone has a different opinion. Many are blaming the actual content of the cement mix. This argument holds that demand for cement was overwhelming due to the housing boom, the demand from China, and the rebuilding efforts after hurricane Katrina. The theory stipulates that this high demand led to manufacturers putting in too much fly ash or other substances which weaken the structural integrity of the concrete. Using these additives extended the amount they could produce to meet this high demand.

While testing is the norm in commercial construction there is no such requirement for residential construction. Concrete contractors apparently do not have to have any special equipment or licenses either. One person commented, “Anyone with $500.00 in tools, can start a residential concrete construction company.” This is probably the most cited reason for the concrete damage. The skill of the contractor in installing the concrete is crucial to its longevity. Putting too much water in the mix, installing at the wrong time of year, finishing too early, etc. are all aspects of installation that can be handled improperly. Even if the mix and the installation of the concrete are of good quality, Utah has an extreme climate that damages roads and concrete with large fluctuations in temperature and moisture. The seasonal snowfall also brings another degrading factor to concrete: salt. In fact, the use of salt and deicers on cement voids many warranties issued by home builders. Even if you don't salt your driveway yourself your car will bring in the salt that is poured all over state roads. However, many reports suggest that these chemicals affect concrete minimally if at all. In my opinion it is a mix of these mitigating factors that has resulted in thousands of Utah driveways to disintegrate.

While everyone has a different theory of what is causing this, all of these factors point to one common theme: tract housing. When home builders are building homes as fast as the people on extreme home makeover, there will be problems. The builders that do this cut costs at every stage of construction. While builders try to maintain quality, the defects of their creations do not usually come out until the house is nearly a year old. Assembly line quality controls cannot possibly produce a quality house.

The bad part of all of this is the response from Richmond American. Many of their customers are extremely dissatisfied. While the news story on KSL features a few of these homeowners, I have found that the loathing of some homeowners has gone above and beyond my expectations. This hatred is exhibited in the existence of such websites as www.richmondfixmyhouse.com and www.richmondamericandestroysdreams.com. I have not seen websites such as this for any other homebuilder. Richmond American is actually the largest homebuilder in the U.S. and is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange. The company is owned by MDC Holdings Inc which has seen their stock plummet from a high of over 80 dollars in July of 05’ to less than 40 dollars as of today. A result of the housing crises.

The nature of this company is the main reason why I did not and would not let them build a home for me. Many of my neighbors have expressed their dissatisfaction with Richmond American and their voices seem to have been heard. Apparently Richmond American will no longer be building in Daybreak. They will finish up their commitment in Eastlake Village, but after that they are out. Hopefully Kennecott will only let local builders not corporate conglomerates build Daybreak homes in the future.

1 comment:

Patricia Tryon said...

Interesting to find your blog on a day when I have mudjackers here. You might want to fix the article link, which should be http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=1508177

My real blog is at tryon.typepad.com, where I am telling my own Richmond American story. Grrrrr...