Achievements and Results

  • Failure analysis conducted
  • Insurance claim investigated
  • Conclusion reached based on all available evidence

 

The Problem

One night, the mountain regions in Southern California were subjected to a severe storm with winds reaching over 70 mph in some areas. The winds peaked in the late afternoon and had died off by midnight. Rain was intermittent and winds generally from the South and South-South West.

Sometime before midnight a homeowner in Crestline heard a loud noise coming from the second floor, and upon investigating, found one of the two upstairs sliding doors had popped out of the framework and was lying on the patio deck. The homeowner jammed the slider back in place, but doesn't believe he got it properly on the tracks. The homeowner could not recall whether the slider was properly installed prior to the storm, as this passageway had been blocked by a sofa since they moved in.

The next day, the homeowner contacted the insurance company and filed a claim for water damage resulting from loss of the slider by high winds. Damage claimed included mold and wall and paneling warping. Shortly after filing the claim, the homeowner left town for two weeks. The water damage claim (as a result of the slider loss) was eventually denied by the insurance company.

In the intervening 3+ years, mold has developed, forcing the homeowner and his family to seek other living accommodations. The homeowner ended up filing a bad faith claim against the insurance company for mold damage and living expenses since the loss.

 

The Investigation

A site inspection was conducted, during which several leak paths were noted in both upstairs patio doors. Elastomeric seals were cracked, with large pieces missing. Both the elastomeric and felt seals failed to provide coverage for large segments of the periphery of the slider assemblies. The state of the seals had not likely changed much in the intervening period since the loss, suggesting they were in this poor condition on the night of the storm. 

The wooden sill support was rotted, and the screws attaching the sill to this support were rusted and loose to the point that they could be extracted by pulling at the sill. The slider wheel opposite the door handle was off the track rail, further providing a large leak path for any rains occurring between the original storm and the date of the inspection. It was not possible to operate the door in this condition. The plaintiff’s counsel objected to having the slider reset into the frame properly.

The problem with the plaintiff's claim is that the winds were directed against the slider and would have tended to force the slider into its frame, rather than out from it. The homeowner even asserted that the winds were blowing rain into the house while he attempted to reinsert the slider. 

A review of weather station data for that date limited the time of loss to between 6:30pm and 8:30 pm (so the time of loss would have been dark, windy and raining). Engineering analysis of wind forces during this period showed a maximum uplift force of _ lbs. and an opening force of less than 2 lbs. As the house had all windows and doors closed, there was no outward force on the slider.

 

Conclusion

It is not possible that a properly installed slider could have come off given the wind magnitudes and directions on the date of loss. The water damage, including mold and buckling of the paneling, was likely a result of long-term water ingress through the ineffective seals on the upstairs sliders. It should be noted that during the inspection, no mold was found near the sliders.

 

To see the resume of the expert associated with this case study, see the link below.

Resume of DWQ Aerospace and Industrial Fastener Expert Resume

 

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