I-Team: Free concrete test could help future homeowners with crumbling foundations

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WARE, Mass. (WWLP) – The 22News I-Team has learned more about concrete testing for homes in western and central Massachusetts who could have a crumbling foundation. The University of Connecticut was granted money from the federal government to conduct free tests and collect samples that could help out homeowners in the future.

“There’s tens of thousands of houses out there,” explained James Mahoney, the associate director of the Connecticut Transportation Safety Institute at UConn. “We want to be able to try to help them out.”

The Connecticut Transportation Safety Institute is participating in a multi-year study that tests concrete to determine how much pyrrhotite is in it. The mineral pyrrhotite causes concrete to crumble and crack when it’s exposed to oxygen and water. The engineers drill a one inch hole into different areas of the foundation. They take those concrete samples back to UConn to get tested for pyrrhotite levels.

An engineer with the Connecticut Transportation Safety Institute at the University of Connecticut drills into the foundation of a home to test for pyrrhotite.

“We are trying to build a risk assessment program so that we can have some level of confidence – low, medium, high, or however we define that as we go forward – as to whether or not there’s enough pyrrhotite in the foundation to be of concern, or is it low enough that it’s a minimal risk type of thing?” said Mahoney.

They can also test for pyrrhotite using electricity. They send small amounts of electricity through the concrete to see how well it permeates it. If it doesn’t flow through the concrete well, that means water and oxygen are less likely to get into it.

“It’s a much lower probability that you’re going to have a problem because those are the two ingredients necessary for this reaction to occur,” said Mahoney.

The Connecticut Transportation Safety Institute at the University of Connecticut uses electricity to test for pyrrhotite.

They hope one day to have enough samples to know exactly what amount of pyrrhotite makes a foundation unsafe. But Mahoney said they need more foundations to test in order to accomplish this.

“The more houses we have, the better we can make this estimate and this assessment,” Mahoney said. “What we are trying to do is collect as much information and data as possible so that we can then help people out later on, so that if you are trying to sell your house and someone wants a test done of the foundation, and it comes back with pyrrhotite, you may have a better understanding of how much of a risk is it to the buyer and the seller.”

The fix for crumbling concrete involves lifting the home, digging the bad foundation out, filling in a new foundation with good concrete, then dropping the house back down. This is not covered by insurance and costs homeowners hundreds of thousands of dollars out-of-pocket.

Michelle Loglisci has been advocating for legislation in Massachusetts that would help homeowners pay to get their foundations fixed. She is urging anyone who thinks they might have crumbling concrete to get tested as soon as possible.

“We need people in Massachusetts to step up and be counted,” Loglisci said.

Anyone interested in more information about the free core test can contact the Connecticut Transportation Institute at the University of Connecticut at 860-486-5400 or by email at cti@uconn.edu.

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