Cracks not caused by upgrades

A Tygerberg Hills man faces having to cough up thousands of rand to repair cracks in his home, which he believes were caused by N1 roadworks.

The Department of Transport and Public Works roadworks are part of a three-year project that started in February 2016 to ease congestion.

Dave Petersen noticed the cracks around his Deodar Street home in late 2016. He inspected his property after a neighbour had complained about similar cracks (“Residents want department to fix cracks,” Northern News, May 25).

Mr Petersen’s biggest concern is the crack in his pool. At first, he blamed evaporation when the pool started losing water in November 2016, but after the water restrictions came in and he stopped topping it up, he realised the level was dropping too quickly for that to be the cause.

He submitted a claim to his insurance company but it was refused. Other damages to his home include a linear crack in the lounge floor, a vertical crack in the face-brick wall in the lounge, a crack at the top of the stairs and a crack in the guest-bathroom wall tiles.

The department appointed a specialist engineer who found the roadworks were not to blame for the cracks, leaving Mr Petersen to pay for the repairs himself.

Documents emailed to Mr Petersen by law firm Clyde & Co say extensive vibration measurements were taken on site and at various distances away from the cause of the vibrations, which fell well below the level for cosmetic damage, and engineers found that the cracks to Mr Petersen’s home were caused by the drought.

“The linear crack on the lounge-floor tiles and the associated vertical crack in the face-brick wall, as well as the stair crack are believed to have been caused by the concrete surface bed which is supported on the top edge of the lower level retaining wall, rotating as a result of the movement of the soils underlying the surface bed, leading to the cracks observed,” the report says.

And the crack in the pool was a result of the consolidation of the soil around the corner of the pool.

“Experts have concluded that the construction activity on the N1 played no role in the development of the cracks in the building structure and the swimming pool,” it says.

But Mr Petersen questions the validity of this investigation, saying no tests were done from inside his home, where the vibrations were felt.

“They would use the heavy machinery for about 10 hours every day for months. How can they come once for a short period of time and work based on that,” he said.

Now faced with the prospect of having to spend thousands of rand on repairs — he was quoted R37 000 for the pool and R40 000 for the floors — he has vowed not to give up the fight and plans to speak to lawyer.

Another resident, Sello Lehong, also complained about cracks last year. They started in a rear bedroom and he tried to fix them but they reappeared.

He said he hadn’t been able to get any help from either the department or his insurance company.

In May last year, Simon Blyth, the department’s chief engineer, said someone would be sent out to Mr Lehong’s home to investigate and that an engineer would assess the problem, but Mr Lehong, said that hadn’t happened.

“This is a disappointing state of affairs especially as I hold the department and, by extension, the Western Cape government responsible. They should be driving this. I do not expect a company like Martin & East to take this issue as passionately as the government who are ultimately accountable for both the roads and the damages that happen to our house structures. Blaming the drought for the damages is cowardly, lazy and irresponsible,” he said.

In a statement last week, the department said the R487 million project to upgrade 9km of the N1 between Plattekloof Road and Old Oak Interchange was half finished.

Spokesman Byron la Hoe said the addition of a third lane in both directions would cut traffic congestion on a road carrying about 120 000 vehicles in each morning and afternoon peak.

“Work on installing the freeway management system, fibre-optic bank, and Wemmershoek pipeline is complete, as is the Old Oak Interchange temporary bypass. Current work in progress includes the construction of inbound lane-widening earthworks from Durban Road to Jip De Jager, and the widening of Jip De Jager Interchange and its ramps,” he said.

Mr La Hoe said construction at the Old Oak Intersection would last until October. The old northern Old Oak bridge had to be demolished and rebuilt to make space for the additional lane.

Traffic will continue to be diverted onto the southern Old Oak Bridge until the northern bridge is complete.

The temporary N1 inbound on-ramp bypass will remain in place until a retaining wall on this on-ramp is complete.

Northern News sent questions to the department on Thursday March 1, which were referred to Martin & East. This was followed up by additional emails and calls to the department.

By Monday March 12, the department said it would follow up with the company but Northern News had not received a response by the time of going to print.