Original Construction Elevation (OCE), Sloping Floors, Un-level Floors

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Surveyor transit level

On newer built and track homes in recent years there is a small trend for builders to have an OCE survey conducted.

These builders or foundation contractors have a home’s foundation, slab and or floor framing surveyed to determine the levelness of the floors when the home is first built. The person doing the survey will usually have a set of drawings showing the different rooms and layout of the house. They then layout a grid pattern or key points on the plans and then shoot the elevations with a laser, transit or water level manometer and mark these elevations on the grid or key points.

Why builders do OCE”s

They want to know if the floor is level and that it doesn’t slope. If not built to the plans and tolerances for levelness outlined in the plans and spec’s, the builder will usually address this problem with the foundation or concrete contractor.

Should a problem develop a few years later and there are sloping floors or the foundation is not level, the builder has documentation to show the elevation and levelness of the floors when the home was first built. Consequently, if the house settled or shifted, then the builder may start looking for causes of the problem:

  1. Did grading contractor do the grading and compaction properly?
  2. Did the soils engineer make a mistake?
  3. Was there slope creep?
  4. Did the engineer design the foundation properly?
  5. Was there an event like a flood or earthquake that caused the problem?
  6. Was there a construction project very close to the property that caused the foundation to shift?

Legal protection

Basically OCE’s are done for quality control and for legal protection of the builder. Builders are often the target of litigation and they try to protect themselves from unjustified and frivolous lawsuits. OCE’s help document the levelness of the foundation or slab at time of construction and also helps determine the location and magnitude of differential foundation movement if it has occurred.

Homeowners and OCE’s

Should homeowners discover their home has floors that slope or are not level and the home is not that old, they may wish to check to see if an OCE survey was conducted. If so, they may be able to determine how much the home or floors have shifted since it was built. This can help them to tell if there has been a lot or a little movement since the home was built and if was just a little bit, they may possibly have a little peace of mind with this knowledge.