DEAR BARRY: The contractor who built my house failed to slope the flat roof. Whenever it rains, there are pools of standing water on the roof. According to the building department, the roof should be sloped 1/4 inch per foot so that water will drain. The contractor has ignored all of my letters. What can I do? –Robert

DEAR ROBERT: The 1/4-inch-per-foot minimum requirement for roof slope has been the standard in the United States and Canada since the first issue of the Uniform Building Code was published in 1927. It would be difficult for any licensed contractor to deny knowledge of this basic, well-known standard. In short, any builder who constructs a roof without providing minimum drainage is without excuse.

As for advice in pursuing the matter, there is no foolproof solution but there are two essential steps that you should take. First, get some legal advice from an attorney who specializes in construction defect law. This will inform you of the options available and will clarify your chances of success in pursuing the negligent contractor.

The second step is to file a formal complaint with the state agency that licenses contractors. Hopefully, that agency will provide some reasonable enforcement.

In the end, the repair costs should be paid by the contractor who built the home, but the repairs themselves should be performed by a more competent contractor. The contractor who built your roof violated basic construction standards, and failure to return your calls reveals a general lack of concern. Therefore, he cannot be trusted to make the roof repairs in a substantial and reliable manner.

DEAR BARRY: Every winter, we have a flooded crawlspace under our house. The subarea is about 4 feet deeper than the outside ground level, and it fills up like a lake every winter. The water just seems to percolate up from the ground.

Could I stop this flooding by filling the crawlspace with concrete, or would the water just seep through the concrete. –Glen

DEAR GLEN: Site drainage problems should be professionally evaluated before embarking on attempted repairs. The water source should be determined by a qualified expert. The solution might involve changing the slope of the grade on the property, installing a drainage system around the building, or adding sump pumps under the house. Before beginning any repair work, have the property evaluated by a licensed geotechnical engineer.

Pumping the subarea full of concrete would be very expensive and would add massive weight to the ground under your home. That much load could cause settlement, with major structural consequences. Once again, don’t proceed without obtaining some expert advice.

DEAR BARRY: We want to finish the basement in our home. Would you recommend drop ceilings with acoustic tiles or just plain drywall? –Frank

DEAR FRANK: Most people prefer drywall for its fully finished appearance. But in a converted basement, a drop ceiling provides easy access to plumbing, electrical wiring, heat ducts, and other fixtures without cutting holes and making patches. A drop ceiling is also much easier to install.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at


What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.

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