Putting the Pieces Together…

Posted by in Simple Forensic Methods | August 27, 2013


During my school vacations as a child, my family and I often had fun working together on jigsaw puzzles.  My favorite puzzle had about 270 pieces and I put that one together so many times by myself that I was able to assemble it in less than an hour of time.  Little did I know that this “skill” would be helpful in my engineering career.

I have found that one of the helpful procedures for evaluating the cause of building damage is to put the broken pieces back together.  On one evaluation I assembled the wall paneling on the lawn (see featured photo above).  During assembly I noticed there was a pattern of water damage along the bottom of the wall.  This pattern indicated that water had been wicking up into the wall.  Specifically, the pattern was indicative of excessive surface and/or groundwater infiltration due to the relatively high elevation of the grade and/or the patio slab against the wall.  The multiple rings of moisture staining indicated that this condition had been present and progressing for years.

I concluded that the moisture infiltration was probably recently noticed and reported because the leakage had increased and become more visible due to heavier than normal rainfall or the occupant had become more aware of his surroundings for some reason such as a remodeling project or a recent nearby event that prompted a closer examination of his dwelling for related damages.

This type of ”puzzle” assembly can be a helpful tool during an engineering evaluation to identify the pattern and/or the cause of the damage.