Off your back
Putting a window grill, concealing the electrical sockets or changing the flooring can weaken your building if not done right
Do you know how much your box grilles weigh? Has your contractor done any calculations to check that the wall below it can support that weight over decades?
This is a prime example, say structural engineers, of how renovation and beautification efforts that seem harmless can go horribly wrong.
“People don’t pay enough attention to as-built drawings and blueprints before taking up repairs and renovations. Even moving a light fixture can do damage if you don’t pay attention to what part of the structure is being affected,” says Pranay Goyal, MD of We Development, a management solutions company that specialises in self-redevelopment of housing societies.
After a building in Ghatkopar collapsed last month, killing 17, it turned out that parts of it had been randomly restructured for commercial use.
An inquiry conducted by the BMC found that this unauthorised work had led Siddhi Sai to crumble.
The walls on the ground floor had been indiscriminately removed and unauthorised repairs were ongoing even minutes before the collapse, the inquiry report stated.
In this case, the changes had been of a large scale, but even small alterations can weaken a structure — changes to the layout of the dry yard, replacing of walls, flooring renovations. Ceilings can cave, cracks can form in walls, leading to destructive leakages.
“Even concealing an electrical socket can be harmful — it requires chiselling of beams and columns walls, and that doesn’t sound harmless, does it,” says Pooja Bihani, architect and founder of the Spaces & Design interiors and architecture firm.
Riddhi Garden in Malad learnt of these risks the hard way.
Renovations by some residents caused leakages in other homes and could have weakened the structure as a whole, over time. “There are a set of permissions you need to take as a resident before beginning any renovation work in your house,” says Nitin Kulkarni, member of the managing committee of the society. “It is not possible to check personally on each change people make in their homes, so people need to understand the importance of these rules, abide by them and correct the problems in case any occur.”
Kalpataru Towers in Kandivli has gone a step further and instituted rules for preventive care.
“We do not permit people to put in their own window grilles,” says Kumar Vasani, secretary of the Kalpataru Towers society in Kandivli. “You also cannot alter internal layouts, make changes in the dry yards and move plumbing outlets. Residents don’t realise it, but they could be shortening the life of the building with such changes. If homeowners break the rules, we take strict action.”
CHECK THE BOXES
Renovations must be undertaken with care, especially as a building ages.
“In a city like Mumbai, with a very humid climate, buildings age faster. Your building may not be as sturdy as it seems,” says Bihani.
Creating a window or drilling to put up a partition without detailed plans, permission and accredited supervision should be complete no-nos, says Ramesh Prabhu, chairman of the Maharashtra Societies Welfare Association.
When Kanchan Pant, 28, was renovating the kitchen in her Bhandup home, a slab from the wall suddenly fell on her.
“I was taken aback,” she recalls. “Upon inspection, we found that we had been drilling do deep in the ceiling and walls that we had weakened parts of the structure,” she says.
Use plaster sparingly too. Don’t cover up the problem, because it will grow out of sight and you may not even remember it’s there.
“Any concealing or repair works should be carried in presence of a structural assistant, someone who knows and understands buildings,” says Sanjay Bahadur CEO of the construc- tion chemicals division at Pidilite Industries.
“Don’t cut corners when it comes to material. The corridors, hallways and staircases of your building can be maintained using the monthly fees collected. Ensure that standard materials are used in all repairs. Supervise adequately and hire trained staff for all building work ”
Even concealing an electrical socket can be harmful — it requires chiselling of beams and columns walls, and that doesn’t sound harmless, does it. POOJA BIHANI, architect and founder of the Spaces & Design interiors and architecture firm