Is your house sliding?

Does your house make creaking or popping noises? Do you have doors and windows that are hard to open and shut? These are just a few of the 18 characteristics that Dr. Scott Burns, of the Geology department at Portland State, and his students use to evaluate whether a house is sliding or not.

At a West Coast Geological Society of America conference in April, Burns presented the results of a three-year project in Kelso, Washington.

Burns and his five graduate students investigated residences in the Kelso area and found that 65 percent of the houses were sliding. These slides were due to a buildup of water pressure from very small openings in the landscape.

Prior to the investigation, the city of Kelso would not address the homeowners concerns about the slides. According to Burns, the results gave the city concrete data.

Using a scale of 0 to 10, Burns’ team rate the seriousness of the slide: 0 is stable, 1 to 5 marks slight movement, 6 to 10 indicates moderate movement, and 10+ is noted for considerable movement.

If you have a 10+ then “all of your neighbors are probably moving too,” Burns said.Areas of slight movement need to be monitored. Moderate to considerable areas can be mitigated through the rerouting of the water.

The team uses the characteristics list that they developed to evaluate the 130 houses in the sliding area of Kelso. Among the indications are recent cracks in the walls, creaking and popping noises, nails popping out of walls, bulging walls, chimney separations, light switches coming out of the walls and doors and windows that are hard to open and close.

Twisted ceiling and floor beams, cracks in concrete floors and water seeping into the basement are all characteristics of a sliding structure. Besides the house itself, the lot around your house can show changes in surface water drainage and broken water and sewer lines.

If you what to find out if your house is sliding contact an engineering geologist. You can find one in the Yellow Pages or call Burns at (503) 725-3389 or (503) 725-8119. If the consultant informs you of a sliding problem you might need to contact a geo-technical engineer to reroute the water in your soil.

Graduate students Darren Beckstrand, Meghan Lunney, Jason Taylor, Chris Robinson and Jamie Schick started their project with Burns here in Portland. In the February storms of 1997 the team mapped 700 landslides in the Portland area.”The grad students played a big part,” Burns said. Their model, which started as an in-class project, “will be used by others around the world.”