Decade Long Eleven State Study of Blasting Damage Claims

 Recently, VCE Inc. completed a 10 year, 11 state engineering study of 2,250 blasting damage claims from 1999 to 2008. These investigations were made in Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, Nevada, California, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Arizona and Utah. The investigations were made over the last decade and intended to determine if blasting vibrations, or other related forces, were responsible for claimed damages. It was determined that blasting damage claims resulting from ground vibrations damage are valid less than 1.3 percent of the time.

I decided to publish this information in an article in order to address a reoccurring question I have received from many adjusters and homeowners. “Does blasting ever cause damage to structures?” The details of this study and the examples of specific blasting damage and non-blasting related damage causation conditions are best detailed in a short seminar where numerous photos could be used to illustrate some of the study’s findings.

It was determined that valid blasting damage occurred as a result of impact damage associated with fly rock, air concussion stressing, instantaneous reverse stressing associated with ground vibration and crater zone soil shifting related stressing.

The majority of the claimed blasting damages were found to be caused by something other than blasting. These non-blasting causes have included constructions defects, wind damage, thermal and moisture related stressing, differential settlement or other soil related issues, cross grain contraction and seasoning of wooden members, termites, carpenter ants and other insect related wood damages, as well as hydrostatic pressure in the soil. This study examines in detail damages from fly rock, air concussion, ground vibration and soil shifting on numerous residential and commercial structures.

The study contains 1,872 blasting claims in Tennessee, a state whose geology requires blasting for most utility line installations, mass grading for site preparations, highway construction and mining. The valid blasting damage claims have occurred in vibration ranges consistent with previously documented levels for various structural materials.

The study established that valid blasting damages resulting from any direct or indirect blasting related force occur less than 3.5 percent of the time. Blasting damage occurred in the studied structures as a result of fly rock 0.27 percent of the time, they resulted from air concussion 1.82 percent of the time, they resulted from ground vibration 1.29 percent of the time, and they resulted from soil shifting within the crater zone 0.09 percent of the time. It is important to note that this study was simply based on investigations of structures that had a blasting damage claim and did not include the countless number of structures in the areas adjacent to the same blasting activities that not only did not have any damage, but who also did not file a blasting damage claim.

While blasting was not often found as a cause of damages associated with many blasting damage claims, it was on occasion responsible for the damages. Competent experts with direct experience in blasting related stresses and damage forces can identify these damages when they occur.

 Wade Hutchison

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