Robert Lamoureux: Saw-cutting sends PT cable flying; building a patio cover

Courtesy photo Cutting a post tension (PT) cable during a construction project can result in someone being hurt. It also is costly to repair, requiring the work of a structural engineer and contractor.
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Question No. 1 

Hi Robert, 

I’m on the board of directors at a multistory condo, where we have a subterranean garage. One of our residents was saw-cutting on the concrete of the first floor to install some device, and a piece of rebar went flying outside of the wall. Is this something that can be pushed back in or do we need to worry about what has happened? 

— Ed H.

Answer No. 1 

Ed, 

I’m glad you haven’t reported that someone got hurt during this. This is a very serious situation. 

The piece that you are referring to is not rebar, it’s PT (post tension) cable and unfortunately whomever did this saw-cutting cut right through it. 

When that was cut, the possibility of it hurting someone is extremely high due to it unraveling at a high rate of speed because of tension. It’s amazing no one was hurt. 

This is now a serious matter, and a structural engineer needs to be called in to call out the repair that is needed. This definitely needs to be reset and to let you know ahead of time, this is not a cheap repair. It’s going to cost a fair amount to have this put back to proper form. 

Once the structural engineer calls out the repair, then you can contact a contractor who is qualified (be sure to check licensing and insurance) for this type of repair. 

Good luck to you.

— Robert

Question No. 2 

Robert, 

I live in Canyon Country, and my son, who has become pretty handy, has agreed to build a patio cover for our home. My question is regarding the wooden poles that will hold up the patio cover. He says that we can just put those posts onto the existing concrete that is already set as our patio. 

Is this correct? Is this piece of concrete strong enough to hold up a patio cover? 

I’m certainly not an engineer, but I do read your work and know that certain things need proper steps to be safe and sound.

— Laura G.

Answer No. 2 

Laura, 

Absolutely not. If there is no footing below these areas where the posts will be, meaning if you’re starting from scratch and not replacing a previous post, then you’ll have to saw cut the area and pour a proper footing which will then be strong enough to support the weight of a patio cover. 

You haven’t indicated the size of patio cover you’ll be installing, but if you go to the city, they’ll have standard plans for patio covers, and if you follow those guidelines, then you’ll put up a safe structure. 

You’ll need permits and, in an event such as this, where you have a more novice person building, it is that much more important to have inspections, to ensure safety. 

Just this post question alone is confirmation that, though your son is handy, and I commend him for striving for greater things, he is in need of guidance in order to complete a project like this safely. Good luck to you and your son. This will be a great learning experience for him.

— Robert

Robert Lamoureux has 38 years of experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contracting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Email questions to Robert at [email protected]

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