Dear PoPville – Construction Shaking House


“Dear PoPville,

I live a block from the new buildings going up on 8th and Florida. They’re doing something that creates bursts of rhythmic banging, for about a minute, then taking a short break and doing it again. They do this for at least half an hour every day, often more.

Annoying, but it’s construction, what can you do? The problem is that those bangs shake my entire house. It’s like a series of little earthquakes. About a second after each bang, the floor moves up an down, I can feel it through my feet. Liquid moves in glasses, pictures rattle on the walls, the cat gets scared.

I told my landlady and suggested she try to talk to the neighbors, DCRA, and maybe Jim Graham. I’ll talk to the neighbors myself. These are historically designated 100 year old houses, I’m worried about structural damage. Oh and I’m sure this is breaking some sort of quality of life law.

What do you think we should do?”

20 Comment

  • That is pile-driving. They drive steel supports into the ground. Yes, they do rattle windows, walls, you name it. Depending on the size of the development, it could take weeks to complete. Absolutely nothing you can do about it. It’s within laws and construction guidelines.

    • How should one go about monitoring potential damage created by the pile driving? I can imagine that such violent force close enough to your resident can end up causing significant structural damage, foundation shifting, etc.

    • JM is correct.

      There are guidelines in terms of the level of vibration, but very unlikely that they are even close to what would damage a nearby structure. Loud as hell, no doubt.

    • I work next to the 11th Street Bridge project which has been shaking our building for years. When the earthquake hit we all thought it was just more construction at first!

  • Exactly what “quality of life law” are you *sure* they’re breaking?

  • If nearby pile driving threatens to destroy your house, you likely have some serious structural issues already.

    • If you think a little pile driving is bad, pull down your drywall and see what our last earthquake did to your mortar! Yeesh!

    • austindc

      Agreed. All these new buildings are put up this way. Two condos went up by my place, and they had to drive in those supports too. Our 100 year old homes are generally pretty good at taking the vibrations. And you will survive this ordeal with your quality of life rattled but intact.

  • Emmaleigh504

    I love the sound of pile driving for some reason.

  • Homes, especially older homes, are more resilient than you think. Even older construction materials flex quite well. If your home has survived the gradual shifting associated with 100 years, it’ll survive a couple weeks of vibration. The most signficant problem, in my neighborhood at least, associated with the earthquake was that the concrete window sills on the exterior of rowhouses cracked. That sort of thing is easily repaired.

  • can you imagine how many lawsuits there would be in this city if it had a “Quality of life” law?

  • If you are worried, I would take a video as soon as possible of the walls and basement structure with a verifiable date. Then take one after its done.

    I do environmental assessments and environmental impact statements for a living. Typically when we look at blasting plans or construction that could cause subsidence, we require a pre- and post- construction inspection. I recommended that the people along the Bloomingdale tunnel construction include this, but they were so intent on getting free water, they didn’t include this request.

    • Thanks for the only actually helpful comment. That’s the kind of thing I think we need to do.

    • I’m the op, am not a NIMBY type person and I’m very glad to see these lots being developed and I’m not expecting quiet or lack of vibration.

      But I’m sure all of the folks with the snarky comments wouldn’t be so happy if they had what feels like 10-100 earthquakes a day. I can feel the floor move what feels like a few inches if I’m sitting with my feet flat, there are new cracks in the plaster and this feels like more movement than the earthquake a few years ago.

      I really don’t think it’s unreasonable to be concerned that it might damage the house and expect that it might be breaking a quiet enjoyment law. It’s certainly infinitely more annoying than the local bars and people flip out enough about those.
      If it’s allowed, then it’s allowed -but I was just wondering if other people had experiences like this with big construction near them and if anyone had any info about potential damage and/or noise laws. The point about a 100 year old house having dealt with lots of vibration already is helpful. For the rest, I’ll live, but it’s really annoying and I was looking for advice. Cut me a fucking break.

      • saf

        I’ve lived through metro construction, and am now living through Safeway construction. It shakes the house. They promised a pre-construction survey, and did not follow up. My house shakes, my fence has already been trashed once, the rats are a LARGE problem, and…
        And the general reaction on PoP is that I should be grateful that we’re getting a Safeway (that I don’t want and will not shop at), so I should shut up about the problems the construction causes.

  • Eric — Just FYI, DC Water is already doing preconstruction surveys for the First Street Tunnel in Bloomingdale for about 350 homes along the tunnel. So there was no need to also put that in mitigation requests, it’s already being offered.

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