Piling problems
Homeowners receive important advice at presentation

Glen Korstrom
Northern News Services

INUVIK (Feb 19/99) - Residents can justifiably endure sleepless nights if their pilings look anything like those at the Inuvik Centennial Library, according to a piling consultant.

The problem with some of the library pilings at the back near the utilidor is what University of British Columbia wood science professor John Ruddick termed as compression failure.

That is when the inner rings of the piling are pushing up while the outer shell is sagging, creating a fold.

"It's not going to collapse right away," Ruddick told about 30 homeowners at an Aurora College presentation Feb. 15.

"But deal with it or it will. Don't put it off."

Ruddick suggested the finding could mean the library structure is too heavy for its pilings.

Compression failure aside, the main concern for most of the homeowners is rot in the area near the ground.

While mould or stains on a piling will not weaken it, both brown and white rot will prompt pilings to give way.

Soft rot can be invisible to the naked eye so Ruddick suggests people send him chunks of wood to analyze under a microscope for fungi beginnings.

"If you don't check the inside as well as the outside then you'll have no reliable information," Ruddick warns.

Inner rot forms when water seeps into the wood and wind dries the piling's outside shell, leaving the inner wood damp for fungus to thrive.

Since a home on Centennial Street collapsed last summer, many area homeowners will pay the $50 to $60 to have their homes' pilings be inspected and treated with chemicals.

Two main ways to sustain piling life are to attach a large bandage or a "cunap wrap" on the outside or to embed Boron rods in drilled holes.

"Once the wood has rotted, it's rotted," says Ruddick, who is also the president of Mychem Wood Protection Consultants Ltd.

"Chemicals won't restore strength."

Still, the chemicals can prevent future rot and keep good wood from rotting.

Age is not necessarily the main factor, as Ruddick explained using the example of Chief Julius school in Fort McPherson. The school's newer pilings were found to be rotting and not the older ones.

Town engineer John Bulmer, who was at the presentation, says the library is a good example of how homeowners must inspect each pile.

He says the problem library piles were in the last two rows inspected.

Another thing he says homeowners should keep in mind is that alterations to their property could alter drainage flow and leave them liable for lawsuits if they cause piling damage to their neighbours.