True Stories from the Savvy Surveyor   (I kid you not!)

2 — My Feet Didn't Lie and My Nickel Said So

The following conversation happened in a small bath store in a mall out west. I was kneeling down on the hardwood floor like I was shooting marbles. I was talking to myself.

"OK little nickel. Don't be afraid. I am just going to point you towards the left demising wall and give you a tiny push. Are you ready? OK GO!... Come on, is that all you have, only 12 inches?"

"OK little nickel. This time I am going to point you, in the opposite direction, to the right demising wall.'s just another tiny push. OK GO!... Wow look at you! One foot, two feet, three feet, four, five, six and you're down at seven. Amazing! Great job little nickel. Now you can go back to your pocket friends and tell them that you got to do architectural work today!"

The nickel test settled it for me. My feet were not lying. The more I walked around that store, the more it didn't feel level to me. Unfortunately those little $100 laser levels, (which I carry with me now) about the size of a large tape measure, hadn't been invented yet.

Coin In HandThe perplexing thing was the storefront elements all indicated that everything was level. The base tile, under the windows, was a constant 6 inches high all the way across the storefront. The bottom of the glass was the same distance up from the floor all the way across. The mall bulkhead was exactly the same distance above the floor on the left side as it was on the right side.

I decided to walk the mall and see if I could get a clue. All the storefronts were showing the same indications that the mall floor was perfectly level, but my feet were talking to me. One thing I learned, years ago, was to "listen to my feet!" The nickel test told me that my feet were not lying!

At that point I stopped surveying the store and went back to the mall office to speak with my initial contact person who I had already had a meeting with. It was the mall operations manager. He assured me that he knew nothing of the mall floor being sloped but suggested I contact the mall engineer.

Thankfully the engineer was on-site and available so I met with him and told him about my concerns. This is what he said:

"Yes you are correct. The mall common slopes down from the south to the north. Many years, before this mall was here, there were two freestanding anchor stores separated by streets and small stores. Investors decided to build a mall between the two anchors and make it all as one."

"Their only problem was the fact that the northern anchor store was 3 feet lower than the southern one. The architects and engineers decided to connect the two buildings with one long sloping floor."

Sloping MallThe engineer took me to his plan room and showed me the site drawings that noted the elevation of each anchor store. I was able to get a distance from one to the other and divide it into the 3 foot floor difference. For my small store, the floor dropped just over an inch from the left wall to the right wall.

This may not seem like a big deal to the average shopper, but it is a huge deal for almost every construction contractor that will be building out a new store. Thanks to the knowledgeable mall engineer, (and my feet... and my nickel) I was able to alert my client.