Inspecting Residential Foundations Make Sure The Foundation Is Good
Inspecting residential foundations on property you are considering buying to fix up for re-sale is one of the most important part of the buying decision. It can mean making a profit or taking a huge loss if you have to rebuild the existing foundation. You will want to hire an inspector that has knowledge in inspecting foundations, and can identify potential problems and advise you correctly.
Inspecting Residential Foundations
by Ian Webster
There are some initial questions to ask about the foundation of the house your thinking of purchasing: 1. How old is the house? Older homes tend to have more damage to their foundations due to poor quality materials. 2. Was the house built by a licensed contractor or the homeowner? 3. Did the builder follow the applicable building codes at the time of construction?
For at least the past 40 years or so most single story homes were built with proper foundations. But there are areas of the country that have what are called "expansive", or, soft soils. These type of soils can present a settling problem as they tend to move under the weight of the house above. Especially when there is any water present. A foundation wall that has not been properly reinforced will tend to crack as it spans the soft soil area. The amount the footing moves depends on many factors, the extent of the soft soils, the load imposed on the footing from the house above and the depth of the stem wall. Whatever the cause, large cracks are easily seen from both the outside and inside.
It is always a good idea to inspect a foundation wall if there are visible cracks. If the crack is large enough to insert a small object, like the tip of a pencil, you may have a water infiltration problem. This water can cause further damage to a basement or crawl space and the crack will need to be sealed and made watertight. Even if the crack appears small you should check the walls above to see if any damage has occurred to rest of the house. Look carefully at the openings inside the house above where the foundation wall has moved. If there are cracks in the finish around the openings that means the wall framing has moved as well. This type of damage can be old and there may not have been any more since that time. If there is recent paint and the crack has reappeared, then the wall is still moving.
Once you have determined that the damage to the footing is extensive enough to need repair, what do you do next? Initiating expensive repairs is probably not a good idea since you are trying to make a profit from your efforts. But if you're sure the house is worth it, here is one suggestion. If a portion of the floor framing has settled along with the foundation, you may be able to jack up those joist and provide a support underneath. For this type of solution it is a good idea to get an engineer involved so that the support structure will be adequate and safe. Usually, for this type of work an engineer's fees are small, but shop around until you get a reasonable price. It is usually cost prohibitive to have the soft soils removed and structural fill added under the wall. And if not done right, further damage can be the result. Once the the area has been stabilized, you can cover over the cracks in the walls above and they should not reappear.
Single story houses do not impose significant loads on the foundation, but soft soils can be a problem anyway. Especially if there is a high water table present as well. The combination of water and clayey soils can cause significant movement in foundation walls. Should there be a crack in the wall large enough to cause the framing above to move you will need to provide a support for that portion of the framing. It is advisable to enlist the help of an engineer for that type of work so that the support you install will perform properly. Shop around for the best price and service as not all engineers are interested doing that kind of work. Two story houses place larger loads on the foundation and deserve a closer look. Any damage will need to be evaluated for the cost / benefit ratio to determine if you should proceed or move on to another house.
Second opinions are worth the time and cost if you are unsure about whether to purchase a house for repair and resale.
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We want you to benefit from this article if you are considering buying a home. Take the time to read this and additional articles on buying for homes for investments.From inspecting residential foundations to replacing roofs can help build your bottom line profit.
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