Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Remodeling - Foundation Problems

Another problem we found with the house after we pulled the carpet is a slight foundation issue.  We new there were a couple of cracks on the outside of the foundation, but the inspector thought they were probably "surface cracks", since he didn't find any cracks running through the brick.  And we found doors that didn't close and one with a pulled-apart casing(?), but it looked like the previous owners were trying to fix things, and were just doing a lousy job.  For instance, the door with the cracked casing hasn't been painted yet and still has the label on it, but doesn't fit in the frame.  So maybe they bought a wrong sized door, or hung it wrong, or something.

But now we find that one of the foundation cracks runs right up to that cracked casing.  So the casing may still be pulled apart because the previous owners didn't know what they were doing or something, but it may be that the reason they were fixing the door was because the foundation had shifted enough to keep it from working anyway.

Also, we followed two of the cracks to the outer foundation and found marks that the inspector probably missed.  One of them doesn't have cracked bricks above it, but if you look real close, you can see a small gap between the mortar and the bricks in a trail you can follow all the way up to the window above it.  In the other, the same kind of separated mortar runs up one brick, then over several, then into a crack between a wood section and the brick section.  That joint is fairly cracked, but it's impossible to tell whether it is from foundation shifting or just from lack of paint and maintenance on the wood boundary.

Regardless, we had a foundation company come out, and they say one side of the house is lower by 3/4 of an inch.  It doesn't sound like much, and we've decided to just install soaker hoses around the house and see what happens.  The problem is that no one can actually tell you how bad it really is if you don't have any irreparable damage right now.  Sure, he says we need to put piers all the way around the house, and that "we found it just in time", and that it may only last 6 months or a year before we start seeing more major problems.  But the thing is, he doesn't know how long it has actually been sinking.  The house was built in the 60s, so has that side sunk 3/4" in 50 years?  If so, we'll be fine for a good while if it keeps that rate.  On the other hand, the previous owners only had the house for 3 years.  If they started seeing problems while they were there, and were trying to repair/hide those and sell as fast as they could, maybe the problem is progressing much much faster.  We just don't know.  So we've decided to hope for the best and not spend the 5 grand the foundation company wants just yet.  We'll lay tile in part of the house, and just keep an eye on that and other places, and keep the ground around the foundation from drying out, and maybe we'll know more next year.

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