A foundation may be the most important part of a home inspection, as it is what the entire home is built upon. So, it always baffles me when I hear of home inspectors who didn’t enter the crawlspace or basement. There is so much going on down there that can affect the entire home. You need to be able see it. I have worked with a foundation company which really helped me understand what affects a foundation, how to repair them and general costs to do so. That knowledge has proven to be invaluable for my customers over the years.
With that said, I rarely deter customers from buying due to a foundation issues. As long as it is intact, we usually can find the issue causing foundation failure and correct it before it becomes a foundation failure. So let me talk a little about what we see, how you can fix it, and when to walk away.
When we do a home inspection we look for signs of foundation failures. These are things that anyone can see, but when you see multiple signs, you begin to suspect foundation may have issues. These are things like sloping floors, windows that won’t open, doors that are unlevel or stick, and cracking in walls, all can be signs of something more serious below the home. Getting into the crawlspace is one of the last things I do in a home inspection, so all of these signs are noted before I crawl under the home.
Once under the home I look at the foundation walls and look for cracking. Cracking in foundation is common, and not necessarily a concern, unless it shows signs of movement. This is especially of concern if the footing (the thick section of concrete below the wall) is cracked as well. This footing is designed to carry the load of the home, so if it is cracked we need to determine why. Often the cause of foundation failure is moisture, and moisture we can control.
Moistures Effect on Foundations
Moisture is the mortal enemy of homes. It deteriorates roofs, rots decks and siding, destroys insulation, attracts pests, and can cause a foundation to fail. The problem is when a foundation fails, the rest of the home follows suit. So controlling moisture around a foundation is important to any home. Moisture enters a foundation either through the wall, between a crack in the wall or under the footing. This is a result of water pressure on the walls.
As the water gathers along the home it develops a tremendous amount of weight and pressure against the walls. The walls are meant to support the pressure from above not along its side, so it eventually gives way. Once the wall produces a weak spot all that water pressure releases itself at the weak point. This can produce a crack in the wall, or wear the soil below the wall which removes the support. Once water enters the crawlspace, a whole host of issues can occur, but for the foundation it begins to wear, and lifespan is lessened.
What Can be Done About This Moisture
So the moisture needs to be controlled and if there is already signs of foundation issues, its time get on these repairs. First, we need to determine where the water is coming from. Sure we get a lot of rain here in Washington, but it often is more than just the rain. Downspouts from the roof should discharge into a drain, or at least 6 feet from the foundation. They also should discharge downhill. Taking all the roof water and discharging it at the foundation is a bad idea. So we always recommend this fix.
Another common issue we actually cause is our lawn sprinklers adding water along our foundation. Adjusting our sprinklers away from the home and adding drainage extensions are an easy fix. A little more complicated is if you must address the water accumulation along the foundation itself. Then you will need to add drainage around the foundation to capture the water before it enters the crawlspace or basement.
This can be an expensive prospect, especially if you have large foundation walls below the ground. The drainage should be installed just about the footing, so that can be deep. Another option is to address the water pressure from inside the crawlspace. it captures it on interior with drainage and discharges it through a sump pump. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. The important thing is that the water be removed before it causes damage to foundation.
How Do You Fix a Foundation
In the situation we find the foundation has damage needs repair we will refer you to a foundation repair company. There are many to choose from, and just like home inspectors they all have different benefits and prices. In case you don’t know already don’t just go with the “cheap” one. There is a reason they are cheap. Check reviews, and ask about fees and warranties. I know of one company in the area with great rates, until they have you pay for the permit and geotechnical survey. So take the time and ask the questions.
Most of these companies will do a free inspection of the foundation, but keep in mind they get paid to install repairs. They want to sell you on an extensive repair, get some options and don’t buy on site. Compare quality of service, warranties, reviews, and pay a little more for quality work. Its your home, invest in protecting it.
One last note on that, is that sometimes the floors are sloping, but the foundation is fine. This is typically due to a post sinking, or being off center. These can be fixed fairly inexpensively, but make sure you know the foundation and the water is not also a problem. Ask to see pictures for proof. When they know you are going to be involved in the process, they will be less inclined to inflate costs.
When Should You Walk Away
As I said at the beginning I rarely recommend to walk away. In fact, I never recommend to walk away, that is not my job. My job is to share the condition of the home and let you make an informed decision. If it needs repaired, someone will have to pay to fix it. This can be the seller, buyer, homeowner, or investor. The point is it will need fixed. Its good to know up front if it needs done so you can make a decision.
Occasionally a repair is not feasible, and the entire foundation needs to be replaced. This means the home will need to be supported while the foundation is removed , prepped, and new foundation poured. This is especially challenging with decks, porches, a/c units and landscaping needing to be removed. Its a lot of work, so if you aren’t up for the challenge its best to look elsewhere.
A foundation is an important part of the home and we should do all we can to protect it. If it needs some maintenance we should correct if before a major repair or replacement is necessary. Many times a simple fix or moisture control is all you need, but sometimes more is necessary. A foundation repair company can give you a free inspection, though they only benefit if they repair your home. Having an independent home inspector neutral in the results makes a lot of sense and is a small expense in comparison to even a minor foundation repair. Call Home Resource Solutions at (253) 271-0402 for a home inspection today and save on our premier inspection services or visit www.HRSinspects.com for more information.