There are many considerations for any homebuyer, but a wise buyer would go the extra miles. Of course, they’ll hire a home inspector to inform them if something is wrong with the building, but they’ll be doing themselves a huge favor if they do any self-inspection.
Damage to a house’s structural base is one of the most critical issues that can arise, and it can range from mild to catastrophic. Prospective homebuyers who know what to look for may better understand an expert’s interpretation of what needs to be done or avoid making a costly mistake until it happens if they know what to look for.
Signs of Structural Foundation Damage on the Inside
There would be obvious indications on the interior of a foundation that it has been structurally damaged, both in the basement and aboveground structure.
In the basement:
- Poured concrete walls have gaps more than 1/8” deep, running at an angle from the corners and/or horizontally through the center of the wall
- The walls are not plumb
- The walls are not plumb Separation signs between the base wall and the aboveground structure’s sill plate
Within the house:
- Sticking doors
- Windows that won’t open or close properly
- Uneven, out-of-level floors
- Out-of-plumb walls
Signs of Structural Foundation Damage from the Outside
Harm to the exterior can be seen in the following ways:
- Cracks in exterior brick or stonework that run in a stair-step pattern
- Separating building features such as chimneys or extensions from the rest of the structure
- Gaps along the edges of doors or windows
- Pulling away from the fascia board or other trim
What Do the Various Signs Indicate?
Walls destabilized due to lateral pressure from swelling soil or settling, and a fallen or sunken foundation due to soil compaction or desiccation are the two most common forms of structural foundation damage.
The first is arguably the less serious of the two, and it can normally be fixed by using carbon fiber strips (if found before too much movement has occurred) or steel to stabilize the wall (if the movement is significant.) Damage that has gone unattended for a long time can necessitate the reconstruction of a wall. Destabilized walls have bowed or bulging block or masonry walls, broken poured concrete walls, and concrete walls that are out of plumb. Water seepage is common since upstairs windows and doors are misaligned above the affected section of base.
When a foundation sinks, it is a serious problem that necessitates extensive repair — underpinning is needed to bring the foundation back to level and stabilize it. Basement floors and walls may be out of level, and there could be substantial cracking of both the floors and walls. There’s a good chance there’ll be some seepage. Significant stone or brickwork cracking, wide gaps around windows and doors, and separation of chimneys and additions will be visible from the outside.
If one of these things has happened, the potential homebuyer should not be scared off; instead, he or she should go into the transaction with an accurate estimate for repairs that will be part of the price agreement. Even the most severe structural foundation damage can be fixed permanently, transforming the house into a safe and comfortable home for future generations.
If you’re a first-time buyer or a seasoned homeowner, restoring a foundation is not a do-it-yourself project; you’ll need professional assistance.