When to Walk Away From Foundation Issues

When to Walk Away From Foundation Issues
When to Walk Away From Foundation Issues
Are you buying a house and wondering when to walk away from foundation issues? Maybe you’re wondering if you should walk away. Maybe you think it might be OK to buy a house with foundation issues. Well, the short answer is not every foundation issue should be a deal breaker. 
 
In this article we’ll talk about the causes of foundation problems, what you need to know about buying a house with a foundation problem, when to walk away from foundation issues, getting a foundation inspection, and more.
 
Keep in mind this information is coming from the perspective of a foundation repair contractor, not a real estate agent.

What Is A Foundation?

A foundation is what a building sits on. It’s the lowest part of the structure and transfers the building’s load to the ground. There are three types of foundations:
 
  • Slab
  • Basement
  • Crawl space
 
Slab and crawl space foundations are above ground. Basement foundations are below ground. 
 
Foundations are built using poured concrete, cinderblock, or brick. For more information see, Everything Homeowners Need To Know About Foundations.

 

What Does It Mean To Say A House Has A Foundation Problem?

When we say a house has a “foundation problem” we’re saying the foundation the house sits on has some type of damage. This damage to the foundation can cause structural damage to the house’s frame and result in things like wall cracks, uneven floors, and doors and windows that no longer open and close properly.
 
Although it might sound scary, structural damage doesn’t necessarily mean the house is ready to collapse. Some homeowners live in houses with structural damage for years. We don’t recommend anyone do this because foundation problems always get worse over time. If you wait, you’ll end up paying more to repair the damage. So, you want to catch foundation issues early before they turn into big problems that could cost tens of thousands of dollars to fix.
 

 

What Causes Foundation Problems?

Foundation problems are caused by various things including:
 
  • Poor drainage around the foundation – If there’s excess water in the soil around a foundation that can’t drain off, hydrostatic pressure will build up and start pushing against the foundation. Hydrostatic pressure is powerful enough to cause basement foundation walls to bow inward and even crack. The best way to prevent hydrostatic pressure from building up is to install a drain tile system
  • Expansive soil – Expansive soil has a lot of clay in it. Because of this it expands a lot when it soaks up moisture and shrinks when it dries out. Over time, this swelling-shrinking cycle creates movement under the foundation which can cause foundation problems.
  • Frost heave – Soil will expand when it freezes and push against the foundation, raising it slightly. Over time, this will cause foundation trouble.
  • Soil that wasn’t adequately compacted before construction began – Soil needs to be properly tamped down before anything is built on top of it. If this isn’t done, the structure will sink unevenly into the soil after it’s built leading to problems with the foundation.
  • Weather changes – An example of this would be building a new house on expansive soil during the dry season. When the wet season returns, the soil swells, pushing the house upward.
  • Natural disasters – We probably don’t need to explain how natural disasters can cause foundation problems.
  • Extensive digging next to the foundation – If your neighbor starts digging a big hole too close to your foundation, it could destabilize the soil under your house leading to foundation trouble.

Can Foundation Issues Be Fixed?

Yes, foundation problems can almost always be fixed. Foundations rarely need to be replaced. However, some foundation repairs are more expensive than others. Usually, the more expensive the repair, the longer a homeowner waited before taking action. If you catch foundation issues early before they turn into big problems, you’ll save money.

Always Get A Foundation Inspection Before Buying A House

Always get a foundation repair contractor or a structural engineer to inspect the house before you sign anything. While sellers are required by law to tell you about any foundation problems, they may not realize there’s anything structurally wrong with the house. Foundation problems aren’t always obvious. A homeowner might think a problem is simply poor workmanship when it’s actually a sign of foundation trouble. 

 

Buying A House With Foundation Issues

A foundation problem shouldn’t be a deal breaker when buying a house. Foundation problems happen, even when a house was built properly. However, you’ll need to figure out what needs to be fixed and how much it will cost so you can figure that into your offer. 

 

When To Walk Away From Foundation Issues

You should walk away from a house with foundation issues if the problem will cost too much to fix and the seller won’t lower the price to compensate.
 
Because we know someone reading this is considering it…
 
Yes, you can live in a house with a foundation problem, for a period of time. However, you shouldn’t. Foundation problems worsen over time and will cost more to repair if you wait. In some cases, a foundation issue left unrepaired can develop into a problem that costs tens of thousands of dollars to fix. So, if you’re tempted to buy the house and live with the problem for a little while, walk away.

 

How Much Does Foundation Repair Cost?

The cost of foundation repair depends on the problem, where you live, and the chosen repair solution. This could be anywhere from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.

 

How Can Foundation Problems Be Avoided?

Since most foundation problems are caused by water, you can avoid trouble by controlling groundwater around the foundation. Regrade your yard, keep vegetation away from the house, clean your gutters, install downspout extensions, and think seriously about a drain tile system.
how to keep water away from a house foundation

Common Signs A House Has Foundation Problems

 Common signs of a foundation problem include:
 
  • Stair step cracks in brickwork or masonry
  • Uneven floors
  • Doors and windows that don’t open and close properly
  • Wall cracks
  • Floor cracks
  • Ceiling cracks
  • Torn or wrinkled wallpaper – The wall behind the wallpaper might be cracked.
  • Leaning chimney or porch
  • Molding that’s separating from the wall or ceiling
  • Bowed walls, with or without cracking
  • Floors that feel spongy when you walk on them – This is a sign there’s something wrong with a crawl space foundation.
  • Wet basement
 
If you’re thinking about buying a house with a foundation issue and you’re in our service area in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri, contact us today for an inspection and repair estimate before you sign.

WRITTEN BY

Dave Epp

Dave is the President at Epp Foundation Repair with over 27 years of experience in the industry. Dave has worked on thousands of foundation, basement, concrete, and crawl space repair projects since 1993. Dave is involved in several civic and church organizations and enjoys coaching youth sports, mainly football, golfing, and elk hunting.

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