Foundation Issues Aren't Always Easy To Detect: How A Structural Inspection Can Tell You What You Need To Know
Most buyers operate under the assumption that a cracked foundation is an automatic deal breaker. While there’s no doubt that receiving news of structural damage can be shocking, there are instances where its extent is not as catastrophic as it may initially sound. In some cases, it’s worth investing in a structural damage inspection and getting an engineer’s opinion rather than walking away from the home right away.
Many different components can play into foundation damage and learning the specifics of your situation is the only way to make a truly informed decision on whether or not to continue with a purchase. Before you let a cracked foundation immediately scare you away, be sure to keep these factors in mind.
Structural damage is more common than you’d think
Believe it or not, a 2012 study by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) found that nearly 25% of US homes have foundation issues. They also estimated that number would continue to rise over time. The severity of a structural issue depends on how and when the damage occurred, as well as how quickly it’s worsening. In some cases, it’s entirely possible for a foundation to be declared structurally sound once the repairs have been made.
A cracked foundation will show up on a home inspection
Given the prevalence of structural problems, it’s not all that surprising that evidence of a cracked foundation will show up on a home inspection. In addition to cracks, a home inspector will make note of other indicators such damage to the exterior like signs of water penetration and bulging or shifted building materials. However, the report only offers a surface assessment.
A structural engineer, on the hand will be able to look more thoroughly at those signs and use that information to get a more thorough picture of each home site’s unique situation. For example, the direction and shape of those tell-tale cracks can indicate the severity of the problem. Horizontal cracks are generally considered to be less severe than ones that go vertically and diagonally.
Additionally, a structural engineer will be able to determine the cause that is compromising the foundation. That way, you can be assured that you have a cost to cure the underlying cause, rather than making surface repairs, only to have the foundation crack again in the near future.
The type of foundation has an effect
The type of foundation a home site has can also play a role how difficult it will be to fix structural issues. There are two main types to consider:
As the name suggests, this term refers to any foundation that has been raised above the ground. It can be done through a variety of methods, including: concrete blocks, posts and beams, or crawl spaces. A raised foundation can be repaired with an epoxy injection.
A thick, poured layer of concrete on which the property is built. While slab foundations are considered to be more difficult to penetrate, initially, once a problem occurs it can be much more difficult and costly to repair than a raised foundation.
A bluff or hillside slope could be causing structural damage
When a home site is on a bluff or hillside, the possibility of erosion can be a primary concern for buyers. However, as with many of these factors, risk levels can vary. According to environmental designer, Pablo Solomon, there are two distinct types of beachfronts. He told, Realtor.com, “There are some beachfronts in which the ocean is depositing sand and creating more beach and others in which the ocean currents and waves are steadily eroding them away."
An eroding beach will eat away at its coastline, causing problems for beachfront residences. A coastal engineer a specialty within civil engineering will be able to guide you through a historical analysis of each piece of coastline that helps predict the future potential issues for each parcel.
In addition, the makeup of the land under the property will have a unique effect on its propensity for structural damage. A qualified engineer will assess the following factors:
Higher bluffs are more likely to experience movement because of their weight.
Each type of sediment - mud, clay, etc. - has a different structural makeup. Some are stronger than others.
Steeper slopes are more likely to experience landslides
The layout of the land can affect how and and where water will flow and if it will move toward your property or away from it.
Vegetation can affect water levels in the soil and make it more likely to shift.
A lack of drainage to account for water overflow in the area is one of the most common causes behind foundation issues.
If you liked this please feel free to share it with your network and leave a comment so that we can improve the article. Joy Bender is the co-founder/owner of Aumann Bender & Associates real estate group with Pacific Sotheby's International Realty.