Foundation Problems 101 -- Buying a Place With a Foundation Problem

32 Replies


Yes, you are correct about cracking of drywall, openings, windows/doors not closing correctly, but that doesn't necessarily mean its because of foundation issues (even though majority of the time it is). It could also be because of structural issues like over deflection in header beams and columns or more isolated structural problems.


I agree with older structures having most of their secondary settlement dissipated but the only true way to tell is by collecting soil samples and doing laboratory tests and/or establishing a benchmark somewhere on the foundation and measuring the change in elevation over-time. Building a floor on top of a sub floor to fix settlement issues sounds like a temporary fix unless you have a professional engineer sign and seal a letter/report stating the structure has experienced most of its settlement or something along those lines. If I was going to purchase a property with this fix I would want something in writing stating something like this. (Tip: For an investor, it may cost a lot of money and/or time for an engineer to "CYA" on this one. I guess it just depends on the deal.)

Much less headache and cheaper to just fix it yourself. Of course the max I will pay cash for a rental is 10 to 25k so not much wiggle room there for excessive spending. No way would I bother getting soil samples or anything like that since the cost would probably exceed any economic value I could derive from the property. An easier method would be to build a basic 2x4 frame and then add scrap wood or shims to the areas that need it until it's level then toenail the frame in place, optionally insulate and then nail down your subfloor.

I have purchased three houses with foundation problems. I still own all three, 8 year, 5 year, and 3 year holds respespectivelly. I bought them very cheap, and they make great rentals. I have put a lot of money into them, but I don't fell comfortable selling them quite yet, I am still observing settling in the 8 year and 5 year holds, and have been doing some tweaking in between tenants over the years. The 3 year hold is solid, and I will probably sell in 2014. The 5 year hold one is particularly interesting, sometime in 2005 some investor bought it, did some cosmetic repairs, then sold it to a third party without disclosing the prior structural issues, which he did not repair. That investor did the same cosmetic trickery to a half dozen other homes in the area, and ended up doing a few year in jail as a result.

So the moral of the story is to not buy a property with a foundation problem unless you are willing to put in a lot of money to do the repairs, and to hold it for a long to time to assure the repairs are effective.

Originally posted by @Justin B. :

Are structural problems apparent to home inspectors or do you need some experience mixed with a little bit of intuition to recognize foundation problems?

Thank you,

 I had an inspector come in and found a sagging beam and some joists that needed reinforcements. Worth the $333 charge as he found other things that needed attention.

I haven't had any specialists come in, yet, but one is scheduled for this Friday.

Doors not closing right, wavy or unleveled flooring, stuck/cracked/broken windows and cracking walls are the visual signs that you have a foundation issue.

Also, for a raised foundation, as in my case, you can see where the water is coming in under the house and erosion is evident. It just so happens that no rain gutters were installed, so guess where the water goes?

I'm hoping we can walk away with no more than $5,000 in repairs and have a great foundation. 

I'm from California, so I've only known concrete slabs my whole life. New to Florida has presented a challenge in accepting that most home foundations in Florida are raised. Which would I prefer? if it had no issues, no-brainer. Slab. If it did have foundation problems? Raised would seem to be less costly in repairing, though I have no experience in either.

kevin martin-my sonis buying a home in englishtown/manalapan area in monmouth county,nj-the house is built on a slab. after reading about   the scary things that could-be defective,i feel  we need an inspection. the house is about 45years old was on the market for about 7 months. i haven't been inside,but i have seen photos-there have been  roof,windows,flooring and cosmetic upgrades.routine inspection is scheduled for 10-7-16.owners say they had a  termite problem that was taken care of.they will only pay 500.00 dollars for any other termite problem. I feel they are not telling my son something.I contacted a foundation experts=they will use cameras to check out whats going on underneath the slab,such as sewer,water,cracks,leaks. fee is $475.00.i will wait  until after the initialinspection before doing anyrthing, do you think they will give me an honest report,seeing how they will have a chance of doing any repairs.  I am trying not to pay another fee-engineer-if possible. hope to hear all opinions,thanks,barbara

hi all, I am very new to this site. But I have a question. 

I am under contract to buy a house that have foundation problems, we have a 14 day contingency waiting on the report and the repairs. The report was send to me today. It states that they have to reset and reshim two additional support beams that are uneven and falling in their designated capacity. Remove 2x4 shims and replace the entire length of double width 2x4 sill plate on center grade beam, finishing with steel beams, and reset and reshim sill plate/grade beam and under structure as needed to adjust and correct over lift of entire beam foundation area of the main dwelling. There are 10 black dots on the picture of the floor plan. And pictures of the affected beams. 

Can someone explain this to me in a way I can understand. I need to know if the Damaged to the house is too big that it would be better for me to back out of the purchase, or if after the do all of that, it will be fine. 



Do you recommend hiring an engineer to evaluate and give a report about the foundation work? My goal is to refinance my property using BRRRR, after the foundation repair is done. Does the report help refinance easier? Or in the first place, do I really need to tell the lender that there used to be a foundation issue and we have repaired it?