EXPERTS WANTED: How to spot foundation issues.

10 Replies

BP, Happy Hump Day to you all! Here’s a question for the brilliant BP community’s investors, contractors and experts: “What are the common signs that a property has issues with its foundation, and, when scoping out a potential property (likely a fixer upper) what are the tricks/techniques that you use to quickly spot-check/eyeball those issues?” Thank you in advance! Best, Sean

@Sean Snider look for cracks in the foundation, ground level ness to the house can signal shifting, bowing of basement walls, buckling siding. 

Originally posted by @Sean Snider :
BP,

Happy Hump Day to you all! Here’s a question for the brilliant BP community’s investors, contractors and experts:

“What are the common signs that a property has issues with its foundation, and, when scoping out a potential property (likely a fixer upper) what are the tricks/techniques that you use to quickly spot-check/eyeball those issues?”

Thank you in advance!

Best, Sean

Cracked brick or siding. Look at the roof line as well as the eave line. Is it straight? 

Does the eave line dip match the ridge line dip? If so it's likely foundation.  

Inside cracked drywall and/or separated trim. Hollow sounding floors sometimes mean it's cracked or there is a recess under it. Possibly a water leak or a crack in the concrete. 

@Sean Carroll and @Mike Reynolds ,

Thank you -- both responses are very helpful.  It appears that, other than Mike's tip regarding audible noises from the floor, most major issues with the foundation can be spotted by a careful, naked-eye inspection.

As a follow-up, do both of you (or anyone else that joins the thread subsequently) rule out properties at that point or consult first with an expert to see if the issue is a deal breaker?  I would assume that any fix to a foundation is either expensive or impossible (unless you consider a tear down a "fix").

Best,

Sean

Hey there first time responder here. Foundations are tricky and can be either a relatively easy fix (if you know what you're doing) or family complicated. Here are some reasons why it may have cracked......depending on your area the most important aspect of the foundation is actually the soil it sits on. If that is soft, sandy or constantly wet then the foundation could have settled. This can happen in a very small area our where a pier may have been or a pint load from above. If you have access to the basement and outside this is just a lot of labor but could be considered easy to fix. A lot depends on the year built as well. I could answer more questions if I knew more about the situation. But generally speaking if you are just getting into a project I may steer clear of something you weren't quiet sure of. 

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@Sean Snider

Hi Sean,

I’m not an expert by any means but my brother just had this issue last week in a studio he was renting out. He lived in Hoboken, NJ and in the basement of his building. He kept getting tons of ants, and he is beyond a clean freak so he couldn’t figure out what was happening. After telling the landlord and the exterminator coming he found the cracks in the foundation. When going to help him move out it wasn’t pretty noticeable at this point. Some might be harder to spot when they aren’t as big, but my best advice would just Be to inspect the ground floor of your building. His wasn’t hard to find!

@Robert Feinstein ,

Thank you for your post. And congrats on post number one!  You've detailed good advice, and I will be sure to follow up if I come across specific questions.

@Steven McCutcheon ,  that's an interesting perspective -- appreciate you sharing!  I will be keeping this story in mind going forward!

Best,

Sean

Originally posted by @Sean Snider :

@Sean Carroll and @Mike Reynolds,

Thank you -- both responses are very helpful.  It appears that, other than Mike's tip regarding audible noises from the floor, most major issues with the foundation can be spotted by a careful, naked-eye inspection.

As a follow-up, do both of you (or anyone else that joins the thread subsequently) rule out properties at that point or consult first with an expert to see if the issue is a deal breaker?  I would assume that any fix to a foundation is either expensive or impossible (unless you consider a tear down a "fix").

Best,

Sean

I've been in construction all my life including concrete work. That being said it takes a specialist in most cases to determine what is needed for a slab on grade malfunction. I always get a pro to give me a bid. Then you can use that to go to the buyer and work something out. 

Best of luck

For a “quick” evaluation I look for baseboards separating from the floor, especially at exterior corners. Cracks under opening such as doors and windows. Another trick is to place a ball on the floor and see if it rolls in any particular direction as that can be a sign of sinking foundation, failing beams or joists or buckling due to water damage.

From there, you need a professional to evaluate your findings. Sometimes the ball will roll because someone was too lazy to level/clean the subfloor before laying down the tile/wood.

@Sean Snider you will serve yourself well to hire a foundation expert or at minimum an experienced contractor to walk the home with you before you buy or while you are in escrow. 

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