Cracked exterior block wall. Should I run for the hills? PIC

10 Replies

I was looking at a house today in baltimore and i stumbled across this nasty looking crack in the exterior wall. It looks like the house use to have a front porch that later was converted into living space. The crack is right where the porch meets the house. Should i stay clear? The house has been on the market for over 100 days and is currently overpriced. any input would be appreciated! 

@Kyle Gregg  

I wouldn't cross the deal off my list just yet.  Just by glancing at the exterior it's not necessarily a high dollar repair (but could be).  

Vertical cracks are generally better than horizontal from a repair standpoint.  Have you walked the interior & exterior thoroughly?  Does the first floor have signs of settling in flooring, windows, doors, etc?  I would walk the home with 2-3 foundation contractors to get an idea of the issue.  Then make your offer contingent upon inspection, have a local engineer inspect and recommend a solution.  Many foundation contractors can recommend a cost effective yet experienced engineer.  It may be minimal or could be very expensive.  

You mention it's overpriced, I would make a low offer (especially since it's been on market for 100 days), & see where they counter.  If you get close spend your time walking with a few foundation contractors.  

It could tons of stuff bro. From a cheap fix to "you just paid for another property". Just let contractors do the thinking part for stuff like that. I would shoot them a low ball offer, and like @Chris Winterhalter  said, see what they come back with. Ask can you bring one of your business partners in to view the property to get a better idea of what you have. 

Basically, get contractor, check it out inside (if possible), go from there. Don't run until you know whats up but don't necessarily prioritize it. 

@Chris Winterhalter  

Thanks for all the input. I have yet to inspect the interior and that is certainly a next step. I know the interior will need a full rehab as well so all of these factors will back my low offer.

I appreciate it!

i'm a contractor and this looks like a simple issue judging from the picture; If this is a porch addition and the porch has a different footing than the house. When there are two different foundations i.e. a deeper house foundation which likely goes down into a basement and a shallower porch foundation they they will move differently and therefore cause cracks in masonry. This is completely normal. Ideally you should never run masonry continuous between two different foundations. There should always be a control joint between the two. This wouldn't worry me if it is what it appears to be in the pictures and judging from your description. 

I wouldn't worry at all unless there were other indications of structural issues. I believe this is Formstone. In other words this is cast fake stone over the real siding which is probably brick. 

My guess it @Mary Denby has never even seen Formstone as I think it is unique to Baltimore. It could be only a crack in the fake stone veneer.

@Ned Carey  , we do have formstone here in Alexandria. The salesman wasn't as successful here as they were in Baltimore but you still see it. I was told by an old timer that it was once seen as a luxury that only wealthy homeowners could afford. How times change!

@Mary Denby  funny to think that formstone was a form of "luxury"...i personally am not a fan of the look

Along these lines I am looking at a house with a similiar problem but the line runs from under  2nd floor window to 1st floor window and a bit under 1st floor window. I definitely want a structural engineer to look at it because there is also a stair-step type of crack a little further away.

Does anyone have any recommendations for a good engineer familiar with Baltimore City houses and its related issues?

Not a big deal.  Any mason worth their salt could take out the affected blocks and patch it back in.  The hardest part would be finding block that match that.  The crack is probably from a lack of an expansion joint in the wall.  Expansion joints are typical in commercial masonry construction, every 20 feet or so because no matter what masonry needs to move a little, its so heavy.  Hopefully the block are hollow core, and not grouted solid.  You are looking at a day or 2 of work for a mason and a helper. maybe $100 in blocks and mortar.  I have a masonry company in Vermont

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