Foundation Question

ladyvixen84August 15, 2011

Hello, Im new to the forums and new to home buying. My husband and I have been looking at purchasing an older home. It has many new upgrades, and has great potential with some remodeling. However I am concerned about the foundation. The family room is leaning to the left, it feels almost like the whole room is going left. The flooring leading into the very small yet long kitchen is slightly lifted...that seems to be more of a flooring issue though. The kitchen itself has a slope to the left, if you drop a ball or any liquid on the floor is rolls to the left of the kitchen. Also upstairs(converted attic) the loft which is on the left side of the house, also seems a bit uneven, but not horrible. The shingled awning over the entrance/porch is also uneven and going left.

Now here is my question. I have been told by the realtor papers(MLS papers) that the slab is stone, but the seller says concrete. The seller also said he had the foundation checked, and was told it was okay, its just the house has settled a lot on one side. How do I know what the slab is made of? There is a crawl space too. But my 7yr old cant even fit through the tiny door.

I have hired a structual engineer for a free inspection and estimate. He will be out on Monday. What questions are important to ask? Most of the houses we have looked at in our state and area have flooring issues bowing/sloping, so a lot of foundation issues from what we can tell. Even most of the newer homes have started having issues after the 3 yr mark.

Now, the breezeway(mud room) and 3 car garage are all level and even, those are at least 6 years old if not older and have no sloping or bowing issues, all the problems seems to be in one area which is the left side of the home. I have absolutely no idea what im getting into with an issue like this, besides possible being out 20k for repair. Any information and advice are greatly appreciated. Im young, have 4 children and have never owned a home, so all of this is all very new to me. My husband has owned one home before, but never encountered any issue, besides a flea infestation lol.

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How old is 'old'?
Are ther any cracks in the walls, or other signs of recent settling? Or signs of recent repairs to cover up signs of recent problems?
There may be a stone foundation but I've never heard of a stone slab.
A slab will not have a crawlspace. That 'access' is probably ventilation.
I'd look for an independant engineer to do the inspection, one who isn't also trying to get the job of performing the repairs. You'd be more likely to get a full analysis of all of the problems.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2011 at 8:52PM
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If the foundation settlement is caused by poor soil conditions you should find another property because there is no way to be sure that the settlement has stopped.

If there is excessive moisture in the crawl space it is possible that the perimeter sill beams and the ends of the floor joists have rotted and dropped causing the floor slope. In that case offer a lot less for the house so you can afford the repair.

When you refer to a stone slab are you talking about the vertical foundation wall or a horizontal floor on grade? A stone floor would be easy to distinguish from a concrete one.

If the owner really had the foundation checked by an engineer he would have a written report so his statements should not be relied upon. Realtor information should never be relied upon.

The engineer you have hired will inspect the entire structure of the house and tell you what needs to be done.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2011 at 10:34AM
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Would this house be a candidate for raising to create a full basement (so a new foundation anyway)? That is done quite often around here (Vancouver, BC, Canada). I suppose the decision would be driven by local property values as much as by local soil/water/climate conditions and thus building norms.


    Bookmark   August 16, 2011 at 11:08AM
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The house was built sometime in the 1900's, from what my husband and I seen, there were no cracks in the walls, or near windows. Windows and doors were easily opened and closed, although we do know that can change with climate, its been hot and humid this summer. They have some really dark paint going on, but if the home was still settling id imagine the cracks would break the paint or any mudding that had been put over them. The outside is hard to tell for cracks becuase they had new siding(6yrs ago) put on it.

The house is already listed below value at $59,900 it also needs a new roof, but thats typical as the roof now is about 15-20 yrs old. We plan on having a full inspection done as well, but the main issue for me is foundation. The roof is expensive as it is, but if the foundation is going to cost me $ a bit worried. I could possibly get the sellers to pay half of the expenses of fixing the foundation. I am already getting about $3500 taken off the closing costs for paying the roofing repairs.

I highly doubt they would take off the anywhere from $10-30k from the asking price. However, they are pretty desperate to get out before they end up foreclosing on their new home.

I can add pictures, but the only picture that shows the leaning is from the front porch. I adore this house, and ready to get out of the 2bd box that I rent now lol.

Im worried the left part of the house will come completely detached from the opposite side, leaving a bigger disaster and mess altogether.

As far as being concrete or stone....I couldnt tell you. I couldnt even get my 7yr old son to fit in the crawlspace. I dont see any type of structure from outside the house at all, not like you would with a basement. If it is the joists that are rotted, what would be a rough estimate to have those replaced? I know prices vary from home to home. Im also very scared that once they lift the home, there will be detaching and major plaster issues.

Lifting the home to make a basement would be ideal, as im giving up a basement I wanted to have this home, however financially I am in no place to spend a butt load of money. I barely skeemed by to get the home loan as it is.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2011 at 12:47PM
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I also wanted to add, that I live in a heavily clay soil area. Most if not all older homes that have not already had foundation work, have some type of foundation problem symptoms. Cracks in walls, ceilings, bowing, sinking, sloping floors. Most basements here are also very hard to keep dry.

We have periods every year of flooding and heavy rainfall followed by hot, dry summers.

This house is 50/50 compared to what we have already looked at. Its worse with the leaning to one side, but the flooring is definitely the best we have seen yet even with the sloping. I love the older houses here because they have amazing woodwork and so much character compared to the newly constructed homes. That, and they are more in the lines of our budget :)

    Bookmark   August 16, 2011 at 1:28PM
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If I REALLY wanted this house, I'd ask for the current owner to get the foundation and roof work done as a condition of sale, expecting the sale price to go up a reasonable amount. This puts the risk on the current owner if there are hidden problems and it turns into a real bucket of worms.
If you just barely qualified for the home loan at this price, I'd urge you to leave this one alone. It has the earmarks of a money-pit.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2011 at 9:26AM
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Randy- I REALLY want this house. It has so much potential for my family. Now, I'm not sure if the sellers would be willing to fix the foundation and roof as a condition of sale because the home is in pre-forclosure. They have already defaulted on a home improvement loan to upgrade siding, windows, wiring, furnace, hot water heater and flooring(mainly carpet). As of now, it's just the roof and foundation, but I know if we have to lift the home to level the foundation it can cause a lot more issues, especially with the walls.

I guess my concern is that will the house collapse or detach in the 2-3 years it will take me to fix debt issues in order to get the loan. My house payments plus escrow and homeowners insurance will be $450. Almost $200 less than what I'm paying for a 400sq ft duplex lol. I have a great source of income, steady and reliable. It's just my debt that is crushing me at getting a loan for a better place. With that said though, if I were to wait until my debt was cleared to get approved for a better home, it will likely be newer construction which I am desperately trying to stay away from. Newer construction won't have as many issues right off, but where I'm from in 5 or less years I will be having the same issues with foundation, Foundations are one of the things in my state that are hard to upkeep due to the heavy clay, lots of rain in spring and drought in summer.

I won't be making any definite decisions on the home until Monday, when I have the engineer investigate the problem. If it's an easy fix thats only going to cost me 5k-10k I'll do it, but anything more than that may be a financial issue, unless I deal with the problem until I can get a loan.

There are a lot of homes in my loan range, but they are all older farmhouses(a good thing) but they will all have the same issues. Like I said, in some ways this is the worst home I have seen and in some ways it's not nearly as bad as what I have been seeing around here.

The lean is probably the worst, Well not probably but is. The floor sagging to one side isn't anywhere near what I have looked at already in other homes. I'm just torn lol. I LOVE this home, the location is perfect small 300 residents or less, plenty of space compared to my existing apartment.

I know there are a lot of things to consider when purchasing a home, but how will I be able to stay away from foundation issues altogether if most of the homes in this area have them? I'm so confused as to what to do.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2011 at 10:27AM
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Here is a picture of the front of the home, it allows you to see the overhang on the porch, which also seems to be affected by this foundation issue.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2011 at 11:29AM
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Someone without significant DIY capability and capital should stay far far away from a home of this type. If you think you have debt/credit problems now, just wait until you can't afford the major plumbing leak, or new HVAC system and have to have the home foreclosed on. It's a disaster in the making.

And I don't understand about the comment of having to wait three years in order to clean up your credit enough to get a loan? Why are you even house shopping if that's the case? Without enough for a down payment and a good income to debt ratio, how are you even thinking of buying any house, let alone this one?

    Bookmark   August 17, 2011 at 1:36PM
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My husband got the home loan on his own, without my name needing to be on it. In order to get a better loan I need to have MY credit fixed. And just because I do not have significant DIY capabilities does not mean that my husband does not. However, I did ask the questions about the home, and I am taking all opinions in consideration. As far as good income we make a considerable amount of money combined a month after taxes. And I never said I did not have enough for a down payment either. I filed bankruptcy before I got remarried. I am in the process of rebuilding my credit and most lenders won't even glimpse at you until you have been out of bankruptcy for 36 months and proof of reestablishing good credit.

I cannot get a better loan or a loan for more money until MY credit is better to be able to get a joint loan for a higher amount. On top of that, I'm not looking to buy a 100k house either. I stick to the "Minimum wage" theory. My house payments including escrow and insurance, and all other utilities must be easily paid on a minimum wage job if something happened to either mine or my husbands jobs.

This house is a money that. But it's not condemned, so IT can be worked with. It's not that I can't afford stuff to fix the home, I'm just not wanting to pay nonsence money on stuff that my husband can do on his own.

Like I said in a previous post, Just because I have little knowledge on DIY does not mean that my husband doesn't either. Just because he is DIY capable does not mean I dont have the right to ask questions and learn things from other people besides him.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2011 at 4:44PM
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I also wanted to add. The house does not have AC. It does use nat gas for heat. And window air conditioners.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2011 at 5:03PM
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Just because it's not currently condemned doesn't mean that it wouldn't be cheaper to knock it down and start over. You've got a 59K house needing a 12K HVAC system, a 16K roof, a 30K stair/kitchen redo, and 10-20K foundation redo. How is it exactly that you're not buying a 100K house here? Looks like you'd come out much cheaper if you would move up the food chain to a 100K house without so many problems. Just put more down on a better house and skip the aggravation and you can still have the same payment and end up spending a lot less money in the long run.

I wouldn't be so quick to volunteer your husband for these projects either. It's literally hell to come home month after month to 8 more hours of home work. And that's if you're not trying to live in the house while you work on it. It saps your energy in addition to your bank account. Been there and done that and had the zero long term payback from it.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2011 at 7:36PM
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I'd walk away from I'd run. Your emotions are clouding your judgement. The foundation is probably the most important part of a home. If the seller had the foundation checked he should be able to provide documentation that there are no problems. But then you'll still have the leaning floors. Even without foundation problems, you'll still have an older house with over 100K invested in rooms that lean. Have you inquired about insulation? A home of that era could need that as well.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2011 at 8:23PM
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I had it inspected, and we do have new insulation, Sellers showed paper work for both foundation inspection which stated it as in fair condition and a resell inspection. I was told that it could just be the joists, won't know until the engineer comes out Monday. As far as ME volunteering my husband for the work, he was the one who would rather do it on his own than hire someone.

Not having an AC doesnt bother me at all, I dont have one now in my apartment. Emotions clouding my judgement? Maybe so, but I really do love this house. I'm not looking for a 5yr home, I'm looking for a home that I can live in for 20-30yrs. As far as a 16k roof...thats a bogus price. I was quoted by 3 quality roofers on both shingles and metal. Cheapest with 5yr warranty was $4200.00 Metal was closer to $8,000 I do believe, but dont quote me on the metal pricing, I dont have my paperwork with me. IF I fix the roof myself, the seller will put the roofing costs towards closing fee's, in other words, he will pay $4,200 in closing costs, and if closing isn't that much, he will refund me the left overs as long as I have the receipt.

The owner is also willing to pay 75% of the costs to fix the foundation ONLY if I have proof saying that it needs work, which is obviously does. Now, I am not 100% on this house...I LOVE it yes, and even if I run from it like many of you are suggesting I do, I will likely run into the same issues in another house. It would be nice to be approved for a 100k house, but that's not going to happen for us for at least another 3yrs due to MY filing bankruptcy, and I am in absolutely NO position to keep living in a 2bd duplex for 3 more years. I have 4 children, 2 step children who make visits here. I am also not wanting to throw away $1,000 in rent to go get into another larger place.

As far as the leaning floors go, I talked to the inspector and he told me it could very well just be the wood under the tile/carpet. Some type of water damage, which is also very common as we had a HUGE flood in 2006.

A 30k stair/kitchen redo....You can redo anything for much cheaper. I'm not looking for a 30k kitchen. If it doesn't appeal to others, they dont have to look at it. Now if I were buying the house to flip or use as some type of profit, then yeah I can see spending 30k in a kitchen. Spending 15k in cabinets is just plain crazy when you can simply paint them or reface them. But again like I said, if I were buying the home purely to make a profit from, the choices in how things are done would be entirely different. It needs to look good to ME and be functional for ME...not the whole state lol.

Also, IF I wanted to install AC I could. I already have a Trane unit, and it would cost me $1500 to install. It is AC ready, the sellers just never replaced theirs when the unit went was checked in the inspection.

The inspection yielded the floors obviously, and one electrical outlet face plate which was broken. I have seen all the sellers receipts for all the upgrades such as new wiring, furnace, hot water heater, siding, windows, and insulation. It has the spray insulation I do believe they said.

We will see what the engineer comes up with, then I will call around for foundation repair or lifting quotes if I need to, just to see how much this repair job would run me as im only paying 25% of the repair costs.

It could be a 7k job or it could be a 25k job, won't know until he comes out to look at it.

I'm not the type of person to pay full price for anything, and i'm definitely not the person to pay someone exactly what they are wanting for things either. After all, that is how I got my rent here to the $500 mark instead of the original $715 they wanted to begin with. I'm a haggler and probably cheaper than a lot of women out there. Just because I have the money to buy a $30k car doesn't mean i'm going to pay $30k for a car. ;) Keep in mind, I'm not 100% sold on this home yet...

    Bookmark   August 17, 2011 at 9:41PM
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Sophie Wheeler

If you had the full money to take this on, or some real technical skill, you wouldn't be getting the responses that you have. There is real danger to your livelihood by purchasing something that will need such a financial outlay when you are already strapped. Any experienced homeowner will tell you that the note is the cheapest part of any home, and that's for one in good shape.

To venture into owning a home of the vintage that you are considering, you need a lot more capital reserves than you would for one only 20 years old. Old homes aren't for the low budget crowd unless you plan to live in them as is without doing anything to them. You do not have the experience, the money, or the right attitude to take on an old house. You appreciate their unique details without at all understanding their ongoing upkeep costs. They suck down money like no tomorrow, and that's without trying to "improve" them.

Please let us know how your sale progresses. And if you buy it, how your renovation progresses. You say you aren't sold on the property, but you are completely unwilling to listen to any reality checks, so I don't think you have an open mind at all. I wish you good luck. You are going to need it.

PS, there is an Old House Forum on this site that you should take a look at. There is a lot of information there from people who love old houses, but are realistic about what it takes to live in one.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2011 at 11:22PM
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I found a reputable company, Atlas Piers, that does foundation repair and has a lot of good information on their website:

    Bookmark   August 29, 2013 at 3:05PM
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