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Question DetailsAsked on 4/25/2015

Cracks are now appearing in the same area where foundation was repaired right before I bought home.

I bought the home three years ago. At the time, the seller was having fixed foundation cracks and cracks in the floor due to settlement. There had been two estimates done, one of which was warranted for 25 years and the other for one. The owner chose the cheaper one with the shorter warranty. About three months ago we noticed cracks in the interior walls in the room where the cracks had been fixed in the floor. One is above the door frame entering the room, one is one the side of a closet. We tried to reach the contractor who did the work and he is not answering calls, mail or email. He has not responded to our realtor who knew him and recommended him to the previous owner. Is a one year warranty normal? I don't understand why he is ignoring me and I am at loss as to how to proceed. I'd wanted to do some improvements, such as new windows and flooring but don't want to sink any money .pardon the pun...if the house is about to fall into a hole. Insurance covers only catastrophic loss.

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4 Answers

-1
Votes

Hard to say what the cause is - everything from sitting in a swamp or sinkhole or very soft river sediment so the house is literally slowly sinking, to expansive soil, improper base material type under house, or poor compaction (most common) during construction, etc.


1 year warranty would normally be the outside limit for a repair unless it was a very specific cause that could be definitively remedied. The 25 year warranty is a real stretch evenn assuming the contractor wouldbe around that long to honor it - even new construction is not warrantied for more than 3 months to a year usually, and unless a specific warranty period is required by state law usually no specific warranty at all.


If this is minor cracking with no noticeable offset (in and out of the plane of the surface) normally you just patch or caulk it every few years and call it good unless the crack gets to 1/4 - 1/2" wide or wider (when you start worrying), shows significant differential movement of the two sides relative to each other (aside from pulling apart), or starts looking like it is going through the full thickness of a foundation wall. Probably about 9 out of 10 such cases never develop into anything significant - of course, till it develops you do not know if you are part of the elite 10% or not.


VERY general rules of thumb - start thinking structural issues once crack gets over about 1/4 inch wide or if through thickness of foundation, if it starts showing differential movement between the two sides in and out of the plane of the surface, wall starts bowing or breaking up into sections between several cracks, you hear cracking or breaking sounds from it, cracks along foundation wall rather than across the main field ofthe slab. Slabs usually (especially if basement) you normally do not worry much about until they start cracking up into distinct pieces, water starts coming through, or bows up or down more than 1 inch or so (more like 1/2 inch probably if on-grade slab on main house ground floor.


Of course, I am talking on-grade slabs not elevated structural ones, and when you start worrying is of course earlier if in very steep hillside area where it might bean indication of slopeinstability, in sinkhole country, etc. Also, raising of foundations/slabs is generally more critical than settlement, because that might indicate high groundwater pressure or expansive soils.


You could contact a Structural Engineer to come look at it for typically about $250-500 depending on whether you ask for just an on-site opinion or a formal written report and recommendation.


Or if you first want you could take photos and post here for an opinion by the contributors here - use the Answer This Question button right under your question, and attach photos using the leftmost yellow icon right above the response text box in the Your Answer page that pops up when you click Answer This Question. Try to put a pencil or person's finger or such in the views for scale. Mid-distance view probably best - not real closeup (unless you do both, even better) but far enough back to give the overall view but till be able to see the crack clearly.


BTW- on the insurance issue - in almost all homeowner's policies it is not whether it is catastrophic that mattears, but whether it is an acute orbasically instantaneous event (which is generally covered) or a long-term occurrence or gradual deterioration, which is not generally covered. And groundwater infiltration and ground movement (including settlement of foundations, which is usually considered a ground support failure issue) is almost always specifically excluded.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD

0
Votes

Thank you for your response. The house developed cracks in the drywall in the master bedroom and bath in the last few months. The fix performed three years ago for the settling was a retaining wall built about three feet from the house.


The house sits on a small rise and I imagine the cause of the problem is the shifting of the soil in that area. When we moved in, we knew the driveway and walkway also had cracks and guessed it was due to the same reason.


We can't see cracking outside but inside. The floor was cracked in the master and that was repaired as part of the fix from three years ago. I'm reluctant to pull up the carpet!


If we could get either the engineer who did the first of the estimates or the contractor who actually did the work to come and look at the situation,we would have some sense of what to do, and the reason is they presumably would be familiar with the property. Unfortunately, neither seems interested.

Answered 4 years ago by mdfischetti

0
Votes

Those cracks certainly look like typical settlement cracks - which can be caused by sagging or creeping or breaking floor joists, intermediate support posts settling into the soil (on a post and beam house), terminte damage in the framing, settling foundations, expansive and shrinking soils, sinkhole activity. Or slope stability issues, which sounds like maybe your case, especially if your walk and drive cracks look like slope movement cracking - typically either intermittently jagged burt basically straight cracks parallel to the slope (across the slope rather than up and down), or arced at the uphill (normally) or downhill (commonly if an active earth slump or slide) side.


Pity the original engineer does not want anything to do with it - may be afraid of a claim that his design failed - and unfortunataely you likely have no recourse against him because you were not a party to the repair design contract.


Sounds to me like you need a Civil Engineering firm (not an Al category) with both structural and geotechnical (soils) engineers on staff - to evaluate the structural damage and the structural condition of the house, and to evaluate whether this is caused by slope movement - which if they originally put in a retaining wall to stabilize it, sounds likely.


I would not be doing remodel work until this issue is solved, because the cracking would be expected to continue till possibly some months after any fix is done, plus any repair may involve opening up walls or ceilings or such.


And yes, the bad news - basically homeowner's insurance policies do NOT cover long-term or progressive damage, and unless they are VERY old or have a special earth movements rider, do not cover ground movement problems either. Sorry.


BTW - you said insurance covers only catastrophic losses - while your deductible may be high so that is functionally true, it is the short-term nature of losses that determine if they are covered or not - so a brush fire usually yes but sun-burning of the paint and shingles not, strong windstorm or tornado or hurricane water damage yes but long-term water expsoruee from rainy climate no, spontaneous breakage and flooding from a pipe yes, long-term damage from a pinhole leak causing rot and mold and such no. All the above subject to any specific exemptions or riders, of course.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD

0
Votes

Thank you for your advice and expertise. I guess I knew it wouldn't be easy to solve. But I am grateful for your help. Now I have some understanding and direction. Thank you very much.

Answered 4 years ago by mdfischetti




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