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Question DetailsAsked on 8/16/2017

I recently purchased a home and was told no foundation problems now my ceilings are cracking all over em i covered

Do i have any kind of warranty or what can i do. Ceilings and walls were freshly painted when inspected. Sellers or inspectors did not report any issue with foundation. Can someone please tell me what I can do i have only been living here for 3 weeks

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5 Answers


Unless you bought a warranty plan that covers structural problems (and VERY few do), probably no. And your homeowner's insurance almost certainly does not cover long-term structural or any foundation issues - any any cause for cracking is almost certain to be tied back to a long-term cause, so not covered.

I presume the deal has closed - if not and you are living in it - renting till closing - talk to your realtor ASAP, because this would be a change of conditions which would normally justify cancelling the deal or putting closing off till the owner has the cause diagnosed and the issue fixed to your satisfaction.

Ceilings cracking all over - does not sound like a foundation problem to me, not unless you have MAJOR diagonal cracking in the walls first. Also, if foundation problem, you almost always get door and window dragging/jamming before you see much cracking in the ceilings.

If the cracks are linear at the sheet edges, then sounds like either a lousy paper joint taping job, or someone redid the ceilings with drywall compound in the joints and no tape at all. If that is the case, cracks are probably at least somewhat "open" - more than hairline, at least locally large enough that you can put a piece of wire or maybe a straightened out small paper clip wire into it. If that is the case, and general rather than just one or two places on the ceiling, likely need gouging out and repointing the joints and joint prep by a drywall contractor.

If random hairline or peel-away "mud crack" pattern cracking, would be a problem with the finish - or a LOT of moisture in the drywall, like from a leak - but that would be local, not all over. If random pattern cracking, probably eventually leading to some peeling of the paint, I would guess they used latex over an oil paint that had not been properly prepared for latex over, used an oil paint over latex, or did not clean the ceiling and painted over heavy dust or cooking oil/tobacco tar buildup so the paint is not sticking right.

If you really think this is structural in nature, then a Structural Engineer is the Search the List category to look at it and appraise what is causing it.

You could also call back the home inspector for his opinion - if you tell him he indicated no problems up front and now cracking all over, he would probably stop by for a quick eyeball and opinion as to the cause for free - or at worst for maybe $50-100. Your other alternative would be, especially if paint is peeling off, would be to find a well-rated and reviewed Painter (your Search the List category) and have himm come and give his opinion and a bid to repair it.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD


I was researching the internet for signs of foundation and as i started inspecting the house the dining room another huge crack coming down from the very edge, the floor had visible patching on tile and now theres cracks showing in alot of places of the floor. The master bedroom is the one where theres a deep crack in ceiling from wall to wall a second one appeared and all along the side walls cracks are now appearing. On one side of a wall it looks like the wall is like puffed out. Theres cracks showing from where ceiling was patched . I have contacted the inspector send him photos and he was very surprised he said he had never seen something like this in over 25 yrs.

Answered 3 years ago by Karinavega


If you have significant new cracks actively forming, your situation is an "emergency" situation - whether or not you contact you insurance company is up to you but generally you will not have coverage from them, and letting them know of the situation may well cause them to cancel your insurance even before the cause is known. However, on the other hand, if coverage is possible, filing a claim now get you on record with the claim so the occurrence will have to be covered if eligible under the policy, whereas holding off runs the risk they will find out about it and cancel your insurance before you can file a claim, or that they will refuse to cover any damage or inspection/repair costs incurred before filing the claim. A tough position to be in, not knowing if they will cover it or not. Certainly if the risk of cancellation was not hanging there, one sjould file a claim - but those are the reasons I recommend, further down on the page, that you get an attorney into the picture ASAP.

You need to contact a Structural Engineer (your Search the List category) and schedule an emergency inspection - be sure to tell them new significant cracks all the way across ceiling/floors are actively forming, so this is a potential imminent collapse issue requiring immediate response, not some days down the road. If you do file an insurance claim immediately they can probably help obtain one for the inspection/diagnosis.

Be getting lots of dated photos (with backups if digital) for the record as these cracks progress.

Unless you have MAJOR rot or insect damage causing a house collapse, sounds like you have either a major foundation failure (in which case you should be seeing major cracks in the foundation), or a foundation failure in the sense of soils failure - slope instability if built on a significant slope or near a body of water or deep gully or such, REALLY poor soil conditions like a soft clay possibly causing settlement due to new wetting or such, a MAJOR erosion issue from major water line leak (which you would be able to hear as a rushing sound in the pipes if you put your ear to a faucet) or groundwater washing soil out from your foundation area, or possibly (depending on locale and geology) a sinkhole or underlying landfill or land clearing waste disposal pit under the house collapsing.

One other potential cause I can think of is rot or insect damage in the attic having degraded the framing to the point that the floor joists or lower chords of trusses are failing, allowing the roof loads to spread the top of the walls out, essentially peeling the house apart - in which case I would be expecting the cracking in ceilings to be predominately perpendicular to the roof framing direction, and to be hearing tearing and ripping and screeching from the attic. But assuming the inspector was able to get into the attic he should have been able to detect that sort of situation during the pre-purchase home inspection.

You did not say if you are having the inspector come back out and give his opinion on what is going on or not - might be able to give you same-day response and help tie it down to certain cause, or pretty much eliminate some potential causes.

Unfortunately, with major cracking occurring in a very short term like that, I would personally be acting on the safe side and getting valuable items and personal papers and such out of the house and move to a motel or relative's or such until the inspection is done and the cause it found and remedied. I would also be shutting off all utilities to prevent water damage or fire due to damaged electrical or gas lines in the house. I think this is only the third time I have recommended temporary evacuation on this site, so I am not saying this lightly - one of the others was a likely sinkhole situation in Florida, the other as I recall was failing roof framing under heavy snow load.

With your description and active cracking across ceilings/floors, I suspect this may be a critical structural issue, so you may be into a situation where the house will be condemned till (hopefully) fixed - not saying for certain, but bear that possibilitiy in mind and consider the possibility that the house may be unusable for some time, or in the worst case be a losst cause, so I would consider living alternatives and be VERY tight on spending till you can see clearly what the picture looks like.

Because you are looking at a newly purchased home and likely a substantial if not very major repair bill, I would get an attorney on board who is familiar with real estate transaction law (regarding possible recourse against previous owner if he concealed flaws in his required disclosures), and possibly if inspector failed to see major signs of problems in his inspection going after his E&O insurance, and also the lawyer should be familiar with property insurance law with an eye toward helping you with getting some sort of coverage (if only for temporary living expenses while the house is inspected and worked on) out of your homeowner's insurance company.

I am not saying your chances of recovery from the previous owner or inspector (and latter might be limited by contract to the amount you paid for the inspection) or from insurance are great, but I would say worth the some hundreds of $ for an attorney to advise you - he.she may also be helpful in dealing with repair contracts, any city/county action regarding temporary condemnation of the house, financial and mortgage issues with the house if the damage is catastrophic, etc.

Good Luck - you have my sympathies, and hopefully it will turn out to be a situation which can be readily repaired and stop the damage in short order.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD


I have contacted the foundation person who has been here previously he said hes been out to this location 3 times to do repairs he came out to inspect the house he said he will re-do 7 of the foundaton hes already done at no cost but he will have to add 7 more and i will have to pay for that. He also mentioned he will check with the city to see if our house is under a pipe that bursted because he doesnt understand why this house continues to have this problem. Im so stressed i am not happy with this house anymore, I have not even made a first payment on this mortgage. I just dont know what to do

Answered 3 years ago by Karinavega


Unfortunately, what proof do you have that putting in 7 more (presumably pin piles or helical anchors or such) and redoing 7 more will help - remember the saying about the definition of insanity - doing the same thing in the same situation but expecting different results. I would not expect any better results, especially since that contractor has been there several times - indication his diagnosis or remedy was far from successful.

Sounds like the previous homeowner ran into the problem many people do - they think that a contractor should be able to solve problems in his field of business, assuming he has a deep expertise in that field. That is commonly true for simple repairs or visible or traceable faults - but where finding the hidden cause of a problem is involved, most contractors do not have the training or education to properly track down the cause and come up with a proper design. This is especially true with structural failures without a palinly evident damaged member, and with foundation/subsoil issues. That is why there are engineers - in this case it sounds like you need a Geotechnical Engineer (a soils/foundations/groundwater specialist civill engineer) - your best bet would be to find an engineering firm with both strutural and geotechnical engineer on staff (sometimes an individual is qualified in both fields). Sometimes working for an Architect, sometimes for a Civil Engineering firm, sometimes a specialty Geotechnical engineering firm. The geotechnical engineer would investigate the cause, design the fix for the foundation conditions and of the house foundation; the structural engineer would be looking at the existing house damage and how best to repair it. [BTW - I said Geotechnical Engineer, not a Geologist - because while a geologist may be able to find the cause he is not generally trained or licensed to design a repair, not is he trained in foundations design.]

The first thing I would do if I were investigating would be to try to find the history of the repair - from the contractor, from previous homeowners (not just the immediate previous one), from neighbors and to see if any of them have had similar issue, from city/county engineering department for know issues encountered in nearby construction or pipelines or roads, etc. And I would check available plans looking for records of as-builts or building permit history for buried pipelines (especially sewers, water mains, stormm drains), septic systems (septic tank), swimming pools, sinkholes, filled in gullies or drainages or ponds or such. Frequently getting pre-development air photos and detailed topo maps will show pre-existing features which were just bulldozed in (oir even filled with leand clearing debris) and may now be settling due to lack of compaction and/or rotting clearing debris. Any of which could be causing continuing settlement, or in some cases active erosion of the ground from under your house.

I would alos try to find out what repairs were made to the house in the past - were they architectural crack repair, or structural issues which might or might not have been properly repaired and may be contributing to the problem now.

Another possibility is slope instability - either natural or because you house was built on fill that wss not properly stabilized,or occasionally instability caused by a high fill built on the uphill side of the house.

Expansive soils (clays) can also cause breaking up of a house like this, especially if the moisture level is allowed to vary with the seasons - sometimes a drip system is installed to maintain a constant moisture content.

And of course I already mentioned rot and insect damage to the structure as a possibility - either in the house framing itself, or possibly in supporting wood piers or pilings. Or even deteriorating all-wood foundation - a lot of the ones built in the 60's and 70's when that mistake was a fad, especially the ones built with wood that was not chemically treated for dirct ground contat or only lightly treated (as some being build today are) are now failing due to delamnination of the plywood, rot or insect infestation.

Might well take some bore holes or backhoe trenching around the house to investigate, especially if in sinkhole country, so while an initial walk-through site visit might run in the few hundred to $500 range, if in-ground investigation is needed typically the investigation/remedial design runs in the quite a few thousands, not hundreds of $ - so be prepared for a hit possibly just to find the cause, unless it is blatantly obvious. Even if obvious, some borings and soil sample testing are commonly needed anyway to perform the design of the remedy.

The fix - depends on the cause, the amount of work needed to repair it, and the damage already done to the house. Can run from foundation stabilization with grouting, putting in piers or pilings to support the foundation or even rebuilding the foundation in=place, all the way up through moving the house to a stable location on a new foundation (so in the several tens of thousands in that case) to in extreme cases condemning the house and demolishing it - though hopefully not that severe in your case, but from your description of significant new.

As for your investment in the house (down payment plus mortgage contract) - this is certainly going to cost you more than a little, and as I said before because of the likely damages amount I would be talking to a real estate law attorney, though after reviewing the documents he/she may say you have no recourse. Ditto to possible coverage by homeowner's insurance policy and any home warranty which might have come with the sale - though I consider it highly unlikely, remote possibility there may be some coverage there. Also, though a very long shot, IF there was a notation in the title about known instability or a previous condemnation, in RARE instances a title insurance policy will cover such instances if it was not flagged and disclosed to you during escrow.

Oh - attorney can probably help with finding out (possibly may need a subpoena) if the foundation repair had any warranty, and if it transferred to or is transferrable to you from the owner who had the work done.

Oh - one other thing caught my eye in rereading my answer - you said "was told no foundation problems" - bring this to the attorney's attention (might let him have this entire question thread), because if he said in the disclosure statement he was aware of no existing foundation problems the previous owner may be in the clear if he honestly thought the foundation repairs had solves the problem, but if the contractor had told him that the fixes were patches and would not actually "solve" the problem (so he knew there was a continuing foundation situation) OR if you were definitively told that there were no foundstion problems (as opposed to none he knew of) that might provide a basis to go against the previous owner for not disclosing those in the disclosure, or if he orhis attorney specifically stated that there were no foundation problems then that statement, or their failure to disclose a continuing saga of repairs, might constitute grounds to go against the previous owner on the grounds of non-disclosure or even on the basis of expressed warranty if such a definiive "no problems with foundation" statement were made.

The possibility of going against the real estate agent is something else for the lawyer to consider - if the agent had dueal representation (both the seller and the buyer) and knew about the foundation problem history and multiple repairs, then you may have basis for the realtor not, acting as your agent, disclosing this history to you.

Another longshot - but if caused by a sinkhole and in a state like Florida with sinkhole insurance (assuming you have it), that might pay for at least some of the repair cost.

Good Luck, and I would appreciate hearings (after all is said and done) what the cause was found to be.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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