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Question DetailsAsked on 1/18/2017

Inspector said all was fine with our home now we have major foundation problems

Purchased our house in October. Inspector noted a crack and stated that it was cosmetic. We had someone come out due to sinking in floors more cracks above doors and windows shifted/doors stuck shut and he says we have major foundation problems... what can I do in this situation?

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4 Answers


If the inspector did not see or note the other cracks and sagging floors in his report,, and especially if he did not AND they do not show clearly and norticeably in his report photos, it would be hard to pin him down for liability for undetected foundation issues. You would have to prove he missed clearly noticeable defects, that they were not obscured by architectural finishes (including drywall), AND that they were severe enough that he should have noted them as an indication of a possible problem.

And - most home inspector contracts these days have so much legalese in them, and have limitations of liability commonly limited to the inspection fee paid, that the most you would get out of him without a major expensive lawsuit would be the couple of or few hundred $ you paid him. (Not all states allow that limitation of liability, so in some states you could potentially recover from his Errors and Ommissions (professional liability) insurance for failure to detect and note significant indications of failure or deterioration.

Determination of how severe the situation is would be best made by a Structural Engineer - or perhaps more properly for a case with suspected foundation issues, a Civil Engineer (not an Angies List category - check with Structurals for recommendations) with structural and geotechnical training and expertise. Most larger civil engineering and architectural or architect/engineer firms will have all those capabilities in-house or with affiliated specialist engineers. Typically $300-500 range for the inspection and listing of defects, remedial design can run from $100 to a few thousand $ more depending on severity - commonly in the $1000 or a bit more range for normal types of foundation settlement issues for the inspection and design combined - not including any actual repairs, which again run from typically about $1000 minimum for some post or pier resetting or shimming on up to many thousands for more serious situations - rarely into the many tens or even hundreds of thousands in cases with severe foundation soils issues like land slippage under the house.

You did not say WHO you had come out - if a Foundation Repair contractor remember they have a tendency to say all houses have severe foundation problems that need fixing using their preferred method - it is rare for a contractor to be called out about a suspected problem to come clean and admit that there is nothing to worry about and he does not want to take your money by doing work that may not be needed or may be excessive considering the need. For an independent opinion and remedial design (if needed because of significant issues) a licensed/registered (phraseology varies by state) civil engineer (which license category generally includes geotechnical and structural sub-specialties) is your best place to start.

If this is an old house (say pre-70's or pre-60's and original foundation and doors/windows) this sort of floor sagging (up to a couple of inches commonly) and wall cracking and door/window sticking is common and may not be indicative (especially if not progressing noticeably over the shorter term) of a significant issue. In older houses it is common to have to jack up and reset basement/crawlspace columns or piers, maybe replace or splint a cracked beam or two, do a repair to a weakened or failing area of foundation wall, repair drywall cracks, and realign a few doors and windows.

Course, unless quite an old house (say pushing 70-100 years), if there severe jamming or doors and windows, major sagging or significantly cracked framing, or a noticeable worsening of the situation in say months or less or since you first went through the house, then that is indicative of a situation that needs attention - be it due to foundation soils problems, foundation deterioration or failure, or due to framing damage from insects or rot or undersizing or whatever. Unfortunately, it does sound like you are talking about floor settlement, wall cracking, door and window jamming SINCE you moved in - so sounds like you need to be finding an engineer to look into it. your realtor might be able to give you recommendations, as well as looking in the Structural Engineer category in Search the List on Angies List.

It is also possible, if one could prove the previous owner know about and failed to disclose per law, defects or previous unrepaired problems with the house, that you might have cause of action against him - but the bar is high, as you have to prove he knew about a problem or problem, had not repairede it (or though repairs were adequate), and that he intentionally withheld this information or willfully failed to disclose it - a pretty high bar unless you can find previous inspection reports (maybe from previous buyers who backed out) or from an engineer or contractor he contacted about the same problems in the statuory time before the sale (commonly 2-5 years). This assumes of course that he was subject to a mandatory disclosure statement - which generally only applies to owners who occupied the house and sometimes flippers - generally not to banks, estate executors or representatives, etc who did not live in the house so are not expected to know of this sort of issues with it.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD


Thank you for all of the information. It was built in 1994. The foundation contractor told me over the phone when I described it all that it seemed normal and likely from the furnace being in the crawl space but told me when we hung up to send pictures and if it was urgent he would call back.. he called back and told me it was major. All of the cracks and low spots are going towards the center of the house... Also said after he comes out he recommended hiring a structural engineer.

Answered 3 years ago by Bnmorgan91



This is Erick in Member Care. Thanks for your interest in Angie's List!

We'll be happy to help find top rated Foundation Repair providers to help, but it doesn't look like you have a subscription to the List yet. You can join by visiting or by giving us a call. Our call center is available 8:00 am-9:00 pm weekdays and 8:00-5:00 pm ET on Saturdays.

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Answered 3 years ago by Member Services


Sorry, but the photos you provided did not show me anything which I would consider serious. The drywall crack pictures were straight cracks almost certainly along drywall sheet joints - a common event for houses over 5-10 years old, would usually be considered cosmetic by themselves, and are usually indicative of poor taping (or taping with plain paper tape) rather than any serious settlement or deformation of the house. Structural settlement usually is indicated by diagonal cracks off the corners of doors and windows (usually diagonally off upper corners), severe jamming of windows and/or doors, or diagonal cracks across walls - or substantially open (more than hairline) cracks in foundations or brick/concrete walls that are not restricted to mortar joints but rather traverse through the foundation material - again usually though not always diagonal to the surface.

The uneven floor/door gap would certainly indicate a pretty dramatic floor sag or bulge IF the door is hung plumb, not hanging at an angle - could not tell that from the photo. But even if it is a bulge, that does not necessarily mean the subfloor has a problem - if a bulge rather than a sag (meaning it would probably have "bounce" in it or might go down or even move around the floor surface when walked on) that could be indicative of lack of expansion space around the edge of the flooring (assuming it is a floating, not nailed down, floor). Because it appears the low spot is at the wall rather than in mid-floor, that would not be the normal mode of floor sagging unless that is a non-load bearing wall - though could be indicative of other issues.

However, barring the fact the photos were not real definitive, the fact that a contractor, instead of proposing what he would do for you, told you to get a structural engineer on board I would take as probably good advice from a contractor you probably want to go back to come any repair job, because he gave you his recommendation to call in an expert without trying to take advantage of you by offering to do repairs off the cuff when he felt or knew an engineer is needed, so he may have seen something that did not show in the photos.

As to which type of engineer you need - if you have visible significantly open or diagonal foundation cracks or visible tilting or sloping of foundation walls OR your foundation is just a concrete slab on grade (no foundation walls or crawlspace/basement), be sure to make sure the engineering firm you call out has an on-staff or affiliated geotechnical (soils and foundations) engineer to look at that. Might or might not also need a separate structural engineer from same firm to look at it too, depending on what the foundation engineer finds. Ditto if you have bulging soil ridges or visible fairly continuous (not just local short cracks or formed concrete joint) cracking around the outside of the house - through drive or walks, and especially if yuou have a series of roughly linear or curved cracks roughly parallel to a slope above or below the house, which might be indicative of slope instability.

If no visible foundation issues, and especially if your house is supported on timber or pipe posts or piers under the house at intervals (typically in a crawlspace), then a Structural engineer would be your first person to look at the situation - though I still say finding a firm with both specialties on board would cover your bets best, because if you go with a probably slightly cheaper one-man structural outfit for instance, you might then have to change to another firm if more expertise is needed for your case - say if soils conditions is really the cause, which would cost more.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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