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Question DetailsAsked on 10/27/2016

We had a home inspection yesterday. Is this crack a major problem?

We are out of state and were not able to attend the inspection. Trying to digest the report now. Its a 14yr old house in GA with poured concrete walls and finished walkout basement. We are of course going to request the sellers fix/repair but the more I read about horizontal cracking in foundations the more I wonder if we should just walk away?

Poured Concrete foundation walls. The exterior view of the
foundation is limited to the portions visible above grade.
There is a differential crack where the garage slab meets the
foundation at the back wall of the home. This may be due to
increased soil pressure behind the wall and below th garage slab.
Conditions exist that warrant further investigation by a
Professional Engineer. Seek bids to remedy the condition from at
least three (3) Licensed Professional Foundation Contractors.

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1 Answer


IF this crack extends under the living quarters of the house, it would be a deal-breaker for me unless you are in love with that particular house. If ONLY under the garage concrete slab AND there is no significant breakage of the garage slab at this time (hairline shrinkage cracks excepted - commonly one or both ways straight across middle of slab due to fill settlement under it), I might accept a repair. If that foundation supports living portion of the house, I would be a lot more iffy - and unless I took a closer look and decided it was not as signficant as the photos look, would walk unless a licensed professional structural engineer or geotechnical engineer (foundations and soils engineer) said it could be fixed OK.

The inspector's boilerplate has it exactly right - should be inspected by an structural engineer AND the repair designed AND inspected by him as the repair is being done and when structurally complete.

Looks to me, based on limited photos of course (but good photos by the inspector) like this was a muddy cold joint - that they ran out of concrete during the footing pour so the foundation hardened in that roughly horizontal plane, then got dirt on it (or muddy water ran over into the forms more likely), and they did not pressure wash the surface and prep it properly before pouring the remainder of the lift. Actually looks to me like there might still be 1/2" or so (hard to tell without scale) of mud or silt still in there.

Note in the leftmost top picture that the separation is not only a vertical gap, but if you look towards the middle and left for example, you can see that there are several down-dips in the crack- but the matching down-dip in the upper piece above the crack has shifted to the left maybe 2 crack heights - so appears to be maybe 1/2-1" left movement of the upper part relative to the rest of the footer.

In the bottom left picture, the little spike sticking down near middle from above the crack shows the same left-lateral shift (top relative to bottom) from where the "spike" popped out of the concrete or stucco and left a little dimple or recess. This shift may be why the inspector talked about possible soil pressure causing it - but sounded to me like he was talking about soil pressure moving the foundation wall, which would normally push the bottom of the wall (below the crack) outward relative to the top (above the crack) causing an offset perpendicular to the wall, whereas this looks to me like it acted in the perpendicular direction - along the alignment of that foundation wall, with the offset being along the axis of the wall rather than perpendicular to the wall.

Again based on photos only, this does not look to me like a stree-induced crack in the concrete - partly because such a crack would usually lead out to the surface quickly as the lowest-strength path. I would be pretty certain this was a pre-existing crack / dirty cold joint in the poour which then moved a bit - maybe before, maybe after the slab was poured. Could even have been hit by the concrete truck backing up against it and moving it as bit - that sort of damage by concrete trucks is disturbingly common.

OBviously, this is a long-distance from-photo guesstimate, not a professional opinio or advice to you - hence you need a Structural or Geotechnical registered/licensed (terminology varies depending on state) Engineer to inspect and evaluate it.

On the structural/geotechnical engineer - now that this defect has been officially identified in an inspection report, the owner will have to disclose it to all potential buyers regardless of whether you back out or not, so it will have to be addressed by the owner. So I would, if you still want to pursue this house, have your Realtor do a contingency item to the owner, based on the inspection, for it to be inspected by a structural engineer, whose choice should be subject to your approval (or you suggest some names based on word of mouth, Realtor/Inspector recommendations AL reviews, or whatever. Then after the inspection you should stipulate that you have the option of backing out based on the engineer's evaluation of the defect, or of accepting that engineer designing a fix AND being repsonsible for inspecting the work as it is being done and accepting the final product - all at the owner's expense.

If the owner does not buy off on hiring an engineer to evaluate it has his expense, you could hire an engineeer to do a follow-up inspection based on the general home inspection at your cost, then depending on the results back out or go ahead.

Whatever you do, pay attention to the contractual timeframe to allow you to back out based on this - if you hire an engineer you need to be sure the inspection is timely to allow you to either back out or put a contingency for the repair in the contract before your contingency timeframe runs out. If going with the owner getting the engineer in there (presumably to inspect and design the fix both at same time), then you need to be sure that portion is done before your contingency period runs out - or that it is extended till that result is available to you to inspect and approve/disapprove.

Plus of course any repairs would have to be scheduled to be done before closing - which with possible winter weather might be an iffy thing, so if you are on a tight timeframe to move in so can't afford to potentially delay closing till the work is done, thatmight make this a deal killer too - because I am guessing you are looking at probably a month or better for the engineer's work then a contractor to do it and the engineer to give final approval of the work - plus any city/county inspector signoff on the required building permit too.

Real hard to ballpark guess this, not seeing it in person and not knowing how long the crack is, but assume about 20-30 feet across back of garage, I would guess that jetting out the crack, dry-packing grouting or forming and pourable grouting it, installing anchors through the slab into the foundation to tie them back together, and repairing drywall damage from opening up the wall to install the anchors (likely through the wall bottom plate) and repainting would run probably a couple to a few thousand $, plus $500-800 for the engineer's services.

One more thing - after the repair is done (if you stay with this house) be sure to inspect for new cracking in drywall from the repair, because that slab may settle a bit when it is cleaned out, which could cause cosmetic cracking nearby in the walls. Repairable, but should not be at your cost, so the contingency should require repair and repainting to match of any drywall cracks existing after the repair is complete. Could be done same time a patching the holes to put the anchors in so additional cost not a bit thing.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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