Foundation problems need to be repaired, but are you prepared for the consequences? You may need to make your repairs to your home after the foundation work is complete, and I do not mean just the landscaping.
I guess that this story has been simmering in me. I have eluded to the idea behind this post in comments that I have made over the last month. You see, a homeowner came up to me when I was starting an inspection that he had already been having his house repaired, so he did not think that I would find much. He boasted that he even had the foundation done. I pointed out that I had already seen an issue that stemmed from the foundation repair, but he brushed the comment away. “If you do not write something down, then your client would wonder why he hired you.” In fact, I have heard real estate agents proclaim a similar sentiment: home inspectors have to nit-pick or otherwise they could find nothing wrong. Home inspectors have to show that they are worth the money the clients are paying them. Maybe there is some truth in that statement, but I do not feel that there is. I did find issues with that repaired house that occurred due to the foundation work, but overall, homeowners may not see these as being to bad.
Most of us expect our gardens to be ruined when the foundation crews begin their task. Some of this is unavoidable. We do plant our gardens too close to our homes. I went to check on the home of one of my clients after they had their foundation repaired. They had two complaints: living in the house during the repair was like living in a war zone; and that several plants were trampled. When the foundation company has to work on the interior of the home, you can expect a great deal of noise. My client works from home, so that was not the best situation for him. The plants may come back, but you are faced with seeing them in a trampled state. What some homeowners may not realize as a problem is the backfilling that is done by the firm. (I have seen firms that have forgotten to backfill in the dirt, which is a more serious issue). The dirt will settle, but you do have to pay attention to how high the dirt has been piled against your foundation. If the earth is high enough to cover the exterior cladding or brick of your home, then the dirt should be removed. You could be causing problems for your walls, so do not wait to see if the grading will settle enough. Another common problem will be the plumbing pipes going through your roof. These pipes are the plumbing vents. They will either have a lead flashing over them, or they will have a plastic flashing with a seal. These pieces of flashing prevent rain from dripping down the side of the vent. When a foundation is lifted, the vent pipes go up, but the flashing might not be moving the same amount, which causes gaps that allow the rain to drip down the pipe.
The event which really brought me to write this post was reviewing the aftermath of a foundation repair that I was not expecting. I know that cracks can occur in the walls after work has been completed. The settling of the home is being counteracted with a new action of lifting of the base, so we need to expect movement to be seen in the walls via new cracks. We should also expect that there could be an issue with doors or windows. Any repair to a door or window before the foundation was repaired can lead to problems. Doors that sat well in their frame have gaps afterward. Windows may be hard to open. You may see buckling of the floors and ceilings. My clients had called me for a reinspection. The home had been on a Supra key, but this had been changed to a combination lock. This is not so odd, but this may have been my first clue. Why would the access method be changed? I went over the exterior with my clients, and their agent arrived. I mentioned that we had to go inside, but that I did not have the combination to the lockbox. He thought that it was on the Supra, and the listing service stated that it was still on one. We had to reach the seller’s agent to obtain the code.
What did I find? The front entry had a new tile floor. Lifting the foundation caused these tiles to pop up from the base and crack. Foundation repair does not always involve leveling the home, and lifting everything up at the same time. This aspect of the work can lead to damage in stiffer flooring materials, and tile seems to be the most easily damaged. Congruently, the sheets of material that make up your ceiling are undergoing the same stress, so they can buckle or crack. I find that bathroom tiles are also susceptible to cracking during this work; however, wall cracks can happen anywhere where there is a stress on the materials. You have the roof and attic framing pushing down, while the foundation is being pushed up. This is the stress that causes the cracks. In this home there were more than I would have thought, with some being quite major. I wondered had someone been aware of this damage, and that is why the lockbox was now in place. This home seemed to be the worst case scenario for cracks. Another aspect that should be examined after the foundation has been respired is the attic framing. The foundation problem had been pulling or pushing on this framing, and now things have dramatically changed, so you have to examine these framing pieces for problems. In this home some braces were bowed out due to the repair. Here is a pdf containing various photographs included in the report for this home.After Foundation Work
You should not be scared to have your foundation repaired, but you should be aware that this work can lead to other items to be repaired. If the crew does need to work inside your home, you may want to go somewhere, because the jackhammer can be loud. Remember to go all over the house after the work has been completed.