Thursday, June 3, 2010

How will I know if a Home has a Structural Problem

by C. Sherman Henes and Cassi Henes

Throughout this summer, Peak Structural will be bringing you important information about the structural integrity of your home. In fact, we'll be featuring Jeff Kortan, P.E., the Director of Engineering with Foundation Supportworks. Mr. Kortan is a nationally recognized author, speaker, and geotechnical engineer, who has been an integral part of the team developing the latest in Foundation Repair technology.

Here's an excerpt from Jeff Kortan, P.E.'s four part article, featured in the NAHI (National Association of Home Inspectors) Forum Magazine:


A home with a settling foundation may display cracking of exterior cracking, in drywall, and at the corners of door or window framing). Doors and windows may be out of level and difficult to open and close. Floors may also be out of level and concrete floor slabs can display cracking. Evidence of past repairs, such as tuck-pointing brick or patching drywall, are also possible indicators of a settlement problem.

Symptoms of failing basement walls in a home will look different depending upon whether the walls are constructed of concrete block or poured concrete. Concrete block walls will typically bow in at the middle (rather than lean in at the top) and show stair-step cracking at the corners with a horizontal crack across the center. On the other hand, poured walls will typically display diagonal cracks extending upward from the bottom corners of the wall toward the top center. The top of the wall near the middle tends to lean in. Failing basement walls can cause ceiling panels and ceiling drywall to buckle, and cause the drywall on finished walls to crack.

Look closely within crawlspaces for structural problems. Sloping or sagging floors may indicate problems in the crawlspace area below. Sloping or sagging floors are often caused by weakened floor joists due to excess moisture and wood rot in the crawlspace, improper spacing of floor joist support beams or settling of existing interior columns.


The good news is that there are solutions for each of these types of structural problems, and the cost is not necessarily excessive. Depending on the problem, piering and/or anchoring systems offer quick and permanent solutions for foundation defects. Rather than dealing with the high cost and inconvenience of total foundation replacement or living with a significant reduction in property value, piering and anchoring systems can restore property value and give both home sellers and home buyers peace of mind.


As a home inspector, your credibility lies in your ability to accurately identify potential structural problems. Over the next three articles in this four-part series, we’ll take an in-depth look at how to identify foundation settlement problems, failing basement walls, and settling columns or sagging beams in a crawlspace. We will also examine different options for repair and the pros and cons of each solution. Your ability to diagnose structural problems will be highly beneficial to your clients.

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