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Large mods and foundation cracks


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So I went on the Glenbrook open houses on Sun. and couldnt help but notice what appeared to be foundation problems in all the houses. I am talking about drywall cracks, doors that dont fit and unusual humps in the floors. Is this normal for house with slabs so massive. Are the repairs permanent? Is this a big concern? I know those pipes under those houses are reaching the end of their life and may be leaking, but just want some opinions on whats going on with these houses.

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So I went on the Glenbrook open houses on Sun. and couldnt help but notice what appeared to be foundation problems in all the houses. I am talking about drywall cracks, doors that dont fit and unusual humps in the floors. Is this normal for house with slabs so massive. Are the repairs permanent? Is this a big concern? I know those pipes under those houses are reaching the end of their life and may be leaking, but just want some opinions on whats going on with these houses.

Well I know exactly what you are talking about. Two of the houses had substantial drainage problems as well which just adds to the problem. The poorly installed gutters didn't help the situation either. The Colgate one had some foundation work done hence the plywood floors in the hall. But the atrium drain was completely clogged and looked like it has been for years. The cast iron piping has about a 40-50 yr life cycle so they are probably nearing the point where they will have to be replaced.

Slab problems are common in Houston on all homes, not just mods. By controlling drainage properly, it will definitely help the situation.

The electrical appeared to be original if all of them, hence the lack of plugs. I know the colgate one only had 4 plugs in that huge den hence the numerous extension cords. The changes that were done appeared to be more cosmetic to appeal to the buyer rather than to be actual upgrading to meet code. Most buyers don't look at things such as this but you should so as to make an educated bid. I know when i bought mine, i ended up doing more just for my sanity. The old houses weren't designed for powering all our modern appliances therefore many are probably running at capacity. I know my parents' house only has grounded outlets in the garage and the kitchen. Therefore when you get a new TV, computer, etc and you read, "plug into grounded outlet," you're out of luck! For their more expensive items (computer, hdtv) I've run 20A grounded service to a couple of rooms so the surge protectors will work properly. At my house, when i went into the attic I found only 2 circuit breakers were used to all of the outlets! For me this is a hazard so i upgraded service so the house will operate nominally.

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ohhhh I was wondering about that plywood and why some of it sounded hollow underneath. I mentioned mods, but really was refering to houses with such a large slab. So are foundation repairs a somewhat permanent fix, or is just a ongoing problem that wont stop?

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ohhhh I was wondering about that plywood and why some of it sounded hollow underneath. I mentioned mods, but really was refering to houses with such a large slab. So are foundation repairs a somewhat permanent fix, or is just a ongoing problem that wont stop?

yeah...they had some foundation work done on the supporting walls in the hallway. Well depending on who does the work and the sites drainage situation will determine how stable the foundation is. It is just like this for pier and beam as well but pier and beam are easier to fix than slabs. There are many other factors as well like broken pipes which was one you mentioned

I think everyone will see shifting in their slabs/foundations. A well engineered foundation will be stable though. lots of rebar would be something great to have! it is the amount of shifting that the homeowner should be concerned about.

If you do need work on a slab foundation, a structural engineer should be a requirement IMO. Most companies don't use them.

As for pier and beam fixes, if you are looking to buy, make sure there is no water under the house OR there is a design means to remove the water. I will say i was stressed when i had my foundation leveled because he said specifically "I won't do anything til you correct the drainage problem." He said if he did it, it would just shift and the leveling would be a waste of money. Well at that point i did my own detailed survey during the next few rains to determine where the point(s) of entry were. After months of "fixes" including additon of gutters, removing some dirt around the house, installing underground drainage system, my house has been dry as a bone.

Edited by musicman
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Yes, in my small bit of experience (RPS and Flipper may have more to add), this is just part of the "buying a Houston mid-century house" game. Not only will you likely have foundation issues, you will also have old pipes, old electrical, old flooring, maybe an old roof, and possible strange smells (mine came from the bathroom subfloor). The shower pans will need replacing most likely as well. You may be buying it from someone who couldn't afford or refused to pay for maintenance. All of these things should be accepted if not embraced by the potential buyer, because once you fix them you should be home free for awhile, and if you are going for a certain mid-century look, then it's better that you get ahold of the house before the average do it yourself flipper does.

With the foundation of my house we have had some issues since restoring the house because we had to chop down a dying tree and I water the lawn more than the former owner did so I think the ground has swelled a lot from that. It will be some $$$ to fix, but at least most of the foundation had already been fixed 10 years ago, unfortunately by a company that went out of business.

We replaced the bathroom pipes when we did the tile work because it was already exposed. That subfloor of ours was practically dust. The contractors couldn't believe what bad shape it was in.

As for the Colgate house having some cosmetic things done to appeal to the buyer, I can't figure out what buyer they were trying to appeal to. I wouldn't usually say it on a public forum, but I was very sad after seeing that house. As Dr. Phil would say, "This house needs a hero." The Santa Elena house, on the other hand, has immediate upside, even with the issues it has. I hope I get invited to the housewarming party on that one!

Jason

So I went on the Glenbrook open houses on Sun. and couldnt help but notice what appeared to be foundation problems in all the houses. I am talking about drywall cracks, doors that dont fit and unusual humps in the floors. Is this normal for house with slabs so massive. Are the repairs permanent? Is this a big concern? I know those pipes under those houses are reaching the end of their life and may be leaking, but just want some opinions on whats going on with these houses.
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As for the Colgate house having some cosmetic things done to appeal to the buyer, I can't figure out what buyer they were trying to appeal to. I wouldn't usually say it on a public forum, but I was very sad after seeing that house.

Concur...there was just too much going on there with no thought.

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In my experience there are 3 types of houses in Houston.

1. A house with a current foundation problem.

2. A house that's going to have a foundation problem.

3. A house that had a foundation problem that's been temporarily fixed with piers or shims (pier and beam).

You can't keep the ground from expanding and contracting.

flipper

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On the Colgate house, the plywood is because the house was designed to accomodate hardwood floors, however, at the time it was built wall to wall carpet was starting to be more in vogue and that was installed in lieu of hardwoods in the bedroom wing. This according to the previous owner who was a friend of the Wright's that built it. The plywood is not something that was a later addition as a response to foundation repairs. The current owners had a "Pergo" type flooring they were planning on installing there and had already removed the carpet to install that. That is why there is no carpet there. I urged them not to do it and just leave it alone.

A structural Engineer did inspect the Colgate house recently. He recommended in his report that some piering be done on the two front corners, but in the e-mail he sent with the copy of the report he indicated that personally, he would not do any foundation repairs. I do not think the under-slab sewer lines have been redone on that house, so if that were to be done, I would do piering at the same time.

I would be surprised if the Santa Elena house required foundation repairs. I haven't noticed anything on it, of course that doesn't mean it isn't there. There has been some work to the under slab plumbing on that one, but the extent is not known for sure since it is an estate sale.

The Glencrest house had the underslab plumbing replaced in March, along with the elec service panel & gooseneck this year and the water supply line from the meter. GFI plugs were installed in the baths & kitchen. It has a lifetime warranty from Dawson on the foundation piers. there is slope in the bonus room above the garage where there are none of Dawson's piers, but they did not recommend any installation or repairs. The roof is a couple of years old.

In Houston's gumbo soil houses will always shift some. Sometimes people will see little hairline cracks and freak out that it has "foundation problems." Houses without foundation problems will continue to settle some and you will pretty much always have little cracks that appear if you have over 3000 sq ft of concrete on one level in this town. It is important to get a structural Engineer to inspect any house you are considering, instead of just a regular inspector, and they can give you a recommendation on repairs. You can get bids from foundation companies, but of course they are in the business of selling piers.

Edited by rps324
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