Buying a house and property can be a fantastic investment, even if you intend to scrape off the old house and build a new one. But, if the foundation that house is on isn’t solid, you could be in over your head. If you’re keeping the house, there could be major water damage in the basement. If you’re starting over, the foundation could be cracked and unstable. Direct Waterproofing offers these expert tips for inspecting the foundation of a home for sale to make sure it’s not going to cause you major problems after you take possession of it.
Look For Sagging or Uneven Floors
The floors on the bottom level of the house should be fairly smooth without significant sagging or unevenness. If you notice any heaving or low spots as you walk around the basement or lowest level of the house, there might be a foundation issue. Minor unevenness could just be the result of normal settling, but major sagging or heaving is not normal, especially if you can see it with your bare eye.
Every house will experience some settling, but should only be up to one inch, unless it’s a slab foundation, which can handle up to four inches of settling. Any more than that is a concern and you should consult a structural engineer to determine whether or not the foundation is still viable.
Try the Doors and Windows
Doors and windows should open and close with ease. If any of the doors or windows on the house you’re looking at don’t close easily or are difficult to reopen after you close them, there might be a foundation issue. Again, this may just be a result of minor settling, and you’ll be able to rehang the doors or windows that are the issue and the foundation won’t ever be a problem. But, in conjunction with other items on this list, doors and windows that won’t shut could be a sign of a damaged foundation.
Check the Concrete Floor
If the concrete basement floor is covered with carpet or another floor covering, you might not be able to see if there are large cracks in it. But if at all possible, try to get a peak under carpets or rugs to inspect the concrete. This might not be a necessity if you don’t notice other signs of a damaged foundation, but if there are sagging or uneven floors and doors that won’t close properly, try to get a glimpse of the concrete floor.
It goes without saying that major cracks in a concrete floor aren’t good. Minor settling may cause small cracks in the walls above windows and doorways, and possibly in the floor. But they shouldn’t be gaping cracks and they shouldn’t extend much longer than a few inches. If it looks like the floor has gone through an earthquake, it probably has, at least in terms of the foundation settling too much.
These are the most common signs of a potential foundation issue. Home inspectors may not even catch a foundation problem, especially if it’s subtle, so if you have any concerns at all, have a structural engineer provide their professional opinion and make your decision based on that.