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When to Walk Away From Foundation Issues

Updated Nov 3, 2022

Updated Nov 3, 2022

Home > Foundation > When to Walk Away From Foundation Issues

The foundation of your home is exactly that – it is the base supporting your entire house. So, when the foundation develops issues, you must repair them immediately. While you might not have much of a choice if you own the home, you might not own the house yet.

So, if the foundation on a home you’re interested in purchasing has significant issues, should you invest in the home and repair them or run away while you still can? This article dives into the specifics of foundation issues and when you might want to reconsider your investment, so continue reading to learn more.

How To Identify Foundation Issues

When the foundation under your home begins to deteriorate, you’ll notice signs around your home. Telltale indicators of foundation issues include cracks in the walls, floors, and columns. You also might see misalignment in the doors and window frames, where the door doesn’t seem to line up with the frame, making it difficult to open the door.

In addition, you might notice bowing in your basement walls, where the walls seem to bend inward, or sagging crawl space floors. There might be water damage throughout lower portions of your home, especially in your basement, as water seeps through cracks in the foundation.

Outside your home, your chimney might lean to one side, and the front porch or stoop might seem as though it sits lower than normal.

If you’re not sure if your home has foundation issues or not, you can hire a structural engineer to assess it. They can determine if there are any problems and recommend the best solutions.

Common Causes Of Foundation Damage

Foundation problems can arise from various occurrences, but a few common causes are familiar to foundation repair companies.

For example, if you live in the southern portion of the United States (Texas and surrounding states), your home likely sits atop expansive clay soil. In dry seasons, the soil contracts, but in wet seasons, the soil expands. This contraction and expansion throughout the seasons cause the foundation to rise and fall, leading to damage.

Alternatively, your home’s foundation might sit on poorly compacted fill soil. Compacting the fill soil underneath a new foundation is essential, as loose soil will eventually settle, causing issues with the foundation.

Sometimes, the problems might stem from a plumbing leak hiding beneath the slab. When this happens, water seeps into the soil underneath your home, eventually compromising the foundation’s structural integrity if it goes unchecked.

Another common problem associated with foundation damage is tree roots beneath the foundation. If you have large trees surrounding your home, it’s possible for them to sap the water from the soil under your home, leaving the earth dry and shriveled. This can cause the foundation to settle unevenly, causing cracks and damage throughout your home.

How Much Does Foundation Repair Cost?

The cost of repairing a damaged foundation fluctuates drastically based on the severity of the issue. On average, homeowners should expect to pay anywhere from $2,010 and $7,717 to have professionals repair their foundations. However, this number may fluctuate based on how extensive the damage is.

For minor repairs, homeowners might pay as little as $500. However, more extensive repairs can cost $10,000 or more, especially if the repair requires hydraulic piers.

The longer it takes to complete the repair, the more expensive the total will be. Many contractors specializing in foundation repair charge about $200 per hour (national average), although this varies based on geographical location and the cost of living in your area. Foundation issues often lead to settled floors, misaligned doors, cracked interior walls, and in severe cases, collapsed ceilings and burst pipes.

In some scenarios, the foundation damage may be irreversible, so repairs are unnecessary, as they cannot fix the damage.

What Happens If You Don’t Fix Foundation Issues?

While repairing major foundation issues may seem like a daunting task, failing to address the issues accordingly can exacerbate the problem and cause ripple effects throughout your entire home. You’ll likely notice various warning signs of foundation problems, including structural damage, plumbing problems, and water damage, among other issues.

Type Of DamageSummary
Structural DamageGaps in doors and windows, uneven flooring, wall cracks, horizontal cracks on ceilings, improperly sloped gutters, etc.
Water DamageMoisture damage throughout lower portions of the home, usually basements; mold and mildew growth
Plumbing IssuesSnapped plumbing throughout the home may lead to elevated utility bills

Structural Damage

If left unchecked, foundation issues can lead to extensive structural damage. Doors and windows may develop gaps and not close properly, floors might dip or round, and walls might crack. The longer the problem persists, the more issues you’ll notice throughout your home.

Eventually, ceilings, upstairs walls, wooden cross beams, and attached garages may begin to display the effects of your home’s foundation issues. In severe cases, ceilings can collapse, and cracked walls will become the norm, making your home unsafe to stay in.

Plumbing Issues

Foundation issues pose a significant threat to plumbing throughout your home. This is especially true for pier and beam foundations, where pipes can become intertwined with the foundation and weave into the house.

With slab foundations, issues can lead to damaged plumbing as the slab shifts, potentially snapping pipes throughout your home. Pinpointing this issue can be tricky, especially when the problem lies beneath your home. Generally, you’ll need professional assistance to diagnose this issue.

The problem can even plague the pipes running through your walls and beneath floors, as shifting foundations can place stress in these areas by causing structural displacement throughout your home.

Water Damage

Cracks in your foundation and crumbled concrete throughout the slab make your home exceptionally vulnerable to water damage. Moisture can seep into your home via these cracks and crumbled spots, potentially causing significant water damage throughout your home.

If you have a basement, water can seep through the basement walls, causing damage to flooring, furniture, walls, and other structures throughout the space. The longer the moisture remains a problem, the higher the likelihood of mold and mildew growth in your basement. Certain types of mold and mildew can cause cold-like symptoms, including nasal stuffiness, coughing, asthma, eye and throat irritation, and similar respiratory complications.

Benefits Of Repairing Foundation Damage

A damaged foundation presents a fleet of problems, and it seems the longer you wait to repair these areas, the more damage you have to deal with. So, it’s best to rectify the foundation immediately as opposed to waiting, as that can cause issues in the long run.

BenefitSummary
Saves TimeRepairing walls, ceilings, windows, doors, and other areas impacted by foundation problems is time-consuming and expensive. Save yourself time and money by repairing the foundation sooner rather than later.
Avoids Additional DamageThe longer you wait to fix foundation issues, the more problems come up. So, by fixing the problems once you find them, you can save yourself the hassle of dealing with associated problems.
Increases Home ValueMost buyers want a home that is free of problems, and foundation issues are deal breakers. Although, some might not mind fixer-uppers. Foundation issues decrease the value of your home, impacting its real estate value.

Saves Time

The longer you wait to repair foundation damage, the more problems will arise. Fixing each problem takes time, so to avoid spending unnecessary time on the damage you could’ve avoided, repair the damage as soon as you notice it.

On top of time-consuming repairs, you could save yourself thousands of dollars you would’ve otherwise spent on repairing busted walls and ceilings, crooked doors and windows, snapped plumbing, and other damages.

Increases Home Value

If you plan on selling your home, leaving foundation issues for the next buyer can shave a considerable chunk off your home’s worth. New buyers don’t want to deal with severe foundation issues, especially if you expect them to pay full price. Most won’t even look at a house with foundation problems.

So, by repairing the foundation damage, you increase the value of your home. This gives potential buyers peace of mind, knowing the foundation is stable and secure. Your home becomes an attractive investment for buyers, and while the damage might cost you a few thousand dollars to fix, you might find it easier to sell your home once the damage is repaired. Overall, repairing the foundation will expedite the home buying process, as some lenders won’t even approve loans if the foundation isn’t good.

Prevents Additional Damage

As mentioned, failing to address foundation issues will eventually lead to other repairs throughout your house. You’ll need to repair cracked walls, foundation cracks, misaligned door frames and windows, snapped plumbing, replace water-damaged furniture and drywall, and any other parts of your home that are affected by the faulty foundation.

The longer you wait, the worse the ripple effects become. So, addressing the problems sooner rather than later is important, as costs continue to rise with each added ripple effect. By addressing the foundation issues as soon as you notice them, you can potentially save yourself thousands of dollars in repairs made necessary by the foundation.

What Foundation Issues Aren’t Worth Repairing?

For the most part, foundation issues are repairable. However, in some scenarios, the problems may have gone on too long, making them irreparable. Since foundation issues vary in severity from one home to the next and the type of foundation, it’s tricky to make broad generalizations of when to walk away from foundation issues.

So, while the following issues usually aren’t worth repairing, you should check with an experienced contractor for advice. In some cases, you might be able to salvage the foundation.

Crumbling

Once a foundation begins severely crumbling, fixing the issue is usually more trouble than it’s worth. Generally, crumbling concrete happens when the contractor makes an error with the mud during pouring. For example, they might add too much water as they finish it or begin to finish the concrete before concrete bleed water exits the surface.

If the crumbling is minor, it might be fixable. However, if the entire foundation is crumbling, it might not be worth repairing and lead to severe structural problems.

Can I Back Out Of Buying A House After Inspection?

Perhaps you received the home inspection report back for the dream home you’re buying in the near future, but upon opening it, you’re beginning to second guess the commitment. Maybe there is extensive foundation damage or signs of termite damage throughout the house, which translates to thousands, even tens of thousands, of dollars in repair.

But can you back out of the purchase? In some cases, yes, you can. As long as you decide to back out before the inspection contingency period is over, the seller has to return your earnest money and has no grounds to sue you for backing out.

So, if the inspection doesn’t pass your expectations and come to terms, it effectively terminates at that non-resolution date.

However, this doesn’t apply to every scenario. For instance, let’s say you waited too long and the inspection deadline passed but still want to back out of the sale. While you can probably get out of the purchase contract, it’s unlikely that you’ll receive your earnest money back. On top of that, the seller could potentially sue you for breach of contract, although this isn’t likely, as selling a home tied up in a lawsuit is difficult (on top of foundation and structural issues).

Other Considerations

Every home is different, so the severity of foundation issues varies drastically from one installation to the next. If your home or a home you’re interested in purchasing has foundation issues, it’s vital to seek the help of a trained professional.

While you can ask a home inspector for advice, you might want to call in an expert specializing in foundations and foundation issues. Many home inspectors can pick out basic issues but are unable to identify or diagnose complex issues. So, it’s usually best to seek the assistance of a specialized expert.

Foundation experts can advise you on the best course of action based on the severity of the problems. If you’re buying a home with foundational issues, it doesn’t hurt to have an expert evaluate the house to determine how much you should expect to pay for repairs.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, whether you go all-in on your home’s foundation issues or walk away is up to you. Many experts agree that most foundation issues are repairable, but this doesn’t mean you have to commit to a home with these problems simply because they’re fixable.

Of course, if you own the house, it’s likely in your best interest to repair the damage whether you plan on selling or not, as the damage will lead to issues throughout other areas of your home. We recommend consulting an expert, as they can offer insight into your particular situation. Since every scenario is different, the best course of action varies for everyone.

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