If you are in the market for the right home, then you likely know that you need to inspect houses carefully before you settle on the one you want. It is a good idea to invest in a professional inspection, but you can complete a preliminary investigation yourself. During the inspection, you should look for some telltale signs that the house is not in great shape. One thing you should look at carefully is the foundation. Foundation issues can be serious, especially if the home is only a few years old. Find out why this is and also learn how to locate issues during your home walk-through.
Why Do Newer Homes Have Serious Foundation Problems?
Some of the most serious foundation problems are seen in homes that are only a few years old. These issues occur due to the poor soil preparation or the poor choice of building site before the home is built. All homes settle due to the way the soil underneath the home expands and contracts with moisture. As the soil absorbs and loses water, it lifts up against the foundation or falls down underneath it. Parts of the foundation can then lift or fall in the process.
Some types of soil will retain more water than others. For example, clay will hold a great deal of moisture, but sandy soil will not. If the soil underneath the home is made up partially of clay and partially of sand, then the home can settle differently depending on the material that sits below the foundation. This is called differential settlement.
Home builders are supposed to take numerous soil samples around the proposed building site. If this does not happen, or if the house is built on top of soil made from a variety of different materials, then differential settlement is likely. If foundation problems occur due to the soil, then the foundation will start shifting within the first year or two. This typically happens as the soil becomes drenched with water in the spring and then dries out in the summer and fall. Issues seen on a new home are likely to continue as well. If you do happen to buy a home with a differential-settlement issue, then you will likely need to make repairs fairly quickly. Excavation and reconstruction may be required, and the foundation may also need steel pins and beams to keep it secure. These types of foundation fixes can cost you tens of thousands of dollars.
What Are the Signs of Differential Settlement?
If you are looking for signs of differential settlement and serious foundation issues, then start by inspecting the outer foundation of the home. Foundation cracks are an obvious sign of an issue. However, vertical cracks are normal and often appear on the foundations of newer homes. These cracks form due to normal soil stress on the concrete, and a filler can be used to repair the openings.
The types of cracks that are concerning are diagonal and horizontal ones. Diagonal cracks appear when one part of the ground sinks under the foundation, and horizontal ones indicate an issue with which the soil is pressing on one side of the concrete.
As you inspect the interior of the home, look for other signs of foundation problems that include cracks with open gaps along the walls, windows, and doors that are hard to open. Floors that angle or slope and walls that seem to bow inward are things to look for as well. Molding that appears to be separating and pulling away from the walls may be noticed too.
If you notice glaring foundation issues, then it is wise to speak to your real-estate agent so a home that does not have serious foundation problems can be found for you. There are many homes for sale, and if you keep looking, you are sure to find one that is a good fit for you.