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Although we are not engineers, we do get involved in repairing structural things quite often. I realized just how often when a potential client, who is an engineer herself, found it difficult to locate a contractor in town that deals with this sort of problem. Her background is in traffic and her office is full of civil engineers, so it was impossible to get a recommendation for a remodeler who knows what to do for a home with issues.
Basements are popular here in Boise. Many of the North End homes had them included in the original structure, and others have had them added after the fact. Some were done by professionals, but I had one neighbor that did his with 5 gallon buckets. We also find DIY retaining walls and occasionally we just have to wonder what the heck folks were thinking when they covered up dirt with wood.
Many patios have been converted into enclosed structures. When walls are secured to the edge of a slab and the roof weight is added, it is just a matter of time until the slab breaks and then the structure sinks.
Let’s face it structural issues are scary. We know. We have been in all sorts of homes with structural problems, most of which we repaired gracefully. Because of our North End work, I suppose we come across this sort of thing more often. Problems usually are found during a casual exterior inspection. Other opportunities arise when we are examining basements and crawl spaces.One thing to understand is that not all cracks are structural, often cosmetic issues can be swiftly addressed. One trick I use is to check the structure above cracks for signs of “telegraphing” . Structural issues usually telegraph the problem to doorways, walls, ceilings, floors, and windows. Look above and nearby for stress fractures in the lath & plaster or opening misalignment.
Shopping list of common causes of foundation problems
Improper mix of Cement and gravel (weak concrete)
Water freeze and thaw cycles
Inadequate substrate compaction
No building codes back in the day
DIY retaining walls
No metal reinforcement (re-bar)
Too small of a foundation for the structure.
A good example we see often is an exterior wall that was poured without a footing. Another example had to do with a stone foundation that was significantly undermined. Seeing daylight through your foundations is not a good thing. Cracks are common as well as spalling concrete. Having the wisdom to determine if it is cosmetic or structural occasionally requires an inspector. Our position is that if you have to ask… the answer is yes.
At Levco, we address repairs using our best judgment and experience to develop a plan that will work. That have come in all shapes and sizes. I recall a joke my Grandpa Ben loved to tell about the dentist explaining to the patient that “Your teeth are fine but the gums have got to go.”
Fortunately, I have not seen a home that required new foundations yet but I am sure it just a matter of time. If you are concerned about a foundation issue get it evaluated by a professional.