LESLIE: We’ve got Rob in Iowa whose basement walls seem to be coming in on themselves. What is going on at your money pit?
ROB: I’ve got some basement walls that are heaving in and I need a permanent solution that’s not going to bankrupt me.
ROB: Basically, what I’ve got is I’ve got some wall anchors that have been installed about seven years ago. I’ve been keeping those tight and the walls are still heaving in. They had a drought here in Iowa last summer and this year, we’ve had quite a bit of rain. So, walls are bowing in up to 2 inches in places and I’m getting a little worried.
TOM: Wow. Yeah, if your walls are bowed in 2 inches, Rob, unfortunately you’ve got a very serious problem on your hands that is not only impacting the structure of your home but also the value of your home. And if the walls have gotten that bad, we are well beyond the do-it-yourself fix stage.
I can provide you some basic information about why this might be happening. Generally, the reason walls will heave is because you get a lot of water that collects around the foundation perimeter, especially if you don’t have terrific drainage. If the drainage is flat, if the gutters are dumping near the corners of the foundation, which is where most gutter contractors leave them, that water collects into the soil. And in the wintertime, it freezes, expands and then slowly but surely sort of ratchets that wall out.
Now, if yours have gone to the point where they’re 2 inches out of plumb, this is a problem. So, the way I would address this – and I would do it very specifically and very strategically – is as follows: I would retain a structural engineer to examine the problem and specify a repair. It’s very important that you just don’t call a contractor for this. Because if they don’t have the pedigree of an engineering degree, it’s not going to hold water when it comes time to sell your house.
So I would hire an engineer to analyze the problem and design a solution. And you could talk cost concerns with your engineer and options and all of that. Once you have that plan in place, at that point in time you can make the decision as to whether or not you’re going to do it yourself, which may be more possible with a plan than not, or whether or not you’re going to hire a pro.
But however you get it done, the third and most important final step is to have the engineer come back and examine the work and then give you an additional letter that says, “Yes, I identified this problem and I designed a fix. And I inspected the fix and it’s done correctly and there’s nothing further to worry about.”
Because ultimately, if you go to sell your house, the buyers are going to bring up this issue. You want to have that sort of pedigree in your hand so that you can prove that it was a repair that, yes, was structural in nature but was repaired correctly. Does that make sense?
ROB: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a very interesting approach. I have one chink to throw at you and that is the wall-anchor system that’s installed was warrantied. And the owner of that company came out and said that he’ll warranty the system and he’s willing to put in three more anchors which, in my mind, is an admission of liability. Do I let him do that or do I need to get the structural engineer first?
TOM: Is this wall-anchor contractor a structural engineer?
ROB: I doubt it.
TOM: Stop the repair process. Get the engineer. If the engineer thinks that’s a good idea, then that’s a different story. But warrantying doesn’t necessarily mean we put more in. If the product failed and your walls continued to bow as a result, then his liability, depending on where these walls were when he first put the system in and guaranteed that they were going to stop the walls from buckling in, his liability could be significant.
But I would get the engineer in first and let’s get some good, impartial, expert advice here from somebody that does not have a system to sell you. I don’t want you to get advice from somebody – sometimes, contractors give you advice from people that – because they sell the system. “Yeah, you’ve got a problem? I’m just the guy to fix it for you, you know?” And that’s not really good, expert, independent advice.
So go to the engineer first, Rob, and then you can deal with the contractor issue after you have the information.
ROB: OK, great. Thank you.
TOM: Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.