Diagnose House That Settles and Cracks
LESLIE: Dale in Texas, welcome to The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
DALE: Hi. Kind of wondering if you have any information on house leveling.
TOM: OK. What’s going on with your house?
DALE: For the last year or so the walls have been cracking, the ceiling is cracking, the fireplace is pulling away.
DALE: Cupboards are pulling away. Outside, the brick is doing the same thing. We’ve had a lot of people, professionals, come and two out of five say that’s normal. The house was built in 1970 so I know better.
DALE: And the other three are anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000.
TOM: OK. The folks that you had come look at this, are they all in the business of repairing this sort of thing?
TOM: OK. I think the first thing you need to do is get an independent professional in to take a look at it. This could be an architect. It could be a structural engineer. That’s probably the best bet.
TOM: Or it could be …
LESLIE: What about a home inspector?
TOM: Yeah, a good quality home inspector. If you go to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors – that’s ASHI.org – find a certified home inspector in your area. These are the kinds of folks that are in the business of inspecting buildings without being in the business of selling you the repair solution. When you call a contractor you usually get a contractor’s fix which almost always involves hiring that person to do the work. We need to find out whether or not this is truly active movement or not before we enter into a discussion about how it should be fixed. Right now I don’t think you have enough information.
DALE: OK, I understand that but why would anybody not want to work on the house?
TOM: Maybe it’s not a job that they want to do. Maybe it’s not worth the money. Maybe it involves materials they’re not familiar with. I mean who knows? You can’t second guess that. That doesn’t mean anything. You need to get …
LESLIE: I mean it’s better to trust that somebody doesn’t want to do the project because they maybe don’t have the skills that you need to have the job done properly.
TOM: Maybe you scared them off. I don’t know. But I do know …
DALE: No, I …
TOM: … that you don’t have enough information right now. You need to get an independent expert to look at that. If I had a house that had all of those cracks that you just listed; had all that movement, I would definitely want to have it looked at. I mean the best thing that can happen is you’re going to pay an independent expert a couple of hundred bucks for doing an inspection and they’re going to say it is normal and then at least you can rely on that. But you can’t rely on a contractor’s opinion.
DALE: I’ve got the charts and everything. It’s from one half to two inches. Every person that looked at it pretty much gave me the same kind of specs. When I said two out of five and they all have 20 years under the belt for a company, two out of five says it’s normal movement. I’m here in Texas and they say keep up with a soaker hose and start putting timers on them and everything will come back together because we haven’t any kind of rain in the last couple of years.
TOM: Right, because the soil is going to move.