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Foundation Crack: Should I Worry?

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Lee in Texas is on the line with a window and foundation situation. Tell us what’s going on.

    LEE: Well, I’ve got a house that’s approximately a little over 45 years old and it’s got the original windows in it.

    TOM: OK.

    LEE: And I’ve got a foundation problem.

    TOM: Alright. What’s going on with the foundation?

    LEE: Oh, it’s shifting, it’s cracking. I’ve got a big crack on the westbound side.

    TOM: Hmm. OK.

    LEE: And it’s spread out quite a bit.

    TOM: Do you sense that it’s actively – like it’s growing?

    LEE: No, it isn’t growing. It’s stable, just a crack.

    TOM: It’s been like that for how long?

    LEE: Probably about 20 years.

    TOM: OK. Well, then, I wouldn’t be too concerned about it. If it’s not active, which means it’s moving, then it’s probably stopped. It just happened for whatever reason: soil shift, who knows? But if it’s not active, then I don’t think it’s a big concern if it’s been stable for 20 years. So then I think you can move on and think about replacing the windows.

    A good time to replace windows. The technology has really come a long way. They’re super-energy-efficient; very, very comfortable; very, very easy to operate. What you want to do is choose your windows very carefully.

    If you go to our website at MoneyPit.com, we actually have a free guide. It’s a download from our book, My Home, My Money Pit. Just click on the picture of the book and look for the guide to replacing windows in your house. It will walk you through kind of the whole purchase process and tell you what to look for. You have to decide what kind of frames you want, what kind of glass you want: double-pane versus triple-pane and so on. And it will help sort of walk you through that whole process and then you’ll be more knowledgeable when you start talking to the actual window companies.

    But replacement windows are pretty easy to install. They fit inside the existing openings, so there’s not a lot of siding that’s torn off and stuff like that. And for the most part, they can do the whole project in a day or two.

    LEE: But if it starts being active again about when it shifts?

    TOM: Mm-hmm. Then here’s what you need to do: you need to consult a structural engineer, not a foundation-repair company or a contractor or anybody like that. There’s a lot of so-called experts out there but unless they have the pedigree of a degree, then we don’t want to hear from them. We want you to consult a structural engineer.

    Because when you have a serious foundation issue, you have an engineer inspect it, you have them write a report stating whether or not it needs to be fixed and if so, how it should be fixed. Then you get it fixed by a contractor. Then you have them come back and reinspect it so that they can certify that it was done correctly.

    And with that record, you won’t have any problem selling your house. If it becomes an issue later on, you can show them that you hired an expert to review it and to review it after it was fixed and it’s been done satisfactorily. And that should be all you need to know to fix the foundation and to protect the value of the home.

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