Home-buyers often make a lengthy list of must-haves and deal-breakers for their realtor when they start their search for a new home. Hand-chiseled hardwood floors, slab granite, outdoor space and roomy open floor plans are popular today. One thing that rarely shows up on that list is a solid, properly built and well-maintained foundation. But most builders and real estate experts would agree that the foundation is perhaps the most important feature in every home.
There are many things that can damage a concrete foundation. If a structure is not built properly on the slab, the shifting frame could damage the foundation. As you examine any home you’re considering buying, look for external cracks in the foundation and on the sides of the home. Loose bricks, damage to exterior surfaces and windows that are sagging could be indications that the house is in trouble.
There are some obvious signs that a home has foundation problems and some more subtle indications that a home may be in need of professional foundation repair. A few additional tips to help home-buyers spot those telltale signs are listed below.
Cracking sheetrock. Cracks along the ceiling and wall joints and large vertical cracks in the paint or wallpaper are signs that the walls are shifting. A faulty foundation might be the culprit.
Bowed walls. Walls that have a bow-shaped protrusion meaning they are flatter at the ceiling and floor than in the middle is a sign that a house is settling unevenly, probably due to foundation problems.
Loose paneling and trim. Look for baseboard trim and ceiling molding that is separating from the wall. Loose nails in paneling and broken trim work might be a sign of old age and abuse or a sign that the house is not stable.
Uneven floors. When you tour a home, bring a marble with you and roll it set in the floor. Take note of whether the marble rolls across the room. If so, that means the home has uneven floors that might be a result of foundation problems.
Cracks in the yard. Cracks in the dirt around the home (near the buildings and in the yard or landscaping) could indicate that the soil composition is prone to shifting and contracting. Expansive clay soils such asthose found in the southeastern United States have the tendency to slide and contract more than many soil types.
Windows and doors. Open and close all windows and doors. Doors that stick and windows that do not open and close easily might just need simple adjustments. However, these could also be signs that a homes walls are shifting out of alignment.
Both excess moisture and limited moisture can create foundation problems. Controlling the moisture level with systems that continually add water to the soil surrounding a foundation or that divert water away from the footings can prevent damage from escalating. A professional structural consultant can identify whether such steps should be taken.
Finding that perfect dream home is often a challenging and exciting journey. Along with stylish features and designs, a strong foundation should be on the must-have list of every home-buyer.