I have seen problems developing in my house in the last few years, and I’m getting concerned. I’ve been getting more cracks inside, the floors are out of level, and I have some water in the crawlspace. Can you help me figure out if these problems are serious, and if so, what I need to do about them.?
Are your problems serious?
Starting with the pandemic, when people were hanging out at home most of the time, homeowners became focused on the issues that they never paid attention to before. A large percentage of the inquiries I have been getting started with the question “do I have anything to worry about”, or “is this problem serious”. Since they typically would not venture down in their crawlspaces or basements where the actual evidence lies, this concern was based upon the cosmetic evidence inside the living areas of their homes.
The answer depends on your timeline.
For a majority of these people, I provide them with some degree of reassurance. Most structural issues are slowly developing and unlikely to lead to catastrophic failure.
Many of these are settlement issues caused by drainage problems that are accelerating somewhat with climate change and erratic weather, but these things typically take many years, sometimes decades to develop. Small cracks are common and are not concerning. Large cracks that develop in short time frames are more problematic, but these are not the norm.
The focus should be on the proper solution, not just the budget.
If the problems are minor, and you may be moving in a few years, then maybe you defer the work. Simple solutions, such as directing downspouts away from your house to slow down settlement and water issues, are sometime helpful. The reality is that most people stay in their homes for a lot longer than they anticipate, and once they hear their houses are not falling down they tend to forget about their structural issues, which can be a mistake. Sometimes they patch together quick fixes over time, which can cause bigger problems down the road. Many of the foundations and drainage systems in our typical 1920’s homes nearing the end of their lifespans may require substantial and expensive foundation and drainage replacement and repairs. When the quality of the concrete is very poor or there is substantial cracking and/or major drainage problems then it is time to consider the bigger fix- especially if the home is going to stay in the family for a while. The proper long-term fix should last a lifetime and end those nagging concerns once and for all.
Conversations with Your Local Contractor is a feature by Jim Gardner of Jim Gardner Construction Inc. (with articles finessed by Lisa Gardner). If you have residential, homeowner questions OR ideas for
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Jim is a long-time Piedmont resident and has been doing structural repair and basement renovation in your neighborhood since 1983. To schedule an estimate or for more information please go to our website at jimgardnerconstruction.com.