My House is Falling Apart! How Do I Figure out the Proper Fix?

Dear Jim:  I have noticed over the last few years that my foundation and drainage problems are getting worse.  I have cracks in my living room, water in my crawlspace, and my foundation doesn’t look great. I have talked to a bunch of Contractors and they all tell me something different. Why this disparity in solutions?  And how do I figure out what my house really needs?

Unfortunately, this is the same story I hear every day.  “What should I do?”  The good news is that there is likely one best answer to your structural woes. You just have to talk to the right person.

The “Why” Behind the Confusion

In simplest terms, most General Contractors lack the background and insight to provide you with the best solution. These problems are often wholistic, involving multiple structural components that are all interacting- drainage, foundation, framing and structure, seismic, etc.  It takes a lot of experience, specifically with residential structural work and drainage, to be able to find the best solution in the short window of an initial meeting. And the problem may be very different from what you suspect- most commonly that your foundation issues and cracks are mostly related to faulty drainage that also needs to be addressed. Timing is also a big issue.  Structural problems are sometimes fast developing, but most often have been brewing for decades. Everyone wants to know “when” these repairs need to be made, and whether or not they are serious issues.

Long Term Drainage Issues Ruined this Foundation

plastic covering the soil and plywood for seismic did not help with the real problem

(plastic covering the soil and plywood for seismic did not help with the real problem)

The Reality You Need to Consider

Foundation and drainage issues cannot typically be “fixed”. Older foundations in poor condition generally need to be replaced.  Most drainage issues occur because you have no real drainage system when you need one. Short term repairs can make your problems worse. Proper solutions can be expensive work that most aren’t looking forward to. And often drainage, foundation, and seismic repairs are best done all together. The bottom line is that you need to do what is best long term for your home and avoid short-term fixes unless you have an immediate problem.  It shouldn’t need to be a question of what- just a question of when.

Improper Repairs Can Often Lead to Structural Issues

These patched together supports under the front landing eventually made things worse

These patched together supports under the front landing eventually made things worse

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

an article you’d like Jim to highlight, please send an email to

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 estimate form.

Jim Gardner Construction

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