Buying a House with Foundation Repair Issues: Smart or Bad Idea

February 19, 2021

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If you’re asking, should I buy a house with foundation repair issues, the bad news is that there is no “one size fits all” answer, as every home and foundation is different! The good news, however, is that foundation damage doesn’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t buy a certain house, as your buying decision will depend on the extent of damage, repair costs, the seller’s asking price, and other such factors.

To help you answer the question, should I buy a house with foundation repair issues or foundation damage, let’s take a closer look at how that damage might affect a home overall, how it’s repaired, and how to ensure you’re making the best decision for yourself. You can then discuss your options with a foundation repair contractor and real estate agent near you, and decide whether or not to purchase any home you’re considering.

Should I Buy a House With Foundation Repair Issues?

As said, there is no right or wrong answer as to whether or not you should buy a house with foundation issues. In some cases, that damage might be minor and repairs might cost just a few thousand dollars; if the home’s selling price offsets those repair costs, it might be an excellent purchase. However, before you make your decision, note some important factors to discuss with a foundation repair contractor or real estate agent.

1. Foundation repair often means secondary damage

Homes needing foundation repair often suffer secondary damage, meaning damage to materials and surfaces other than the foundation. As a foundation weakens, a home will tend to shift to one side or another, and then sink along that side. As one side of a home sinks, it pulls on various materials and surfaces inside and outside the home.

In turn, foundation damage often leads to cracks along the interior and exterior walls, damaging outside brick and creating gaps around window and door frames. A home might also suffer cracked ceilings and buckled floors, while baseboards and crown moldings pull away from the walls. Walls might also pull away from each other, creating gaps in room corners!

In severe cases, a home with a weakened foundation might also suffer roof damage, as a sinking home pulls on roof decking and its underlayment, so shingles pop out of place or tiles split and crack. Plumbing pipes also pull away from connectors, leading to water leaks.

If you’re thinking of buying a house with foundation damage, ensure you’ve checked for this secondary damage. Some patching and other minor repairs might not add to your repair costs significantly, but fixing a damaged roof, plumbing pipes, and other such surfaces and materials can become very expensive!

2. Check for mold!

Mold growth is another common secondary damage of foundation repair issues, as foundation cracks and chips let in moisture from outside the home. This trapped moisture increases the risk of mold growth; once mold starts forming, it can spread quickly and easily behind walls, underneath flooring including carpet padding and tiles, and above ceiling tiles.

Extensive mold cleanup can also get somewhat costly. If you’re considering buying a home with foundation issues, note that a home inspector typically won’t check for mold, so schedule a secondary inspection and note expected cleanup costs before making your decision.

3. Note the cause of foundation damage

If a homeowner doesn’t address the cause of foundation damage, he or she will likely need to schedule foundation repairs repeatedly throughout the years! In some cases, damage is the result of poor-quality foundation installation and low-grade materials, so that repairing cracks and waterproofing the foundation is sufficient for keeping that foundation in good condition.

In other cases, improper grading or a property’s slope needs addressing, to help prevent future foundation damage. If a property is not graded toward the street or a nearby drain, water can collect around the foundation. As it does, that water gets absorbed by foundation concrete, leading to cracks, chips, and spalling.

While fixing improper grading is not overly expensive, it might not always address overly moist soil. Consider added waterproofing costs and other such fixes needed to keep a repaired foundation dry and in good condition when considering if you should buy a house with foundation repair issues.

Can You Get a Mortgage on a Home With Foundation Damage?

Lenders are often hesitant to provide mortgages for homes with extensive foundation damage, as they know those homes are often more difficult to resell should a buyer default on that loan. Whether or not you can secure a mortgage loan for a home with foundation damage might depend on the extent of that damage and if the home is showing signs of secondary damage, such as interior wall cracks.

A lender might also sign off on a mortgage if the homebuyer can show that they have the funds available for needed repairs. If you’re unsure of your mortgage lender, ask them about any limitations to their mortgage offer so you know if you need to find another home to buy!

How Long Does Foundation Repair Last?

How long foundation repairs last depends on that foundation repair method and the extent of damage to your home. It also depends on whether or not you invest in a dependable, reliable contractor, and correct whatever caused foundation damage in the first place!

  • Epoxy fillings correct and repair small cracks and chips, filling in those gaps and then expanding and hardening. Most epoxy fillings last about 5 to 7 years before they degrade and need replacing.
  • Bowing basement walls often need carbon fiber straps, which put the walls back into place and keep them secure and stable. When installed by a reputable contractor, wall straps should last for decades if not the lifetime of your home!
  • Steel and helical piers insert along foundation edges, pushing a sinking foundation into place and keeping it stable. Piers should also last for decades if not indefinitely.
  • House leveling or slab jacking involves injecting a specialty foam material under the home. That foam expands as it hardens, lifting a home back to its original level and even position, and providing added foundation support. House leveling should last several decades, although that foam can degrade or break down after some time. Check with your foundation repair contractor about their warranty if you need to schedule house leveling for your property.

Basement waterproofing, exterior foundation waterproofing, crawlspace encapsulation, and other such services help extend the life of your foundation repairs. Keep these added costs in mind when considering if you should buy a home with foundation repair issues.

Foundation Repairs & Home Owner's Insurance: Are YOU Covered?

Whether or not foundation repair is covered by homeowner’s insurance often depends on the reason for that damage! Standard wear and tear and damage caused by age are not covered, and damage caused by a homeowner’s negligence, such as failing to grade the property as needed, is also not covered.

Homeowner’s insurance also typically rejects or excludes events such as earthquakes and floods, but will usually cover damage caused by fires or tornadoes. While most foundation repairs won’t be covered by insurance, there is no harm in contacting your agent and asking if your needed repairs are included in your policy.

Do Most Older Homes Have Foundation Problems?

Generally speaking, the older a home gets, the more likely it is to have foundation problems. This doesn’t mean that an older home will always need foundation repair, but it is vital that you check for needed fixes before buying a home that’s more than 10 or 20 years old, and especially a home that’s several decades old!

Along with age, a home’s foundation is affected by the quality of its materials, the local climate, and its foundation type. Homes built before the 1940s when concrete slabs became popular might be more prone to foundation problems, while homes in tropical areas or those with overly moist soil are also more likely to suffer foundation issues.

Tree roots can also wrap themselves around a home’s foundation, putting pressure on the concrete and causing cracks and chips. Excavation near the foundation can also cause the soil to lose its compaction and strength so that it doesn’t support the foundation as it should and the concrete then begins to crack and crumble.

Neglect is also a common culprit when it comes to needed foundation repairs! The longer foundation cracks are ignored, the larger they might get. Overlooking drainage and other such issues can also lead to severe foundation damage. Along with a home’s age, ensure you’ve checked the property for drainage issues and overgrown tree roots, and how well the foundation has been maintained over the years.

Does Foundation Repair Affect Home Value?

Foundation repair issues can affect your home’s value rather significantly, with some estimates stating that home values might drop 10% to 15% or more when you neglected needed foundation repairs. For a $300,000 home, that means losing at least $30,000 from its value!

The reason for this significant decrease in value is the risk of secondary damage, as said. A cracked foundation also affects a home’s curb appeal, and creates a very damp, unpleasant environment in the home’s basement or first floor. Water leaks and growing mold also keep a homeowner from finishing that basement and increasing their home’s living space.

While needed repairs devalue a home, note that foundation repairs themselves won’t necessarily decrease a home’s value, and can even increase those values! This is because foundation repairs help support a foundation, keeping it strong over the years.

Foundation repairs and secondary services such as waterproofing or crawlspace encapsulation also help keep a home’s lower levels dry and comfortable, so a homeowner can more readily finish the space and increase their living area. Waterproofing also helps protect appliances and items stored in the basement from rust and corrosion, mildew, and other such damage.

Are Foundation Repairs Worth It?

When considering the cost of foundation repairs, you might wonder if they’re worth it and if you can ignore them at least for the time being. A foundation repair contractor can note the severity of your home’s foundation damage in particular and if the structure is showing signs of secondary damage; however, even if foundation damage is somewhat minor, it’s never recommended you put off those needed fixes!

  • First note that chips and cracks let in water; as foundation concrete absorbs that water, it suffers even more damage and get weaker and weaker. The longer you ignore that damage, the more extensive and costly it then becomes once you do schedule needed repairs!
  • Moisture seeping into the home through foundation cracks also risks structural wood rot. Wall studs, subflooring, and other framing pieces absorb that water and then crack and split. This also allows a home to settle and shift and then eventually sink or pull along one side. Replacing those rotted pieces also gets costlier the longer you ignore this issue.
  • As the foundation weakens and the home settles, you’ll also see that secondary damage of interior and exterior cracks and gaps. Not only are these unsightly but they also let in outside heat, cold, and humidity, which causes your HVAC system to cycle on more often. This means added wear and tear on those appliances and higher utility costs!
  • Timely foundation repair protects your home from all that costly damage while also ensuring it looks its best on the outside! Repairing cracks and other such damage prevents large chips and unsightly spalling, so your home is structurally stable and always looking its best.

A Word from Our Foundation Experts

Dayton Foundation Repair Experts is happy to bring this information to our readers and we hope it helps you to understand if you should buy a home with foundation repair issues. As always, discuss any specific questions you have about a potential home purchase with a real estate agent or attorney, so you know you’re making the best long-term financial decision. If you have questions about foundation repair in Dayton or would like to schedule a FREE, no-hassle consultation, give us a call today.

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