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Posted: 1/4/2006 7:38:29 AM EDT
A young lady with whom I work recently purchased [what appeared to be] a very nice, seven year old colonial in central Virginia. She just returned from vacation in Cancun and noticed that the center of her home appears to be collapsing!

Kitchen counters and backspashes are pulling away from the walls.

Main floor and second floors appear to have dropped about 1/4".

Several cracks noticed in walls (She isn't sure if they are "load bearing" or not...but based on her description at least some appear to be.) above door jams. One crack in center of home is very large and growing.

Upstairs, the central wall that separates the home longitudinally appears to have separated from the ceiling about 1/4".

There is more but I think you get the idea.

The home is your standard 2400' sq. Virginia colonial with kitchen in approx center-rear.

House sits on 2 acres; has a septic system in the front and well in back. Farm pond about 200 ft to rear.

Fair amount of recent rain, but no apparent water intrusion into structure.

She did not notice any of this damage before returning from Mexico.

I recommended the following:

1. Inspect home very carefully and take pics of all damage.

2. Get under home into crawlspace and make careful inspection of structure, support footers, and soil consistency. Look...and listen for unusual sounds. Take pics there too.

3. Review sales contract. Look for warranty.

4. Contact insurance company.

5. Contact real estate company.

6. Contact state/county builder/contractor oversight office

7. Gather all info possible and lawyer up!

What say you...you contracting gurus? Is she in real trouble? Is there a reasonably inexpensive fix? I suspect that she has a real problem on her hands.

And no...I ain't taking pics! She's young enough to be my daughter!
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 7:41:04 AM EDT
I guess it's fair to presume she didn't get a pre-sale home inspection?
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 7:41:58 AM EDT
Review the sales contract, and relavent law. Also, how recently was it purchased?

In NC, the seller must tell the buyer everything they know that could be wrong with the structure. If they fail to disclose, the buyer can then sue the seller. However this is state by state.

But it sounds like her floors are sagging.
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 7:42:27 AM EDT

Originally Posted By SmilingBandit:
I guess it's fair to presume she didn't get a pre-sale home inspection?



I'll have to ask...
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 7:43:03 AM EDT
Rainfall could have softened the ground and maybe the footings under the foundation were not up to snuff.. Sink hole developing, could be many things!
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 7:44:11 AM EDT
If the house settled that much in that short of a time, I would get my stuff out and find another place to live ASAP!!! No joke. To have that much "settlement" is not normal and the house could/will collapse given enough time. The problem is, how much time will it take? Will you or anyone else be inside the moment the house decides to "let loose"?

Depending on how the site was graded prior to building the house, it could be the site was filled and/or compacted improperly. It could also be the start of a karst formation (sink hole). My money is on the sink hole.

Contact a structural engineer, contact your homeowners insurance company and then get the hell out.
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 7:48:39 AM EDT
sink hole....but you don't see many of them here.
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 7:49:45 AM EDT

Originally Posted By LWilde:

Originally Posted By SmilingBandit:
I guess it's fair to presume she didn't get a pre-sale home inspection?



I'll have to ask...



I only ask because presuming she did, and the condition was something that he should have caught, then she has a way of redress there.

Step number one in my book would be to get a contractor out there to figure out what the hell is going on. There may be some easy mitigating steps that can be taken while your coworker starts the insurance process.
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 7:49:49 AM EDT
tagged
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 7:52:40 AM EDT
at only 6 years old she can go after the builder, my parents just this on there 10 YO house, the whole front door and floor around it had to be replaced. it sounds like the beam that runs across the house maybe saging, in the basement if it has one go check the columb that holds the center of the beam up, if they did not poor the pad under it right and any water go in ther it could make the center sink

that my thought
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 7:55:47 AM EDT
First and foremost I'd get a GOOD inspector in there to see what the hell is going on.
Then while he was doing his thing I'd contact my insurance agent, and possibly an attorney. Any house 7 years old should have most ofits settling done, and obviously this isnt the first time in 7 years its hada good rain.

Was the price on the house "too good to be true"? Buyers might have fixed it up good enough to sell then got out quick.
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 7:59:59 AM EDT
What do the foundations look like??? I am going to have to guess that your probably going to find cracks or cracks that have been filled in.
1/4" sag is not much (that is assuming a line streached from one side to the other the length of the house)) I am more worried about the wall pulling away from the floor. So there is either alot mor sag or the foundation on that side is giving out

( my house is approx 130years old and is a stone foundation. 1 side has a bad "belly" in it.. the center of my house sagged about 16" in the attic. At this point it will cause more damage to fix it than it will to reinforce everything to keep it where it is at.) Most of mine was a compound problem of stone foundation + morter desintegrated + no raingutters on the house up until 20 years ago + still being split in the same place as the other side
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 8:00:53 AM EDT
tagged for more info.
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 8:00:58 AM EDT
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 8:04:44 AM EDT
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 8:06:13 AM EDT
Just wondering if homeowners insurance will cover these types of problems if they were to develop on one of our houses - any Insurance Pros?
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 8:14:24 AM EDT

2. Get under home into crawlspace and make careful inspection of structure, support footers, and soil consistency. Look...and listen for unusual sounds. Take pics there too.


Save a few steps and have a board certified home inspector do these things. For this particular step, start with a free termite inspection from a reputable service. If it is termite damage, it will tell you how to procede. If it is a defect, your certified inspection will be a good start to legal action, if any is possible.

Last thing: Call Bob Villa. You may get to be on TV.
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 8:21:04 AM EDT
tag
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 8:21:50 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/4/2006 8:23:12 AM EDT by Wobblin-Goblin]

Originally Posted By scotty1911:
at only 6 years old she can go after the builder....


No. The only warranty a builder has is one year from the CO (certificate of occupancy) being issued.

There may be products with longer warranties, like overhead garage doors, sinks, or cabinetry, but the builder's warranty is only one year.

ETA: This sounds pretty bad and I don't think anyone else is going to foot the bill but them.
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 8:34:27 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Wobblin-Goblin:

Originally Posted By scotty1911:
at only 6 years old she can go after the builder....


No. The only warranty a builder has is one year from the CO (certificate of occupancy) being issued.

There may be products with longer warranties, like overhead garage doors, sinks, or cabinetry, but the builder's warranty is only one year.

ETA: This sounds pretty bad and I don't think anyone else is going to foot the bill but them.



warranties for things like the faucets yes 1 to 2 years is common in the part of the east coast, but if it is improperly built then it is another story. my parents got the work done due to the carpenter using liguid nails, which eats AL
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 8:39:45 AM EDT
She should to whoever issues local building permits, county, city or township, and check to see all building permits were granted at the time of original construction and if any were granted following that time for remodels. Same thing for the well and septic system. A lack of permits is likely the only way she's going to be able to go after the builder.


You mentioned a pond, has the water level changed at all, as in going down?

Is there a history of mining in that area? I know of a condo project that had the same type problem from old coal mine shafts collapsing.

A huge +1 on the attorney as most cases like this don't end well.


BTW- many times the belief that builders have a 1 year warranty is a myth. In WA there's no legal requirement for a builder to provide any type of warranty. Check in your area before closing on new construction.
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 8:44:06 AM EDT

Originally Posted By scotty1911:
warranties for things like the faucets yes 1 to 2 years is common in the part of the east coast, but if it is improperly built then it is another story. my parents got the work done due to the carpenter using liguid nails, which eats AL


Bud, it doesn't matter if the builder used silly putty to fasten things together. If the building inspector (municipal) OKs it and the buyer accepts the house (as built), then the one year warranty from the issuance of the CO is only responsibility the contractor has.
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 8:45:01 AM EDT
Sounds like she may have a lam beam failure. This could be caused from many things but most likely it is going to be an engineering issue. It could be the wrong lam beam, poor soil engineering, poor lam beam installation or the contractor did not follow engineering recommendations. In any case she may have many recourses. But first she needs to get a recommendation from someone in the know for a good engineer to come out and inspect and write a report that will be needed for future litigation. Im or email me and I will give you a phone number and we can talk.


Link Posted: 1/4/2006 8:45:55 AM EDT
neither the builder nor the home inspector will have any liability here.
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 8:46:28 AM EDT
This is gonna be a real mess.

It sounds like the footers supporting the center support beam are sinking. This is either improperly set footers, or the beginning of a sink hole. Either is bad..

Hire a certified home inspector and be prepared for a legal wrangle. I'd be uneasy living in it until the inspection was complete.

If the area has no building codes/inspections, it may be crappy construction and the reason it was sold in the first place.

Ops
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 8:46:45 AM EDT

Originally Posted By gigmike:
BTW- many times the belief that builders have a 1 year warranty is a myth. In WA there's no legal requirement for a builder to provide any type of warranty. Check in your area before closing on new construction.


Actually, the way it's worded is the builder is under no obligation to offer anything more than a one year warranty. Thusly, builders don't.

They'd never make any money otherwise, with constant call-backs from customers who try to nickel-and-dime everybody to death.
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 8:47:37 AM EDT

Originally Posted By NoVaGator:
neither the builder nor the home inspector will have any liability here.


^
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 8:56:35 AM EDT
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 8:57:42 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Wobblin-Goblin:

Originally Posted By NoVaGator:
neither the builder nor the home inspector will have any liability here.


^



eta: unless they concealed and failed to divulge known defects
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 8:59:28 AM EDT

Originally Posted By NoVaGator:

Originally Posted By Wobblin-Goblin:

Originally Posted By NoVaGator:
neither the builder nor the home inspector will have any liability here.


^


eta: unless they concealed and failed to divulge known defects


On a six year old house?

Nope. Not going to happen.
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 9:03:58 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Wobblin-Goblin:

Originally Posted By NoVaGator:

Originally Posted By Wobblin-Goblin:

Originally Posted By NoVaGator:
neither the builder nor the home inspector will have any liability here.


^


eta: unless they concealed and failed to divulge known defects


On a six year old house?

Nope. Not going to happen.



I was referring mainly referring to the inspector....if he/she was aware of these issues at the time of inspection and didn't include it in the report that would be bad juju.


Link Posted: 1/4/2006 9:07:14 AM EDT

Originally Posted By NoVaGator:
I was referring mainly referring to the inspector....if he/she was aware of these issues at the time of inspection and didn't include it in the report that would be bad juju.


Sure, but aside from documentation (and if there's documentation, then there's no secret), you'd have to get the inspector to admit doing a lousy job or not following the building codes.

Fat chance of that happening.
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 9:24:53 AM EDT
In our house, before we redid a lot of parts (it's practically a new house now, no exaggeration, the foundation is pretty much the only thing that's original), one wall used to move about a half an inch up and down over the course of a year, every year, for about a decade that we lived there.
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 9:29:06 AM EDT
One way to fix it could be to add more piers.

Not that major of a job either.

Dig some holes, fill them with concrete to make footers.

Then jack the house up, and have a welding shop cut some steel to go in the gap between the floor and pier. Then lower house back down.
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 9:31:08 AM EDT
1) It could be a lot of things, as prev. stated: Hire an engineer/inspector

2) How is the rest of the neighborhood? My wifes best friend had a house that was about 5 years old and had a similiar problem. Long story short, the contractor improperly filled and compacted the whole neighborhood, going against the soil recommendation of the local building officials. After the lawsuit, the contractors insurance found new homes and paid to have about a dozen families moved.

Dan
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 9:31:47 AM EDT

Originally Posted By crazyquik:
One way to fix it could be to add more piers.

Not that major of a job either.

Dig some holes, fill them with concrete to make footers.

Then jack the house up, and have a welding shop cut some steel to go in the gap between the floor and pier. Then lower house back down.


If the earth under the whole mess is solid enough.

Link Posted: 1/4/2006 9:33:21 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Wobblin-Goblin:

Originally Posted By crazyquik:
One way to fix it could be to add more piers.

Not that major of a job either.

Dig some holes, fill them with concrete to make footers.

Then jack the house up, and have a welding shop cut some steel to go in the gap between the floor and pier. Then lower house back down.


If the earth under the whole mess is solid enough.




Then use moon rocks
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 10:21:54 AM EDT
I have seen certain excavation contractors bury stumps and brush and over time they rot and the ground settles.

I don't know if that is what happened here but it could be.
It could be as simple as poor compaction under the foundation .
good luck
BIG
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 10:32:53 AM EDT


Link Posted: 1/4/2006 10:40:25 AM EDT
Virginia clay? Used to happen a lot around here, until they started making the developers do soil tests, etc as part of the inspection process.

If they fail to prepare the ground properly, they could be liable indefinitely.
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 10:58:37 AM EDT

Originally Posted By NoVaGator:

Originally Posted By Wobblin-Goblin:

Originally Posted By NoVaGator:
neither the builder nor the home inspector will have any liability here.


^



eta: unless they concealed and failed to divulge known defects



Not sure about that - we built a home one time where the architect failed to specify a double joist. The foreman on the framing crew was muttering that there should be a double joist at that point, but he built it to print. After framing the second floor walls and swinging roof decking and trusses up to the second floor, we took our lunch break. Everyone was sitting right underneath the single joist - then it started to split. Hell broke loose - someone jammed a 2x6 underneath one end of the joist, and two of us cut and shot together a temporary wall.

I would think in cases like this there would be builder or architect liability.
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 11:33:05 AM EDT
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 11:37:17 AM EDT
I wasn't going to respond as I am not qualified to comment, then I noticed it said know it all's, so here I am with absolutely nothing of any value to add.

Tagged for informational purposes only.
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 11:54:34 AM EDT
Probably the #1 thing she should do now is get a structural engineer out to the home quick. If you don't know of one contact a respected residential architect. This is the best step to quickly find out what's wrong then stopping further damage.

Don't bother w/ the home inspector, 99% of them lack the knowledge to assist in this type issue and the one who did her inspection will primarily be interested in covering his ass.
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 11:56:49 AM EDT

Originally Posted By ikor:
If this is an issue with the seller and not the builder, that is a different matter entirely.


Precisely. The house is seven years old and was bought from another homeowner, not a builder.

The builder, in all likelihood, won't be liable.
Link Posted: 1/4/2006 12:33:10 PM EDT
Looks like I'm one of the pros around here.

I've owned a foundation and concrete reipar contracting company for the last 12 years and have been working in this business for 24 years. I also do a fair amout of professional witness work related to the cost of repairing structural defects.

If you or the lady you work with would like to discuss the situation, I'll IM you my mobil number. If you don't get me just leave a number and I'll call you back.

The options and variations are more than I can easily type.

Frank
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