There are a couple of obvious things about concrete.
It is heavy and it cracks.
Once the material is laid down, unless you do what is necessary to stop it, it will continue to go down. Like I said—it is heavy.
It is very common, when building houses, to fill around the foundation with materials that are either not easily compacted or can’t be compacted at all—-except over many, many years. Architectural drawings in the past—back when blueprints were actually blue—-use to call out for all fill to be “puddled.” Most builders today probably don’t even know what that means. What it means is that the filled areas were to be flooded with water until there was sufficient puddling on the surface. After all the water disappeared the process was repeated. This was actually a pretty effective way to make sure the ground was compacted enough prior to installation of the “heavy stuff.” Today we would use vibration machines to compact the fill and hopefully use fill that can be compacted—-usually not what is found on site.
Some time ago, I inspected a house with a great example of what happens when the ground around the foundation is not compacted enough.
With this settlement we get to see how unprotected the house structure is. There is inadequate, improper and/or missing house wrap and no pan flashings under the doors. Is it any wonder that these installations result in water intrusion and frequent damage by wood destroying insects?
This installation was lucky—-at least the settlement was fairly uniform—-2 to 3 inches, and roof overhangs were sufficient to keep water away from the openings. When settlement only occurs right next to the foundation the result will be that water will drain toward the home—-creating water issues inside the basement or the crawl space.
After 40 years, nature has likely done what man should have done during construction in terms of settlement of the earth around the foundation. This concrete patio is now a good candidate for slab-jacking.
By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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