At an inspection a while back I was in the crawl space (where else) looking at some cracks in the foundation. This house was at the precipice of a very steep incline and the seller of the home had already purchased a Geo-technical engineer’s evaluation of the slope and how it related to these cracks in the foundation. There was some sloping of the floors in this 32 year old house. Doors and windows still operated normally (for the most part) and many people would not even notice the sloping. Regardless, we had the engineer’s information about underlying soil conditions that likely accounted for this settlement.
I would say that, 9 times out of 10, settlement of foundations happens at the corners resulting in cracks away from the corner that are open at the top and closed at the footing—–kind of like a hinge as the corner drops. In this scenario there will usually be a corresponding crack either diagonally in the wall perpendicular to the wall or it will be perhaps across the foundation in a parallel wall indicative of the whole end of the house settling—-as opposed to just one corner.
This house was the 1 out of 10. The settlement occurred in the middle of the run of the wall resulting in a crack that was open at the footing and closed at the top. Its corresponding cracks were at the corners and these cracks were predictably open at the top and closed at the bottom.
What was interesting was that someone was thoughtful enough to write on the wall the width of the crack at the time of inspection.
What would have made this measurement useful would have been a “date.”
If I knew whether the date had been written 20 years ago or 2 months ago would make the job of what I tell my buyer a whole lot more meaningful—helpful. With no date—-the measurement might as well not be there.
While at first glance one might look at this crack and say, “so what?” Well, a crack like this that is open 3/8” on a wall that is 24” tall is evidence of much more settlement than a wall with a 3/8” gap that is 10 feet tall. From this crack, it can be deduced (without laser levels) that the point of cracking away from the corner has settled approximately 2-1/2”—-given the length of the wall.
It was no wonder the floors felt like they sloped.
Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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