My wife and I bought our home 3 years ago, we were very excited to purchase a townhome in a great community shortly before we married. The townhouse is an end of group and has a beatiful deck that wraps around the house (one of the reasons we purchased the home). Three years later we have a beautiful baby girl and our house is starting to fall down. We have learned that our foundation is shifting and the deck that we love is pulling down our house. We started noticing new cracks in our walls, our windows started leaking, doors are not closing properly, our basement floor has cracks and parts are sinking. We have even had cracks form in decorative plaques we have hung on the walls. We have had several engineers inspect the house and we have learned that this is not a new problem, this is something our home inspector should have caught. We have a huge gap between our inside wall and outer bricks, our kitchen has tile on the walls next to the window and the tiles are falling down and the window will shortly fall out. We cant sell because the problem is so big, we have to take out a loan of more that $50k just to fix it. We learned that if we would have found this a year ago we might have been able to file a lawsuit with the home inspector, but now we cant, insurance doesnt pay for foundation problems and to top it off now our neighbors house is being affected. Does anyone out there have any advice or ideas for us? We welcome any help and support we can get.
Re: Foundation Problems
In most areas a contractor is responsible for the structural integrity of a home for as much as 13 years; the cosmetics are more like 1-2 years. Contact your local home builders association(or govermental building inspector's office)and ask someone there about how this works where you are. If the foundation was correct to start with and the decks properly built they wouldn't have any noticable affect on the house foundation; they would be nearly self-supporting. With luck a threat of a lawsuit to the builder will be enough for them to correct the problem(which on a 3 year old home they should do whether required by law or not if they're a reputable firm). If that doesn't work I hope you saved those engineering reports, you'll be needing them as evidence when things get nasty in court. You'll also need either archirectual or engineered drawings of the decks you added(if there were none then whoever built them will have to testify and prove their work) and it's going to be some years before it's settled. If the responsible party goes broke in the process or refuses to pay up on the court-ordered settlement you may not have a lot that you can do to remedy this.
A well-known(but low-quality)builder here had a lot of similar problems, and each time the builders license was pulled by the state. They simply refiled for another builders license in another family members name! After the fifth time this happened the courts finally told them they were going to be shut down permanantly so what did they do? They sold their company to a larger firm and are still out there building low-quality houses under someone elses name! It gives the whole construction business a bad name but thankfully such builders are rare.
FYI: I always advise all prospective new-home buyers to make sure the contractor is a long-standing member of the local home builders association. They police themselves very well in most places so someone who's been with them awhile is probably someone you can trust. If a contractor doesn't understand the value of being part of such a group, it's likely that they don't understand too much about their business and should be avoided!
Re: Foundation Problems
If your town home falls under the category of a condo then there may be an avenue to explore.
Depending on the situation condos may have a clause in the guidelines where all the structural issues are the responsibility of the condo association.
In some cases the condo owner has responsibly for maintenance and repairs to everything on the inside of their door and anything on the outside ... including balcony , roofs , structural, etc. ... falls under the condo association's responsibility.
Just a thought and hope this helps.
Re: Foundation Problems
Sound to me that the house was built on unsettled ground. This happens far too often in those quick growing housing developments. Low, wet land is covered, then building starts asap. Developers are in such a big rush to make BIG money, they do not compact the ground, allow it to settle, or use properfootings down to solid earth. My brother is a retired carpenter. He tells me about all the fix-up work they used to do, after the original builders did such a terribe job. One case was where a concrete patio deck was poured in front of a patio door, with the new concrete lapping under the siding. Bingo.....as soon as the ground froze, the concrete heaved on the unstable ground, and ripped the lower rows of sifng off the house.
Originally Posted by avasdad
Sure looks like your house is gradually settling, and heaving, because of the unstable footings.
Good luck. Do not know if contacting the original builder will help. Most of those guys just build, then run like heck.