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molder101 06-17-2008 08:12 PM

Any hope for this basement? [pics inside]
I am looking at purchasing my first home and I have to say it can be a daunting task.

I finally found the home I thought was going to work out; that is until I went into the cellar.

Essentially the cellar is low about 5 feet and since it was built around the 1900s it is stone and concrete (mortar?). My concern is, as you can see in the pictures, there are spots on the floor that seem to have a little moisture. My dad said I should be very leary of purchasing a house like this because there could be a significant mold exposure later on. Should I have an engineer check it or? Do people run into problems with a floor that is dirt and not concrete?

I'm curious if anyone knows if there might be a way to "fix" the walls or if this is not quite a smart investment given the basement. Other than that, the house was completely gutted and redone which makes it very annoying that I went in the cellar and noticed what I did. Then again, it's better to know what I'm dealing with before it's mine!


Pic #1 - Corner of house next to cellar entrance

Pic #2 - Remodeled exterior of house

Pic #3 - Cellar entrance (no in house entrance)

Pic #4 - Front corner of cellar

Pic #5 - Side wall of cellar near heating system

Pic #6 - Entrance into cellar (smaller room before main cellar area)

ChrWright 06-18-2008 09:05 PM

First and formost, my concern would be that the foundation is stable. It appears from your pictures that sections on the outiside have been stuccoed. I inspect a lot of houses for prospective owners and realtors--one of the first things I look for are signs of fresh work--paint, plaster, stucco, mortar, etc. that could indicate the owner trying to hide long-term issues.

This definitely speaks to having a qualified inspector look at the house before you buy.

As to water, there are a number of variables that can affect whether or not this will be an issue. Old foundations like the ones in this house will definitely leak if they are subjected to heavy water and there are a number of things that can make it worse: poor grade around the house, downspouts which dump next to the foundation, etc.

I may have missed it in your photos, but does the cellar have a sump pump? It is usually cost prohibitive and next to impossible to "water-proof" a foundation like the one in these photos. Your best bet is to do your best to prevent ground water build-up next to the foundation (grading, downspouts) and direct the water that does come in to a sump pit which will pump it up and away.

molder101 06-18-2008 09:19 PM

I did not see a sump pump but there really wasnt a great deal of water... it was more like wet dirt. I suspect that part of the reason for this is one of the points you mentioned.

Since the home was being completely renovated, there was no gutters on it and because of that there is nowhere for the water to go. Also, if I was to purchase the place I would make sure there was a grade away from the house (right now it's pretty much flat).

I was anticipating that I would have a pump or dehumidifier along with a vapor barrier of 4mil plastic for additional protection. Overall it sees like there would have to be multi pronged attention to make sure it maintains clear of mold.

Overall I will definitely not be making an offer without good feedback from my home inspector. I did not notice any mold, but I will have that checked too. Your point about the foundation is noted and I will have that checked.

Thanks for your thoughts-Mike

CyFree 06-27-2008 09:13 AM

Well judging by the pictures I'd not consider this basement a lost cause. But first things first.
- I would get a structural engineer to look at the structure
- I would get a waterproofing contractor, in your case I'd suggest contractors offering internal perimeter drainage systems, and have them give you a free consultation and estimate, if they do say it is possible to solve the problem, and offer transferable warranty. Some waterproofing contractors can also inspect for structural problems and have experience in estimating for real estate transaction purposes.
The good news is: you are allowed to negotiate down the price of the property based on the findings and estimate offered by the contractor or you can have the seller fix the problem.

Also, in some States, the law requires the seller to disclose foundation problems, or they will be liable for any damages caused by such undisclosed problems even after the house is sold. So I would definitely look into it before closing the deal in this house.

Hope this info helps you.

sunnysidesam 01-15-2009 10:31 AM

I am new to this forum and I'm a bit disapointed that a most of the advice is to contact a contractor. I thought this was a DIY forum. Does anyone really get any useable advice from this sight?

Faithers03 01-15-2009 03:39 PM

My biggest concern wouldn't water intrusion and mold in the basement. Looking at your first picture, I want to know how is the structure being attached the basement/foundation walls. There appears to be a gap between the concrete and wood framing. For this house to be laterally stable there needs to be some type of positive connection between the frame wall and the concrete wall. It also looks like the moisture barrier isn't continuous between the two materials. This could potentially cause some rotting.

jaros bros. 01-15-2009 04:06 PM

I think that you have a lot to think about. First, is the foundation structurally stable. Is there large cracks in it and has it shifted excessively. Second, all concrete is like a giant sponge and this means that you may or may not have migration of water vapor into the living spaces above. Will there be water issues such as water pouring into the basement when it rains and is it high enough so the water table doesn't rise above the floor to cause flooding? Is there a sump pump.
I have seen a lot of houses with basements like this and a lot of the time there are no issues. I have also seen houses where there were huge issues with moisture entering into the living space.
Basically what you have is a sort of crawl space under the house. If it becomes a problem you will have to seal it off and condition the space. You can do that by sealing all air leaks and using a poly barrier.
If there is a structural problem, then maybe jacking it up and pouring a foundation under it would be the thing to do. The plus side of this is being able to add some square footage by making the basement living space. It sounds like a big undertaking but it really isn't, just on your wallet.

Josh Jaros (Jaros Bros. Construction)

inspectorD 01-15-2009 05:36 PM


Originally Posted by sunnysidesam (Post 26849)
I am new to this forum and I'm a bit disapointed that a most of the advice is to contact a contractor. I thought this was a DIY forum. Does anyone really get any useable advice from this sight?

No usable stuff on this site.
We recommend a contractor when it is beyond DIY. What is your families life worth to you? Not because we want to hide it, just because we think if you hire a contractor and they do it in front of you, you will learn the right way for next time. It costs nothing to get a contractor to give you advice, ideas and solutions you may not know about. And from my desk, I could not even see from here.
Things like bearing walls, serious structural issues, some electrical and always propane.
Hope this helps, if you want more answers, send me a personal message.:)

handyguys 01-16-2009 09:01 AM

Like was said - That kind of a basement is going to always be moist. Just know that going in. Do not expect to store stuff in the basement and certainly do not plan in finishing it. That basement sort of reminds me of the one in the first picture here
Episode #49 - Basement Mistakes

90+% of water can be handled outside with gutters, downspouts that extend away and proper grading.

As always - get a competent home inspection.
I did an interview of a home inspector here
Episode #32 - America’s top Home Inspector
Listen to that show for some info about the process, selection and qualifications.

And remember - when buying a house the three most important things are .... location, location and location.

blackman1life 02-21-2009 08:10 AM

dont buy that house (nigger on the walls) whats that about

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