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JulieF 05-10-2006 09:43 AM

Lifespan of Foundation
My question(s): what determines if foundation is substandard? How does one figure the lifespan of a post & pier and concrete block foundation (on sandy soil w/ no drainage problems)? Are there any other remedies aside from replacing the entire foundation and joist system? Our story is below...

We were in the middle of selling our beach house (40 yrs old) on Pacific coast in WA. :( House inspector didn't see anything structurally unsound with foundation, but noted missing mortar in concrete blocks and suggested further inspection by foundation expert. Pest & Dry Rot inspector (different person) also did not observe any problems with post and beam foundation or concrete blocks. Long story short, third inspector isn't a "foundation expert" although my understanding is that he is a general contractor with some experience in foundation repair/replacement. His response was as follows:

"The structure is typical in construction methods used at time of construction. I do not observe anything that would suggest immediate failure of the foundation; however the foundation is substandard and likely would not perform well in any seismic event. Further more the owner should consider replacing the foundation and joist system within the next 10 years, at the first signs of settlement and definately before any major remodeling project is undertaken."

We have no indication that the joist system is failing and all 3 inspections revealed no strucural issue at this time. I am confused. How can the foundation be good and bad? :confused:

woodworkingmenace 05-10-2006 02:20 PM

Each person has thier "specialty".

Bug man will not find anything wrong with the foundation unless he can poke a screw driver through the wood.

House inspector noticed some mortar joints starting to go, so, he called in some one else, so that he could pass the buck and not be responsible for any damages in the future and be sued.

It may be that this "contractor" has been specializing in this for some time, replacing piers and foundations in that area, and they called him to verify something that the Home Inspector, whos interest was "peaked" at, and didnt want to alarm anyone, or take responsibilty for...

Are there any seismic events in your neck of the woods? I figured up there, you would be relatively safe from that, unless the San Andres fault goes up that away???...

Ok, my two cents worth.


Square Eye 05-10-2006 02:36 PM

The third inspector did a CMA. The other inspectors didn't have the expertise to determine the structural integrity of the foundation, so this contractor is the final word. If the foundation fails now, this guy has his tail covered. Just about any home owner should consider the condition of their foundation in 10 years, or at the first sign of settling and definitely before any major remodeling project is undertaken.

Sub-standard is a term used too loosely. The definition is actually just that it is not up to current building methods. Sub-standard = not the standard now.

He found nothing wrong, but he can't guarantee that it won't fail in an earthquake. Wow, I could say the same for my house.

JulieF 05-10-2006 03:34 PM

Any severe seismic events would likely cause a Tsunami as it's one house from the pacific ocean, so the foundation would have to endure not only shaking, but water surge as well. Probably not going to scare a buyer away. Since the house is currently for sale, we were more concerned about the 10yr lifespan and trying to figure out if that was an arbitrary number or if there was some formula used. We will definately ask about the use of "substandard" and if appropriate ask him to change to something similar to "not the standard now". We don't want to suggest imminent failure, especially if he didn't see any. I can't tell you how much we appreciate your feedback. Thank you!

woodworkingmenace 05-10-2006 08:17 PM

One house from the sea shore... A tsunami...
Naw, aint no house, no matter how well built is going to survive that, if its any significant height, (well, maybe if the entire foundation was a single pour, with rebar all through it), but then the windows and everything else would be demolished and the thing would probably be knocked off its foundation anyways..

Best thing about it, is you can always get the Government to REPLACE the house!! (Yea I saw a piece on a news show, showing "why this guy bought a house at the beach", when he knows it will be totally wiped out every so often. He claims the Federal Government will totally rebuild it, because of its location, even if he didnt have insurance, (I believe I heard him say), so, aint THAT a kicker!??

Meandering along the pathways of life as I stop and grab a cup of java...


inspectorD 05-14-2006 07:26 PM

And the award goes to....
Square Eye... right on the button in my opinion.
Yup the third guy is just trying to say, look at your foundation in ten years and re-evaluate it's condition. Sub- standard means not to todays increadibly overbuilt standards.When it was done 40 years ago I'm sure it was the best standard at that time.A world class cover your assets job by the third guy, hopefully the folks buying it can read between the lines.
The world we live in it keeps a changin...:eek:

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