Foundation Concern - A grave personal dilemma.

Hello. I posted on here a couple of years ago about how the hurricane rains of 2004 in Florida led me to believe that our home, especially our garage area, was having a foundation settlement problem. I could not honestly say when the cracks first appeared, but that was when I first noticed them, including a diagonal one through the grade beam with one side of the crack slightly higher than the other – a matching pair at the front of the garage; one of each side. Our pest control guy told us he sees this a lot in Florida.

Unfortunately, the home did not have gutters and the grading was questionable in a few areas [we just didn’t know what we were suppose to know :(]. The rain just pooooured off the roof near our front porch right next to the foundation beyond the 12 inch eave and beside one of the main garage walls. Most homes in this area do not have any gutters on them.

Since then, we installed gutters and improved the grading as best we could, patched the cracked stucco and repainted our home, but I am concerned that I am seeing slight new movement again, as I believe the cracks on the interior side of the two main garage walls are slightly bigger. There is also a vertical one that comes up smack dab in the center of where two walls join, as if it’s coming up from the footer.

My dilemma is we owe $150K on what’s estimated to be a $220K home, minus damage. We do NOT have any way of paying for foundation-related repairs and likely would have no way of knowing if the repairs would work, so I am considering whether I should call a company that buys homes fast, even though I hate to lose our equity and have absolutely NO idea how we could afford another home anytime soon, given the raised property taxes and insurance we would face, plus the rising price in homes. And the thought of uprooting our children from their schools, moving, etc. makes me feel somewhat ill.

I am starting to feel anxiety over this, and I am absolutely lost as to what to do. I know I can call foundation people for inspections and estimates, but our budget is jam packed and I worry that they could actually make the situation worse.

I don’t see a lot of evidence of foundation settlement in our home’s interior, and the windows and doors do not stick. There are signs though, such as the caulking around counter tops and cabinets that has cracked, slight baseboard and door trim separations in some areas, etc.

Does anyone here know if it would be of any conceivable value to have a company buy our home, assuming they would or how much they would offer? Will the foundation continue to move? I have read it can take up to five years before the movement stops. I don’t think our home is having any safety issues, but this is turning me into a nervous wreck!

I apologize if this message is bothersome to anyone here. I just feel lost, given such limited options and none of them are ideal.

Thank you for your time. Diana

Do yourself a favor - call several local foundation contractors to come out look at the house, let them tell you their opinion on what is going on and what they feel it will take to fix it then make a decision. They’re not going to charge you to look.

Makes a lot more sense than trying to get people on this board to diagnose something they’ve never seen or give advise on it.

Dan, I appreciate your response. Sometimes people grasp at straws. Potential repairs will obviously not be free. Requesting estimates seems like a waste of everyone’s time, as you may feel my message is, and especially when the movement appears to be continuing. I thought about posting digital photos, but this will likely lead to the same general concensus to call a contractor. After all, HIs are not structural engineers or foundation contractors.

Thanks again.

You’ll get at best a 70% offer on the resale value of the home. (~$154,000) minus the cost of any repairs.

I doubt you’d even find an investor willing to make that deal if the foundation is as bad as you say.

Follow Dan’s advice. Get an estimate on repairs. Get a home equity line of credit if needed to pay for the repairs.

Thanks Jeffrey. I thought the pay off might be about 70%. I think I am in for a lot of sleepness nights. :frowning: A home equity loan is not the answer right now, as we do not have the income to add another bill to our list. My husband was due to receive a substantial raise, but that deal fell through when management changed. Ce la vie.

Of course, I am not an expert, so I do not know just how “bad” the situation may or may not be. Based on two years of research, I do know enough to be justifiably concerned.

Oh well. It is a shame this has happened to an otherwise lovely home. I will continue to monitor the situation, and hope to one day have the funds

Take some pics to post here. It may not be a waste of time. You may be just experiencing anxiety over a minor problem with an easy fix. Florida is notorious for the slabs having settlement cracks. Its because every one pours the concrete with little thought towards installing or curing it properly. I redid the floors in our home and there were several long narrow cracks across the slab. They were old, the two sides were perfectly level without any offset and never proceeded any further but were managable. We have a lot of experienced tradesmen as members but it is very difficult working without a picture to see what the problem is.

Do not sell your home to the “We buy homes fast” shysters. They are looking for people in distress who are going to sell their home for 20% or more undermarket. In many case the banks at the door and they are going to lose it to the sheriff.

You have taken the first obvious step by addressing drainage. Now install a crack monitor gauge. Hardware stores or Home Depot sell them. They get expoxied to each side of the crack and you then monitor the movement. A few weeks or month most likely won’t make a huge difference in the scope of the repair work. At now you will have an idea if the movement is continuing.


Thank you. I will try to post the photos of the most offensive-looking cracks within the next week or two. My life is overflowing with to do’s, but I really do appreciate everyone’s feedback. And if anyone knows of any trustworthy foundation experts, I would sure appreciate hearing from you.


I did not see where you mentioned going to your insurance company anywhere. If you have not contacted them, it might not be a bad idea. If you have, and they considered your damage NOT covered under your policy, you may then want to try other avenues.
How large are the cracks? Have they gotten bigger over time? How old is your home? There are several questions that should be looked at before you make a major decision on selling your home to a Ugly House co.
I recommend you find a NACHI Certified Home Inspector in your area and have them look things over WITH you and see if they can help you make a clearer decision. NO HOME INSPECTOR CAN DETERMINE WHAT KIND OF SETTLEMENT PROBLEMS YOU HAVE, but they may be able to stare you in the right direction to discover more and the best plan of action to getting it repaired. It may be worth the money a home inspector would charge for you to get first hand knowledge.

Hi Scott. No, we did not contact our insurance company because the cracks are related to earth movement and that is not covered under any circumstance, other than a sinkhole. Our home is 20 years old. We are the 6th owner, having lived there eight years.

The vertical crack where the two walls join goes up about a foot and is approx. 1/16" wide. The diagonal cracks [one on each side of the garage and through the grade beam] are more difficult to measure because there is a slight raised difference on the two sides of each crack, so it looks as if the two sides crush into each other. They are between 1/16" to 1/8" wide.

Though the size is not necessarily alarming, the pattern and the overall situation as it pertains to both exterior and interior areas is. I am 99% sure they have recently become a bit wider. In this same general area, there are some stair-stepping cracks that go up from the slab through the mortar of the cement blocks. A few of these cracks [approx. 1/16"] broke the mortar all the way through to the stucco side, to the point where morning light can shine through. The stucco cracks were patched and painted [elastomeric paint] 20 months ago and they recently reopened.

There is a crack in the garage slab [approx. 1/16"] that begins at the front and goes directly to the diagonal crack in the grade beam [again, both garage sides]. There is also a slab crack [narrow, but somewhat long] again starting at the front that leads me to believe water, salts, lime, etc. may have seeped up through it during that rainy period due to a large, old stain.

When I more closely examined all exterior areas, there were numerous stucco cracks, some in stair-stepping fashion; others at windows heading to the roof, etc. There was also slight wood trim separation at two joints near the front porch in the fascia area.

On the interior, a hairline crack that is now about 1/16 developed in our brick fireplace, starting at the base in the mortar, but continuing upward and over, right through one of the bricks. The vaulted ceiling has a fine line plaster crack that runs the entire length. I have seen slight door and baseboard separations here and there, cracked caulking around sink/cabinet areas, as if they separated from their original positions, slight separation between the ceiling and kitchen wall and under some of the interior window panes. The floors feel level to me, although I have noticed what feels like a couple of raised, roundish bumps in the main living area through the carpet. I don’t want to even go there, if you catch my drift. :frowning:

My theory is that the 18 years of rain with no gutters eventually caused erosion under the garage and this portion has settled quite a bit. This in turn may have put forces on the rest of our foundation and caused the other stresses.

Your theory may be viable, but the only way you’re going to know for sure on what damage is under the foundation is to have an engineer do a Ground Penetrating Radar test as well as a Bore Sampling. These tests are not cheap.
Do you know for sure that you don’t have a sinkhole? Even if you have had continuous moisture intrusion under the garage, you may still be looking at a sinkhole. Call your insurance company and let them know what is happening. Find out your options for getting your property checked for a sinkhole and find out exactly what your insurance company will cover.
In most cases (but not all) they’ll cover the engineering to determine if there is a sinkhole on the property. And even if there isn’t one, the engineer report may tell you what is going on and what your next action should be.

Scott, depending on what the engineer would determine, do you know if the insurance company would cancel our policy, if they knew of foundation problems that we could not afford to correct? Assuming of course, it’s not a sinkhole problem.

Thanks. Diana


It is doubtful that the insurance company would cancel your policy for something they are not responsible to indemnify you for. I must admit that your description is quite detailed for a layperson, which is good, I suppose.

I agree that a structural engineer or foundation contractor (or both, at separate times) would be a good place to start. I’d go as far as asking them the true cause of the problem. That may say its not from movement, and could serve as a rebuttal expert witness if your insurance carrier balks ar repairs.

At this point, nothing is a waste of time, unless you are ready to throw the towel in, and either abandon the home at a loss, or give yourself a fighting chance. If everything is still operational in the home, it may not be as bad as you think!


From what you’ve described, it sounds like an average new home here.

1/16 cracks are allowable on anything in Phoenix.

Like others have said, you need to find out if it’s continually moving.

Epoxying a small piece of glass across the foundation cracks is the most economical way.

1/16" cracks are very common in FL. Stairstep cracks are also very common. Garage floor cracks are even more common. How much differential separation do you have in the wall cracks where you said that one side is higher than the other. Could this be from a high point in the stucco rather than from the block? Is there differential separation in the garage floor crack?

Do you have any indications of settlement at windows or doors in the area?

Where are you located?

Good photos of these would certainly help!

Thanks again. I am going to make sure to buy a crack monitor this weekend. I know that it’s also possible the cracks in the stucco reopened in a few places due to other reasons beyond continuing movement.

To me, the difficult thing to determine is whether the continuing movement, if any, is new or just a continuing effect of the “original” movement. At what point would someone reasonably expect the movement to stop?

Thankfully, the house is very functional, and that’s why there is such a dilemma. I am concerned the situation may be getting worse before we can afford to do substantial repairs, and yet the house doesn’t seem near bad enough to sell at a loss. Yet if we wait too long, the situation could get conceivably worse and you know the rest of the story.

I have examined the attic as much as possible for problems there [it’s nearly impossible to maneuver through], as the ceiling area in the garage shows signs of settling because the surface is no longer completely flat, but more like you can see the impressions from the beams above. Yet with the exception of one connecting joint in the attic, I see no beams pulling apart from each other, and the one I do see looks like the nails are pulling away maybe the distance of a 1/2 inch. It’s impossible to say if movement caused this or something else, as it’s not the norm.

I did find what appears to be a very knowledgeable and trustworthy foundation company in our area that may be able to help us with an inspection. Of course, they might scare the daylights out of me. I mean, they are a business, right? :wink:

I really do appreciate everyone’s time here. :slight_smile:

Hi Blaine. I will post photos this weekend of the differential cracks in the grade beam. I’m not sure how to detail the amount of differential settlement there is, except the width from one side of the crack to the other is between 1/16" and 1/8". You can see a slab crack leading directly to the crack and connecting to the higher, raised portion of the crack. And I’m not sure what a high point in the stucco is or looks like.

I don’t believe there is any differential settlement in the slab cracks themselves. The windows [not all] show very small, straight line cracks in their interior upper corners, and slight separation under the panes. They do not stick at all. On the exterior side, there were diagonal cracks in the same general area leading up toward the roof.

The doors do not stick and do not look unlevel in their frames. A few of the doorframe trims show slight separation. Case in point, I had just painted several door frames in July 2004. I noticed a couple of months later, after all three hurricanes blew nearby, that the paint had cracked and showed fine open lines.

There’s an almost unmeasurable horizontal crack right above the left corner area of the sliding glass door that travels a few inches. And a similar, but even smaller one right above the garage door leading into the kitchen on the interior side and very close to the ceiling line.

Some baseboards, the most noticable area being in the entry way near the front porch, show slight separation.

I honestly don’t believe any of this was there until after those monsterous storms.

Anyway, I will try to get photos posted soon.

Thank you!

p.s. I am in Brandon.

Without seeing them, they sound like normal building movement cracks, but again, I haven’t seen them. Whenever you paint a small hairline crack on a wall the crack will reappear down the road because the paint will tend to shrink and pull back from the open area of the crack. The crack that has me the most curious is the one you mention that you can see light through from the outside.

Baseboards showing separation is very common. If they are painted, the gaps are usually caulked, and the caulk and paint shrink.

With the heat here in FL, we do develop small cracks in the block walls as they expand and contract. Most of the time they do not indicate a significant concern. I have many of them on my house, they are similar to what you describe, and none of them are structural in nature.

Perhaps you should contact one of our inspectors in the Brandon area for an opinion!

Diana -

Not to dwell on the point, but - many home inspectors come from a wide variety of backgrounds. My lead inspector was a foundation contractor. I grew up in a foundation, heavy equipment family. We built highways, streets, basements, etc. I had engineers working for me since I was 19. We do a lot of expert witness work - we specialize in stucco, construction defects and engineers. We have not lost yet. We get hired by engineers to be their expert witness in various cases. My foundation contractor has done expert witness 5 times in the past 2-5 years to help homeowners go after engineers that did bad inspections. Hes been on the winning side each time and he teaches classes to local engineers on crack analysis and repairs. What I’m saying is their are a lot of home inspectors, foundation contractors and engineers that can probably tell you whats going on - BUT - not online.

Get someone out to see your issues.

I do not recommend that you bail out!
You could bail into a house worse than the one you have now!

One thing you must also consider, is that for many years you had site drainage problems resulting and water flowing towards the house. This will cause any expansive soils in your area to expand. After you corrected some of the water intrusion problems the soil must now dry out. This can result in considerable shrinkage, depending on your soil. To repair while this process is ongoing will result in the damage recurring.

You mentioned cracking, but do you have any lateral movement?

As posted, some photographs would be helpful here.

You mentioned that there is no significant deficiency associated with the cracking on the inside of the house. In other words doors and windows operate correctly, there is no cracking of the sheet rock or ceiling nail pops etc.
If this is the case, it is unlikely that cracking is associated with major structural deficiency as it is not affecting the main structure of the house.

If you do not have major lateral movement that is affecting the upper structure of the house, I see no reason for you to take a loss on your home. Contractors are there to sell you something and if you have a tendency to be an alarmist, they may push you over the edge. Keep a level head.

It’s impossible to fully diagnose a situation over the Internet, so I would take some time and let the soil dry out around your house for a year and do more research on contractors who mediate these types of situations. There are crack monitors available that can be fastened to the structure to indicate directional movement and quantity of movement which you may wish to install at this point. Take a lot of photographs for historical reference (use a measuring tape).

I have a substantial crack at my front porch that also goes up through a window opening to the roofline that opens and closes on a seasonal time frame. Currently it is getting very large! There are no other structural defects associated with this cracking. It drives me crazy when I sit there to drink my coffee in the morning and look at it every fall but it has been going back and forth for several years now. I have a friend that was a geologist from Florida that has done electromagnetic scans of the soil below the house and through the concrete. There is a large object (man-made or natural) directly below the crack and is likely the cause of this focal point of stress. At this point, I see no reason to do any further probing or to remove the object.

All houses will move with age and cracking will occur. You indicate there is soil movement. Florida is awfully flat for movement other than downward into a sinkhole! You naturally have a very high water table and the vast elevation changes of this water table over the past few years has been substantial. These hydraulic changes will result in movement of the upper soils.

If you send some photographs I will have my geologist take a look at them as well. Also, your general address would be helpful in conducting a geological background check of the area.

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