I purchased my home in Massachusetts in June of 2012. What started out as a great thing has quickly turned into a first time homeowners nightmare. During our home inspection, I verbally brought up with my inspector that there was a slight noticeable slant to the floors in the back half of the house. I also inquired about foundation cracks. My inspector assured me that all homes are out of level to varying degrees and that the cracks in the basement are hairline and pose no issue. While the inspector noted that there was a slope to some floors and hairline cracks in the foundation, his written recommendation was to simply “seal hairline cracks”. He never recommended obtaining a disclosure from the seller. He did, however, recommend obtaining disclosures for things that are much more simple. For example, he suggested obtaining disclosure for an electric heater that was in the master bathroom, and a disclosure to determine the termination of a downspout that directs into the ground. There was never a recommendation to obtain a disclosure to anything regarding the slant to the floor or the foundation cracks.
A few months ago I had a contractor come out to asses what it would cost to correct the pitch in the house. The pitch actually had been more than inspector implied at the time of the inspection. Over 12 feet, I have a 1.5 inch decline over the back half of my house. The entire length of the house. When a contractor came out, he pulled back insulation in my basement and determined that there was a hack-job repair done to the house years earlier to correct for significant foundation settlement. It turns out that the original homeowner paid someone to cut the subfloor before teh rear wall of the house and to shim it on top of the floor joists. Effectively, the floor joists have been shimmed 2 inches. So, on top of the 1.5 inch decline that is apparent when walking in the house, there is an additional 2 inch decline that has been covered up by a shoddy repair.
I do not have a quote in writing yet, but I was told by my contractor that it would likely require that a significant portion (back half) of my house be pretty much ripped down to the bare structure in order for this issue to be corrected. They cannot simply jack the rear of the house up because of the shoddy construction. The floor joists do not extend and fully support the rear wall of the house in many spots and the wall would likely not come with the structure if I were to jack up at the joists. In order to restore my house to the correct construction, it will likely require a job that is in excess of $50,000.
My contractor recommended I have a structural engineer look at the issue. The conclusion from the engineer is that I need to have a soil sample done below my foundation footings to determine if there is still movement happening. If there is, I will need to address the issue at the foundation before even attempting to correct the structural issue with the framing of my house that I have. I asked the engineer if there is enough here that my home inspector should have recommended a structural engineer come take a look at the house. He responded saying that he has been called out to look at inspected homes based on a home inspectors recommendation for much less than what I have. In terms of what was visible at the time of the inspection.
Cracked foundation floor with some heaving. Vertical cracks at two corners of my foundation. A vertical crack with a large patch job in the center of the rear of the foundation. A crack about 1/4" in width on the exterior rear of my foundation (side leaning) that has a stair-step pattern. Significant pitch in foundation floor (it feels like you are almost walking down a hill in some spots). Floor joists are visibly leaning from the center beam to rear of house.
All in all, this is an absolute nightmare for me. Massachusetts law prohibits inspectors from using language to limit their liability. Home inspectors in this state are also required to carry $250,000 of E&O insurance. Sellers are not required to disclose anything in my state unless directly asked on the subject.
For those that do insepct homes, do you typically recommend a professional come in for subjects that are out of your realm of expertise? Would you have recommended a structural engineer or, at the very least, a disclosure from the seller?