What I'm Seeing Now

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Floating Foundation

Every now and then I run into something I have never seen before, like a floating foundation!

Brick facade house, nice addition on the side, masonry block foundation connected to the main house with a right angle.  Plenty of crawl space vents.

So far so good.

But when I got into the house, and looked into the crawl space I noticed that the last 5 concrete blocks of support are literally floating in the air!

Interestingly the other side was the same way!

Having never seen it before I shot off an email to an engineer friend of mine, with photos.

He had seen this before, saying that the construction crew left a hole there so they had more easy access to and from the crawl space under the room. 

Then they filled it in later. 

The sink hole bothered me too, beginning where you are looking and continuing down to just under where I am taking the photo.  That sink hole is about 6' deep!

The engineer said that moisture intrusion is the ultimate problem with this, and that he likes to see them finish by putting concrete under that floating portion, to help control water flow.

I sent his answer to my clients.  They had a couple more days in which to ask further questions if they wanted.

My recommendation:  when you see something odd or that you have never seen before, ask questions!  I never have a problem saying that I don't know something and will attempt to find out a valid answer.  My clients always appreciate that, and yours will too.

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 23 commentsJay Markanich • April 16 2012 03:26AM

Comments

Great blog and great job. Keep up the good work and good luck to you this year. Thanks.
Posted by JOSH EVANS *JoshEvansHomes 516-655-5000 (Village Properties of Mineola, LLC) over 6 years ago

Thanks Josh and thanks for the reblog!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

I've built them like this many times. Usually we bridge over with cinder lintels, but the lintels have bearing on both ends. My back hurts just thinking about all those 12' cinder lintels I humped down into a foundations to set, or set over a 10' garage door.

Posted by Jeff Pearl, Full Service Full Time Realtor (RE/MAX Distinctive / LIC in VA) over 6 years ago

Morning Jay and that sir is one of the many reasons why I go to AR so I can learn things new.  Most every day someone tells me something I didn't know and today is one of those days

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty AR LLC) over 6 years ago

I could not detect a lintel Jeff, but the engineer says it works structurally.  Soil does seem to be eroding away, on the sides and near the house.

Hard to see from directly above, this is an upside-down volcano and about 6' deep.

And the engineer says it isn't recommended and prefers that concrete underneath.

It is apparently done all over, it's just that I had never seen it and doing this for 31 years that would indicate it's fairly rare around here.

But I found an answer!

And you are right, those blocks are heavy!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

I'm glad James.  That's why I am on AR too - I learn a lot!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Wow!  That would take you sit up and take notice.  Yet another example of water intrusion and the problems it can cause!

Posted by Kathryn Maguire, Serving Chesapeake, Norfolk, VA Beach (GreatNorfolkHomes.com (757) 560-0881) over 6 years ago

Kathryn - structurally it seems sound and has been there for 12 years.  But the erosion is a second issue, and the one that had me bothered the most.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

All things considered, it wouldn't take an engineer to tell me that this is a risky home purchase.  Any structure that is offered for sale with an unrepaired "sink hole" is far riskier than my risk tolerance.

The engineer who said he had "seen it before" compared  it to a similar sink hold but without knowing the actual cause.

Living in Loudoun County, my first question would be "what's UNDER that sink hole?"  We have an entire area of  Loudoun County down route 15 north of Leesburg where the limestone overlay area is full of sink holes and they are not something one wants under their home or near their well.

Goodness.  Never a dull moment in the life of a home inspector.

Lintels are fine, but, again, I'm not comfortable with them as a "repair" or "fix" for what could be a continuing erosion problem. 

Yes, I'm severely risk averse.

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 6 years ago

I would always be concerned, when I saw a sinkhole. That would need to investigated further.

I have heard the term "floating foundation" before, but never really undstood what that meant.

Thank you for sharing the post with all of us.

Posted by Joe Petrowsky, Your Mortgage Consultant for Life (Mortgage Consultant, Right Trac Financial Group, Inc. NMLS # 2709) over 6 years ago

Which is why I contacted him Lenn.  He lives out near you!   I did his home inspection!  In my opinion it was a pretty deep sink hole.  He wanted to fill it and stop the erosion with concrete under the wall.  I think that hole has happened over time.

Joe - I had not seen this before, but sink holes are just that.  And probably still sinking!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

I guess if you live long enough you'll see most evverything. Notice I said most? =:o) Was there any other indications of defects caused by the unsupported areas?

Posted by Doug Dawes, Your Personal Realtor® (Keller Williams Realty - Topsfield, MA) over 6 years ago

Jay -- if the sink hole is 6' deep now, and the home has only been there 12 years, in a couple of years, with some normal heavy rains, they may have enough open space under the house to frame in a basement.

Posted by Steven Cook (No Longer Processing Mortgages.) over 6 years ago

No, Doug, nothing.  That was one thing it had going for it, no movement in 12 years.

Steven - the sink hole bothered me a lot.  That's why the engineer said to try to control moisture intrusion.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Jay, bridging spans like that with poured concrete is a no brainer---but with concrete blocks?

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 6 years ago

Interesting find Jay, sounds a bit wierd but if the engineer is okay with it...

Posted by Tom Arstingstall, General Contractor, Dry Rot, Water Damage Sacramento, El Dorado County - (916) 765-5366, General Contractor, Dry Rot and Water Damage (Dry Rot and Water Damage www.tromlerconstruction.com Mobile - 916-765-5366) over 6 years ago

Like I said Charlie, I have never seen it before.  Nor the sinking like that.  It was baffling enough that I sent them to an engineer.

Tom - he did say it was not recommended.  Beyond that, seeing it before doesn't make me feel better, but they are the clients and they can think for themselves after hearing from me and an engineer.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

That is odd. I would think it has to be a problem over time structurally due to erosion. Did you notice any settling any where? 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 6 years ago

None Jim, in 12 years.  But, as the engineer said, the structure might be sound, but not recommended.  Sinking soil can never help!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Jay, I have heard of some huge sink hole in Quebec, but have never seen one (or heard of one) around here...

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) over 6 years ago

Sink holes happen all over, in small scales Chris.  It happened near here in the middle of a road!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Jay, hope this will be the only floating foundation you find this week!  See you Saturday.

Posted by Patricia Kennedy, Home in the Capital (RLAH Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Any foundation of Webster Street has likely been there for a while Pat!  And I don't remember seeing one before anywhere!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

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