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What To Do When The Deck Footer Is Sinking?

What to do when the deck footer is sinking?

The short answer is I don't know.

We don't have X-ray vision.  Although some people expect home inspectors to have it.

Deck footers, what the posts or columns rest on, can be over or underground.

There are many kinds, and can be adapted to local needs.

Why local needs?

Because the IRC (International Residential Code) defines footer requirements, where you live matters.

Without getting too technical, footers need to be made of materials that don't decay, like concrete, and be "Below Frost Line."

That depth varies.  Around here the counties want to see footers 24" deep.  

Why?  Because freezing and thawing can cause things to "heave," or move up or down, altering the integrity of the deck support. 

Just looking at this deck one can see that the supports on one side are sinking.

What does it mean?

Not having X-ray vision I can't tell exactly, but the footer may not be present, it may have decayed or cracked, it may not be deep enough, or something else?

Did this deck builder have a permit?  Was the hole deep enough?  Was the footer present when the county inspected it?

So many questions!

An engineer friend of mine says that once things begin to move they continue to move unless something stops that movement.

But, as to my job, I observe and report.  What happens after I note something is what happens after.  The house is the house.

My recommendation:  it doesn't take a professional to see such dramatic evidence like this!  It might be wise to ask for a copy of the permit at the time of an offer, or ask as a part of the offer to have that problem professionally examined and repaired.  The home inspector will take you there anyway!

 

 

 

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 21 commentsJay Markanich • May 15 2014 03:53AM

Comments

Good morning, Jay.... there may not have been a footing in place at all... I've seen homes build without a footing because of the soil bearing capacity of the material... sounds risky to me, but the building dept. passed it....I marketed over 30 new homes about 25 years ago that were all constructed in this fashion....

Posted by Barbara Todaro, "Franklin MA Homes" (RE/MAX Executive Realty ) over 3 years ago

Barbara - the post is a small cubic area and cannot support loads by itself over time around here.  Some soils maybe!  I don't know!  Where you live the required depth would be deeper than here to avoid heaving.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

 We had to have a permit for our deck even though it was a part of our approved house plan and walking out of the sets of patio doors would have set you a story down....the inspection was done when holes were dug and footings poured....and sometimes it may be sandy soil that could be the culprit ..hmmm ?

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce - Short Sale (Keller Williams 414-525-0563) over 3 years ago

Jay, Great info for consumers.

In our area with the constantly changing water table, footers that worked for years have started sinking here and there. You just never know.

Posted by Bobbie Smith, 570-242-1891 over 3 years ago

Yep closing on one Monday with the same issue.  Contractor has already been out and will start work Tuesday.  Fannie Mae close

Posted by James Dray, Exceptional Agents, Outstanding Results (Fathom Realty AR LLC) over 3 years ago

Probably S&D - local conditions define local code requirements.  Depth would be very relevant in your area.

Water tables are a factor too Bobbie.  Hard to know why something is moving, until a real investigation happens.

Good that it's happening James!

 

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

Get that "permit" matter out of the way early. 
Question:  "Do you have a copy of the building permit for construction of the deck?"

Answer:  "HUH"

Of course, if the deck is older and on the home before the present owner purchased, good luck.

Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 3 years ago

That is often the case Lenn.  I hear, "This is the way it was when they bought it."

Nonetheless, their lack of due diligence should not affect later purchasers...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

Good morning Jay,

So many variables; what to do; what to do!

Make yourself a great day.

Posted by Raymond E. Camp, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Greater Rochester (Howard Hanna Real Estate Services) over 3 years ago

So, just try to do it right, Raymond.  Problem solved!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

Jay, it was very interesting for me to see what the footers look like. I am glad that you included the graphic.

Posted by Lisa Friedman, 28 Years of Real Estate Experience! (Great American Dream Realty) over 3 years ago

There are probably more than that.  The other key, Lisa, is that the post be attached to the footer!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

Jay, You are telling me they just did not put them on them little pier blocks and call it good?

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

I have seen the little pyramids, with the tops cut off, sitting on the grass, into which is placed the bottom of the post Don!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

Jay, I see the sinking steps and know there is a fix somehow, some way. As you stated it depends on the situation.  

Posted by Debbie Reynolds, Your Dedicated Clarksville TN Real Estate Agent (Platinum Properties) over 3 years ago

Geting below the forst line is something that is often forgotten in this climate. Very common for the concrete to go from surface to the bottom of the hole.

Posted by Than Maynard, Broker - Licensed to List & Sell - 405-990-8862 (Coldwell Banker Heart of Oklahoma) over 3 years ago

There is Debbie.  It likely involves some digging!

That is the code Than, no matter where one lives.  The footer has to be protected against heaving!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

Jay- funny you should post on this.   While Delray's new beach pavilion was being built, we watched as they put the footers in for the deck.  Here we have to worry about our sandy soil

Posted by Kathy Streib, Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224 (Room Service Home Staging) over 3 years ago

Sandy soil has to be accounted for too Kathy.  It does not provide much support!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

Here we have to be much deeper than 24". 5 to 6 feet is the norm and thats to the top of the footing, not the bottom of the hole. Then there's adhesion to prep for.

Posted by Robert Butler, Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection (Aspect Inspection) over 3 years ago

I know it has to vary substantially all over Robert.  I did not know 5-6 Feet!  Wow...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 3 years ago

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