What I'm Seeing Now

head_left_image

What Happens When A Spring Is Found Under New Construction?

What happens when a spring is found under new construction?

In the Washington DC suburbs all the lots in a few counties have all been used for development, commercial or residential.

As such, in older neighborhoods, if one wants to live there, but not in the small house built there many decades ago, one buys the lot in a desired neighborhood, razes the former house, and builds a new house.

Many developers are doing this, buying all the houses on a street and building newer, larger homes, sometimes taking up two former lots.

Such was the case of this house.  It was a 6500 sq ft home built in an older neighborhood in a Virginia suburb of DC.

During home inspections I sweep the entire house with my thermal camera, Mighty Mo.

This is what I saw in a finished basement room.  The door on the top right corner goes to the furnace room.  It is a large room, about 20'x30'

The blue you see indicates cooler temperatures, which, in this case, meant moisture.  You can see that the wall and carpet were wet.

The moisture meter registered 100% moisture in the walls, and jumped to 30% on the wood, indicating that the moisture content exceeded 30%.  The gage for wood only goes to 30% because wood is considered saturated at 28%.

Further, the moisture meter indicated 24% moisture in the sill plate in the furnace room, just about where the red and yellow meet in the wall in the thermal image above.

What did all this mean?

That basement wall hid a steel beam.  It had four columns.  The foundation wall supported it near the door in the image above. 

The next support was a column about 2' to the left of where the red and yellow meet above.   The problem was that the column was not visible, hidden by the walls of the room, the furnace room, and on the other side a staircase going to the middle level.

The base of the column, of course, passes through the basement slab, into the soil below.

My analysis was that water was percolating up from the base of the column to wick into the wood, wall and carpet nearby.  The carpet in this house had only been there a week.

THAT IS A HUGE PROBLEM!

What to do?  Obviously a geotechnical (soils) engineer needed to be called.  His analysis?  Water was percolating up from the base of the column to wick into the wood, wall and carpet nearby!  Gee, the home inspector was right!

This house was built on top of a water source, likely a spring!

Prior to building soil needs to be studied to determine density, strength and moisture content.  It has to support a structure, but also one doesn't want water infestation into a home.  Was such a test done here?

The solution?  Now a sump pump needs to be installed, separate from the other sump pump in the house.  It will need to be located near the column, and plumbed to send the water outside of the house.  At this point such an installation is not easy!

Would this problem have eventually been found?  Yes, living in the property the homeowner would have felt the wet carpet at some point, or mold would have developed. 

BUT THE HOME INSPECTOR FOUND IT BEFORE THEY MOVED IN!  WITH A THERMAL CAMERA!

My recommendation:  a thermal camera can be a crucial tool to use during a home inspection, and by a thermographer who is trained, certified and experienced.  It is not point and shoot technology.  A lot goes into device usage and image interpretation.  This home inspector has had builders look him in the face and say home inspectors "should not be allowed to use thermal cameras."  Unbelievable.  Would you want to move into this house and inherit this problem?  Mighty Mo wins again!

 

 

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 38 commentsJay Markanich • March 03 2019 11:33AM

Comments

Hoping the homeowner can find a silent version of the sump pump...we have listed homes with multiple pumps...quite a "concert" when they are all working hard !

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) 3 months ago

It's the builder's problem at this point, S&D.  They had not closed prior to the inspection.  And it's a big deal now.  The sump pump will be encased, with an access panel.  It likely won't be that loud.

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

Good morning Jay. This is terrifying and I think you fee was would have been worth the grief they will now pay.

Posted by Sheila Anderson, The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133 (Referral Group Incorporated) 3 months ago

Sheila - methinks Mighty Mo saved them a lot of grief.  He deserves all the credit.

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

Good morning, Jay Markanich I've been in a few homes with full foundations and there was a spring under the floor of that foundation....every spring it was kayak time....

Posted by Barbara Todaro, Marketing Agent for The Todaro Team (RE/MAX Executive Realty ) 3 months ago

We own a rental duplex that is 107 years old. We are becoming tired of the basement problems we have had to fix. A pox on all basements.

Posted by Joe Pryor, REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties (The Virtual Real Estate Team) 3 months ago

I have too, Barbara.  My neighbor's house across the street is one!  Sump pump runs all the time!

Joe - pox comes from the Old English word 'pock,' meaning pit.  So, in effect, a basement is a pit!  Pox is a better word - more encompassing...  says he with a wink.

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

Jay- thank goodness they had you and the ever-wonderful Mighty Mo!  I can't imagine what headaches these poor people would have had without your inspection. 

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

Hi Jay Markanich - what a fabulous tool.  I can see why builders might be a little intimidated by Mighty Mo. 

Posted by Sheri Sperry - MCNE®, (928) 274-7355 ~ YOUR Solutions REALTOR® (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) 3 months ago

My goodness, Kathy, that wasn't the only thing!  During construction there has been problem after problem after disappointment after disappointment.  The house was supposed to be delivered in October!   It was a sad inspection.

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

Sherri - that builder said that after Mighty Mo documented a whole room devoid of insulation.  To it I said, "And builders shouldn't be allowed to remove insulation from rooms after the county signs off on it."  They were busted.

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

If your inspector is not using thermal technology, you're not getting a thorough inspection!!

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) 3 months ago

Thanks Fred.  I'll tell that to Mighty Mo!

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

My son and his wife just had to install a sump pump that was around $9200.  It was pricey but it keeps their basement dry now, so it was worth the money for sure!

Posted by Norma J. Elkins, Realtor - Elkins Home Selling Team ( Elite Realty Group) 3 months ago

Wow, that's an expensive sump pump, Norma!  What did they do to divert the water before it begins infesting the sump pump so much?

Here is a blog I wrote years ago about sump pumps:

https://activerain.com/blogsview/4865272/how-to-choose-a-sump-pump

 

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

                                 

                                  Thank you, Jay. 

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

No, thank you Kathy!  When you do this more people read the blog because of your attention then read the blog when I post it!

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

Mighty Mo wins again!

Lucky for the buyers that you were the inspector!

Posted by Sharon Tara, New Hampshire Home Stager (Sharon Tara Transformations) 3 months ago

Thanks Sharon.  Lucky for them Mighty Mo came along.

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

I love reading your Mighty Mo stories! That camera (and inspector) is great for finding problems.

Posted by Kat Palmiotti, The House Kat (Grand Lux Realty, Monroe NY, 914-419-0270, kat@thehousekat.com) 3 months ago

Mighty Mo deserves his own Caribbean Island, Kat.

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

Jay, you bring up good points about the importance of having home inspections.  1986 was an incredibly wet year here.  I will never forget one fairly new neighborhood in our Fair Oaks community, which had been built without the route water would take along the rolling landscape.  There was significant damage.

Posted by Myrl Jeffcoat, Greater Sacramento Real Estate Agent (GreatWest Realty) 3 months ago

Myrl - when developers build neighborhoods they must plan in advance for water movement because the original topography changes during construction.  That's a big deal!

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

This is not as uncommon as you might think. There are several homes in my area that were found to have a spring under them after construction. During dry season when the homes were constructed it wasn't evident. During wetter times when the water table is high they appeared. Sump pumps and extra circulation had to be added to the foundation to keep mold from forming. 

Posted by Sandra Paulow, REALTOR, Associate Broker, GRI, SFR (Aspen Properties, Inc. ) 3 months ago

To think... had they  paid attention and done what needed to be done BEFORE construction, they'd have saved a bundle of money. That is one sleazy builder.

Posted by Marte Cliff, Your real estate writer (Marte Cliff Copywriting) 3 months ago

Sandra - it's very common!  But not so common when people haven't yet moved into the house.  My neighbor's house was built on a spring-fed pond!  In the 15 years they have been there they've probably bought 6 sump pumps.  I have water diverted very well around my house and can't remember the last time my sump pump turned on.

That is the key, Marte.  And this house has had so many problems during contruction that it's March now and it was supposed to be delivered in October!!

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

What a mess - so glad you discovered it before the people finished their purchase.    From your comment #26, sounds like that wasn't the only problem you found.

Posted by M.C. Dwyer, Santa Cruz Mountains Property Specialist (Century 21 Showcase REALTORs) 3 months ago

Miss M.C. - there were problems!  These folks had me by more than once.  When buyers see problems imagine what the inspector sees?!

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

Hi Jay:

That's quite a story, and a big problem. It's another great exmple of why a home inspection on any home is vital.

Jeff

Posted by Jeff Dowler, CRS, The Southern California Relocation Dude (Solutions Real Estate ) 3 months ago

Thanks, Jeff.  We never know what we will find!

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

Thank you very much, Jay, for sharing this experience.

I will schedule a May reblog.

Posted by Roy Kelley (Realty Group Referrals) 2 months ago

Jay, back when I was selling homes there were neighborhoods like this. In 1970s homes they had metal ductwork in the slab and invaribly you would see extreme rust that required the heat and air to go overhead.

Posted by Joe Pryor, REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties (The Virtual Real Estate Team) 2 months ago

Thanks Roy.

Joe - there are still neighborhoods around here with those and they are almost always a big issue.  I take a few photos to demonstrate what happens to the duct underground and buyers are shocked.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) 2 months ago

This is why intense proper checks need to be carried out prior to redeveloping the area. It could already be far too late to do anything once you discover that you are basically living on top of water. Huge costs would be incurred should you need to salvage the new place you have just called home.

Posted by Thomas Maloney (Supercheap Storage South Brisbane) 2 months ago

This is why intense proper checks need to be carried out prior to redeveloping the area. It could already be far too late to do anything once you discover that you are basically living on top of water. Huge costs would be incurred should you need to salvage the new place you have just called home.

Posted by Thomas Maloney (Supercheap Storage South Brisbane) 2 months ago

Interestingly, Thomas, this new house was built on the lot of an older property in an older neighborhood.  The previous house had probably been there 60 years, and all the houses in the neighborhood are about that age.  In that county there is no more land for new development, so builders buy properties, raze them, and rebuild a new home on the site.  This is one such home.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) 2 months ago

Hi Jay Markanich - This is a great service to have especially if you suspect a water source under a house.  Very informative post!

Posted by Sheri Sperry - MCNE®, (928) 274-7355 ~ YOUR Solutions REALTOR® (Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage) about 1 month ago

We didn't suspect it, Sheri, but I do a thermal image sweep on every house to detect things not seen by the natural eye.  And this was found!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 1 month ago

This blog does not allow anonymous comments