Home Foundation Inspection Nightmares During Real Estate Transactions

When it comes to property transactions, the process is quite overwhelming. If there is a foundation problem within the property, the process of buying and selling can become a bit complex.

It is common for homeowners to purchase a new home, start renovations, and discover a unique foundation problem. This problem is even more prevalent in the Front Range of Colorado. Why is the Front Range unique?

Well, 85 million years ago, Colorado was part of the ocean. As the ocean retracted, and the Rocky Mountains formed, the layers of ground were formed from silt, clay, and different rock components.

These soil elements have left homes with many different foundation problems. Homeowners and Real Estate Agents only discover this problem when they are buying or selling a property.

Level Engineering cannot emphasize this enough: hire a structural engineer before you purchase a home. Licensed Structural Engineers provide you with a professional, educated, and trained opinion when it comes to the structural integrity of your home.

Here are a few examples of Real Estate Transactions being effected by foundation problems.

Lateral Collapse from External Soil Pressures

Brick Wall

Structurally sound homes can experience shifting at any time from many different variables. This home, pictured above, was perfectly stable for almost 50 years, it suddenly experienced severe foundation movement.

This home suffered a lateral collapse from external saturated soil pressures, causing the wall to rotate 6-inches. Level Engineering was able to determine that an adjacent city storm sewer had failed, and the water underground had caused the collapse. In the end, it cost $35,000 to repair the foundation.

Inward Foundation Crack Hidden by Drywall

Basement Crack 1

During a Real Estate transaction, the previous homeowners disclosed there was an occasional puddle of water found in the basement, but they didn’t quite know what the deeper problem was. When the new homeowners decided to renovate their basement, they tore down the perfect-looking drywall and found a large crack in the foundation [pictured above].

Level Engineering found that this large crack was caused by lateral soil pressures, poor drainage, saturated soil, and expanding clay soil pressures against the wall. After paying full market value for the home, the new homeowners had to pay $65,000 to repair the large crack.

Improper Basement Renovation

Foundation Problem 1

During a walkthrough of a home, the potential buyers noticed an improper renovation in the basement [pictured above]. They wanted to know if this strange mess was part of a deeper problem; would it cost money to repair if they tried to sell in the future?

Level Engineering did a home inspection and concluded that the foundation structure was compromised by the previous homeowner’s renovations. In order to stabilize the structure and repair the foundation, it was estimated to cost $15,000.

If the Real Estate Agent or the home buyer notice any structural issues, like cracks or a strange renovation, they should contact a thirty-party, Licensed Structural Engineer for a home inspection. The Structural Engineer can provide an estimate of the price to fix the problem. Then, the Real Estate Agent can negotiate the cost.

Rusting Reinforcement Crack

Crack 1

Foundation issues are complex and the cause of foundation failure is unique to each home. The crack shown above is not due to lateral soil pressures like many homes. This crack was caused by rusting and expanding reinforcement due to chemical incompatibility between the concrete and reinforcement; meaning that a chemical reaction between the concrete aggregates and steel compromised the stability of the foundation.

This is a significant problem for the future of the foundation throughout the basement. It cost $28,000 to slow down the deterioration of the foundation in this isolated area. To completely fix this problem it would cost upwards of 6-figures and a complete foundation reconstruction.

Complete Foundation Reconstruction Due to Inadequate Resources

Problem Behind Wall 1

A homeowner purchased a recently updated home, built in the 1930s, at the full market value. A week into living in the home, they decided to renovate the basement. When they tore down the finished drywall, they discovered a completely degraded foundation [pictured above]. This foundation problem ended up delaying their occupancy for 6 months.

The home was built during the Great Depression when finances were not abundant. When the original home builders filled in the foundation of the home, they did not have adequate resources, resulting in using too little cement in the foundation mixture. After purchasing the home at full market value, it cost the new homeowners $120,000 to do a complete foundation reconstruction.

When purchasing homes built during the Great Depression (1929-1939), or homes built during an economic downturn, it is important to invest in an expert opinion to assess the structural integrity of the home. A Licensed Structural Engineer is the most educated, professional, and experienced person to give you an opinion of structural integrity.

Level Engineering has over 100 years of combined engineering experience and specialized knowledge of working with older or unique properties during Real Estate Transactions.

If you need a structural engineer home inspection, located in the Front Range [Fort Collins to Colorado Springs], call us for an estimate.


Scott Zurn, P.E.

Scott Zurn, P.E.

Founder and CEO of Level Engineering & Level Design Partners. With more than 4 decades of experience, Scott Zurn has contributed to all aspects of the building industry, serving both public and private sectors. He’s achieved tremendous success in commercial and residential markets, held leadership roles such as building official, city engineer, and director for local governments, and accomplished hundreds of millions of dollars in successful commercial building and civil infrastructure as a designer, project manager, and leader. As the Founder of the Level brand, Scott is dedicated to ensuring the entrepreneurial success of design professionals, as well as creating positive environmental impacts through design work. Read Scott’s full bio here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Structural Engineering Architecture, and Inspection, Simplified

Your Local Network of Engineering, Architecture, and Inspection experts providing commercial, residential, public and private Civil Infrastructure services. Call today to find your local expert. 
Find your local LEVEL office to get started.