Updated: Jan 26, 2020
If I have learned one thing from being a home inspector in Kansas City it is that KC has terrible soil for foundation longevity. I have seen what years of terrible drainage, Improper grading, and over all neglect can do to our once stable foundations.
Foundation problems are one of the most costly repairs a homeowner may encounter. There are 3 common types of foundations I have encountered in this area. Stone and Mortar, Concrete Block, and Poured Concrete. There are other types that I have encountered but these are the most common.
So what is going on with the soil that is making these problems so common? In Kansas, and Missouri we have clay layers in our soil that can easily trap moisture, once this happens if the moisture is not effectively managed the soil will start to expand. Over time this puts pressure on our foundation walls. This can cause leaking, cracking, sinking, or movement in the foundation. On the opposite side of the spectrum too little moisture can cause our soil and clay to shrink. Again this can cause damage or movement to the foundation.
As a home inspector when I first arrive on site I’m already thinking about the foundation. Paying special attention to the roof line and how the home sits on the lot can tell you quite a bit about how water is moving around the foundation. During the inspection I typically take measurements as I go around the foundation. Looking for signs of movement. I also pay special attention to any cracks or gaps in the foundation exterior and interior. Once the foundation has been reviewed I will inspect all the windows, doors, floors, walls, and ceilings to see if there is more evidence of movement such as cracks, or doors and windows that bind or do not function properly. Finally once I reach the attic I inspect again for signs of movements, such as dipping or sagging, or cracking in the structural components. If movement is suspected during the home inspection we will make a referral to structural engineer, and or foundation repair contractors for further review.
What can a homeowner do to prevent damage? The number one problem I find that affects foundations is improper drainage. The roof and gutter system is your first line of defense against moisture. The majority of my inspections I am calling for cleaning of gutters and extension of downspouts away from the foundation. These are simple and fairly inexpensive maintenance points on all homes. The other problem is the grading around foundations. Many times I see negative grading. Meaning the soil around the foundation dips or is sloped in a way that will hold moisture near the foundation wall. These repairs can be more difficult depending on your lot but ideally you would like to see a 1” drop ever 6’ away from the foundation wall.
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