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Bowed basement walls?

highfigh's picture

I looked at a house and saw steel channel along a couple of the block walls, anchored to the floor and through bolted to the floor joists with a piece of similar joist material. The channel was placed about 2' O.C. I didn't look along the walls but vertically, they look ruler straight and the walls look newer than early '50s vintage, going by the house I grew up in and others that I have seen. They have been painted but they look different from the block I remember (they look fresh). I asked the guy who did the work (phone call) and he confirmed that the walls had bowed but didn't say which direction. When I asked if he dug the soil out along the walls, he said that he hadn't. He didn't pull any permits ofr any of the work he's done and I live in the same 'burb, I know the inspector and I know he wants permits and inspections for structural or foundation work.

The house is probably 3'-4' above the street grade, there's a ditch about 35' from the front of the house and about 85' from one side, the back is sloped away slightly and the other side (the end with the garage) is, too. If necessary, drainage could be installed and run to the ditch. I haven't checked into soil conditions.

I want to go back now that we have had a lot of rain but my questions are:

1) How can bowed concrete block walls be straightened without digging?

2) If I can get it for a decent price (dropping my offer due to the foundation), is it worth buying, assuming it's a solid house in all other respects? I'm not worried about the location or market and I know of people who have had done major foundation work done to their houses and they seem to be OK now.

3) Should I call the inspector and tell him that the work has been done, so he can inspect it (at the owner's expense) and have him give the big Okey- Dokey? The house would have to be inspected for code compliance and any non-permit work would get mandatory inspection, as well as charging for any fees and penalties. I would want to have the inspections and approval as a contingency clause and then we could negotiate on the price.

4) Should I walk on this one? Nice location, big lot, on a corner but there are no sidewalks in the area, street/sewer/water and other infrastructure is up-to-date. House is in good condition, although I noticed the base moulding sloping down from the entry closet door to the outside wall (or, it may be raised at the closet- I haven't checked into that, yet).

"I cut this piece four times and it's still too short."
"I cut this piece four times and it's still too short."

(post #104654, reply #1 of 10)

What the place is worth is the value of the property, minus the cost of demolition.

The guy is trying to unload his turkey on you. There is no fix that does not involve a bulldozer. Probably inspired by "Flip This House" programs, he has made a few cheap, minor, cosmetic changes ... then been bit by the collapsing market.

Heaven alone knows what else got glossed over. The simple fact is, even houses wear out. Even if the place were in pristine condition, it would not be suited to today's lifestyle.

Run from this one.

(post #104654, reply #2 of 10)

The house is being sold by an estate and the husband of the real estate agent or broker is doing the renovation. The plumbing and electrical have been updated, new kitchen , paint, carpet, flooring and general cleanup. Some things are basically untouched other than paint and cleanup, like the baths and trim (doors, windows, sliding doors over the closets), the garage is too shallow for my truck and the garage floor is badly cracked. My initial guess is that, while I didn't see major plaster cracking the way my house was and I don't see cracks in the mortar joints of the brick, the footings may not have been right for the way the soil was or was prepped. A garage floor that looks like that tells me that even though the garage is attached, they did nothing to make sure it would be stable. Replacing the garage is something I would want to do anyway, and there was a screen porch behind it previously. If I can get it dirt cheap (may be possible- I asked how motivated they are to move it and he said they want it gone), removing the garage and slab for the old screen porch, pouring new and building a shop behind the garage would make me happy, close off the north end of the yard and make it easy to build a three-season room with sliders from the kitchen.

As I said, if I can get it dirt cheap, I'd consider it. I looked up the assessment, taxes, file on previous work, etc and none of what has been done recently has a permit. They'll likely get nailed upon sale inspection, and I have to assume that the asking price has those charges built into it. A real estate agent/remodeller combo makes a lot of sense, to me, but it also screams of potential for "someone's gettin' a screwin'!".

I think I like the location more than anything else but there are no lots like this one available in that area. I'm not afraid of making it into something nice but the price would have to be really right.

Silk purse, anyone?

Maybe, if I ask nicely, they'll give it to me.

"I cut this piece four times and it's still too short."
"I cut this piece four times and it's still too short."

(post #104654, reply #3 of 10)

Fair enough ... but your post brings up the general topic of old homes. So as to not hijack this thread, I will start a new one (When to Demo an Old House") and we'll see what discussion follows.

(post #104654, reply #4 of 10)

Layout notwithstanding, how practical is it to strip off a brick facade and use some other kind of siding, maybe with additional insulation? Other than disposal and maybe some grunt laborers, I can't see it being prohibitively expensive.

"I cut this piece four times and it's still too short."

"I cut this piece four times and it's still too short."

(post #104654, reply #5 of 10)

Ah, pre-60s, eh?

There's nothing unusual about bowing foundation walls, and the technique described may be a perfectly valid "fix".

Interesting how you can decide that the house is not "suited to today's lifestyle" without knowing how big it is, how the rooms are arranged, etc.


So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable Creature, since it enables one to find or make a Reason for everything one has a mind to do. --Benjamin Franklin


Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

(post #104654, reply #7 of 10)

And how easily he wrongs away someone else's wealth.


And how easily he beleives a 40 year old house is disposable.


Bizzare if you ask me.

(post #104654, reply #6 of 10)

If it's any consolation,  I had a house listed, and a buysers home inspector discoverd a bow in the front wall of the foundation.  The wall was 8" block, and the house was built in the 40's.  the bow was approximately 1" out of plumb.  The seller proceeded to hire a structural engineer to propose a repair.  This is what his suggestion entailed.  4" "c" channel bored through the slab, concreted back in with high strentgh concrete and through bolted to every other joist for the 25' that the bow spanned.  It passed all local inspections, and the construction detail was sealed by the structural engineer.

(post #104654, reply #8 of 10)

One inch bow?  Ok, if he paid me full price and he wished to knock himself out over one inch, ok by me.  Expect me to give a hoot, an inch or a dollar?  LOL LOLROTF

(post #104654, reply #10 of 10)

I didn't say that I think it's the answer, but it took away a giant bargaining chip from teh buyers who wanted the sellers to take approximately $40,000 less for the house.  Since they were already under contract to buy the house, and suitable repairs had been made, they bought the house.

(post #104654, reply #9 of 10)

Your situation sounds exactly like the one I had in a house I owned in Des Moines. The house had poor drainage and a huge Oak tree that probably had roots pushing against the basement wall. I called in a structural engineer and he proposed the C-Channel as you describe. After the work was completed he inspected it and signed-off on the approval. I suppose the repair has held up because whenever I'm back in Des Moines the house is till standing and doesn't look like it's been modified.