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New home buyer question,

AlaskaJeff's picture

Hello Everyone,

First of all I want to thank everyone for taking your time to help me with a big decision I am about to make!


My wife and I are first time home buyers in South Central Alaska on the Kenai Penninsula region of the state.  We found a house we really like, it's in our price range, maybe a little high.  But my concerns are it's an all weather wood foundation.  Above the house is a mountain that gets a lot of snow run off in the summer months, and rain.  I worry that an all weather wood foundation will just rot.  The house was built in 2004, and the crawl space looks good, but who's to say in the future it won't be a problem?  The sellers put in a French Drain, but it really looks weak compared to the amount of water I am affraid that is running down the mountain.  Thoughts?  In addition, the front deck (and roof over the front deck) is already bowing a little from frost heeves.  There was no buffer installed to target this.  If it is bowing even a little now, what's going to happen down the road?

Everyone, thank you!


Run away, not walk. That's (post #207180, reply #1 of 4)

Run away, not walk.

That's just me and my opinions, others may think otherwise.


But hey, a lot of my sheds have old railroad ties for 'foundations', but da sheds iz meant to only last 20 years or so.

Despite what JH says, (post #207180, reply #2 of 4)

Despite what JH says, "Permanent Wood Foundations" (PWF) have a fairly good track record.  There was a period maybe 20 years back when they were having trouble (due in part to the changing nature of wood preservatives), but their standards org tightened up their standards and things improved.

A PWF has obvious advantages in remote locations where large amounts of poured concrete or CMU (concrete block) would be difficult/expensive to transport, so that presumably is one reason why the PWF was used.  The PWF is also easier to insulate than a conventional concrete/CMU foundation.

But the devil is in the details.  Proper installation of such a foundation requires a well-drained gravel base, and, after the foundation is installed, some form of bottom bracing (eg, a "rat slab") to prevent the foundation from buckling inward from soil pressure.  See the diagram here: (The site gives you the basics for inspecting such a foundation.)

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

A few of my friends built (post #207180, reply #3 of 4)

A few of my friends built their homes with AWW foundations in south central back in the 80's. These guys are all engineers so their understanding of the material and process was better than most. Also, I built a small commercial building in Dillingham that has an AWW foundation. As I recall, all these structures have a concrete footer. I've lost track of these guys so cannot give you up to date info on the state of the houses. I guess my point in telling you this is to not automatically shy away from the material. But I would have a good housing inspector, who is versed in AWW, take a good look at it. You may have to import one from Anchorage. His/her fee will be money well spent. 

None of the structures I'm familiar with used anything other than appropriate sized members (studs, plates, ply sheathing, and nails) to resist the lateral loading from exterior soil. The house you are looking at may or may not be built "strong enough." The inspector can help you determine this and will recommend a structural analysis if need be. 

I'd have the porch foundation checked. The frost heaving shouldn't be happening to any part of the house that's attached. Garden fences are always heaving and tilting about... but ones porch shouldn't. In your case, the foundations under the outer edge of the porch are probably not deep enough. Any amount of water coming off the overlooking mountain doesn't affect frost movement. 

a rotten shame Jeff (post #207180, reply #4 of 4)

There was a long time well respected member here from there........David...............Thomas maybe?

If anyone can remember the name better, you might look in a phone book (they got those anymore), give him a call and mention Breaktime-who knows?

Best of luck.

A Great Place for Information, Comraderie, and a Sucker Punch.

Remodeling Contractor just outside the Glass City.