Q: I purchased a home 8 years ago & the builder did not level the foundation. Major cracks and issues. What can I do?
Major "settling" cracks throughout the home. One portion of drywall has pulled away from another in an upstairs corner.
Am I entitled to anything? What can I do? What's a reasonable settlement?
You may or may not have a valid claim depending upon the extent of the deflection or tilt measured by your structural engineer and what he determines is the cause. The foundation and major structural components of a home are subject to a minimum warranty period of ten years from the date of construction. If there has been a breach of warranty, you may be able to demand that the builder make necessary repairs under his warranty.
It is extremely common for a residential foundation to experience some degree of deflection or tilt over time after construction. As the foundation slab moves, the structures they support also move. The more rigid and brittle the materials used to build a house are, the more rapidly visible damage will appear. For example, brick veneer is more brittle than wood siding and ceramic floor tiles are more rigid than vinyl.
The performance standards prescribed in the Texas Residential Construction Commission Limited Statutory Warranty and Performance Standards sets the maximum allowable deflection and maximum allowable tilt. An engineer trained and experienced in residential foundation construction should evaluate your foundation in accordance with the "Guidelines for the Evaluation and Repair of Residential Foundations," including making a relative elevation survey of your foundation. This will help the engineer determine whether your foundation meets the standards.
If it does not meet the standards, the engineer will want to evaluate the foundation plans, soils reports, and related documents to try to determine why the foundation does not meet the standards. He may also want to remove concrete cores from different areas of your foundation to help make this determination.
A very common recurring situation here in Texas which can cause foundation problems is the presence and proximity of mature trees and shrubs to the foundation. Engineers caution us not to plant tree or shrubs near building foundations because it is well-documented that the root systems tend to dry the soils around a perimeter of the plant for a distance approximating one and one-half the tree height (e.g. a tree that is twenty feet tall will draw moisture from the soil up to thirty feet away). Despite this well-documented effect, we like shade and, therefore, plant trees and large shrubs in our yards. Unless we perfectly irrigate the soil--which is quite tricky given the weather patterns here in Texas--their presence will cause deflection and tilt over time, hopefully not enough to cause serious structural damage.
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