Horizontal crack question...

Old 04-28-04, 07:55 AM
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Horizontal crack question...


My husband and I are selling our home and our buyers home inspector found a horizontal crack in our basement wall. He recommended that a structural engineer come out and have a look. The crack is 1/8 of an inch wide at it's widest point right in the mortar lines. It's five blocks down on a 13 course basement and at that width it's about 2 feet long. From there the crack does go about 10 feet in total, following the mortar lines and stepping up toward ground level. It's much less than 1/8th of an inch wide after the widest point.

So their engineer comes out (and he's in the repair end of the biz too), and basically says that the foundation wall is failing and proposes a very dramatic (and expensive fix). He's proposing that the only way to fix this wall is to drill into the outside foundation, put rebar in every so many feet and pump super mortar (or something) into the wall at high pressure. This would entale taking out all of our landscaping, *moving* all the utility lines, and removing our electrical panel and gas line from that side of the basement. Total cost...$21,000!!!!

We're new to this basement crack issue, and while we've learned now that horizontal is more serious than vertical, this certainly seemed like a really drastic fix.

Can anyone give me a little guidance on whether or not this guy is off the wall, or perhaps some other options to repair the wall. We have hired our own independent structural engineer heading out later this week to have a look. He is not in the repair end of the business. From what we've read in our home warranty booklet, they recommend "pointing and patching" the wall, which of course this other guy said will not fix the problem.

We think that the crack may have always been there, possibly caused by a backhoe during back-filling. This guy said that it's due to freezing and mother nature and will only get worse.

Thanks for any info!!
Old 04-28-04, 01:46 PM
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See what the other engineer that you have has to say. I did have a basement block wall come in on me one time.
Kick around this. I have seen where they did all the work on the inside. Like small steel I beams set in the floor inside and bolt out to the outside in the belt board . like posts from the floor to the ceiling tight to the wall.

I would make sure the gutters are good on the home and all down spouts get the water away from the home.

Old 04-28-04, 06:48 PM
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Cool Horizontal Crack(s)

Fuzzy, Welcome to the "foundation 'expert' recommends making a mountain out of a mole-hill and you paying him through your nose 21,000 one-dollar bills" club! I went through the exact same thing as you! My wife and I threw the guy out of our house and the cracks haven't worsened or leaked since we bought the place 9 years ago. Just my opinion, but your situation is NOT serious and as long as you disclose the nature of the crack to prospective buyers, I believe you will fine! Read the disclosure statement for the exact definition of "defect" and you'll see that the mole-hill does not compromise the structual integrity of the foundation. My engineer recognized 1/8" deflection inward of a horizontal crack and told me it is no big thing. Around here, the soil characteristics make it literally impossible for a foundation to remain crack-free for the life of the house. I'm sure your engineeer will lay your worries to rest. Good luck! We're selling too, cracks and all!
Old 04-28-04, 09:12 PM
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Pilasters are three side masonry posts against the affected wall that can be used either to transfer the load of the house to the ground and/or support the wall from moving any further and will cost no where near $21,000.

A horizontal crack by itself is not an indication of structual failure. The rule with masonry walls is movement of half the thickness of the wall, the wall has structurally failed. So if the blocks are 8 inches thick and there is a bow in the wall has moved 4 inches, then the wall is no longer structurally sound.

So it is not enough to say there is a horizontal crack. Let's say the wall has only bowed 1 inch, but has been that way for years, the solution maybe as simple as patching the crack. Since you are selling the house, any solution by a structural engineer must also have a guarantee and it must be transferrable. The reason for this is that you have to make it a non-issue for sale purposes.

The number one reason why home inspectors get sued are termites, second are roofing issues and the third are horizontal cracks in basement walls. Real Estate attorneys get sued for ommissions of material facts. Every home inspector knows the legal ramifications for failure to report a defect, especially the top three. Since they are not qualified to report structural failure, they recommend an evaluation by a professional in that field. This relieves them of any liability. The Real Estate attorney who omits a material defect, knows it will come back to him/her.

A material defect has its largest impact on the mortgage company. It will affect the mortgage rate and in the majority of cases the declining of the mortgage. Let's say the buyers love the house and don't care about the horizontal crack. The inspector and attorney don't want the liability associated without reporting it, so they do so in the report and in the disclosure statement, which is submitted to the mortgage company. What chances do you think the buyers will get approved for a mortgage?

On the other hand, let's say this type of cracking is typical for your area and you have it evaluated by a structural engineer who states the structural soundness of the wall and documents it. Or recommends a solution and guarantees it and makes the guarantee transferrable to the next owner. Either one of these documents make the horizontal crack a non-issue for the purpose of sale.

So regardless of the seriousness or cost to repair the crack is, without the transferrable guarantee or document concerning the structural soundness of the wall, it is unlikely you are going to be able to sell your house.
Old 04-29-04, 06:31 AM
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Thank you so much for your responses! I feel a lot better and a tiny bit worse at the same time ;o).

We have our Structural Engineer coming tomorrow at 10am and have invited our buyers to also attend his inspection in the spirit of fair play. I have a hunch that the first guy's "the sky is falling" scenario is not the case and I really want our buyers (who are really nice people) to hear it the same time that we do. I'm just hoping now that they don't submit report number 1 to their mortgage company. That could be a problem.

If it *is* as bad as #1 SE says it is, then I want our buyers to hear that there are other ways to fix our problem. I've read quite a bit now about how to repair horizontal cracks (as I'm sure you can imagine), and it appears that there are several possible ways to go here.

It may simply be a point and patch job from what I've read, but if it's more serious, how does this Grip Tite system stand up over time? Seems like a really cool process. Also, how expensive is that compared to crazy #2 guys estimation. One thing I really liked about the Grip-Tite fix (if we even need it), is that it doesn't disrupt the entire side of the house.

Thanks again guys!! I really appreciate your input.
Old 05-03-04, 06:57 AM
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A horizontal crack by itself is not an indication of structual failure. The rule with masonry walls is movement of half the thickness of the wall, the wall has structurally failed. So if the blocks are 8 inches thick and there is a bow in the wall has moved 4 inches, then the wall is no longer structurally sound.

Can you quote a source for this. As an engineer with 25 years of construction experience I have NEVER encountered this "rule".

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