Wood Foundation Questions

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Old 01-23-10, 10:00 PM
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Wood Foundation Questions

I'm looking at a forclosed house (about 10 yrs old) that has a wood foundation. Had never heard of this until I saw this house and apparently there is some people who swear by them.

Anyways, the house has been vacant a couple years and the foundation walls are wet at the bottom and when we looked at it a couple months ago there was visible moisture and small amounts of mud just inside the wall. Additionally, it seems like there is some shifting that has occured in the upper floors (excessively creeky floors, cracked drywall in multiple spots, one cracked window).

Are there any ways to do a good DIY fix for this. The basement floor is poured concrete, but I don't know how thick. I've though of ideas from the extreme to the not so extreme (jack up the house and pour a new foundation wall; or go wall by wall and build up a cement block wall next to the existing foundation wall; or just add steel support posts every few feet in the existing foundation wall.

Once this is fixed, I figure I can go around and fix the floors, drywall, and window.

I'm guessing the first thing I do is get a good home inspector in there who can point out everything before I get too far down the path to buying a home.

Thanks!
 
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Old 01-24-10, 02:13 AM
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I have seen some wood foundations. My initial reaction is run away, unless the seller is paying you 20k or more to take the property.

If you have visible moisture it was not done correctly.
No point in getting out the moisture meter and IR camera.
Walk away, well, run away, depending on how old you are!

"Are there any ways to do a good DIY fix for this."

Yes , there is always a way to fix anything. How much money are you willing to invest?
My first thoughts are: (and this is going on the assumption that all the wood was treated for ground contact)
dig out around the walls down to the footings and inspect all the wood,replace as needed. Seal the wood, apply at least a 8 mil plastic, doubled.
Install 2) 6" (minimum) drains, one at the footing and one 18"-24" below grade with 18" x 18" gravel wrap. Make your soffit over hangs at least 24" and the obvious, grade and downspouts must be away from the foundation.

I will address your home inspector guessing in a moment.

My opinion on wood frame foundations: don't do it, don't buy it, don't build it. Wood will become unstable in a persons life time.
With minimal effort, done correctly, concrete will last beyond the average life span of you.
To take that a step further the natural stone foundations done by old school masons are still holding up.
Check this link. Bed and Breakfast Inn Hudson Valley The Dominion House Near Warwick NY Woodbury Common Romantic Getaway
This home still has the original field stone foundation, I know it well.
So onto your idea of "get a good home inspector in there".
Hmm, I have yet to meet a home inspector that knows what they are doing! I am sure there are some, but I haven't met one yet. Yes they may be certified by ASHI or NACHI but do they really know what they are doing? I think not in most cases.
I accepted a new client recently, 80 yr old house with brand new kitchen and bathrooms ( everything else was prettied up with paint and flooring). REA recommended inspector, ASHI certified . It FAILED my walk through, failed the occupancy inspection, failed the fire inspection. No permits were pulled for the new baths and kitchen, I checked.

Long story short, home inspectors are a dime a dozen and most don't know poop.

Did I say this before? Walk away, run if you are capable.
 
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Old 01-24-10, 04:20 AM
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Don't walk.....RUN. Too many foreclosed houses that don't have questionable construction methods that can be DIY'ed on the market for you to jump into a hole. The only way out is to throw you a shovel.
 
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Old 01-24-10, 05:24 AM
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Both replys you have gotten so far have been pretty negeative. I have put in alot of wood foundations in houses. Both on the very wet west coast and the midwest. So, I know of which I speak. I have never had one leak. Now, saying that, it is possible that it was not done correctly. Here are so ideas of mine where the problem might be. When the wood foundation is installed, the real sealing part is done on the outside of the house. There should have been 6" of 1/2 rock layed around the base of the foundation 12" out from the wall. The next step is heavy black plastic attached to the top of the wood foundation going down the wall and out over the rock. Once this is done, comes the backfill. It has to be put in in 12" layers and tamped hard, then another 12" of backfill.
These are the things that keep the water out. Its outside things and things a DIY'er can do. Just for your information, a wood foundations if put in correctly, will outlast concrete block or a poured concrete wall. they are also stronger if done correctly. These are proven statistics, but most do not believe it. They are also warmer, and easier to finish out.
You could dig down on the outside of the house to see if the above were done. Maybe a step was skipped. To redo the outside maybe $5000.00 is hired out. Good Luck
 
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Old 01-24-10, 10:45 AM
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Jack makes his point, as I have seen log homes set on Black locust foundations and are fine. It was the remaining part of the post, ie. mud, moisture, shifting, creaking floor, cracked walls and windows that would make me RUN. Too much damage to a home with questionably build foundation. All the symptoms you mention can be tied to the foundation.
 
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Old 01-28-10, 10:23 PM
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"ie. mud, moisture, shifting, creaking floor, cracked walls and windows"

Run! I think I said that. Thank you for the support on "RUN Away."

Those log homes you have seen, set on black locust foundations, are how old?

Field stone, block, crete, something that is solid. Wood for the foundation of a structure is a problem waiting to happen in a persons lifetime.

"Just for your information, a wood foundations if put in correctly, will outlast concrete block or a poured concrete wall. they are also stronger if done correctly. These are proven statistics, but most do not believe it."

I "beleaves ya brotha Jack",
if your talking 10-20. Lets talk 80 yrs and beyond. That is not happening with a wood foundation.

Statistics are a great thing, until it comes time to prove the statistics. The majority of wood foundations are not done correctly. You addressed the key phrase, done correctly.
Therefore we have the failure that the original poster is describing.
Don't try this at home kids!
 
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Old 01-29-10, 06:07 AM
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DE, really not that old. I'd say within 25 years. I looked under the house, and there was a substantial number of black locust tree trunks, if you will, holding up several beams across the length of the house. Of course the black locust, itself, will be impervious to rot, insects, etc for quite a long time, but I shivered to think of having to come back in and replacing one or more.
 
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Old 01-29-10, 07:03 AM
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Consider, even if the wood foundation were working, 80% of the people who might look to buy the home will walk without further consideration. In terms of future value, it simply creates a big question mark, will it hold, will it last, and will others be willing to buy it.

If the location is absolutely necessary, just plan on hiring a crew to replace the whole foundation and do your DIY on all of the other problems. If the 20K (or whatever) is not there for the replacement, then follow the above advice and walk. This is a buyers market, don't fall in love with a project that can bury you. Why does my wife come to mind when I say that.

Bud
 
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Old 03-15-10, 10:41 PM
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Well fellas,
No interaction from the original poster, I guess they didn't like the answers.

As usual it ends up with us supposed know it all's spouting our spiel of how to do it without having a first hand visual.

Sometimes I think forums like this make it easy for the non doing Sh-- Bags to acquire business.

We don't have the on site picture of a specific job, so it's easy for a local NDSB to capitalize.
 
 

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