Hot Topics: Foundation Openings at Base
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An inquiry into pest control reveals a greater problem at hand—a house addition is built on-grade with no footing. So...what's a DIYer to do about that? The forum has differing answers.
Original Post: Foundation Openings at Base
I hope I am posting this in the right spot, since it has to do with waterproofing the crawlspace. First off, gutter installation is happening soon-ish (likely within three weeks), but I would also like to simultaneously fix this issue shown here, too.
We recently bought this home and one of the only issues is what you see pictured and it has the potential to allow pests in. I'm not sure how to remedy it, as the inspector and agent said "just put some dirt on it." Rather than hire a professional, I'd love it if someone would tell me the best way to go about it.
My idea: use wire mesh about six inches up the foundation and have it run down onto the ground (like an L shape) about eight to 12 inches. Then I would use landscape edging, and fill it with dirt at an angle to create a somewhat sloped flower bed.
Is this a good idea? Am I overthinking it? I know I shouldn't go too high up the foundation, so are there any ideas on how high I should go with the dirt? Should I cement the openings first? Do I need to secure the mesh to the foundation if I go this route? I don't want to make holes in it if I don't have to.
chandler Forum Topic Moderator
Welcome to the forums! There is a concrete footer below this extending probably 12 to 24 inches, so I don't see how pests are getting in. This is just the bottom of the concrete wall. If you take a long screwdriver and poke under it, you will hit the footer. Does this house have a basement or just this crawl?
Just a crawl. Also, I will be going in there today again. I swear one of these holes you see pokes through to underneath the room above. Also I should mention this room in particular is an addition. The house is built in 1950 and this room was added some time after that.
chandler Forum Topic Moderator
Poke around a little and let us know what you find. The hole at the bottom of that concrete won't go into the room above, but into the crawl IF it has a hole through it. Note the vent on the wall above? It should go into your crawl as well.
Thank you for your help so far. This is a pic from inside the crawl. Since it looks like it is indeed a hole, what does that mean for the structure of this addition overall? Is my initial plan worth doing?
I can hardly believe there is a part of this country where it is OK to sit a house foundation on grade with no footing. The same could be said for the piers, which apparently are no longer supporting the structure solidly or they wouldn't have metal shims stuck in there crooked. Something is obviously out of plumb.
Looks to me like anything you do would be an improvement. You obviously can't rebuild the whole foundation. Do what you like. Dirt is probably just as good a solution as more concrete. I don't see the point of mesh and concrete; an animal could pretty much dig anywhere it wanted to and get in, so what's the point? In view of the sloping grade under the house, you might want to make sure you raise the grade around the foundation and have adequate drainage around the house so that water isn't coming under your on-grade foundation and eroding it.
So what, if any, are my long-term solutions?
chandler Forum Topic Moderator
I have never heard of a situation where a foundation had no footing. And the piers—well, let's just say I have seen better. What does it mean? It could mean that after you shovel dirt against the hole you will be fine, but critters can dig holes anywhere they want. That would be my last concern. My primary concern is what is holding this addition up. If the foundation was poured directly on-grade, plan on sinking and cracking in short order.
About the critters—there are some that will dig through dirt for days, and gravel—same thing. Wiring around just the perimeter of that addition may be an option for you, however, what are you trying to keep out? Research deterrents for that specific critter before investing time and energy. It'd be a shame to put in wire mesh with too big of holes and the baby pests make it through, for instance.
The year the addition was constructed and the frequency of earthquakes in your area could be an indication of how much I'd be personally bothered by the lack of footings. I've lived in houses built way before today's standards, with crawlspaces that would make today's generation of inspectors faint, and amazingly the buildings are still standing intact, sound, and unscathed.
Of course, by today's standards it's insane to not have footings, however, if that addition has been like that for 20+ years, odds are it'll stay like that for 20+ more. Wrongly done? Yep. How risky? That's up to your judgment. Back out of a contract due to non-disclosure, sue an inspector for not catching it, or realize it's been like that for 30+ years and maybe don't bother with it. The options are wide open. However, if you ever go to sell that house, and you know about the lack of footings and don't disclose it—or a future inspector finds it and lowers the property value accordingly—then it's easily a problem for you. Maybe tuck away funds here and there and save up for a proper footing fix prior to selling.
Sidenote: rumor has it there are areas of some states with little to no building codes. Maybe you're in one of those areas. Good luck either way.
Thanks so much, all. I'm having mixed feelings of dread and shrugging it off. My first task will be to grade the area so as to keep water away. Pests are now the furthest from my mind! It's interesting, though, to think that there is no footing at all. This room backs up to the original part of the home and, that said, what are the chances part of it has footing and part does not? Is that something you all have seen in your time?
And lastly—what is the fix for this situation? We got a great deal on this house and a lot of work has already been done, about $10,000 worth even after the initial remodel. We knew going in there would be more things to do and have money saved/will continue to save and fix things. Obviously this isn't a DIY, but that said—what even IS the fix for this?
Block and beam is common in this area. Piers are often used, but piers just mean a trapezoid shaped precast concrete block set on a 4" thick concrete pad. The pad is usually set a couple of inches into the ground.
Thanks for easing my mind a bit.
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