In addition to helping you find your perfect location and home, we want to help clients be informed buyers and owners—so this post shares what home buyers need to know about foundations.
Shopping for your first home is an exciting time. You enter each new home to count the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, debate the merits of an open floor plan, and compare kitchen upgrades.
One thing you probably don’t give a second thought to—at least initially—is the foundation. Yet the stability of a home’s foundation is one of the most essential aspects of your home-to-be. Issues with a foundation can cost tens of thousands of dollars to repair. Here are the highlights of what you, as a prospective buyer, need to know about home foundations.
Types of Home Foundations in North Carolina
A home’s foundation holds the weight of your house and keeps it in place; it also helps to provide waterproofing to protect the rest of your home from moisture seeping above ground. There are several kinds of substructure, each with its own pros and cons.
The most common found in North Carolina include:
Most of the homes you’ll find in the Raleigh area have a crawl space. This type of foundation is preferred in moist climates because it raises the home a few inches off the ground. It also makes it easier to renovate the home and move water lines. The downside to this type of foundation is that you may find mold or bacteria in the space.
Just like it sounds, this foundation is a slab of concrete that’s laid on the final grade of the home. The concrete is poured several inches deep, and you find thicker concrete and steel rods around the edges, called a footing. The downside to slab foundations is that they aren’t dug into the ground, and you may find your home shifting on a slab foundation if you face extreme weather conditions.
A basement foundation gives you additional living space if it’s finished, or you finish it at some later point. The basement is dug into the ground, so it provides a sturdy foundation for your home. However, if you live in an area with high moisture, it can damage the material of the basement and cause stability issues.
Red Flags! What Home buyers need to know about Foundations
Since the foundation bears the brunt of the home’s weight, you need it to be in tip-top shapes. Also, due to its location, the foundation presents challenges when it comes to repairs.
So when you’re house hunting, find out what type of foundation the home has and, if you really like the house, keep these red flags in mind so you can discuss them with your inspector or structural engineer:
- Cracks in the walls or floors can be a sign that the foundation is shifting or failing in some way.
- In the kitchen or bathrooms, you might notice that the countertops or cabinets are separating from the wall. This could be a sign that the walls and foundation are no longer level.
- Dampness or standing water in a crawl space foundation. You need to find out where the moisture is coming from. If the foundation doesn’t already have an issue, the moisture will soon cause one.
- Raised areas in the foundation are an indication that the earth below is shifting upwards, and could put the foundation’s integrity at risk.
- Floors sag or dip in an area. This sagging, dipping, or unevenness can appear on any level of the home. You might even notice excessive squeaking in a particular area. These can be signs of a problem with the foundation.
- When you find doors that don’t open or close correctly or ones that stick, this might be a sign that the foundation has shifted, causing the frame and door to fall out of alignment.
- Look for gaps in the window frames or around exterior doors; these can also be signs of a shifting foundation.
If you’re considering making an offer but suspect there’s a foundation issue (or your home inspector spots a possible problem), your best bet will be to consult with a structural engineer to get a more complete understanding of the issues, fixes and costs you can anticipate.
Our goal is to help you find your forever home (or right now home), without any surprise issues. This list is a good start for what home buyers need to know about foundations — but if you need a referral to a few qualified inspectors, just let us know.