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Preliminary Foundation Questions


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Hello everyone,

I stumbled on this site while trying to research some info about home foundation issues.

My husband and I are first time home buyers looking at a foreclosed home. The home is ranch style with, what I would call, a Michigan Basement. There is a standard door to the "basement", but when you get down there, the floor to ceiling height is maybe 6' at best. The floor has wood boards on it and the walls are concrete block. The total area of this space is, in my best estimate, about 10'x12'. Beyond this space, the "Michigan Basement" transitions into more of a crawl space.

The sump pump, water heater, etc are in the Michigan Basement part.

That said, here is my question:

I noticed one of the walls is bowing in approximately 2' from the ceiling in the Michigan Basement and there is a horizontal crack and a hole near the top of the concrete block.

We love the house, but I don't want to take on a disaster. Can anyone point me in the right direction on how to best figure out what this fix would cost?

It seems like there are a lot of "fixes" out there, but I want a real fix that is going to work.

Any suggestions to point me in the right direction with this one?


p.s. I don't have any photos at this time because we only did one walk through and I didn't think to take photos of it.

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I can't imagine the responses are going to be real helpful without some photo's. Sounds like a utility basement to me. Being from the west coast, I have no idea what a Michigan basement is;)

Without actually seeing the bowing, it's really tough to make a call on repair. Are you planning on having a home inspection performed?

I believe Les is in MI just not sure he works your particular area. Great resource for you however.


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Thanks for the reply. I figured I wouldn't get a diagnosis on the problem really, but a referral to an expert in my area would be awesome!

I want to have an inspection before I get too far down a road with a purchase that may be too much trouble.

So, I guess I'm looking for an expert in the metro-detroit area.

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If you can't answer Jim's question with any certainty, a home inspection will be about $400 well spent.

A concrete block wall bowing in, a wood floor with a sump pump, and a dirt crawlspace are all items that need a close look.

Could you move the water heater upstairs? Sometimes, those small spaces were created to house a furnace or boiler. In the past, I have suggested filling the pit would make more sense than keeping a sump pump running all winter.

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From what I can tell, there is soil behind the wall, but the top of the concrete blocks lines up with one of the sides of the house.

I took a second look at it today without my realtor (so from the outside only) and it looks like there are VERY new gutters on the house. That being said, if the gutters didn't exist before, the area that is in question could have been washed out from water running off the roof.

Of course, this is pretty uneducated speculation on my behalf, as I'm no expert, but it does seem to be a logical explanation for the wear.

I really need to find someone to check it out in person...

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A Michigan basement is usually found on a marginally constructed house; they start out as a semi-crawlspace/shallow basement, then the central area is dug out leaving a "curb" or banked earth to hold soil under the perimeter footing/foundation. The 10x12 area she's talking about is probably the central area.

I've seen them banked earth, banked earth with wood retaining walls, or block retaining walls. The "foundation" is usually block of a shallow footing. I owned a few a long time ago.

Most of them relatively easy to fix, as the structures are usually minimal. It's not hard to crib up an old Michigan basement house. It's more about arithmetic than engineering, i.e., is it worth the repair cost relative to the cost of the house.

Les isn't too far from Clarkston; it'd be a couple hour (or so) drive.

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It's just a deep crawlspace with a utility area on a wood platform in one corner. The bowing two feet from the top with a horizontal crack is expansion caused by freezing and expansion of the soil next to the foundation which probably has frost line somewhere around 4ft.

The fix is excavate all of that soil, install proper drainage, repair the wall and backfill it....properly this time. Cost will start around $5K and could be three times that depending on where you live and what the market bears for that kind of work in your region.



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