Inspecting Your Home's Foundation

New Home Inspection

Signing the deed to your new home is an exciting time. After touring several properties, choosing a neighbourhood, and planning your décor, you have chosen the house that you will make your home. You count on having made the right decision and you are ready to move in. You even think of the great parties you can have now that you have a new place. Along with the fun stuff, you have to consider all the responsibilities of home ownership.

Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you or your real estate agent have covered all the potential problem spots in your new home. Knowing the intimate details of your property is a wise move and often a professional home inspection is recommended before you commit to purchase. Hidden problems are not just disappointing, they can be nightmarishly expensive and disruptive.

While you might like the layout of the rooms and the landscaping is beautiful, you should concentrate on the foundation of any potential property. The basement may not be the most exciting area of a home, but it holds all the basic infrastructure of the building as well as literally supporting the structure. You want to make sure it does not have any secret water problems. Not to say the seller is trying to hide anything. Sometimes it is just not obvious.

What to include in your inspection of a basement:

  • Are there cracks in the walls or the floor? Check all the walls and floors including in any crawl spaces. A small crack now may be the first sign of bigger problems later. Cracks grow especially if they have been a conduit for water.
  • Can you see staining on the unfinished walls or floor? If water has been present and then receded, it may have seeped through the walls or floors carrying mineral deposits that stain white or pale yellow.
  • If the basement rooms have been finished, check the flooring for sponginess, check the wall coverings – paint may have started peeling or cracking, wall paper may start to curl on the edges. These are all signs of excessive moisture in the basement.
  • Do the doors meet? Are there air cracks around the window sills? Houses have tendency to settle and this can create an opening that allows water to seep in from outside.
  • Are the door frames and other wooden finishings in the basement solid? Wood that has been wet or exposed to moisture for long periods of time begins to deteriorate.
  • Use your sense of smell. An area, such as a basement, that has been regularly wet or over-moist, can be a breeding ground for bacteria that leads to mold or mildew. Both have a dank, musty smell that can be the siren alert that there is a problem with water.
  • Is there a de-humidifier in the basement? Check out why. It could be a sign that the current owners have tried to reduce moisture in the room. It may not be a major problem but being aware of the issue can be a great protection.
  • Is there a sump pump and operating drainage system? These are both signs that the homeowner has taken steps to reduce the risk. Ask about how often they have been required to operate and how long they have been in place. Sump pumps should have a battery back-up for times of power outages. Also, sump pumps have a life-span of approximately 10 years. You should know if this one needs replacing.

Outdoor inspection

  • Make sure the eavestroughs and downspouts are well installed and drain away from the property’s foundation walls.
  • Is the landscaping too close to the foundation? Trees and bushes may be attractive, but the roots can eventually break through the masonry on foundation walls.
  • Does the soil or driveway around the property slope toward the foundation walls? Water will find the easiest path to take so you want the grade to draw water away from your house.
  • Are the basement window wells installed precisely and clean? Water can enter a basement through any cracks or breaches in window wells or the casements of the windows.
  • How close is the neighbouring property? Is there a potential problem with his landscaping or an overhang from an outbuilding like a shed?

You should be satisfied with the answers to all these points before agreeing to the deal. Water is the source of life, but you don’t want it to be the source of problems for you in your new home. It can damage the integrity of your foundation, anything you have stored in the basement (and let’s face it, we all store stuff in the basement!), and it has to potential to damage you or your family’s health – mold and mildew can cause lung problems.

You can have some of these addressed by having the basement waterproofed before you move in. Companies like City Wide Group specialize in waterproofing basements. They have more than 50 years in the business and a long list of satisfied customers. A family-owned company, they recognize that your home is important to you and you want it to be protected and well maintained. A basement waterproofing project, conducted by City Wide Group, comes with a life-time fully transferable warranty. A good investment now and for the future