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unfortunateluck 08-26-2011 08:29 AM

20 yr old home settled 1" in 3 months...??!!!
Please help! My wife and I moved into a 20 yr old home back in Nov10. Since then, our sewer backed up in our basement and we discovered our west basement wall had several leaking cracks in it.

We had a plumber come out and dig up our front yard to repair the plumbing problem (which was a cracked/disconnect drain line). Then we had a company come out and repair the wall cracks and put an interior french drain in along the leaking wall.

About a month later we found out that the SW corner of the basement was down 1". All three other corners measured fine. We figured the sinking in that corner was probably either the cause or the result of the plumbing leak, and also probably the cause of the west wall cracks.

We had 3 companies come give us bids on piering, and all three suggested the same solution 4-5 pier in that corner area. All 3 companies took measurements and all three agreed that corner was down 1" but all other corners fine. That was in May 2011. Fast forward 3 months. We discovered we have a large void under our front porch that needs to be mudjacked. We hire a company to come out and give us a bid on that. We decided to have him also give us a bid on the basement since he was a piering company.

He takes measurements and tells us that the SW corner is now down 2", and the other 3 corners have also sank - one 1/2", and the other two corners sunk 1". My question is - how is this even remotely possible? He is telling us our 20 yr old house just sunk 1" in a matter of 3 months?! He recommended we have a structural engineer come out and assess. We already scheduled for that, but I'm just completely baffled by this.

The only thing I can think of is that we had a 4.2 mag earthquake here in June, about 1 month after the first three piering companies took their measurements. But even then, I think - well that must mean everyone around us had their foundations shift as well.
My other two "theories" is that it is either a plumbing leak causing the problem, or the fact that we have gone the whole summer without rain, possibly causing the ground to dry out and contract. But again, this house is 20 years old and never settled that much over the last 20 years. Now all of the sudden it has sunk an inch in 3 months? something is not adding up. Opinions/theories/experiences welcome!!!

gregzoll 08-26-2011 09:43 AM

If it happened all of a sudden, I would be contacting my insurance company regarding mine subsidence causing it. Also, it is now coming to light, that a lot of homes were built on top of old landfills, and swamp areas, during that housing boom time.

BigJim 08-26-2011 09:45 AM

I am not as engineer happy as some folks are but this is one time I really do think you will need one to tell you what is going on, as there is no way we can see or know, we would only be guessing.

Marbledust 08-26-2011 09:50 AM

hire a camera guy to look in the sewer pipe to see if it is broken.sounds like you have an under ground river there.

unfortunateluck 08-26-2011 01:44 PM

thanks for responding. Do you think it's possible that the plumbers work didn't "take" when he fixed the original leak in January. And perhaps we've got water just dumping out down there now. I just think it almost has to be caused by something that happened in the last 6 months. This 20 year old house didn't settle more than 1" in one corner for 20 years. Now all the sudden in the last 3 months it has settled 1" almost all the way around. If there were an underground spring, it seems that would have impacted it way before the 20 year mark. and yes, we've had a dry summer, but certainly this house has seen dry summers before without this happening.

dpach 08-26-2011 07:15 PM

Have you changed the landscape around the house at all in the last couple years?

The reason I ask is we have really heavy clay-gumbo soil where I live and 4 yrs ago, my neighbor across the street removed the sod and poured a concrete driveway from the street, passed his house to the back to a new garage he built. 3 yrs later, he came home from a 2 week holiday to find his house sank 4 inches along the side closest to the new driveway (in two weeks). Drywall was cracked all over the house (complete redo was necessary). He had engineers out who bore test holes in the ground below the driveway. They found a large area of very loose soil (like a void that had just collapsed). They determined that removing the sod and covering it with a concrete driveway meant that area no longer soaked up any moisture (no watering and no rain soaking in). Without the moisture (we had 3 dry years in a row), the gumbo soil shrunk so much that it left a void under the pad alongside the house and the weight of the house finally caused it to shift the soil and the house sank.

In our area, after a really dry summer, it is not uncommon to have a 2 inch gap between your foundation wall and the surrounding ground.

It cost him $14,000 to drill holes and mudjack the house back level and fill the void under the driveway, then another $60,000 in repairs to the interior/exterior of the home.

I think the only ones who will solve this for you will be the engineers. They have the experience, tools and equipment.

Good luck.

oh'mike 08-26-2011 07:34 PM

Where on this earth are you? Texas has expansive clay and a drought --houses are sinking all over the place---

A location --soil type and weather conditions would help.

unfortunateluck 08-27-2011 10:40 AM

Thanks everyone. We are in Missouri, but I have no idea what kind of soil we have. I think it is mostly clay but I guess we'll find out when the engineer comes Tuesday. We have only lived in this house since November so we have not made too many major changes. We did have some yard work done on the west side of the house - had our downspouts extended out to the streets and buried. Also had one French drain put in on that same side by our fence gate because the yard would get so saturated and wet right there. Other major repairs were 1- we had an interior French drain pit in along the west wall and 2- we had our front yard (south side of house) dug up 11 feet down to repair our sewer lateral. Those are all the major events since we've moved in (aside from the June earthquake). I truly cannot imagine that minimal yard work made our house sink 1" in 3 months, but I guess stranger things have happened! I sure hope we don't return home one day to find half our house fell down. Ugh!!

unfortunateluck 09-01-2011 12:59 PM


unfortunateluck 09-01-2011 01:10 PM

UPDATE: we had the structural engineer come out and inspect our foundation, as well as our front porch, which spans the lengths of the front of our house and shares one wall of our foundation. There is a large void underneath the porch where the earth has settled, about 12". First off, the engineer asked how the last company had determined our house sank an inch in 3 months. We told him he used a laser level and told us all the corners were down, which differed from the laser level measurements the other basement companies had taken. Right away he said laser levels are an unreliable method to determine movement because they are based on the assumption that everything was perfectly level and without flaw when the house was built. He said that's just not the case usually. He also said that if it settled that much in 3 months, that we would've seen obvious signs upstairs, such as drywall cracks, doors suddenly sticking that weren't before, etc. We do not have any visible drywall cracking upstairs. our front door does stick but that is because the front corner HAS definitely settled. The engineer said it looks like all settling occurred BEFORE we moved in. He recommended a wait and see approach. He said wait a year and monitor (he gave us a method to monitor). If it's still moving, then get the front corner piered. If not, the close the basement back up and enjoy it. He said we wouldn't be causing ourselves any harm by waiting, though I have heard otherwise. He also did NOT recommend mudjacking the porch. He said do it the old fashioned way by getting a load of topsoil and shoving it under with shovels. He said if the ground couldn't support the weight of the porch before, then it's not going to do well with new added weight of more concrete. He also said he doesn't like the pressure involved with mudjacking so close to the foundation. SO>>> I don't know. Seems like every piering company tells us something different and so we hired an independent engineer and still don't know if we're getting good info. We also thought it was weird because he took NO measurements, he used NO equipment, etc. Just eyeballed everything. It is a reputable firm though who has been in business 30 years. anyone have thoughts on any of this?

ghostlyvision 09-01-2011 06:21 PM

What methods did he give you to monitor it? I'm not an engineer or anything, just one of those Texans Mike mentioned whose house sunk 2 inches this summer, we had to have 11 piers installed along the back and sides of the house to bring it back to level. We didn't get cracks in the drywall per se, but the tape lifted and kind of scrunched in quite a few places and doors were sticking, front porch trim separating, as well as the vertical brick joint on one side. What a very scary time that was (actually not quite two months ago), I can empathize with you and your plight. I would personally be shovelling dirt under the porch to fill that void, other than having another engineer inspect your house, not sure what else you can do.

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