Buying A Property With Structural Damage

Services for Real Estate Pros with DFW Best Roofing

The first part of the article goes over some basic information everyone needs to do know about structural damage, the second part is a how "to guide" on how to look for structural damage.  Lastly some words about buying homes with structural damage.

If a house has foundation issues then start the repair work with the foundation.  As the foundation moves so does the roof and rest of the house.  So, just make sure the foundation has no issues first.  

Here’s what we know about foundation problems:

-  They commonly occur to homes near creeks or moist land

- Occur to homes without a Sprinkler System

- Occur to homes without a Gutter System

- It is not covered by Home Owner’s Insurance in Texas

- Is extremely expensive

- And finally, must be repaired before replacing a roof

(So make sure you subtract the cost of foundation repair and roof repair from the cost of the house)

Cracks in the Foundation

Finding cracks in your foundation doesn’t immediately signal structural problems. As concrete cures it slightly shrinks, and where it can’t shrink evenly it will crack. So it is important to know the difference between a normal crack in the foundation versus a crack that can lead to structural problems. Hairline cracks found in the mortar between concrete blocks are most likely from shrinkage and are not an immediate threat. Stair step cracks a quarter inch or more are cause for concern and signal movement. Other cracks to be wary of include: horizontal cracks that are caused by hydrostatic pressure from water behind the foundation, and vertical cracks that signal a more serious problem that usually indicates the foundation dropping because of compacting soils. It is best to consult an expert in all cases.  

A Leaning House

As obvious as this sounds, you need to look for if the house is leaning. Is the house obviously leaning towards a side? Use a level on one of the outside corners to check if the walls are upright. When the house was built, contractors should have factored in the settling of a home (every house will settle). It is possible that if a house is leaning it could have settled more than it should have naturally or it could be a sign of poor construction. If you find a bulge in the concrete, this could signal the foundation shifting or soil expanding and contracting around the foundation which puts pressure on walls. There are signs inside the home that signal an uneven settling such as windows and doors that won’t open and close freely.

Two aspects of the roof should be looked at

Sagging Roof

Look at the roof line from across the street. If it appears to sag at the ends or bow in the middle it is possible that the house’s load bearing walls have shifted. These load bearing walls carry the weight of the home, and help keep the structure upright. They may have shifted from their upper support, lower foundation or both. Instead of looking down at the foundation, you should look to the top of a house because if it is a two story the most damage would be on the second floor first.

Rotting Joists

Destruction to joists can be caused by wood rotting or even a bug infestation and can be costly to fix. You can check the joists of a house through a dropped ceiling panel (unless already visible) by poking the wood with a tool like a screwdriver. If you do find that the joists have a bug infestation this could signal that the house has an active infestation and the damage could be more widespread. If this is the case, you will need to consult an expert.

Here is an easy guide to help you locate structural issues.

1) While standing away from the house, also check the ridge line of the roof and the fascia line to look for any noticeable sagging, which is a sign of damage, settlement, or poor construction. It helps to hold up any straight-edged object, like a notepad, when you sight along the building’s lines. The sagging ridge line is likely due to removal of a horizontal structural cross-tie of some kind, such as a collar tie or ceiling joist with purlins.

2) As you walk around the exterior of the house, stop at each corner and look down the length of the wall with your face a few inches from the surface, searching for any areas that are bowing inward or outward.

3) Look for exterior wall cracks, especially ones that have opened more than 1/8”, cracks emanating from the corners of windows and doors, cracks that have one side higher than the other, and ones that show signs of having been repaired but have opened again. Take your time, and be sure to sweep your view up and down as you go along.

4) Test the windows and doors to make sure they open freely. Cracked window panes can be a sign of a buildup of structural stress or movement in a wall. Also, any missing interior doorways should be checked carefully. When the frame is so out-of-square that the door no longer functions, sometimes the door is removed as a quick-fix.

5) Feel the floors under your feet as you walk, both for any sloping areas and soft spots. If possible, have any background music or television sound turned off during the walk-around. This makes it easier to hear any loose floor tile or creaking floor boards.

6) As you examine the interior and note any floor, wall or ceiling problems, try to correlate them with your exterior findings. How do they line up? Does a crack running across a concrete floor, for example, align with any structural distress you observed in the exterior walls?

7) This is not for everyone to do.  If you can get on the roof, and if the slope is low, walk, and try to feel and hear of any sagging, any cracks, and any soft spots.

Spotting a house with structural problems before you buy will save you a lot of time and money. At DFW Best Roofing we provide construction defects repair, roof replacement and more. Please contact us for more information at or by calling  817 381 6855.

While it may be safer to look for houses without structural issues, however, the pay back with the right negotiation skills can be more with buildings that have structural issues.  It is a also very hard to sell a building with structural issues, so it puts the buyer in a good position.  Make sure to get a good contractor or structural engineer is there to help you.  If you need help call 817 381 6855.


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John Pusa
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Crest - Glendale, CA
Your All Time Realtor With Exceptional Service -- Omar Baloch Very good tips for buying a property with structural damage.

Dec 29, 2016 07:59 PM #1
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30,996 -- Omar Baloch

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