When Concrete Stairs Move, The Foundation Can't Be Far Behind

By
Home Inspector with Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC 3380-000723

Heavy things must be founded well.  When they are not, over time, they will settle.

Stoops and stairs are mostly made of strong, heavy materials, like concrete.  And when concrete stairs move, the foundation can't be far behind.

Generally you want stairs such as this to angle slightly away from the house.

That is so water is encouraged away and does not get behind, against the foundation.

These stairs have moved more than it appears from this photo.

They have actually moved quite a bit.

These stairs have moved about 1" away from the house.

But think of the shape of the concrete.  The straight backside against the house is about 3.5' from top to bottom.

As the front of the stairs settles into the soil, and the top of that backside pulls away from the house, the bottom of that same backside is pushing AGAINST the house.

That concrete staircase is very heavy.

It is hard and strong.  It is harder than the concrete block foundation wall, and can push very hard as it settles.

 

The result is a horizontal crack, outlined in red.  This crack appears just where the bottom of that staircase would hit the house.

This crack begins under the one side of the porch and continues behind the wall on the right.

Foundations of concrete block will be subject to outside forces, including water/soil pressure, tree roots or other weight.  In this case the outside pressure is created by a heavy, concrete monolith - a staircase which was not founded well.  It has settled over time, putting pressure in the opposite direction of the settlement.

Try it yourself!  Stand straight, bend at the waist as you put your head forward.  Which direction does your backside go?  It has to to maintain balance.  This staircase stays balanced too. 

Hard to see in the photo, but this crack is 1/4" wide.

That is a lot of foundation movement.

My recommendation:  staircases such as these are subject to the forces of gravity.  They will move if given opportunity.  In this case we could see what was happening to the foundation wall.  Had we not been able to see it I would have suspected this movement you see here.  Look around for yourself if you suspect this too.  You might just see what we saw!

 

 

 

Posted by

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


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Re-Blogged 4 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Rosalie Evans 11/20/2011 07:25 PM
  2. Joni Bailey 11/22/2011 06:25 AM
  3. Dale Taylor 11/22/2011 03:48 PM
  4. Nathan Gesner 09/08/2017 06:40 AM
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Rainer
371,545
Kate Akerly
Kaminsky Group - Manhattan Beach, CA
Manhattan Beach Residential Sales

Jay, I wish you worked in the NYC market!

Nov 21, 2011 02:14 PM #52
Rainer
166,285
Marshall Brown
Mid America Inspection Services, LLC - Fargo, ND
BSEE, CHI

Good catch!

Nov 21, 2011 02:31 PM #53
Rainmaker
180,172
Karen Steed
Tallapoosa, Bremen, Waco, Buchanan, Temple, Carrollton - Tallapoosa, GA
Associate Broker Haralson Realty

It is amazing that you saw that.  I don't know how many inspectors would have noticed the potential for foundation damaage.

 

Nov 21, 2011 03:14 PM #54
Rainer
473,114
Kimo Jarrett
WikiWiki Realty - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

Interesting illustration and observation. It's always something to learn about in AR. Thanks for sharing .

Nov 21, 2011 07:07 PM #55
Rainmaker
1,840,205
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

I see it a lot Reuben, but most often it is the front stoop.

Thank you Mike and Kate, but I doubt I could afford it!

You'd have caught it too Marshall.  I saw the sinking outside, and mentioned it, but obviously we couldn't diagnose it until we got indoors.

Karen - this is where experience comes in.  Physics are physics and pressure is pressure!

And I'm glad you're learning Kimo!  We all are.

Nov 21, 2011 09:13 PM #56
Rainmaker
1,431,110
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes

Interesting.  I often see cracked or shifting stairs on an entry or walk way.  They do not always push up against the foundation.  

Nov 22, 2011 03:53 AM #57
Rainmaker
1,840,205
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Conditions have to be right for it to push Gene, but they can push very hard!

Nov 22, 2011 07:30 AM #58
Rainmaker
223,718
Liane Thomas -Top Listing Agent
BROKER Allison James Estates & Homes BRE 01885684 - Corona, CA
Bringing you Home!

Wow, thanks for the heads up. I would not have known to look for that!

Nov 22, 2011 09:13 AM #59
Rainmaker
683,909
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

A moving post. There are a good many CMU foundations up here in CT, but haven't seen this...yet. 

Nov 22, 2011 10:35 AM #60
Rainmaker
834,932
Bob Miller
Keller Williams Cornerstone Realty - Ocala, FL
The Ocala Dream Team

Hi Jay,  I have to respectfully disagree on this one.  Many a stair was installed unattached and without foundation and may more away from foundation while foundation is still sound. 

Nov 22, 2011 11:55 AM #61
Rainer
73,426
Amy Robinson
London Pierce Real Estate - Scottsdale, AZ
Realtor, Scottsdale Arizona Homes For Sale

Hi Jay,  So what is the prognosis of a home that this has happened to.  Will there be further damage and is it a bad idea to buy?

Nov 22, 2011 12:36 PM #62
Rainmaker
1,840,205
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

I see it a lot Liane.  But mostly front porch stoops.

I don't see the stairs very often Jim, but now and then!

Bob - move away yes.  Move into is the problem.  And the engineer respectfully disagreed with you.   ;>)

Amy - every engineer will have his own way - lifting it up, pushing the wall back, destroying the stairs and starting again.  This engineer wanted the stairs removed and replaced with something wood and not pushing into the wall.

Nov 22, 2011 12:45 PM #63
Rainer
69,042
Gloria Matthews
Principal Property Brokers - Vancouver, WA
MAKING CLARK COUNTY HOME

My own 2 cents?   I think it is a very broad generalization to suggests that the steps are an indication of weakness in the foundation.  They are generally done at different times during the initial construction phase, and the materials (concrete itself), rebar, forms etc, perhaps done by different persons, etc. and the soils and preparation underneath the steps, different than at the base of the foundation.

HOWEVER,   I absolutely would rely on my professional inspector determine if (in a certain instance), that it might be in the homeowners interest to repair or replace steps, as a prevenative maintenance item.

We rely heavily on the expertise of our inspectors and I strongly appreciate the value of my inspector partner.   Our Value as realtors is often related to the professionals we surround ourselves with.

Thanks for this post!

 

Nov 24, 2011 05:01 AM #64
Rainmaker
1,840,205
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Gloria - the stairs are not an indication of the weakness of the foundation.  The foundation is as strong as it can be.  But the weight of the stairs pushed into the foundation at its weakest point, pushing it inward.  This was confirmed by the engineer.

This is a concrete block foundation (some people call them cinder block), so there would be no rebar.  The graphic shows what happened here, and uses concrete block as is present in this foundation.

Nov 24, 2011 10:10 AM #65
Rainmaker
86,458
Walt Fish
Bay Area Home Inspection, LLC - Marquette, MI
Upper Michigan's Most Experienced Home Inspector

Well written post Jay!

Jan 11, 2017 03:12 PM #66
Rainmaker
1,840,205
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

An oldie but a goodie, Walt.  Thanks!

Jan 11, 2017 03:47 PM #67
Rainmaker
560,620
Nathan Gesner
American West Realty and Management - Cody, WY
Broker / Property Manager

This is an older post but still great information. Sharing!

Sep 08, 2017 06:39 AM #68
Rainmaker
1,840,205
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Thank you Nathan, and again for reblogging this!

Sep 08, 2017 03:12 PM #69
Rainmaker
3,214,987
Sally K. & David L. Hanson
EXP Realty 414-525-0563 - Brookfield, WI
WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce

Moving concrete is never a good thing...and something with the shift in temperatures in our area we see a great deal.

Sep 09, 2017 06:53 AM #70
Rainmaker
1,840,205
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

You have different depth codes up there, S&D, for everything.  Your freeze line is much different than ours.

Sep 09, 2017 01:10 PM #71
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Rainmaker
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