What Happens When A Spring Is Found Under New Construction?

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

What happens when a spring is found under new construction?

In the Washington DC suburbs all the lots in a few counties have all been used for development, commercial or residential.

As such, in older neighborhoods, if one wants to live there, but not in the small house built there many decades ago, one buys the lot in a desired neighborhood, razes the former house, and builds a new house.

Many developers are doing this, buying all the houses on a street and building newer, larger homes, sometimes taking up two former lots.

Such was the case of this house.  It was a 6500 sq ft home built in an older neighborhood in a Virginia suburb of DC.

During home inspections I sweep the entire house with my thermal camera, Mighty Mo.

This is what I saw in a finished basement room.  The door on the top right corner goes to the furnace room.  It is a large room, about 20'x30'

The blue you see indicates cooler temperatures, which, in this case, meant moisture.  You can see that the wall and carpet were wet.

The moisture meter registered 100% moisture in the walls, and jumped to 30% on the wood, indicating that the moisture content exceeded 30%.  The gage for wood only goes to 30% because wood is considered saturated at 28%.

Further, the moisture meter indicated 24% moisture in the sill plate in the furnace room, just about where the red and yellow meet in the wall in the thermal image above.

What did all this mean?

That basement wall hid a steel beam.  It had four columns.  The foundation wall supported it near the door in the image above. 

The next support was a column about 2' to the left of where the red and yellow meet above.   The problem was that the column was not visible, hidden by the walls of the room, the furnace room, and on the other side a staircase going to the middle level.

The base of the column, of course, passes through the basement slab, into the soil below.

My analysis was that water was percolating up from the base of the column to wick into the wood, wall and carpet nearby.  The carpet in this house had only been there a week.

THAT IS A HUGE PROBLEM!

What to do?  Obviously a geotechnical (soils) engineer needed to be called.  His analysis?  Water was percolating up from the base of the column to wick into the wood, wall and carpet nearby!  Gee, the home inspector was right!

This house was built on top of a water source, likely a spring!

Prior to building soil needs to be studied to determine density, strength and moisture content.  It has to support a structure, but also one doesn't want water infestation into a home.  Was such a test done here?

The solution?  Now a sump pump needs to be installed, separate from the other sump pump in the house.  It will need to be located near the column, and plumbed to send the water outside of the house.  At this point such an installation is not easy!

Would this problem have eventually been found?  Yes, living in the property the homeowner would have felt the wet carpet at some point, or mold would have developed. 

BUT THE HOME INSPECTOR FOUND IT BEFORE THEY MOVED IN!  WITH A THERMAL CAMERA!

My recommendation:  a thermal camera can be a crucial tool to use during a home inspection, and by a thermographer who is trained, certified and experienced.  It is not point and shoot technology.  A lot goes into device usage and image interpretation.  This home inspector has had builders look him in the face and say home inspectors "should not be allowed to use thermal cameras."  Unbelievable.  Would you want to move into this house and inherit this problem?  Mighty Mo wins again!

 

 

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. Sally K. & David L. Hanson 03/03/2019 03:38 AM
  2. Barbara Todaro 03/03/2019 08:17 AM
  3. Marte Cliff 03/11/2019 09:50 PM
  4. Roy Kelley 05/14/2019 01:00 AM
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Tags:
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foundation moisture
thermal image inspections
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Rainmaker
1,834,054
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Thanks Sharon.  Lucky for them Mighty Mo came along.

Mar 10, 2019 01:24 PM #19
Rainmaker
1,403,717
Kat Palmiotti
Grand Lux Realty, Monroe NY, 914-419-0270, kat@thehousekat.com - Monroe, NY
The House Kat

I love reading your Mighty Mo stories! That camera (and inspector) is great for finding problems.

Mar 11, 2019 03:33 AM #20
Rainmaker
1,834,054
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Mighty Mo deserves his own Caribbean Island, Kat.

Mar 11, 2019 05:23 AM #21
Rainmaker
2,475,470
Myrl Jeffcoat
GreatWest Realty - Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Real Estate Agent

Jay, you bring up good points about the importance of having home inspections.  1986 was an incredibly wet year here.  I will never forget one fairly new neighborhood in our Fair Oaks community, which had been built without the route water would take along the rolling landscape.  There was significant damage.

Mar 11, 2019 06:48 AM #22
Rainmaker
1,834,054
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Myrl - when developers build neighborhoods they must plan in advance for water movement because the original topography changes during construction.  That's a big deal!

Mar 11, 2019 09:26 AM #23
Rainmaker
257,927
Sandra Paulow
Aspen Properties, Inc. - Pinetop Lakeside, AZ
REALTOR, Associate Broker, GRI, SFR

This is not as uncommon as you might think. There are several homes in my area that were found to have a spring under them after construction. During dry season when the homes were constructed it wasn't evident. During wetter times when the water table is high they appeared. Sump pumps and extra circulation had to be added to the foundation to keep mold from forming. 

Mar 11, 2019 06:11 PM #24
Rainmaker
1,509,674
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

To think... had they  paid attention and done what needed to be done BEFORE construction, they'd have saved a bundle of money. That is one sleazy builder.

Mar 11, 2019 08:52 PM #25
Rainmaker
1,834,054
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Sandra - it's very common!  But not so common when people haven't yet moved into the house.  My neighbor's house was built on a spring-fed pond!  In the 15 years they have been there they've probably bought 6 sump pumps.  I have water diverted very well around my house and can't remember the last time my sump pump turned on.

That is the key, Marte.  And this house has had so many problems during contruction that it's March now and it was supposed to be delivered in October!!

Mar 12, 2019 03:00 AM #26
Rainmaker
367,381
M.C. Dwyer
Century 21 Showcase REALTORs - Felton, CA
Santa Cruz Mountains Property Specialist

What a mess - so glad you discovered it before the people finished their purchase.    From your comment #26, sounds like that wasn't the only problem you found.

Mar 12, 2019 10:41 AM #27
Rainmaker
1,834,054
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Miss M.C. - there were problems!  These folks had me by more than once.  When buyers see problems imagine what the inspector sees?!

Mar 12, 2019 02:08 PM #28
Ambassador
3,914,467
Jeff Dowler, CRS
Solutions Real Estate - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Hi Jay:

That's quite a story, and a big problem. It's another great exmple of why a home inspection on any home is vital.

Jeff

Mar 20, 2019 07:28 AM #29
Rainmaker
1,834,054
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Thanks, Jeff.  We never know what we will find!

Mar 20, 2019 10:13 AM #30
Rainmaker
5,264,096
Roy Kelley
Realty Group Referrals - Gaithersburg, MD

Thank you very much, Jay, for sharing this experience.

I will schedule a May reblog.

Apr 05, 2019 05:21 AM #31
Ambassador
1,611,684
Joe Pryor
The Virtual Real Estate Team - Oklahoma City, OK
REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties

Jay, back when I was selling homes there were neighborhoods like this. In 1970s homes they had metal ductwork in the slab and invaribly you would see extreme rust that required the heat and air to go overhead.

Apr 08, 2019 09:05 AM #32
Rainmaker
1,834,054
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Thanks Roy.

Joe - there are still neighborhoods around here with those and they are almost always a big issue.  I take a few photos to demonstrate what happens to the duct underground and buyers are shocked.

Apr 08, 2019 09:41 AM #33
Rainer
6,800
Thomas Maloney
Supercheap Storage South Brisbane - Sydney, AU

This is why intense proper checks need to be carried out prior to redeveloping the area. It could already be far too late to do anything once you discover that you are basically living on top of water. Huge costs would be incurred should you need to salvage the new place you have just called home.

Apr 15, 2019 11:43 PM #34
Rainer
6,800
Thomas Maloney
Supercheap Storage South Brisbane - Sydney, AU

This is why intense proper checks need to be carried out prior to redeveloping the area. It could already be far too late to do anything once you discover that you are basically living on top of water. Huge costs would be incurred should you need to salvage the new place you have just called home.

Apr 15, 2019 11:44 PM #35
Rainmaker
1,834,054
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Interestingly, Thomas, this new house was built on the lot of an older property in an older neighborhood.  The previous house had probably been there 60 years, and all the houses in the neighborhood are about that age.  In that county there is no more land for new development, so builders buy properties, raze them, and rebuild a new home on the site.  This is one such home.

Apr 16, 2019 02:24 AM #36
Rainmaker
1,153,835
Sheri Sperry - MCNE®
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Sedona, AZ
(928) 274-7355 ~ YOUR Solutions REALTOR®

Hi Jay Markanich - This is a great service to have especially if you suspect a water source under a house.  Very informative post!

May 14, 2019 07:36 AM #37
Rainmaker
1,834,054
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

We didn't suspect it, Sheri, but I do a thermal image sweep on every house to detect things not seen by the natural eye.  And this was found!

May 14, 2019 07:37 AM #38
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Jay Markanich

Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
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