Dear Barry,

I bought a new house from an owner-builder about three years ago. The building consists of concrete block walls on a concrete slab foundation. For quite some time, I’ve noticed white mineral deposits on some on the interior walls around the doors and windows, and moisture on some of the walls when it rains. And recently, some new problems have developed. The Pergo floors are buckling, and some of the electrical outlets are no longer working. I’ve notified the builder of these problems, but he shows no interest or concern. What should I do? Oh, and by the way, the builder is also carrying the note on the property. –Jory

Dear Jory,

It appears that you have some serious construction defects. Groundwater, rainwater or both are penetrating the walls and possibly the slab floor, as well. My first suspicion, without seeing the property, is that portions of the walls and slab are below the outside grade level, that they were not sufficiently waterproofed, and that no ground drainage system was installed around the building. Correcting problems of this kind and repairing the consequential damage to the flooring and the electrical outlets could be very expensive. Without question, it is the responsibility of the builder to remedy all of these problems.

To begin, you need a comprehensive evaluation of the home by a qualified inspector. Given the severity of the current problems and the lack of concern by the builder, a comprehensive inspection is likely to reveal additional defects that have not yet come to your attention.

If the builder is not willing to rectify these issues, you should seek legal advice regarding remedies available by law in your state. If it becomes necessary to hire another contractor to make repairs, perhaps the builder’s note on the property should be reduced to offset your costs.

Dear Barry,

What recommendation can you provide concerning the proper drainage of water away from a foundation and crawlspace? My son is buying an older tract home without any type of drainage or gutters. I’m concerned about potential problems such as foundation settlement, cracking of walls, mold formation and other health concerns. Should we hire an inspector to make an evaluation and, if so, how thorough would such an inspection be? –Stan

Dear Stan,

Home inspectors, if they are competent in their work, routinely look for evidence of faulty drainage conditions, substandard or damaged foundations, moisture damage to building components, signs of leakage, condensation, stains, etc. If seasonal water buildup occurs in the crawlspace, there is usually some evidence of it, even during the dryer season.

For a more comprehensive analysis of ground drainage conditions and the design of corrective drainage systems, you can hire a geotechnical engineer. However, a good home inspector can usually let you know if there is a need for further evaluation by an engineer.

The key, however, is to find a highly experienced home inspector, someone with a reputation for detailed thoroughness. Not all home inspectors fit this description, so check around before hiring just anyone.

To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.

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