Houses on the Market: Do They Have Enough Support?

Published On: July 11, 2022

Have you ever thought about what supports a house—the structure most valuable to you or your clients that holds your most prized possessions, including you or anyone living there? How do you know if you can trust the structural supports beneath a house on the market? Does the property you just listed have enough support and if so, how long will it last? Most of us take for granted that a house is still standing—until there is a problem—and we usually don’t plan to visit the nasty crawl space under the house even if it is in okay condition. So, how do you know if something is wrong with a property’s foundation or if a house needs more structural support? Here are a few things you as a real estate agent can look for without having to dress in a full-body hazmat suit and gloves to check the security of the structure before showing it. We will give examples of houses in need of support as well as a common crawl space repair and its benefits.

Many real estate agents, general contractors, and even average homeowners have renovated older houses in need of a little TLC to flip or create a rental opportunity. These folks have likely seen more houses than not that should have been demolished instead of remodeling. A lot of times, demolition is necessary due to the poor condition of the foundation of an older home on the market. If you’ve seen enough old foundations, you will agree they can be reason for concern. It’s surprising how some of these houses are still standing! Even though the structure survived this long, you shouldn’t offer a structure with poor support to a buyer without first repairing the foundation or structural support system, or at least having a repair plan in place. How do you know if the foundation needs repair if you are not in the foundation repair business? First, check for the obvious:

  • Does the corner of the house sit on one large rock? (You may also find support posts sitting on a rock in the crawl space of an older home, as pictured here.)
  • Do stacks of stone in the foundation look like the last round in a Jenga game? Can you see light through the mortar joints?
  • Are bricks unevenly stacked or wobbling at the corner of the house?
  • Are there old cedar posts still supporting the structure but leaning or sitting directly on the ground? (See photos. Yep, that’s how they used to do it.)
  • Does the older home (not a newer slab home) sit directly on the ground?

These are all signs the house does not have enough support and it may be time for a new foundation. If the house is old and in this much need of repair, encourage your client to start with a general contractor who will quote the installation of a new foundation.

Evaluating a home for additional floor support can be as easy as a walk through the first level floor of the house:

  • Are the floors uneven, sagging, or sinking?
  • Is there a hump in the floor?
  • Do interior doors stick when they formerly could open and close with ease?
  • Is there an interior wall that is suddenly leaning with nearby unlevel floors?

If you are brave enough to venture into the crawl space, you may find a variety of symptoms. Because supports come in different shapes and sizes, such as concrete block, wooden supports, and steel columns, symptoms in the crawl space may vary:

  • Are the concrete block support posts leaning or unevenly stacked?
  • Are the wooden support posts cracked, frayed, or compromised in any way?
  • Are the floors sagging beneath the fireplace? (This is a common sign in older homes where floors are not properly supported.)
  • Are floor joists sagging or bowing where columns are spaced too far apart?

Signs such as these in the crawl space and inside the home hint that the property needs more support through additional floor supports or crawl space structural repairs.

But what if the signs are not obvious that a house needs more support? If the foundation is not in noticeable disarray, here are some additional signs to look for when considering foundation repair:

  • Exterior cracks in the concrete walls of the foundation
  • Exterior cracks in the brick near the foundation
  • Stair step cracks in brick walls
  • Diagonal cracks near a corner that are wider at one end than the other
  • Separation between brick and exterior doors or windows
  • Interior cracks in concrete block or basement walls
  • Interior bowing in basement walls, or leaning basement walls
  • Interior drywall cracking that may line up with exterior cracking
  • Sinking porch, or a porch separated from the house wall

And signs when considering whether a house has enough floor support:

  • Sagging, sinking, and uneven floors inside the house
  • Sticking doors in the same areas
  • Sticking windows in the same areas
  • Interior drywall cracking

Discovering multiple symptoms warrants a call to your local foundation repair company to investigate the health of the foundation. Because crawl spaces come in a variety of sizes and conditions, almost more than the support columns they house, allow the experts to evaluate the strength of the existing supports and the need for additional floor support. You may also check out two other recent USS blogs that go into more depth about floor support and foundation repair: Squeaky Floors: Flooring or Foundation Issue? and Different Types of Cracks.

Once you and your foundation repair project manager determine that the house needs more floor support to improve the integrity of the home, the suggested repair plan may include the installation of adjustable steel support posts, also known as crawl jacks or jack posts, and steel I-beam installation. This common, effective solution typically comes with a five-year warranty on all steel support post adjustments. If the installed steel support posts need adjustments within that five-year period, USS will adjust them under warranty at no cost.

Why would steel floor supports need adjustments? Good question. It takes a thorough, complete repair plan, over a quick fix, to address the causes of sagging, sloping, or uneven floors. Unless a homeowner tackles the root cause of why a house needs more support, structural problems will likely reoccur. Some common causes include:

  • Improper spacing of support columns.
    You may notice the original columns in the crawl space are spaced too far apart, resulting in an overloaded beam, hence the floor sag. With the installation of an additional warrantied floor support column, the floor support repair will remedy most sagging floor problems.
  • Excess moisture in the crawl space or basement.
    Crawl spaces tend to be more humid than other living spaces in the home, which makes them ideal for mold and fungus growth. This growth leads to wood rot, which then leads to sagging and weakened floor joists and beams. If the beams keep weakening, the posts will need adjusting. (See our crawl space repair solutions encapsulation page for more information on controlling humidity in your crawl space.)
  • Unstable and poorly compacted soil beneath the columns.
    Soil compresses over time, causing support columns to shift and settle. To counter sagging floors, steel support post adjustments are made under warranty at no cost, offsetting soil settlement beneath the columns in the crawl space.

If you are unsure about what level of support a house on the market needs, or your client questions the condition of a foundation due to the symptoms they are seeing, call USS to schedule a free consultation. A USS project manager can visit you on site at no cost to help diagnose any structural or foundation problems the home may be experiencing. We can give the property the support it needs. Call USS today for a free estimate!

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