My house has a faulty grade (the top of the foundation if at or below the ground level in many places). It's a very old house (1920 built). The foundation concrete is not steel-reinforced. The previous owner capped the foundation in some places, but before fixing the deterioration in the foundation (efflorescence etc.).

The house has a crawl space, and the pest inspection company found that there is extensive wood-destroying pest damage near the front corners of the house. The repairs for these would cost about $30,000. Part of the reason is that the stucco in many parts also needs to be fixed due to dry rot.

I am wondering if it is wise to spend $30,000 or more to fix this problem without making the foundation better. Isn't the pest problem likely to reappear soon if we don't fix the grade and the foundation? I would rather do everything right and do everything once.

Also, the house is in an earthquake zone, so I wanted to get seismic retrofitting done. Again, this to me means that I should change the foundation first.

What do you experts think? I realize that my question might be very vague, or might not have important details in it for you to answer it. This is the first time I am asking a question like this on this website, so please be gentle. If you comment on the question asking specific questions about the house, I will update the original question.

  • If you don't fix the underlying cause of a problem, the problem is not really fixed.
    – Tester101
    May 22 '12 at 16:24
  • @Tester101: thanks, and I agree. This course of action was recommended by the pest inspection company (I know). I just don't want to put too much money toward a bad idea, but I also don't want to ignore a potentially big problem.
    – user536048
    May 25 '12 at 2:21
  • An open ended question like this may be more appropriate for our weekly chat (project update Thursday).
    – BMitch
    Jul 7 '12 at 17:29

Having the foundation a reasonable distance above adjacent grade is an important aspect of deterring termites (if that is your problem). It will not stop them, but it will make access much more difficult for them. Having wood at or below grade is like leaving your front door open with a big sign on the wall saying "Come on in! Take all you want!"

One thing to maybe consider, especially if you are replacing wood anyway, is to replace all wood too close to grade with pressure treated material that meets the standard for All Weather Wood Foundations. It specifies higher preservative content than typically seen in material available at big home improvement stores, as well as specific standards for the use of corrosion resistant fasteners.


My house was originally built in 1953 and I lived in it for 10 years. It was too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. Drains got clogged easily, Water supply was getting clogged. None of the electrical outlets were grounded, there weren't enough outlets or enough amperage in the breaker box or electrical service. Roof was starting to leak, windows were single pane and leaky. I think there were termites in the walls too. Never mind the complete lack of modern amenities like cable TV and Ethernet wiring.

So I brought the bulldozer and ripped everything out including the foundation and built a new house. Modern windows, insulation, radiant barriers and sealing make a huge difference. I have not used the air conditioner once this year! In the winter, we don't even know when the heat is on because it is so quiet and the thermostat reacts much quicker so we don't feel any drop in temperature before the thermostat feels it and adds heat. Recessed ceiling lights are great.

Unless your old house is historical, I question the value of fixing one thing after another when you probably have to fix everything. Especially in your case if the foundation has so many problems.

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