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I am buying an already-built new home. I find this in the basement. The builder says it's okay, but I am really concerned. Is this really a big issue? What steps would be required to repair it?

This house is close to the retention pond. Is that the reason why the soil is getting soft?

enter image description here

  • 11
    What does this post do, when was it put in and why. – Mazura Sep 1 '15 at 5:08
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    Note that, now that this has been pointed out, they may be obligated to actively disclose it to other potential buyers. If so, they may be highly motivated to make a reasonable deal. – keshlam Sep 1 '15 at 5:29
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    A couple things: where is the house located? i.e. is it in an area with sinkhole activity, sandy soil, etc. Second: home inspectors are worthless for this sort of thing (they are not required to have the training or education, nor are they liable for anything in the inspection report, or at least that's the case in my experience in MA and FL). You need a structural engineer. – Colin Young Sep 1 '15 at 12:56
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    This isn't an immediate cause for concern if the rest of the foundation doesn't have any structural problems. This post is placed directly on the concrete slab, which appears to be an inferior quality. The concrete itself is either too soft, or the slab was not poured thick enough in that area. The slab is basically just a floating floor. The actual support of the foundation is in the footings. This problem could probably be fixed by installing a temporary post, and then digging out the area and pouring proper footings below to support it. You should have an engineer test the concrete. – Jason Hutchinson Sep 1 '15 at 20:28
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    There's a lot of knee-jerk speculation going on here, without anyone having answered my first three questions. – Mazura Sep 1 '15 at 22:33

11 Answers 11

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I'm not familiar with USA house construction methods (I live in the UK) but speaking as a mechanical engineer, I wouldn't even stand near that thing while debating how safe it was.

That bolt is presumably supposed to be fixing the post against it popping out sideways. I suppose it was meant to be bolted to a metal beam underneath the concrete. So either that whole beam has sunk, or all the rest of the concrete floor has heaved up for some reason (ground water underneath. maybe?) or there isn't any beam there at all, and it's just an undersized-looking bolt sticking into a bit of broken concrete.

It looks to me like it's just waiting for the right moment to make a nice loud PING as the post flips out sideways and the whole floor above it collapses.......

One more thing. That metal post didn't get longer by magic. So if it has pushed a hole in the floor, whatever is on top of it must have settled. That could mean the whole house is sinking unevenly for some reason.

  • 3
    Looks like the bolt is (here in the States) a "redhead". which is basically an expansion fitting bolt. When installed and slammed with a hammer a bushing expands wedging the threads tight. Maybe this what started the failure. – ojait Sep 1 '15 at 2:24
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    OK, I found a web page describing what a "redhead bolt" is (and there isn't a metal beam underneath). But with the cracking, it's not "anchoring" into anything except a bit of loose concrete. – alephzero Sep 1 '15 at 3:19
  • Good job pointing out that the post sinking and leaving a space at the joist. Looks like a 1-1.5 inch drop? – ojait Sep 1 '15 at 3:23
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    I'd be embarrassed to admit how many jacks I've got in my basement. However, NONE of them are secured to the floor; it's unnecessary. The joist's blocking is sufficient to keep the house from buckling (or the blocking is insufficient). If you've ever tried to knock a temp support post out with a hammer, you'd know just how not-going-anywhere they are. The 'ping' already happened when the slab cracked. – Mazura Sep 1 '15 at 22:44
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This should make the hairs on your neck stand-up. What my first thought was is the sand fill that the concrete was floated on has been undermined. Is there a sump pump well in the basement? And if so, do you live in an area that gets a lot of rain? Also, what's missing from that photo ( that hasn't been installed) is a concrete footing of some sort to distribute the weight from the floor joists. The metal column was forced into the floor because: 1) a void under the slab was eroded and 2) the column wasn't seated on a footing. Too be absolutely safe have an inspector look at it. But I'd be very concerned about this issue. Something is very wrong.

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    +1... If it was just a footing that needed to be replaced, that would be relatively straightforward. But the thing that would cause me to worry is that it seems very likely that the foundation was poured badly, and a bad foundation is a recipe for future problems. If it was me and I had the opportunity to walk away, I would. (An assurance in writing is great, but if the builder just happened to go out of business in a year, you'd have no recourse.) – Aloysius Defenestrate Sep 1 '15 at 0:57
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    Yes, there is a sump pump in the basement, and it is NOT an area with a lot of rain. I don't know how to get out of this mess at this point. I have already put in BIG earnest money that I don't think I can get back, plus I have already sold my current house. I will be homeless in one week!!! I will have a structural engineer to take a look on Wednesday. I just don't understand how this has passed the city's inspection!!!??? – John Sep 1 '15 at 4:05
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    @John: If you've found a serious flaw (poorly-laid foundation is a serious flaw) that was not disclosed when you put up that earnest money, I'd be shocked if you couldn't pull out on the basis of it. But check with your lawyer, I get shocked by these things sometimes. – T.J. Crowder Sep 1 '15 at 8:29
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    T.J.Crowder's comment is good advice and at this juncture I think your best recourse in getting your money returned. If not....ohhh, next stop Litigation. – ojait Sep 1 '15 at 14:35
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Definitely get a home inspector to look over tbe place; there may be other damage from this subsidence...

If the price is attractive enough that you'd consider trying to have this redone properly, I'd suggest getting an engineer who know the local soil and hydrology to look at it and tell you what it'd cost to redo this properly. Better to spend a few hundred up front making sure it can be repaired than to spend a few hundred thousand in buying the place only to discover it can only be torn down and rebuilt.

And the engineer's estimate is a good argument for having them lower the price to cover that work.

(I've got a few columns in my own basement, but they seem to be staying where they were put.)

  • 1
    There's two reasons you use a screw jack: bouncy floors and subsidence. The first would concern me less than the second, but they both should be addressed by a home inspector. – Mazura Sep 1 '15 at 5:08
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    I keep trying to make an answer for this, but it always ends where yours begins: inspector -it could be nothing; it could be everything. I'm with the builder though. If it was add-on support for a bouncy floor/heavy temp load above, ect. then w\e, yea it cracked the slab. Thousand bucks off the price, maybe. E.g., {in the accent of my favorite contractor}: "You want taken out? (upstairs gonna be a 'lil bouncy, I'm telling you)... Ok, we take out, patch floor. Then it's ok for you?" ... "thousand bucks, this guy, koodva..." It should be tightened periodically, until a footing is poured. – Mazura Sep 1 '15 at 23:34
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    Actually, an inspector should be brought in before buying any house, new used or whatever, to help find the things you didn't think to look for. In this case I might jump straight to engineer, but bring in the inspector first to find out if there's anything else the engineer needs to look at. Personally I don't like lally columns if they can be avoided -- a bouncy floor is sloppy/cheap engineering, and can be handled by sistering joists. – keshlam Sep 2 '15 at 0:37
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If your gut is telling you to run then run. But if you are still thinking about purchasing the house I would make sure that the builder gives you something in writing to back up what he/she is saying. If they are wiling to put it in writing then all is good, as long as they can be found if something does go wrong. Also ask the builder for the compaction tests on the soil, a test on the concrete for slump and test on the cured concrete for how much weight it can withstand (can not remember the name of the test). Ask to see these tests and ALL of the city inspection done during the build. If the builder gets mad or evasive tell them to forget it and call the city.

"A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on."
--Misattributed to Samuel Goldwyn

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    Unless your own attorney looks over and approves whatever the builder writes, then the contract is worth about what the paper is worth. – Johnny Sep 1 '15 at 1:27
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    Thanks to everyone here! I don't want to put my wife and my kids into this much uncertainty, no matter how low the price can get! The house is in a very nice neighborhood, very good school and the builder has a good name locally. I just don't understand how it could end up like this!!! – John Sep 1 '15 at 4:33
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    @John Keep us posted! I think a lot of us here are genuinely concerned/interested in how this shakes out! – BrownRedHawk Sep 1 '15 at 15:09
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    This is what I got from the engineer on the builder side: "The basement floor of this home is a non-structual slab on grade and the observed cracks in the floor are related to soil swell and non-structual." I will have my structure engineer come tomorrow – John Sep 2 '15 at 0:48
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    The floor is nonstructural. The column is structural. Unless there are footings under the floor to support this column, they haven't answered the question you were trying to ask. – keshlam Sep 2 '15 at 2:38
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This may be a problem or non-problem depending on the foundation construction. You'll be much better off consulting an expert who knows how foundations are built in your area and how to diagnose them.

One option is that the foundation is designed with separate large thick concrete pads that bear the load and then the space between them is filled with concrete just to cover the ground. In this case the failure you see may be no big deal - the pads still carry the load as intended and they slightly sunk into the ground. If they sunk evenly - that's likely okay. The filling between the pads gets no load from the above so surely it cracked and separated.

Another option is that the foundation is designed to be a single enforced concrete plate under the whole house. In this case the failure you see shows that there's little or no reinforcement in the concrete and it is not strong enough to bear the load. The house has good chances of sinking into the ground unevenly and collapsing at some point.

TL;DR consult an independent expert.

  • Assuming there's an adequate footer for the post this might not be that big of a deal, if that's all it ever moves. Some shoring on the framing above would be in order then. Another bolt wouldn't hurt. tl;dr: as as a buyer: consult. +1 – Mazura Dec 8 '18 at 0:32
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No this is not okay - especially for a new house. If the builder is saying it is okay, run away from this house because you have no idea what else they have screwed up. You can't put a post on a slab if it is structural (i.e. not decorative). A concrete slab is not designed (and shouldn't be) to handle structural loads like this. The concrete looks fine. If it was crushed into a fine powder under the post, it would be a sub-standard concrete issue. This is really poor construction technique (as in not sure how it passed the building inspection - which in our town is pretty good).

It is an easy fix though requires some hard work and doesn't need a structural engineer (though I am one) unless it is an unusually designed house (e.g. significant cantilevers/very large open floor plan) - but given the concerns of the person asking the question, he definitely needs to get a good carpenter/builder to do this work according to the local building codes which specify the footer and post requirements.

Get some jackposts for temporary supports beside it. Make SURE you put nice big blocks of wood under them to spread out the load on the slab and that they are carrying the load from the load-bearing walls/columns above. Take off the current post, dig out out a footer for the post (sized according to the building codes - but probably around 2'x2' and 12" deep but the actual measurements will be completely determined by the structural loads being supported and the soil. Put the post back in (built up out of wood or steel/concrete). You generally only use jackposts when you are trying to slowly re-level up a house.

If you have a good sense of construction/building and can read building codes books reasonably well (unlike the builder for this house), this is a simple DIY project.

  • 2
    If the house was older, I would think that the floor might have been sound but a little bouncier than the owner wanted, the owner put in a jack post to intending make the floor less springy but over-tightened the post. If the floor would be sound without the post, the post may be a bad fix for a marginal-but-adequate build. In a new build, however, that post would smell trouble to me. – supercat Sep 2 '15 at 16:55
  • Completely agree, this would be a bad fix on an older house to level up the floor, but it would be completely reasonable to buy the house and fix that issue correctly. – William Sep 3 '15 at 17:33
  • I like the first paragraph of this answer. But then the rest of it assumes stuff that I can't assume. Perhaps this is just due to my lack of knowledge of the use of jack posts in basements, but to me the post looks structural and I worry what the hell the post is doing there in the first place. With the assumption in this answer that it's ok as long as you put in a proper foundation for the post, I don't feel able to upvote. – AndyT Sep 4 '15 at 10:48
  • You are correct - my assumption is that the post is supporting a structural beam. The post is reasonably sized for a very heavy load (which is being transmitted to the slab given the cracking seen). If the beam exists, is it correctly placed? Are there enough supports? Given this really bad construction, is the house okay? In my opinion, first paragraph applies. Fixing the lack of a good foundation for a structural post is not hard in case someone else sees this on an older home which is why I added that in. – William Sep 5 '15 at 15:05
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One thing that I have learned in my short life, is that when you are buying a house, always put in clauses so you can get out/get money removed from the asking price if something like this is found to be wrong. With a home inspectors and an engineers opinions, you may be able to get a sizable portion of the price of the house knocked off.

Not an expert opinion, but the general way to fix this would be to support the main beam of the house with several posts, remove this current post, cut out a portion of the floor, dig down, pour a good footing, and then replace that post.

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I'd like to add another vote for "this looks bad". To proceed with buying the house, get a written report from an engineer and they use that to get it fixed, or get an allowance at closing to get it fixed. Are there other support poles that the same thing could happen to?

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That is a massive issue

I don't now what the load on that post is but I know they don't just put them in for show. That's an integral structural member have your support system in your house. The fact that the Builder says it's okay would scare the crap out of me. I wouldn't even consider buying that house because that statement speaks volumes of the builders quality of work.

This is what a footing is supposed to look like for the structural postenter image description herewww.cottagelife.com

Footings will vary in size depending on the ground conditions. In my area our soil is mostly clay or sand we don't have much in the way of aquifers and we don't get sinkholes in the middle of the street. a typical size for a foundation in my area is approximately 24" by 24" by 1 foot thick, reinforced with rebar. The biggest one I've ever seen was 3 feet by 3 feet and two feet thick reinforced with rebar.

Keep in mind that the ground didn't rise around the post. If that were to happen it would have just pushed up the house. Your house has sunk and everything above that post has dropped along with the it.

The repair

First you need to have an engineer tell you how big of a footing you need and the engineer should also be able to tell you the method for repairing it. Usually it would involve something like, building a false wall on either side supported by multiple adjustable Jack posts where you would jack up the house to the correct height. You would then cut the concrete excavate the appropriate amount of dirt, gravel or whatever and then pour the appropriate footing. In my neck of the woods structural member designs need to be certified by somebody in case something awful were to happen. A finger needs to be pointed at somebody. The engineers and architects design a plan and give it the stamp of approval. If that plan is followed and something awful happens they are responsible, if the plan was not followed then whoever did the work is responsible. For some reason city inspectors don't often get the finger pointed at them even though they pass the inspection.

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You don't give very much information, but just looking at the photo the "foundation" looks like crap. It looks like it is way too thin and the concrete is cheap. Of course, that is the construction style in America now, build crap houses out of crap plywood on crap "slabs" 2-inches thick then wire the whole thing with crap Romex and plumb it with crap PEX pipe. Welcome to the brave new world where houses only last for 30 years.

The collapse is due to subsidence. There is no telling how bad it could be. There will already be damage to the house due to settling.

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    I agree with you about skimpy slabs and the low-quality plywood we get from the Far East these days, but what's wrong with Romex and PEX pipe? There's no alternative to Romex AFAIK unless you want to go back to '40s-style cloth insulation. And I remember when PEX came on the market, it was sold as a huge improvement in durability and safety over PVC without the cost of copper. – dodgethesteamroller Sep 2 '15 at 1:35
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    @dodgethesteamroller Copper is far superior to PEX, especially in durability. I use thin wall EMT whenever I do electrical work. It is much safer, sturdier and long lasting than ROMEX. Also, you can run new wires in EMT whenever you want and it is just as safe and high-quality as the old wires. ROMEX in old work is always a complete hack job. Wires hanging loose in walls, etc. In 30 years all the ROMEX they are installing now will be all yellowed and cracking and starting fires. – Tyler Durden Sep 2 '15 at 3:03
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    I think it is funny modern hack electricians criticize Greenfield and other older kinds of wires, while they install crap ROMEX. In truth Greenfield lasts 10 times as long as ROMEX. You think Greenfield is a fire hazard? In 30 years ROMEX degrades and cracks creating fire and shorting hazards. Every single wire in the walls of the house will be in that condition. If you are installing ROMEX in old work and not attaching it properly to studs, so it is just hanging loose, it will be even more of a fire hazard in 30 years. – Tyler Durden Sep 2 '15 at 3:07
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    @dodgethesteamroller Yes, but the conduit prevents the fire from spreading. The problem with something like cracked Romex is that it can lean against a wooden stud and get hot. With conduit the steel prevents the wire from coming into contact with anything flammable. Also, the steel of the conduit soaks up and disperses heat, preventing hotspots from building up. The plastic on Romex is the opposite, its an insulator, so if a short occurs the heat will build up. – Tyler Durden Sep 2 '15 at 21:15
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    @TylerDurden Apparently you've never seen burn tests done on EMT. While it holds up better than nonmetallic sheathed cable, it's no magic bullet. – Tester101 Sep 3 '15 at 2:33
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Run away and do not look back. Anyone showing a new home with a flaw such as this is waiting to sell someone a "bridge". This is a text book scenario of Buyer Beware

  • Any advice on why the problem is occurring? Or how to correct it? Suggestions with more specific detail that pertain to home improvement and general construction issues would be helpful and more up voted. – ojait Sep 20 '15 at 0:41

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