When to Walk Away from Foundation Issues (Expert Advice)

May 25, 2021

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Potential homebuyers often wonder when to walk away from foundation issues, knowing that repairs are sometimes costly and that foundation damage only gets worse over time. A homeowner might also wonder how needed foundation repair affects their chances of selling a home, so you know when to invest in foundation fixes and don’t lose potential offers and bids.

A potential homebuyer might walk away from a home with foundation issues if repairs are out of their budget; however, you might invest in foundation repair for a new home if it offers other features you need, such as a prime location. A home seller might also lower their asking cost significantly, making a house with foundation issues worth the investment.

As with any other issues or needed repairs, there is no “one size fits all” answer about when to walk away from a home with foundation damage, and when you might still consider its purchase. Your best option is to learn a bit more about foundation damage including repair costs, so you can then make an informed decision when home shopping.

structural engineer doing foundation inspection

It’s also vital that you read an inspection report carefully and ensure you know what it contains. A property inspector will not tell you if you should purchase the home but can explain their findings in detail, ensuring you know what it contains. You can then discuss your options with a real estate agent or attorney, and know you’ll end up making the best decision for you and your family.

When Should I Be Concerned About Foundation Problems?

Foundation issues don’t always mean that a home is a poor purchase, as some repairs are relatively easy and inexpensive. Other repairs might be costlier but if the home has other features you love, it might be worth the expense and hassle to address those repairs.

Note a bit of added information about foundation damage and when potential repair costs might be a concern. As always, discuss this information with a foundation repair contractor near you, so you can get expert advice about a home before making a buying decision:

  • Hairline cracks in concrete are not altogether unusual and don’t necessarily indicate severe damage. However, if the cracks are in a zigzag pattern or deep enough to insert a coin, they will typically need extensive repairs.
  • Deep foundation cracks let in moisture that often results in wood rot and mold growth. If a foundation is suffering from severe cracks, chips, and other gaps, the home might also need framing replacement and mold cleanup!
  • A weak foundation allows a home to settle and sink along one side or the other. This can mean interior and exterior wall cracks, damaged flooring and roof materials, and even cracked plumbing pipes. These repairs can also become very costly, even after the foundation damage itself is addressed.
  • If a home has settled or shifted, it might then need house leveling, to return it to a level position; this can be in addition to patching foundation cracks and chips and correcting other resultant damage.

Why Does a Foundation Crack?

cracked foundation

Homebuyers might also note the reason for foundation damage and if this has been addressed where possible. While foundation concrete can break down due to age, other factors can damage concrete prematurely. If these factors haven’t been addressed, you will need to invest in added fixes or face repeated foundation repair costs over the lifetime of home ownership!

  • Moisture collecting around the home’s perimeter can soften cement binders in concrete, leading to cracks and chips. A property might need better grading or a French drain installation, to let rainwater and moisture in the soil drain away from the home.
  • Undersized gutters let rain and melting snow wash over their sides and then collect and pool around the foundation, risking water damage. New gutters can ensure water is directed to attached downspouts and then away from the home.
  • Concrete can absorb moisture and humidity trapped inside a home, especially if it collects in the basement or lower levels. If the home’s roof vents are not blocked or damaged, a high-quality dehumidifier or sump pump installation can help remove that humidity from interior spaces.
  • Overly dry soil or soil not compacted properly might not support concrete foundations as it should. Adding fresh topsoil and other treatments can keep a property’s dirt strong and stable.

Living In a House With Foundation Problems

Foundation problems won’t necessarily collapse a home, but this doesn’t mean that a house with a damaged foundation is necessarily safe for occupation. One consideration is if cracks in the foundation have let in enough moisture to risk mold growth; mold is damaging to building materials and also unhealthy for a home’s occupants.

Foundation cracks can also let in bothersome pets including insects and rodents. These are also unhealthy, as many such pests carry diseases and can spread germs and bacteria through your home. While not necessarily dangerous, wall and ceiling cracks resulting from a damaged foundation can also let in outside heat and cold, making interior rooms very uncomfortable, interfering with healthy sleep at night.

living in home with foundation issues

House Collapse Possibility From Foundation Issues

While it is possible, rarely does a house collapse from foundation issues. Instead, a very weak foundation will allow a house to shift to one side or the other, and then begin to settle or sink into the ground.

While this settling doesn’t mean a home is likely to outright collapse, it does pull on walls, ceilings, roofs, and even plumbing pipes, resulting in cracks and other such damage, as said. In extreme cases, sections of the ceiling or the home’s roof might crack so severely that they cave in underneath that damaged area.

Basement walls that have absorbed water over the years might also begin to bow toward the home’s interior. This bowing motion weakens those walls so that they might eventually crumble. This is very damaging to the home and can be dangerous to anyone in the vicinity.

Potential homebuyers might also consider that extreme foundation damage might not necessarily be dangerous, but that damage does typically get worse the longer it’s ignored. Secondary damage, including mold growth and cracked building materials, also tend to get more widespread the longer you put off needed repairs.

Cost to Fix Foundation Issues

As with any other damage to a home, foundation repair costs will depend on the extent of damage and the best repair method for addressing needed fixes. Check out some average costs but remember that your overall prices will vary according to your area and house itself.

Foundation crack repair

Foundation cracks less than 1/8” wide are usually repaired with specialty injections that fill those gaps and then harden, protecting foundation concrete while keeping out moisture. Most injections run between $200 and $800 per application or visit, but they will break down eventually and need reinstallation, usually after 5 to 10 years.

Foundation leak and sealing

Sealing helps correct foundation leaks. A foundation repair contractor will excavate the soil around the foundation, insert new drains and fill concrete cracks with a specialty cement. The foundation is then sealed with a waterproof coating. This entire process can cost between $2000 and $7000 on average.

Steel and helical piers

Steel and helical piers are used for sunken foundations. These piers are inserted deep into the ground next to the area of damaged concrete; a bracket at the top of the pier is then attached to the foundation, pushing it back into place and providing added support.

Most piers cost between $1000 and $3000 per piece, so your overall costs will depend on how many piers are needed to correct foundation damage in your home. Helical piers are more affordable than steel but are typically used for lightweight foundations, such as for porches or smaller homes. Most piers should last for decades if not even indefinitely.

pier and beam foundations


Underpinning is similar to steel and helical pier installation, except underpinning places the pins directly under the foundation rather than along damaged areas. A repair contractor will excavate around the home and then use hydraulic equipment to insert the pin under the foundation, and then lift it back into place.

Underpinning is an excellent choice for correcting a severely damaged foundation and the pins should not move or settle any further over the lifetime of homeownership. Most underpinnings found repair services cost between $1000 and $3000 per pin.

House leveling

House leveling or mud jacking is also used to correct a sunken foundation. Specialty slurries are injected under that damaged area; the structure is then lifted, using hydraulic equipment. Once that slurry dries, it hardens and provides added support for the foundation.

House leveling on its own might cost from $500 to $1200 but note that it’s often used along with pier installation or crack repair, for a complete fix. Your foundation repair contractor can note if house leveling is a good choice for your structure.

Repair for bowing basement walls

To keep bowing basement walls from crumbling, a foundation repair contractor will often apply carbon fiber or steel straps across those walls. These straps keep the wall in position while providing added support. Most straps cost anywhere from $350 to $1000 each; your total costs will depend on how many straps are needed for your home’s basement.

Pier and beam replacement

Older wooden piers and beams might absorb moisture over time, eventually cracking, chipping, and rotting. New steel piers and beams offer excellent support for your home and are far less prone to damage. Pier and beam replacement costs usually average between $4000 and $6000.

Older Homes & Foundation Issues

old home with foundation issues

Over time, foundation concrete might break down due to age, exposure to the elements, moisture in the soil, and other such factors. However, this doesn’t mean that older homes have foundation issues automatically, or that you don’t need to worry about the condition of a foundation under a new home.

One important factor is the quality of materials and installation when that foundation concrete was first poured. High-quality materials, poured with enough rebar to provide support over the years, can last for decades if not indefinitely before suffering damage.

How a homeowner maintains that concrete and their property will also affect its condition. If a homeowner is vigilant about keeping excess moisture away from their house, ensuring the gutters are clean and the property graded correctly, this can keep concrete in excellent condition for years. Consistent waterproofing and filling in minor cracks if they should appear can also mean that an older home’s foundation is as good as new.

On the other hand, a newer foundation can also need repairs and other maintenance work, especially if it was constructed with a poor-quality concrete mix. If the soil around the property is overly moist or if the homeowner added weight to the home without underpinning the foundation, you might notice premature cracks, chips, and other damage.

How Long Does a Home Foundation Last?

High-quality slab foundations can last 80 to 100 years or more before showing signs of wear or needing repairs, provided a property owner protects that concrete from damage with regular coatings and waterproofing solutions. Poured block footings, typically used to construct basements, should also last as long; however, basements might need added waterproofing solutions including dehumidifiers or sump pumps in the space, to protect them from humidity trapped inside a home.

Many steel pier and beam foundations come with a lifetime warranty, meaning they should never rust, corrode, or otherwise weaken. If you don’t add excess weight to the home and keep the crawl space encapsulated as needed, that foundation could very well outlive you!

Inspecting a home’s foundation thoroughly and asking if the homeowner has waterproofed or ensured proper soil grading, can tell you if you should walk away from foundation issues. Know the cost of expected repairs and if the home seller is willing to negotiate their asking price accordingly while comparing other features of the home, and this will ensure you make the best decision about any potential home purchase.

fixing foundation issues

Mobile Foundation Repair Experts is happy to bring this information to our readers and we hope it helped you decide when to walk away from foundation issues. If you need a foundation inspection or repairs, turn to our trusted Mobile foundation repair contractors. We offer high-quality services at prices you can afford. To find out more, give us a call today.

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