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HELP my 2 story house is falling apart!

  1. Nov 22, 2005 #1
    My dad is a home inspector, and a few months ago we purchased a 2 story house in arizona. Something is terribly wrong however, because the whole house has huge cracks now. Up the walls, on the floor, we recently peeled back the carpet and to our horror found a 2 inch crack on the floor going all the way through the tile, pieces of tile are falling off and cracking, the windows are cracking.

    I need to know why this is happening..I think the concrete foundation wasnt right..

    and we were never informed of this problem.

    Please help!
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 22, 2005 #2


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    I don't mean to sound facetious here, but if your dad's a home inspector, didn't he inspect it before purchasing?
    There's an entire subdivision in my town where the brand-new houses (5 years or so) have been undergoing the same thing. In that case, it's because the idiots built it on an unstable slope.
  4. Nov 22, 2005 #3


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    Cracks normally would be okay, as the outer concrete doesn't have much to do with structural integrity, but if your windows are cracking, I think thats a sign that your house is structurally deforming... not good.
  5. Nov 22, 2005 #4
    The cracks are popping up everywhre, the walls, the floor, the windows, I doubt its ok

    And to the other person, my dad did not inspect the house, another inspector did.
  6. Nov 22, 2005 #5


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    Well, up here the sale would probably be negated since you did take the precaution of having it inspected (no caveat emptor fault). Otherwise, hold the inspector liable for your losses. Passing the structure was in fact his way of professionally advising you to buy it, so it should be his responsibility. Sue him for (negligence? malpractice?) if you have to. I don't know how the law works where you are.
  7. Nov 22, 2005 #6
    My dad said we can't do that because the cracks just appeared; they werent there when the inspector inspected it..
  8. Nov 22, 2005 #7
    Theres a large crack that goes fromt he doorway to the other side of the house, and its post tension concrete and its cracked all the tile, its only been 8 months since we moved in. It was just tile before we moved in.

    Its dropped a quarter of the inch, and the doorway barely opens now. We have slight heaving about an inch or so. We cant understand why post tension concrete has failed. We have expansion soil but that shouldnt be it.
  9. Nov 22, 2005 #8


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    Okay, this sort of thing once again isn't exactly in my field, but shouldn't there have been some sort of indication that it was going to happen? I'm thinking along the line of warped studs, uneven concrete, nearby sinkholes, improperly aligned doors, etc..

    edit: Oops, just saw your last post. How about corrupt construction companies? Maybe they're part of that crowd that uses sub-standard materials. The concrete might look fine, but it has the strength of a sandcastle.
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2005
  10. Nov 22, 2005 #9
    "My dad says: How can post tension concrete fail"
  11. Nov 22, 2005 #10

    we noticed a gap in the grout, and eventually it dropped as quarter of the inch. (The doorway)
  12. Nov 22, 2005 #11
    He wants to understand the physics behind post tension concrete and how it can fail..
  13. Nov 22, 2005 #12


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    Well, I hope things turn out for the best. You're out of my knowledge arena completely now. (Anyhow, it's time to go for a beer. :biggrin: )
  14. Nov 22, 2005 #13


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    Post tensioning, to my knowledge, is simply adding rebar or some other tension load carrying insert to the pour. The rebar takes the tensile load that concrete is pretty lousy in taking.

    Concrete, no matter what the use, can fail in many ways, especially if the mix is done improperly. By the sounds of your story, this happened all at once? I find that very hard to believe. Is your area prone to sink holes or small earth quakes? An entire house doesn't just shift overnight. Is this house less than a year old? I would start hunting down the builder and calling up the local inspector's office to start checking on the permits pulled to build the house.

    Cracks in new constructions are very common. There's nothing you can do about them. However, yours seem very severe. I know in Michigan and where I used to live, New York, you can not hold a home inspector liable for damage he or she did not find. You are stuck with the purchase unless you can prove that the homeowners lied on their condition statement (we call it a seller's disclosure here). Good luck doing that.

    There is a lot out there as far as information. I did a quick Google and came up with this:

    http://www.vsl.net/downloads/what-pt.pdf [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  15. Nov 22, 2005 #14
    Not all at once. We had the tile seperate at happened all at once, andt he people before us covered it up. The house is 8 years old. Recently though its gotten worse.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  16. Nov 23, 2005 #15


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    Find a lawyer who deals with this sort of thing. Find out what your options are.

    Problems of that magnitude don't just "show up" unless there was an earthquake or something, and those types of things may be covered under insurance.
  17. Nov 23, 2005 #16


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    It sounds like the earth around has shifted, and that has put part of the house in tension. Perhaps the previous owners may have known, and in that case, they or the real estate agent may be liable. Look into disclosure laws.

    As for the physics, post tensioning works up to a point. The idea is that the tension in the tendons put the concrete in compression. Concrete in tension will invariable crack.

    Also bear in mind that reinforced concrete (with rebar) does not necessarily mean post-tensioned. Rebar may just take the tension, but that can mean that the concrete may still experience little compression. Also, metal may creep, so the tendons could relax. And if a low grade of rebar was used, and the concrete has impurities, particularly chlorides, then stress-corrosion cracking may occur in which case the tendons fails and the concrete then fails.

    One might also check the land on which the house is built - is there any fill? Is it near the edge of a hill? Are there any mines or underground aquifers? Any of these situations can results in local subsidence or ground shifting which then may result in part of the foundation losing support of the ground, and the slab then goes into bending or shear, which sounds like what has happend.

    Sand and clays soils are notorious for ground shifting, and builders sometimes do not use proper construction methods, and sometimes do not following drawings or engineering instructions completely.
  18. Nov 23, 2005 #17


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    Find out if they're still moving: Loctite some glass over the cracks, and wait and see if the glass breaks.

    We had a period of subsidence in our house for a while, the back was sliding down the hill but the front was staying put. Houses up the road had to be underpinned, but ours was ok. We sold it, the buyer scrimped on a survey but was aware of the cracks, then kicked up a bit of a legal fuss about it when the house started moving again.

    Don't know what the law's like over there though. What kind of survey did you have done?
  19. Nov 23, 2005 #18


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    What evidence is there that the tiles were "covered up" by the previous owners (stated a few replies up)? Are there lines of grout that are different colors than the rest? Take good, clear photos of anything like that. Something like that, which was present, and indicates previous owners did know about the problem, would make both the previous owner and the inspector liable if it wasn't disclosed or found during the inspection (unless it was in an area covered by something else...inspectors don't move anything, so if someone stacked moving boxes up on top of the cracks so the inspector couldn't see them, then you can't hold the inspector liable if you didn't request the owners move the boxes before the inspection or have it reinspected with the inaccessible areas made accessible).

    If all of this started only after you moved in, then you're sort of screwed in terms of liability for the repairs unless you find that something was done substandard when the house was built that led to this happening.

    If it's all suddenly happening, I'd suspect something about the land the house is built on...sink holes, land erosion, unstable fill that just started to give way. How's the grade of the land there? Is it a slope that could be eroding, or the house traveling down it? Any streams nearby?

    Or maybe one of the foundation walls is failing? Is the foundation poured or cement block? Do you have a basement, a crawlspace, or concrete slab? If you have a basement, are there any water leaks that could be eroding the foundation or ground around it? Any bowing of the walls or horizontal cracks?

    I'd get a structural engineer in pronto to see what you can do to stabilize it before it gets any worse.
  20. Dec 29, 2005 #19
    You need to get a Professional Engineer experienced in that area to come out and give you a sealed letter based on his inspection. It should cost a couple hundred dollars. He will be able to guide you on who is at fault and on the safeness of the house.
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