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  1. #1
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    Default Cracks in a 52 year old basement

    I received a home inspection today and the only real negative were some cracks in the basement walls. The home is 52 years old though. The inspector wrote up "Settlement Cracks. Cracked with Displacement at Front Wall. Have professional evaluate." I tried to get more information out of him but all he said was "The house has been here over 50 years without an issue but you need a professional to further inspect." I know calling someone else out would be best but I figured I'd post some pictures to see if anyone could provide insight. Theres no moisture coming in through the cracks and the walls aren't bowing.

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    Default Re: Cracks in a 52 year old basement

    I don't see anything in those pics that would scare me away from that house. But you could supply more info about the basement such as the grading outside, drainage, soil type, etc.

    I would suggest having the perimeter drains inspected. That would apply for any basement home over 10 years old.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
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  3. #3
    William Kleisch's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cracks in a 52 year old basement

    I assume that inspection was in ohio. check exterior drainage and water retention during winter from snows. I noted that some of the pictures have water stains on the block. may be water freezing causing expansion contraction on the block hence the cracks. Any exterior drains clogged. just a thought.


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    Default Re: Cracks in a 52 year old basement

    Another checkbox idiot inspector.
    Yes the cracks do look like fairly standard settlement cracks. However it is important to differentiate between cracks that just run through mortar joints and cracks that actually run through blocks.
    From my experience, cracks running through mortar joints tend to be more 'years of exposure' type settlement, erosion, etc. Cracks that run through blocks tend to be more 'event based or significant exposure' based.
    I don't see any major deflection or separation in those pics. I'm going to have to say it may not be a deal breaker. However, two important notes.
    - The last pic with the window bothers me. I would want to verify that there is a proper lintel above the window supporting the block.
    - Walk the perimeter of the house. How is the grading, downspouts, etc. Do they have water retention ponds, i.e. raised planter beds, installed up against the walls, are there larger trees or shrubs planted up against the walls?
    It is pretty rare, at least around here, not to be able to walk the perimeter and figure out at least some probable causes for this type of situation.
    Upon seeing those types of conditions in the basement, a good, knowledgeable home inspector would walk the perimeter with you looking for clues and explain things to you. Unfortunately it doesn't sound like thats what happened.
    My suggestion would be to go back and walk the outside. See whats going on, assess what improvements may be needed, what costs will be and if you are comfortable with that. Also if you do buy the house, have a Bricky come in and grind & point.
    Good luck

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  5. #5
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    Default Re: Cracks in a 52 year old basement

    Thanks for the feedback. I didn't feel the inspector was great. He did mention I should bring in some dirt to grade the back part of the house (where moisture had come in a bit). Unfortunately in the front of the house (where the cracks are I posted pictures of) you can see a bit of cracking on the exterior. This is where the garage meets the house (likely due to the garage sitting slightly lower). Otherwise the foundation of the home on the outside looked great. I decided it would be better to be safe than sorry though. I didn't waive the home inspection contingency and told them I'm having a professional come in to inspect the basement cracks before I agree that I'll take the house. It's a lot of money to just assume everything is OK. I'm just worried the basement company will say things are worse than they really are to make money off of me.


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    Default Re: Cracks in a 52 year old basement

    Sam, If the cracks are more vertical or diagonal, rather than horizontal (bad), I'd say it's safe to breath again. It's important that the exterior grading against the foundation slopes away from the house. Wet soil can exert significant pressure on foundations and with block foundation you want to control this as much as possible. I mentioned the horizontal cracks - those can be an indicator of inward movement of the foundation which is generally due to soil pressure. When I say horizontal I am referring to cracks that run through the same course of mortar for several feet.

    If you're having a "waterproofing" contractor look at the foundation please keep in mind that they don't make money by telling you everything is fine. Sorry to hear that you weren't totally happy with your inspector - I never like to hear that.

    Eric Barker, ACI
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  7. #7
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    Default Re: Cracks in a 52 year old basement

    Not so bad for 52 years. You say the cracks are not allowing moisture, so congratulations. Block, ( cinder block ? ), is no where near as strong as I would like it to be. There are injection and expansion systems available to the homeowner that seal cracks like these quite well, but perhaps not needed in your case.


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    Default Re: Cracks in a 52 year old basement

    As the potential buyer, you'd do better to have the situation inspected by a knowledgeable engineer instead of the "professional" basement people you mentioned. As a disinterested third party, such an engineer will provide you with a written report, stating (to the best of his/her ability) the cause of the cracks and what the best method(s) would be to address them, if doing so is necessary.


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    Default Re: Cracks in a 52 year old basement

    Crack happens..

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    Default Re: Cracks in a 52 year old basement

    Is injection work just for cosmetics or does it actually help anything? There were quite a few cracks (as shown in the picture) but I don't think any are a huge deal. There's a lot of house (2400 sq feet not including finished basement) so I'd expect there to be some settling/cracking. I'd consider waterproofing but I've heard thats usually not a good solution. It's best to address the real problem (rather its improper grading, downspouts, etc). I got a quote to waterproof the front of the house thats it's almost $10k. To make matters worse theres an "abandoned" oil tank near the front of the house that needs to be removed before digging can take place. I may just take it one step at a time.. since there isn't a lot of moisture I may be able to hold off on this work for now.


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    Default Re: Cracks in a 52 year old basement

    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Alex View Post
    Is injection work just for cosmetics or does it actually help anything? . . . . . . . .. To make matters worse theres an "abandoned" oil tank near the front of the house that needs to be removed before digging can take place. I may just take it one step at a time.. since there isn't a lot of moisture I may be able to hold off on this work for now.
    Properly performed, epoxy injection work can substantially increase the strength of concrete walls. The trouble with concrete block walls is the fact that the hollow voids will fill up with epoxy where it can't do all that much good--being highly exothermic, the epoxy will literally boil itself away when filling up large cavities, losing most of its strength characteristics. And when done commercially, you pay by the metered amount being pumped, voids and all. You'd probably do better to just surface-seal the visible interior cracks with a low-modulus epoxy gel, vigorously working it into the openings with a putty knife after thoroughly wire-brushing them.

    You would do well to have the previous owner deal with the oil tank removal issue. The last one I obtained removal quotes for (on an Oregon State DHS project 2 years ago) ran a tad over $13,000, and the top of that tank was just a foot below ground surface--the work has to be done by licensed environmental outfits, and they like to charge handsomely for their work.


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    Default Re: Cracks in a 52 year old basement

    Unfortunately the house is "as is." What danger do I risk by just leaving the oil tank there?


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    Default Re: Cracks in a 52 year old basement

    The "danger you risk" is that sometime in the future (if it hasn't already), the tank will corrode to the point of springing a leak. That means any water supply wells in the area (yours, your neighbors, or the municipality's where you live if you're in an urban area) could be contaminated by leaking oil. If the leak can be traced to your leaking tank, you (and your homeowner's insurance) will be responsible for all of the costs associated with contaminated soil removal, and possibly redrilling a few nearby wells. Not a situation most of us would want to put ourselves into.


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    Default Re: Cracks in a 52 year old basement

    Good point. I'm just very confused about the whole situation. My home inspector never mentioned the tank and according to him the gas furnace is original (from ~1960). I also had other people out to look at the property (septic inspectors) and they didn't mention the tank. The basement water proofers are the ones who noticed. They said they can't give an accurate estimate until the abandon oil tank is removed. If the furnace is from 1960 and is gas, why would they have even needed the oil tank? Assuming it really is from 50+ years ago, if its empty could I just remove it and not even worry about testing the soil? Wouldn't it have already contaminated the soil/water if it was going to? Also is it normal for the tank to be literally 2 feet from the window of the house (right next to the front door)? I'm a first time home buyer so I REALLY appreciate the advice so far!! I am going to take every precaution before i waive this contingency.

    Last edited by Sam Alex; 06-18-2012 at 08:26 PM. Reason: updated information

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    Default Re: Cracks in a 52 year old basement

    First things first. Your home inspector may not be completely correct in telling you a gas furnace is more than 50 years old. Most gas furnaces have a practical service life in the neighborhood of 20 to 25 years. Check the manufacturer's data plate on the unit yourself, where there should be a date of manufacture listed (or call the factory with the unit's serial number, and they can tell you when it was made). For the inspector to "miss" the presence of a buried oil tank is an indication of someone asleep at the wheel. I'd call him and ask for a refund, since it will be costing you $$$ to correct what he missed.

    A possible explanation for the tank is that it was initially installed and (however briefly) used, but then taken out of service when natural gas was brought to the subdivision. Call the gas company, and get a date that they first provided service to the house. There's always the possibility that the tank was properly abandoned (meaning pumped dry, then filled with foam, sand or concrete) when the switch to gas was done. Not likely, but possible. Open the tank filler cap and take a good sniff, or better yet, put a dipstick of some sort down the pipe, then evaluate the liquid with a smell test when you pull the stick. If there's no indication of oil, or you can't even get a stick down the tube, chances are the tank was properly decommissioned, and you're home free.

    Also, it's not at all unusual for a tank to be close to an established entryway to the house. That's often done in snowy climates so the driver lugging the filler hose from the truck doesn't have to fight several feet of snow in the middle of winter--most homeowners shovel their entry walkways quite prudently.

    At this point, I'd suggest you call the Ohio state agency in charge of oil tank remediation. They will be able to tell you what your options are, possibly provide a list of remediation companies, and tell you if state grant $$$ is available to help cover the remediation cost. It's unlikely they will allow you to personally dig out and remove the tank yourself, even if it's never been used to store fuel oil.


  16. #16
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    Default Re: Cracks in a 52 year old basement

    This is inward vertical movement although slight. Take a four foot straight edge and center on crack and it will rock from side to side and tell you just how much movement. I wouldn't say it is much of a problem but would investigate further. Did this occur over 52 years or in the last couple years? Anything new done outside the house in recent history? Does this crack go entirely from ceiling to floor? It is something I would try and figure out as an inspector and then make the proper referral to the proper expert.


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    Default Re: Cracks in a 52 year old basement

    Quote Originally Posted by Rod Corwin View Post
    Did this occur over 52 years or in the last couple years?
    How is he supposed to know that?

    Hello Sam. Post some pics of your oil tank. We want to know why the HI didn't see it, but the basement contractor did.

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    Default Re: Cracks in a 52 year old basement

    Quote Originally Posted by Markus Keller View Post
    Another checkbox idiot inspector.
    Yes the cracks do look like fairly standard settlement cracks. However it is important to differentiate between cracks that just run through mortar joints and cracks that actually run through blocks.
    From my experience, cracks running through mortar joints tend to be more 'years of exposure' type settlement, erosion, etc. Cracks that run through blocks tend to be more 'event based or significant exposure' based.
    I don't see any major deflection or separation in those pics. I'm going to have to say it may not be a deal breaker. However, two important notes.
    - The last pic with the window bothers me. I would want to verify that there is a proper lintel above the window supporting the block.
    - Walk the perimeter of the house. How is the grading, downspouts, etc. Do they have water retention ponds, i.e. raised planter beds, installed up against the walls, are there larger trees or shrubs planted up against the walls?
    It is pretty rare, at least around here, not to be able to walk the perimeter and figure out at least some probable causes for this type of situation.
    Upon seeing those types of conditions in the basement, a good, knowledgeable home inspector would walk the perimeter with you looking for clues and explain things to you. Unfortunately it doesn't sound like thats what happened.
    My suggestion would be to go back and walk the outside. See whats going on, assess what improvements may be needed, what costs will be and if you are comfortable with that. Also if you do buy the house, have a Bricky come in and grind & point.
    Good luck
    Agree with Markus; however, I'm not too concerned about the window. These cracks would not deter me from the home.

    Matt Kiefer, Columbus Advanced Inspections
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  19. #19
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    Default Re: Cracks in a 52 year old basement

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kogel View Post
    How is he supposed to know that?

    Hello Sam. Post some pics of your oil tank. We want to know why the HI didn't see it, but the basement contractor did.

    Wasn't suggesting he did know. Just a general question that may be answered by any alterations or activity at a potentially known time by current or former owner. Knew it would have to be bowed as concrete does not flex and those are stress cracks from inward movement. Also tell by the space in the mortar joint.

    Also you can see there is slight horizontal cracking by the slight gaps in mortar joints. There obviously is an inward force being created by some outside force. That is what needs to be corrected.

    Last edited by Rod Corwin; 06-19-2012 at 08:08 PM. Reason: additional comment

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    Default Re: Cracks in a 52 year old basement

    Quote Originally Posted by Rod Corwin View Post
    Wasn't suggesting he did know. Just a general question that may be answered by any alterations or activity at a potentially known time by current or former owner. Knew it would have to be bowed as concrete does not flex and those are stress cracks from inward movement. Also tell by the space in the mortar joint.

    Also you can see there is slight horizontal cracking by the slight gaps in mortar joints. There obviously is an inward force being created by some outside force. That is what needs to be corrected.
    Are you saying power braces wouldn't be sufficient to correct this problem?


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    Default Re: Cracks in a 52 year old basement

    Thanks, Sam. You'd want to dig down a few inches around that oil tank filler cap to be sure, but I think it might be screwed into an elbow with a pipe going into the basement, where the oil tank may have been originally. That's how it looks to me, a filler pipe for an indoor tank.
    But I'm 5000 miles away in an other country.

    It is clearly visible and the HI has a lot to learn and he better learn it quick.
    1.) should have spotted it
    2.) should have poked around there when he saw the threaded end of the pipe at ground level.
    3.) should have realized the previous existence of an oil burner
    4.)should have reported the presence of the filler pipe at the very least

    Don't assume anything with a buried tank in your yard. Oil products are known to be carcinogenic and nowadays, that is toxic waste. Empty is never completely empty. A bad tank can become an extremely costly nightmare for a homeowner. Just Google 'buried oil tanks'.

    Last edited by John Kogel; 06-19-2012 at 09:46 PM. Reason: relooked the pics
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    Default Re: Cracks in a 52 year old basement

    Quote Originally Posted by Rod Corwin View Post
    Wasn't suggesting he did know. Just a general question that may be answered by any alterations or activity at a potentially known time by current or former owner. Knew it would have to be bowed as concrete does not flex and those are stress cracks from inward movement. Also tell by the space in the mortar joint.

    Also you can see there is slight horizontal cracking by the slight gaps in mortar joints. There obviously is an inward force being created by some outside force. That is what needs to be corrected.
    Sorry, Rod. I read it as a question that can't be answered by the home buyer, but you meant it as a way for an inspector to approach the problem. You were right on in your analysis and that was a rude comment.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sam
    Are you saying power braces wouldn't be sufficient to correct this problem?
    No, your man on the ground is a PE. I'd go with what he says in his report. If you get a contractor in, have the PE approve the repairs and keep all the paperwork.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
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    Default Re: Cracks in a 52 year old basement

    You mean a full tank full-size or full of oil? Full of oil is good, no leaks.
    A tank in good condition can be filled with sand and left in place. But you want it gone, and that will be costly.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
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  24. #24
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    Default Re: Cracks in a 52 year old basement

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kogel View Post
    I don't see anything in those pics that would scare me away from that house. But you could supply more info about the basement such as the grading outside, drainage, soil type, etc.
    This is key in helping determine initial cause of issue.

    Not saying power braces won't work, they most likely will as this appears to be fairly minor bowing. I like to take the approach of determining the actual cause of the issue and correct that. I have a suspicion it is a soil / drainage issue. I also have a suspicion that if a wetter than normal season were to occur you would see moisture come through that wall. I never like to see flower beds, trees, or bushes next to a house with a basement. Wet soil can produce some pretty extreme forces on a wall. There is a product out there, called sani-tred, that does an amazing job at stopping water infiltration. It is do it yourself friendly but not the cheapest. A friend of mine used it on a rock wall basement and it stopped all water infiltration and he had a practically 24 hour stream flowing through his basement. You have to seal the cold joint and floor first then the walls. It will stop all water.

    On the oil tank. It does appear the filler is to close to the house to be an in ground tank. That other tube is a vent and would also be outside. Not saying that's the case as they may have plumbed the filler tube and vent that way to keep them closer to the house and out of the lawn. Are there any concrete patches on the inside the basement in that location? That would be a clue also.

    Last edited by Rod Corwin; 06-20-2012 at 05:22 AM. Reason: add info

  25. #25
    Rod Corwin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cracks in a 52 year old basement

    What is this and what is the side of patch I see at left side of picture?


  26. #26
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    Default Re: Cracks in a 52 year old basement

    Quote Originally Posted by Rod Corwin View Post
    This is key in helping determine initial cause of issue.

    Not saying power braces won't work, they most likely will as this appears to be fairly minor bowing. I like to take the approach of determining the actual cause of the issue and correct that. I have a suspicion it is a soil / drainage issue. I also have a suspicion that if a wetter than normal season were to occur you would see moisture come through that wall. I never like to see flower beds, trees, or bushes next to a house with a basement. Wet soil can produce some pretty extreme forces on a wall. There is a product out there, called sani-tred, that does an amazing job at stopping water infiltration. It is do it yourself friendly but not the cheapest. A friend of mine used it on a rock wall basement and it stopped all water infiltration and he had a practically 24 hour stream flowing through his basement. You have to seal the cold joint and floor first then the walls. It will stop all water.

    On the oil tank. It does appear the filler is to close to the house to be an in ground tank. That other tube is a vent and would also be outside. Not saying that's the case as they may have plumbed the filler tube and vent that way to keep them closer to the house and out of the lawn. Are there any concrete patches on the inside the basement in that location? That would be a clue also.
    Thanks for the insight. Now the sellers are saying they vaguely remember an oil tank being removed from the basement many years ago (it's an Estate sale so neither of the trustees actually lived there). I am really hoping this is just the filler and vent tubes that connected to an indoor oil tank and the tubes were never removed. I'm sending out an oil company tomorrow to confirm that.

    Why do you suggest removing the plants near the basement?


    Thanks!


  27. #27
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    Default Re: Cracks in a 52 year old basement

    Quote Originally Posted by Rod Corwin View Post
    What is this and what is the side of patch I see at left side of picture?

    I think thats just another closed up tube (like seen on the right). Could this be where the oil tubes were coming in?


  28. #28
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    Default Re: Cracks in a 52 year old basement

    That's my suspicion that those were the filler and vent. Plants close to a house have roots that can cause drainage issues, frequent watering is subjecting it to extra moisture, loose ground allows more moisture penetration, plants block sun from drying the ground around the foundation.


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    Default Re: Cracks in a 52 year old basement

    Quote Originally Posted by Rod Corwin View Post
    That's my suspicion that those were the filler and vent. Plants close to a house have roots that can cause drainage issues, frequent watering is subjecting it to extra moisture, loose ground allows more moisture penetration, plants block sun from drying the ground around the foundation.
    Hopefully thats the case about the filler and vent. Thanks for the tips for the plants. If everything works out with the house, I'll look to remove them.


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    Default Re: Cracks in a 52 year old basement

    I've seen horizontal cracks that had 1/8" or more of separation and the SE said no correction was needed and that the wall has gone as far as it will go. All I will say is to do what makes you most comfortable. It that means dropping $500.00 to have a SE look at the property, so be it. Keep in mind that anything you just accept and live with a decide is no big deal may be an issue to a future buyer when you go to sell.

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    Default Re: Cracks in a 52 year old basement

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Ostrowski View Post
    I've seen horizontal cracks that had 1/8" or more of separation and the SE said no correction was needed and that the wall has gone as far as it will go. All I will say is to do what makes you most comfortable. It that means dropping $500.00 to have a SE look at the property, so be it. Keep in mind that anything you just accept and live with a decide is no big deal may be an issue to a future buyer when you go to sell.
    Yeah I will want to get the walls repaired if i proceed with purchasing the house.

    Right now the two options I have are..

    A) Install Powerbrace Steel I-Beams to push the slight bow of the wall back in. Also recommends installing waterguard system which looks like a tray that runs underneath the perimeter edge of the basement floor.

    B) Install Carbon Fiber strips to hold up wall. Company states waterproofing may not be needed if downspouts are diverted outward. This method sounds good but is more expensive.


    Does anyone have insight on either of these methods of repair? I did confirm one wall is bowing inward (not too bad) so I think it does need some structural work. Also as Nick mentioned, this could be a potential problem when I go to sell the house so I'd want it taken care of. Both methods of repair offer lifetime transferable warranties.


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    Default Re: Cracks in a 52 year old basement

    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Alex View Post
    Yeah I will want to get the walls repaired if i proceed with purchasing the house.

    Right now the two options I have are..

    A) Install Powerbrace Steel I-Beams to push the slight bow of the wall back in. Also recommends installing waterguard system which looks like a tray that runs underneath the perimeter edge of the basement floor.

    B) Install Carbon Fiber strips to hold up wall. Company states waterproofing may not be needed if downspouts are diverted outward. This method sounds good but is more expensive.


    Does anyone have insight on either of these methods of repair? I did confirm one wall is bowing inward (not too bad) so I think it does need some structural work. Also as Nick mentioned, this could be a potential problem when I go to sell the house so I'd want it taken care of. Both methods of repair offer lifetime transferable warranties.
    See other thread on this.

    It is not good to start two threads on the same thing.

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