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  1. #1
    Sarah Zimmerman's Avatar
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    Question Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    I recently bought a home and wanted some advice as to whether or not I have a problem. My house is situated on a slope so that the back of the house has a tall 14 ft cinderblock foundation. When the inspector checked the house he failed to notice that there where four large five foot by three foot T bars which are bolted to the cinderblock. The T bar is set so that it comes five foot off a 2*4 and looks like it is giving support to the floor above. The T bars are bolted into the wall using four bolts each. The very top of the T bar looks to be an inch out of plumb and the cinderblock has a noticible tilt there. When I asked the previous home owner about the fix she said that there where some cracks in the foundation after an ice storm some years back and has not expeienced and leaks since. Before she sold the home the previous owner had the area inside the wall painted but in the last three months the paint has started to peel off and you can see some slight moisture on the wall as well as a strong musty smell. I have begun doing some extensive regrading and new gutters. I just wanted some advice on whether I should be concerned about the wall itself. I also checked some of the other walls and they are slightly out of plumb. Thanks for your advice.

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    Default Re: Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    Hi Sarah. Any pics of the issues you are describing? They would be helpful.

    How long have you been in the house?

    "It takes a big man to cry. It takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man". - Jack Handey

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    Default Re: Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    Sarah

    What you describe sounds like the block wall was failing and was retro fitted with steel supports. Need pictures.....

    Randy Mayo, P.E.
    RLM & Associates, LLC


  4. #4
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    Default Re: Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    Here are some pictures of the T bar as well as a picture of the grading in the back. I am having the area around the foundation regraded so that it slopes away from the house. Here is the link to the photos:

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    Default Re: Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    Sarah, was there property or anything stored in the basement that may have made these conditions unobservable to the inspector? What did the inspection report say about the basement walls? Any mention of things not being observable? Did the seller disclose these issues and the past repairs?

    "It takes a big man to cry. It takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man". - Jack Handey

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    The room was empty during the inspection. The only mention by the inspector was that the foundation was that is was below ground level and tall enough to be used as a room. The previous homeowner mentioned the fix after closing and after she rented back-it was mentioned during the time she handed over the house.


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    Default Re: Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    To me it looks like the angle iron is out of plumb, not the wall. If you notice the iron is flat against the wall 4 courses down, but the top of the iron is further out due to the two layers of iron and the lumber being out further than the course of block.

    If the wall was pushed out in this area you should see a crack in a horizontal seam of the block wall and a corresponding separation or step cracking in the wall to the right of the one pictured.

    Can you get better pictures for us? Maybe move the lumber leaning in the corner?

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    Default Re: Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    Sarah

    That block wall had serious structural issues in the past which required the vertical steel supports. The steel supports are there to help prevent the wall from bowing in more. The question I have was that system engineered or done by a professional foundation expert?

    The forces that pushed the wall in was ether earth pressure or frost heave or a combination of both. If it initially happen during an ice storm I suspect frost heave may have been the major force. With poor drainage next to the house water will saturate the soil next to the foundation wall. As the upper 3 feet of soil freezes the water in the soil turns to ice an expands. The force of the ice will push the wall inward a little each time. As the soil thaws out the wall does not spring back so the next time it pushes a little more until the wall fails. This process usually takes place over several winters so I doubt if one ice storm alone caused the situation.

    I would recommend sloping the grading around your house to shed water and route the downspouts away from the foundation. There are foundation repair companies that will look at your situation for free, however they are in the business to sell you something. I would suggest you get a structural engineer to give you an independent evaluation first. You should be able to get an initial engineering evaluation report for about $500.

    Sorry there is no simple and quick fix to your situation. If the previous owners failed to disclose this problem you may have some legal options. As fas as the home inspector is concerned he should have commented on the fact there were some additional supports and/or repairs done to the wall. Most home inspectors do not have the engineering background to diagnose this type of problem. They are only required to note what they see and its up to you as a buyer to pursue it further.


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    Default Re: Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    Quote Originally Posted by Sarah Zimmerman View Post
    The room was empty during the inspection. The only mention by the inspector was that the foundation was that is was below ground level and tall enough to be used as a room. The previous homeowner mentioned the fix after closing and after she rented back-it was mentioned during the time she handed over the house.
    If that's all he had to say about what appears at this point to have been a very visible condition, that's..........embarrassing to hear. This is a big miss on the inspector's part if the wall looked just like it does in these pics during the inspection. How long has it been since you had the inspection done? You should contact the inspector and let him know there may be a problem with your foundation and that you'll be getting back in touch with him after having a SE look at the foundation. Do not have any work/repairs done to the walls until after getting a SE there and then having the inspector come back to look at the issue. I'd do as Randy suggests and get a structural engineer to evaluate the situation. Likewise, contact the seller about the non-disclosure. That should have been disclosed when the house was orginally put up for sale.

    Make sure you read your inspection contract the inspector had you sign to ensure you don't void the contract and inadvertently elminate the inspector's liability.

    "It takes a big man to cry. It takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man". - Jack Handey

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    Default Re: Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    Hi Sarah
    This link goes to a PDF that explains in better detail the issue you are having.
    Bear in mind as is touched on at the end of the PDF that CMU block is hollow and more susceptible to water intrusion.

    The lot grade no doubt plays into that.http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&sourc...GLd8ctA9MUtYWQ


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    Default Re: Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    14 ft cinderblock foundation
    Thats part of the problem.


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    Default Re: Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    That bracing looks like "simple" angle iron. I'm no engineer but of all the repaired foundations I've seen that installation would seem to fall under "Band-Aid approach." I doubt that you should be expecting much from that "repair." Without being condescending I can't imagine why an inspector would not mention the foundation in his report.

    Eric Barker, ACI
    Lake Barrington, IL

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    Default Re: Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    I spoke to the inspector and when I raised my concern about not being notified of the issue he replied that the home owner should have disclosed the issue. Furthermore he stated that the fix was made over ten years ago and the house is still standing which apperently should reassure me--it didn't. He said if I am still concerned I should have a structural engineer look
    at the problem. I am at a loss over how I should proceed-both with the foundation and the inspector. There does not seem to be any immediate problem but I am concerned over the long term stability of the foundation. Also, I am really angry that what should have been an obvious problem
    was completely overlooked--I looked over his report again and there was no mention about issues with the foundation. If the issue was mentioned, it probably would have caused me not to buy the home. Obviously there is also an issue with the previous homeowner not disclosing the issue. I think my first step is to have someone else look at the problem and go from there--thank you for all of your input.


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    Default Re: Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    The purchaser undertook his due diligence by retaining an inspector. The onus therefore transfers to the inspector for finding these concerns unless of course during the inspection such conditions were not discoverable by visual observance. These would be latent defects.

    Absence of fraud on your part to negligently misrepresent the property the lawyer must prove you as owner/vendor acted to deceive him or conceal the problem(s). Therefore the onus is on the lawyer to prove otherwise. It is still caveat emptor for the lawyer in his purchase.

    Strictly from a Canadian Courts POV.

    First, a distinction must be drawn between patent defects and latent defects. Patent defects are those which are discoverable by inspection and ordinary vigilance on the part of the purchaser. A purchaser of a house who discovers patent defects after taking possession has no claim against the seller as the doctrine of caveat emptor or "buyer beware" applies.

    And from another court regarding a home inspection
    • Did the Purchasers Rely on any Misrepresentation?
    • [62] The legal principles regarding reliance by a purchaser when a home inspector is retained were dealt with in Hoy v Lozanovski [1987], 43 R.P.R. 296 (Ontario District Court) and were stated as follows:
    However, if the purchaser chooses to not rely on the vendor and requests inspections, including professional inspectors (i.e. Home Inspection Service) then reliance for completion of the deal (the waver in this case) is shifted to the inspector whom the purchaser has chosen. The purchaser has relied on the inspection report not the vendor's silence, to formulate his decision whether or not to complete the deal...
    Of course, as stated, if the vendor made representations to the purchaser or the purchaser's inspection that were fraudulent, then the responsibility for disclosing the latent defect would remain with the vendor...
    • [63] Absent fraudulent representations or concealment, when a professional home inspector's report is obtained then reliance has shifted to the home inspector.
    • [64] In this case, the purchasers obtained a home inspection report before waiving the condition. The report noted evidence of possible water problems and indicated that the type of repairs which have been effected and for which damages are claimed might be required.
    • [65] In view of obtaining an inspection report which indicates possible water problems any reliance the purchasers had made on the vendors statements on the VPIS document would have been transferred to the home inspector.
    However, if it can be proven that there was fraud or an act of concealment by the seller with respect to the patent defect then caveat emptor has no application. The act of concealment by the seller must be such as to turn the defect from a patent one to a latent one. Latent defects are those defects which are not readily discoverable by the purchaser through a prudent inspection.

    Latent defects that go to "quality only" and not the structural integrity of the building are also subject to the rule of caveat emptor unless there has been active concealment by the seller. Latent defects that go to the structural integrity of the house, and that are known to the seller give rise to liability if they significantly effect the value of the property and the seller fails to disclose them. Silence respecting structural latent defects has been held to be an act of concealment. The rationale for the liability is this: had the latent defect been known to the purchaser, the purchaser would either not have bought the house or would have negotiated a price that would reflect the repair costs. There is the possibility that a seller will even be liable for latent structural defects not known to the seller, if the defect is so significant that the buyer can argue fundamental breach of contract. That is, the buyer did not get what was bargained for.



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    Default Re: Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    Quote Originally Posted by Sarah Zimmerman View Post
    I spoke to the inspector and when I raised my concern about not being notified of the issue he replied that the home owner should have disclosed the issue.
    While it is true the seller should have disclosed the issue, the inspector is the person who was hired and paid to inspect the property. He obviously knew what you were talking about you spoke with him and for whatever reason made no mention of it verbally at the inspection and said nothing in his report. Big omission on his part.


    Quote Originally Posted by Sarah Zimmerman View Post
    Furthermore he stated that the fix was made over ten years ago and the house is still standing which apperently should reassure me--it didn't. He said if I am still concerned I should have a structural engineer look
    at the problem. I am at a loss over how I should proceed-both with the foundation and the inspector. There does not seem to be any immediate problem but I am concerned over the long term stability of the foundation. Also, I am really angry that what should have been an obvious problem
    was completely overlooked--I looked over his report again and there was no mention about issues with the foundation. If the issue was mentioned, it probably would have caused me not to buy the home. Obviously there is also an issue with the previous homeowner not disclosing the issue. I think my first step is to have someone else look at the problem and go from there--thank you for all of your input.
    Sounds like your inspector has no business performing inspections. His rationale that repairs were made 10 years ago and the house is still standing is very irresponsible.

    Begin documenting everything Sarah starting with the recent conversation with the inspector. Read your inspection contract and see what it states about disputes with the inspector regarding errors and omissions. Be sure you don't do anything that may void the contract and the inspector's liability. Contact a SE about evaluating your house and see what may need to be done to correct the issue and how much it may cost to correct. If the SE determines repairs are needed, give the inspector the opportunity to come look at the basement walls in their current state and hand him a copy of the engineer's report along with the cost to repair figures. Personally, I'd tell him I want him to pay for the repairs in their entirety and also give me a full refund of the inspection fee he was paid. If he balks, you may have no choice but to get a lawyer involved if the repair costs are high enough. Small claims court I believe cuts off when the amount of money exceeds a certain threshold.

    The seller does bear some responsibility for the non-disclosure too. It may have been an honest oversight but it is a significant one and knowing about the issue may have changed your mind about even making an offer on this house.

    "It takes a big man to cry. It takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man". - Jack Handey

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    Default Re: Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    As suggested in a previous reply, hire a structural engineer.


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    Default Re: Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    Sarah, you own the house now do you not. You walked through and looked at the house, right? You saw the condition of the wall before you closed on the house, right? Forget about calling in engineers, just keep an eye on the wall. Do the grading and keep your gutters clean. The HI should have pointed out that the wall had previously been reinforced, but you should have seen that. I'm sorry that my advice runs counter to everyone else advising to get an engineer, get a lawyer.


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    Default Re: Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    I agree with Phillip's advice as well. You should consult a lawyer in addition to the structural engineer.


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    Default Re: Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    Quote Originally Posted by Philip View Post
    Sarah, you own the house now do you not. You walked through and looked at the house, right? You saw the condition of the wall before you closed on the house, right? Forget about calling in engineers, just keep an eye on the wall. Do the grading and keep your gutters clean. The HI should have pointed out that the wall had previously been reinforced, but you should have seen that. I'm sorry that my advice runs counter to everyone else advising to get an engineer, get a lawyer.
    So it's the buyer's fault she doesn't know how to identify structural defects and repairs? Your walls are bowed but don't worry about it? Just clean your gutters and fix your grading? Good heavens.

    Don't you think there is a small chance any lawyer will want to get an expert's opinion (ie - a structural engineer) to form the basis for a suit and know what it is the clients wants to collect damages for?

    "It takes a big man to cry. It takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man". - Jack Handey

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    Default Re: Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    We do not know if there is a future problem with the wall. And yes, fourteen foot cmu wall is asking for trouble, but that does not mean the fix is not working. It is not a crawl space and was empty when she viewed the house. The buyer has some responsibility in the procedures for buying a house, but once again many in this profession want HIs to be the end-all-be-all in home exchanges.


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    Default Re: Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    Quote Originally Posted by Philip View Post
    We do not know if there is a future problem with the wall. And yes, fourteen foot cmu wall is asking for trouble, but that does not mean the fix is not working. It is not a crawl space and was empty when she viewed the house. The buyer has some responsibility in the procedures for buying a house, but once again many in this profession want HIs to be the end-all-be-all in home exchanges.
    And that is why buyers hire home inspectors. So significant or potentially significant issues can be identified and documented and they can make an educated decision. I'm not saying the inspector is there to help the buyer decide what to do. But the buyer has to be given the issues and have them explained verbally and in the report. The notion that the buyer, who may be doing this for the first time or only time in her entire life, is to be expected to recognize and analyze a past/possibly ongoing structural defect and determine for herself whether or not it is adequate and whether or not it bears further scrutiny by a SE is mind boggling. That is why the HI is there.

    Even if the walls are determined to be stable and in no need of repair, the inspector whiffed in a big way by not even making any mention of the situation. According to Sarah the home owner, all the inspector said about the foundation was "The walls are below grade and the ceiling is high enough to be used as a room." WTF is that????

    "It takes a big man to cry. It takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man". - Jack Handey

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    Default Re: Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Ostrowski View Post
    If that's all he had to say about what appears at this point to have been a very visible condition, that's..........embarrassing to hear. This is a big miss on the inspector's part if the wall looked just like it does in these pics during the inspection. ... Snipped.
    One of the 30-minute inspectors?

    The above statements are expressed solely as my opinion and in all probability will conflict with someone else's.
    Stu, Fredericksburg VA

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    Default Re: Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    Disclosure, Disclosure, Disclosure if this happened in CA. and both the seller and their agent knew of a problem with that wall and it was not disclosed ... WE HAVE A PROBLEM!!


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    Default Re: Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    The whole episode needs brought to the attention of the prospective buyer in that I have no denial. It is one of those situations where you must say in your report, 'did you see the fourteen foot cmu walls with the angle iron reinforcements. It might be nothing, and it might be everything.' And yes, I agree, the original HI should have addressed the basement in more terms than it is over eight foot tall and suitable for a room.


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    Default Re: Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    Disclosure requirements may be different in Sarah's area but in mine, the seller would not have to disclose the foundation condition because it had been "repaired."

    For the inspector to back away and say the seller should have disclosed the wall's condition is simply lame. In my view a good report would have mentioned the bracing.

    Eric Barker, ACI
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  26. #26
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    Default Re: Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Barker View Post
    Disclosure requirements may be different in Sarah's area but in mine, the seller would not have to disclose the foundation condition because it had been "repaired."

    For the inspector to back away and say the seller should have disclosed the wall's condition is simply lame. In my view a good report would have mentioned the bracing.
    Same in my area....if it has been repaired then it does not have to be disclosed by the seller. But I sure would have noted in my report that it has problems!

    As a side note....I looked in the IRC and I can't find any reference that says a CMU wall can be over 10' high...and that wall has to be 12" solid block when it it backfilled like shown in the OP pictures. I'm sure it can be over 10' but it would have to be designed by an engineer.


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    Default Re: Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    Same in my area....if it has been repaired then it does not have to be disclosed by the seller.
    Even if the repair is concealed?


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    Default Re: Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    I'm not a lawyer or a RE agent and fortunately do not have to be involved in filling out the disclosure statement. But according to the RE agents who are involved in filling out the report if a system is not in need of immediate repair (like a leaky basement) then a problem does not have to be disclosed if I has been repaired. Not saying I agree....but that is the way I understand it. That is why some agents like pre-sell inspections. It helps clean up the disclosure statement.


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    Default Re: Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    Considering most concrete blocks are 8" high I have a hard time believing the wall is 14 feet tall. From the perspective of the pictures shown, the pictures would have had to be taken from the height of 11 feet. It looks like an 8 or 8 1/2 foot block wall to me.

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    Default Re: Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    Quote Originally Posted by Sarah Zimmerman View Post
    I spoke to the inspector and when I raised my concern about not being notified of the issue he replied that the home owner should have disclosed the issue. Furthermore he stated that the fix was made over ten years ago and the house is still standing which apparently should reassure me--it didn't. He said if I am still concerned I should have a structural engineer look
    at the problem. I am at a loss over how I should proceed-both with the foundation and the inspector. There does not seem to be any immediate problem but I am concerned over the long term stability of the foundation. Also, I am really angry that what should have been an obvious problem
    was completely overlooked--I looked over his report again and there was no mention about issues with the foundation. If the issue was mentioned, it probably would have caused me not to buy the home. Obviously there is also an issue with the previous homeowner not disclosing the issue. I think my first step is to have someone else look at the problem and go from there--thank you for all of your input.
    I would consult an attorney regarding the inspection and possibly non disclosure by the seller. The inspector is hired to find and point out deficiencies in a property. An inspector may not have the expertise to know if something is a problem but they should at least bring it to your attention and inform you of possible consequences if there is a problem. He should then inform you that you may want to have a structural engineer look at the property.

    You may not have any recourse against the home owner since the defect was readably visible. Many disclosure laws deal with the homeowner concealing a known defect.


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    Default Re: Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    I'm with Ken. It just doesn't look like a 14' basement wall. If it is 14', why make the comment that its tall enough for a room?

    A lot of you guys are quick to throw the inspector under the bus without seeing the house, or seeing the report for yourselves.

    I'm not saying he did a great job at all, I don't know if he did.
    But I know I have had phone calls from a client that said that their Uncle Harry was at the house and wanted to know why I didn't call out so and so. I then tell them to look at page X at the 4th item, etc and that's where I called that issue out.

    To tell the OP to get an attorney without really knowing the facts to me is irresponsible. How would you guys like it if someone was giving YOUR clients the same advice without knowing all the details (meaning seeing the house and the report for yourself). If someone in your town called you and asked this same question, would you tell them to get an attorney, or would you make an appointment and go take a look at the house and the report? Baseless lawsuits are a hug waste of money, EXCEPT for the attorney.

    Last edited by Jack Feldmann; 08-16-2010 at 05:38 AM.

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    Default Re: Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Feldmann View Post
    I'm with Ken. It just doesn't look like a 14' basement wall. If it is 14', why make the comment that its tall enough for a room?

    A lot of you guys are quick to throw the inspector under the bus without seeing the house, or seeing the report for yourselves.

    I'm not saying he did a great job at all, I don't know if he did.
    But I know I have had phone calls from a client that said that their Uncle Harry was at the house and wanted to know why I didn't call out so and so. I then tell them to look at page X at the 4th item, etc and that's where I called that issue out.

    To tell the OP to get an attorney without really knowing the facts to me is irresponsible. How would you guys like it if someone was giving YOUR clients the same advice without knowing all the details (meaning seeing the house and the report for yourself). If someone in your town called you and asked this same question, would you tell them to get an attorney, or would you make an appointment and go take a look at the house and the report? Baseless lawsuits are a hug waste of money, EXCEPT for the attorney.
    That's kind of what I was getting at when I asked the OP to post better pics four days ago. It sounds like the 5 foot tall T-brackets are not a structural repair.

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    Default Re: Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Barker View Post
    Disclosure requirements may be different in Sarah's area but in mine, the seller would not have to disclose the foundation condition because it had been "repaired."

    For the inspector to back away and say the seller should have disclosed the wall's condition is simply lame. In my view a good report would have mentioned the bracing.
    The disclosure statements I see here are 3 pages of fluff, checklists which all say " Are you aware of a problem with ..."

    "Your honor, I knew it was damaged, but I didn't think it was a problem."

    Nevertheless, there may be more to this story than what we see in these pics. Those brackets are not flush to the wall at the top, but the wall is reported to be stable. We can't make the call from the armchair on this one.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

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    Default Re: Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    You're right John. We can't make the call from our keyboards on this......... but....... I feel confident saying at the very least there should have been a mention of the wall and repairs in the report and a verbal explanation given of the condition during the inspection. I'm not saying a lawyer is needed at this point. But I am saying I feel it bears further scrutiny and an expert opinion since (according to the current owner of the house) the inspector made no mention of it during the inspection or in the report.

    You need to find out if there is or isn't an issue with the foundation before you can even think about engaging the services of a lawyer.

    "It takes a big man to cry. It takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man". - Jack Handey

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    Default Re: Basement cinderblock wall out of plumb

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Ostrowski View Post
    You're right John. We can't make the call from our keyboards on this......... but....... I feel confident saying at the very least there should have been a mention of the wall and repairs in the report and a verbal explanation given of the condition during the inspection. I'm not saying a lawyer is needed at this point. But I am saying I feel it bears further scrutiny and an expert opinion since (according to the current owner of the house) the inspector made no mention of it during the inspection or in the report.

    You need to find out if there is or isn't an issue with the foundation before you can even think about engaging the services of a lawyer.
    If there is no issue with the wall and the brackets are simply there to hold something (non foundation related) then the inspector probably wouldn't mention them in his report.

    MinnesotaHomeInspectors.com
    Minnesota Home Inspectors LLC
    ASHI #242887 mnradontesting.com

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