Foundation Red Flags To Look For When Buying A San Fernando Valley Home
Purchasing a home in any area comes with the potential for problems and hidden damages. Although San Fernando Valley homes are beautiful and highly sought after, they are at high risk of foundation damage that can spell severe trouble for buyers. When you’re purchasing a home in Los Angeles, Burbank, or elsewhere in the Valley, you should always consider the risk of foundation issues and carry out a full inspection before moving forward with the sale.
Below, foundation experts from Regional Foundation Repair will discuss the most common foundation problems in Valley homes, as well as the underlying causes and the severity of each.
1. Cracks In The Foundation
Foundation cracks are often a reasonable indication of a foundation problem. However, inspecting the foundation beneath a home in the San Fernando Valley can be challenging because most houses are built on slab foundations and are hidden from view. If this is the case, you can walk along the outside of the house and check the visible strip of concrete where the house meets the ground.
Thin, vertical cracks found along this concrete strip are one of the least problematic kinds of cracks. They typically occur because of natural and unavoidable settling, and they rarely indicate a problem with a home’s structural integrity.
If you notice larger cracks or those that are no longer level from one side to the other, you should consider calling in an engineer before purchasing. These gaps often indicate dangerous differential settling, which occurs because of the expansive clay soil along Southern California’s coastline. The soil expands and contracts in response to the infrequent rain in the area, and any erratic movement beneath the concrete can create structural instability.
If you have access to the garage slab or can lift up the carpeting in an area inside the home, check for wide or uneven surface cracks. These could be caused by earthquakes that rattle Southern California frequently or by irregular soil movement. Either way, foundation repair in the San Fernando Valley for these cracks can be very costly.
2. Poor Indoor Air Quality
Many homebuyers don’t know that poor indoor air quality is often directly linked to foundation problems. When the concrete under the home you’re considering is exposed to water, the moisture wicks up through the porous foundation and settles between the slab and the flooring. The result is an increase in humidity, which can cause numerous issues with air quality.
This wicking process is a common occurrence for two reasons in the San Fernando Valley. First, the winters bring much heavier rains than the summer months, so most of the 15 inches of rain Los Angeles gets annually falls in a short span of just a few months. Second, plumbing lines generally run through the slab foundation, and breaks and significant leaks can occur if earthquakes cause any type of movement.
When the moisture enters the interior of a home, it can contribute to uncomfortably warm indoor temperatures in the summer or cold temperatures in the winter, despite the heating or cooling system being on. If you walk through a home and notice abnormally high or low temperatures, check the thermostat setting to see if it feels colder or hotter than it actually is.
Indoor moisture also commonly leads to mold growth. Most of the time, spores grow out of sight, either under floorboards or behind walls and cabinets. If you notice musty odors inside during a showing or open house, consider investigating further or asking the seller about it. The seller might be willing to share recent water bills with you, which could at least put your mind at ease that the issue isn’t a plumbing leak within the slab.
3. Lack of Retrofitting
The last red flag you’ll want to keep an eye out for is the lack of earthquake retrofitting. As all homeowners in the San Fernando Valley know, Coastal California is at severe risk of earthquakes. Retrofitting is the process of securing the home to the foundation to prevent movement and shifting of building material off of the concrete.
Unless the home you’re looking at has a crawlspace or basement, which are rare in the Valley, you’ll need to head to an unfinished area of the house to check for retrofitting bolts. Most homes have a garage or utility room that makes the process easy.
Retrofitting slab foundations requires that the sill plate be bolted to the concrete foundation every 4 to 6 feet along the perimeter of the home. You will be able to see bolt heads along the sill plate if the house is retrofitted.
If the home has a gas connection, you can also check the gas meter outside for an earthquake valve. These valves are usually red and relatively easy to spot. They serve as an emergency shutoff to prevent house fires and explosions if the gas line to the home is ruptured by an earthquake.
If you don’t see bolts or an earthquake valve on the gas meter, you can expect to pay around $1,000 or more post-closing to have your home retrofitted and safeguarded against earthquakes.
Wrapping Up: How to Ensure Your Foundation Is Structurally Sound
Buying a home in the San Fernando Valley can be stressful, but keeping a keen eye out for foundation damage and red flags can help mitigate the risk of buying a home with existing problems.
If you’re considering purchasing the home, make sure to investigate foundation cracks and symptoms of poor indoor air quality, and check the house to confirm that it has been earthquake retrofitted. Following these steps will help ensure you purchase a structurally secure home that won’t demand hundreds or thousands of dollars in surprise repairs shortly after you close.
For more expert advice on your next home purchase, contact the Frontgate Real Estate team.