Foundation movement repair

I just bought a SFH in a quite popular San Mateo neighborhood. After moving in, I found out some major issues like widening cracks and one of the back wall is not straight visibly, indicating there have been significant foundation movements and the previous owner clearly made some cosmetic changes to hide these cracks. I just consulted a structural engineer and he confirmed the problem with measurements, and the largest floor elevation drop is 8.7" at the bedroom addition in the back, which has the leaning wall. I attached the sketch so you can see the drops in other places. Besides the fact that I’m feeling like a fool right now missing the signs of sloping floor or the uneven windows before buying this, I want to ask around for informed opinions about my current situation.

  • The recommended solution is to stabilize the added bedroom with about 10 underpinnings, which is about 3k-4k each. Doing the whole house is about 3x that but he recommends to start with this one first and monitor, as this condition is common for houses in this area (how common is it?). If I do this, how troublesome it is to remedy the current damages like straightening the wall and making the floors more even.
  • Record of this repair will be disclosed when I sell the house later, although I intend to hold it like 7-10 years. Realistically how does it affect the buyer perception and the resale values, as I lost quite a few bids and none of the disclosures I read ever mentioned a foundation repair?
  • Since the house is small, I plan to remodel + extend it later. How will this kind of foundation repair affect this plan and what factors I should consider when I start doing it?

I understand these types of questions can depend on many variables and I should also talk directly to different contractors to gather more data, but would love to hear more opinions from knowledge people here to broaden my own view. Thank you all!

First of all don’t worry too much about this and you are doing the right thing by contacting the structural engineer and remedying the situation. Also, find out if there are any drainage problems that lead to this in the first place. As long as you take care of this following the engineer recommendation / get city sign-off, you are good. Having a record for fixing properly is a good thing.

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Thank you, will definitely follow a proper plan to get this back into a good shape. I fortunately have a budget to handle this unless it blows up to something like a few hundred grands for cascading damages, so for now I just want to gather as much info as possible to assess the extent of the issue. For instance, from my research so far, 8"" difference seems like way out of what people usually discuss online when they try to fix the issue, so I wonder about the possibility of this become a money pit in a long run.

Is it a bad home inspector who couldn’t spot the cover up or any home inspector would have failed to spot it?

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Small potato. No need to spend too much money to fix this. If the floor is sloping, then just add padding to even things out. Should cost less than 10k to do so. If the floor seems even, then no need to even do that. Just apply paint every now and then (maybe once every few years) to cover up the cracks. The next buyer is not going to care about this issue either since you also bought it without caring.


Many recent rich SWEs are ignorance of don’t care about many structural issues.

Good luck with your fixes. Bay Area Underpinning seems to have good reviews on this and wonder if you are going through them or some other structural firm. It is worth getting a second opinion as well to get down on the costs.

If you meant the home inspector in the disclosure then there was nothing as clear signals pointing to this problem, unless brief notes of “sloping floor” can be considered as such. Most are just trivial stuff like old windows, stucco minor cracks, old roof, etc. Foundation section has no notable observation like the leaning wall, or any other issue. The house was even appraised higher than the purchase price but not by much and the appraisal report also did not mention any notable thing. I wonder how useful it is for this type of inspection, but too late to do anything about it :slight_smile:
On the hindsight, it was a combination of extremely rapid and competitive market in spring, frustration of losing too many bids, and ignorance as a first time home buyer that led to somewhat hasty buying decision. I was looking for stuff like foundation cracks rather than this type of structural issues, but I guess I learnt it now :frowning:

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Yep I’m trying to get estimates from them as well as other firms. Hopefully can learn a few things to make a better choice next time!

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Clearly the previous owners knew about this. Why can’t you ask them to pay for it? Even if you bought the home as-it-is, the seller is liable if they didn’t disclose something they knew. What is your agent recommending?

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Please share your experience – I may need this for one of my friends who is looking at a property with some floor sloping :slight_smile:

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This occurred with a house we looked at too - inspector said NOTHING but in the house there were several inches of sloping in several areas and you could tell based on the owner’s attachment of when they did improvements and where the issues were, that it had slowly gotten worse over time - the real estate agent tried to cover their asses in disclosures that “sloping is occurring, obviously due to settling” but as an owner, if you’re spending 100-200k on improvements surely you had this looked into and know what the problem is. We passed on the house but if we had just gone off of the inspection report we would have put in offer. I think owner’s are being super shady when its something that big.

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Is the house on a hill? Is the hill moving?. You need to talk to a soils engineer about inclination measurements and a contractor that regularly does this kind of repair. Drainage is also a concern. 8” of settlement in small house is extremely high. Especially if it is still moving

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I suspect that if you can show that what you did stopped the issue, they’ll be happy. For me, I’d rather know that the previous buyer remedied the issue than that I still have to deal with it.

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I would like to see pictures and the size of the house. If it’s under 1200sf it is a tear down in my book.

Isn’t it I have to prove that they knew about the issue? Of course, with all these circumstantial evidences I can assume that they knew, but I’m not sure these are undisputed claims in the court, as the disclosure and the appraiser clearly did not mention anything. I could imagine they could just say they only fixed cosmetic issues and never checked the foundation, but I’m happy to hear a second opinion to see if the legal headache and cost are worth it.

The house is on flat area, but the area is known to be prone to this type of issue according to the structural engineer. As a matter of fact, the street behind my place currently has one house with Bay Area Underpinning construction signage and another nearby one with visible horizontal cracks near the foundation, so I guess this is a confirming evidence?

Regarding the soil analysis, the engineer also said underpinning should fix the issue permanently, and from my naive reading of how it works it should behave like this as the piers will reach the bedrock. Did I misunderstand anything? If you have experience dealing with this and won’t mind helping me out, I’d be happy to share the report with pictures.

I will talk to a licensed foundation contractor. That bottom left is way out of whack. They can inject epoxy underneath… I will have it remeasured over time…\

The area homes do not sit on rocks , silt mostly.

Get a into arbitration. Can probably get a quick settlement. Maybe $50k


I agree with this. You should have the seller pay for at least the immediate fixes. There is no harm in bringing it up to them and see what they say. Nobody wants a lawsuit.

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