I am in the early stages of having a new home built. So far, the
foundation has been established and the concrete basement walls have
Today, I received a call that I need to meet with the foreman of the
project. The reason is that they found out that they started the
foundation too low. For example, the driveway will slope slightly down
toward the garage, as opposed to being flat or on a slight incline.
Some additional background on my home: the lot is level with the first
floor in the front... it slopes down on both sides, and the basement in
the rear of the home is fully exposed. The lot is 1/3 acre with houses
on similar lots to both the left and the right.
One option I've heard mentioned is that they want to increase the
height of the basement walls. (They are currently 9 feet and mentioned
increasing them to 10 feet.)
Does anyone have any thoughts on this subject? Should I be concerned
about their plan of simply increasing the height of the basement walls?
My thoughts are that since they are only in the first week of
construction (the basement walls are as far as they've got), they
should start over and build the house right. However, I want to be
open-minded when I meet with the foreman, and accept any reasonable
suggestion they make that won't sacrifice the intergrity or quality of
Can anyone offer any thoughts on this subject? What would you
recommend that the builder do? Can they simply correct their mistake,
or should they start over?
Thanks in advance for any responses!
Sounds to me like 10' walls might even be better especially since the back
basement is exposed. If it is a problem, and the slab hasn't been poured
yet can you just backfill with more rock to the level you want?
It seems to me that a bigger problem is why was the depth of the pour missed
? Lot's of mistakes are excusable but this shouldn't be. What else might
be missed ?
starting over is not a realistic option. if you insist on the nine
foot walls, they can just add a foot of fill under the basement slab.
the depth of the footings and where the bottom of the wall is in
relation to the top of slab is immaterial. tearing out and
restarting is just not an option in my opinion.
unless you have indications that this guy is a real hack, i would work
with him and try to resolve it. mistakes are going to happen. if i
was in your builders shoes, and someone came at me demanding i tear out
and redo a concrete foundation for a mistake that could be rectified
without affecting the final product, i would be visiting an attorney
and seeing about getting out of the contract ASAP.
My concerns, and possible objections, are:
1. 10 foot walls will now affect the basement steps. The steps will
now either need to be steeper, or cut down on some of the landing space
at the bottom of the steps. (The steps already end close to a wall.)
2. If my foundation is sitting too low (lower than my neigbhors), will
I have a better chance of encountering water problems in the basement?
3. With my foundation too low, the grading of my lot to both my left
and right may now slope towards my house from my neighbors. Again,
another concern for water, among other things.
4. Will pouring another foot of concrete on top of the existing
concrete create problems such as cracking between the two pourings,
I don't object to 10 foot walls, had they been planned for. My
concerns are the integrity of such a fix, and the consequences of
having a foundation that is too low in the ground. You mentioned that
the builder should perhaps see an attorney and get out of the contract
ASAP. Perhaps that is the best option if starting over is not viable
(or the builder doesn't offer any other viable options). I would be
"kicking" myself for years if I move into the house and encounter
problems because I didn't demand that the builder do the job right,
especially for something caught so early in the construction process.
Well, I'll beat a dead horse hear... it is an option in my opinion....
A 10 foot basement is a good thing. Every house I've been in that has such
a deep basement left a really nice impression on me. The steps have to be
cut a certain way, this is code. You may end up with a landing near the
bottom, thats OK in my book.
If you have proper drainage, you won't see a drop of water.
DON'T allow this to happen. You'll regret it almost immediately. It will
make your house harder to sell and will be very expensive to "fix".
The little I know about concrete is that the two pours will be only held
together by the rebar that connects them - there will be NO chemical bond.
Concrete is strong, but very brittle when there isn't enough of it. That
one foot of concrete will basically be carrying the weight of the entire
house. You need to talk to a structural engineer of your choosing AND
another concrete expert (perhaps call a nearby university that offers
courses in concrete technology and talk to a professor.)
Even if its possible to do this, you'll probably need a very particular
recipe of concrete, and then you'll have to trust your GC to order the right
mix, and trust the supplier to deliver the right mix, and trust that you'll
have the right weather for that mix to set properly, because that 1 foot of
concrete will be carrying the weight of your whole house. Thats too many
things that MUST go right.
But first, you'll have to run this past your building inspector. They may
not allow it anyways, so that may be your answer.
Most construction contracts do not have an "out" clause. If yours does not,
then if the builder decides to back out of the contract, you would be
entitled to damages. He's asking for a world of trouble if he does that.
This is your warning sign. Your builder messed up. He can't hide it and he
knows it. Now he's trying to get you to give him permission to take the
easy way out.
This will be the first of many things he'll screw up and put in your lap to
One day, he'll be gone and you'll be stuck with it.
But just as he can't walk away from this contract, neither can you. However
you can tell him, "this is wrong, and I'm not accepting it". He may say,
"you must be kidding - you really expect me just tear all this out and
replace it!". Your answer will have to be "yes." Things may get tense, and
there may be a lot of mean and angry words exchanged. That's life. $#!+
happens, and sometimes it happens to you.
Anyone else reading this who's thinking of building their own home, be aware
that these things do happen. It happened to me too. I had two stories of
framing (walls and all) and a roof in place when I found out. I thought,
there's really nothing that can be done now, and I just want to get the job
finished. I thought, this isn't worth getting lawyers involved, then the
job will never get done. I thought, fighting with my contractor isn't a
good way to go through a project, I'll live with it. Well, its a year later
and my contractor is still working on my home. He's screwed up everything
else he's touched. Everything and I mean EVERYTHING has had to be done
over, sometimes done over twice. The city would take away his license
except they know it would make my situation even worse. Its possible, maybe
probable, that I'd be no worse off if I made him take it all down and redo
Firing him is not an easy option, and will create a world of trouble for
you. Its simple. Make him do it right. Double check everthing he does.
Hire an architect to triple check everything he does. It will cost
thousands and be worth every penny. Check out everything he tells you.
Every reason, every excuse, every explanation. Check it with the architect,
check it with the inspector, run it past us. You are now the de-facto GC,
and he's your site supervisor. Its unfortunate, but it happens. Good luck,
and keep us posted.
During my construction defect case we hired a structural engineer who
said, among other things, that the builder built the foundation too
low. We were having water problems, BTW. An elaborate and expensive
drainage system and major regrading of the lot were part of the
recommended fix, among other major repairs. There was no way it was
ever going to be "right" but the drains were supposed to keep further
damage from happening and then there was the matter of repairing the
foundation and more. This was on a house that at the time was only a
year old and the builder was refusing to make proper repairs. We ended
up having to sue him and thankfully we settled, but it took several
years to get this resolution. The entire time we lived in the house we
hated it and it never felt like home. When we sold the house we only
got about half what it should've been worth because of all the defects
and disclosures. Because of the settlement we came out alright but
I've met many homeowners since who were severely damaged financially by
a builder's mistakes when they closed on the home and/or allowed
On the contrary, another new house we'd bought years earlier had the
foundation put in the wrong place. The company who made the mistake
caught it right away, tore it ALL out, and redid it, at their expense.
We never had to sue, or even file a complaint on, that builder. We
never had problems with that house, and we really enjoyed living
there. And, when we sold it we made a profit.
I'll let you decide whether you want to accept the builder's fix
without hiring your own expert to be sure the fix is correct, but IMO
hiring a good engineer NOW is critical. Any problems you turn a blind
eye to now you WILL probably be stuck with, because after the deal is
done, it will be nearly impossible to remedy the situation legally or
otherwise. In fact, with something this critical I recommend getting
more than one expert opinion, just as you would if you were having
surgery. if the foundation of a house is not right, the house itself
will never be right either.
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