I am looking at buying a building that is 80+ years old. It is brick.
I was told the last buyer backed out because the building "leaned".
Now I know a lot of older building have a lean to them and that is not
abnormal. My question is is there anything I can do that would give me
clues as to whether it is a structural problem. I obviously would have
a professional inspector/engineer look at it if it came to that, but
don't want to waste the time//money if there are telltale signs I could
detect. Also, what would an engineer/inspector look at to determine if
the lean was structural?
I'm new to this group, so pardon me if my reply is out of line.
If the building is leaning it is a structural problem, but the cause may be
something different. Look at the land/soil around the structure. If the
soil slopes towards the structure or towards the side/area where the
structure leans, then it's very likely that a drainage problem has caused
It could also be that the foundation is inadequate for the soil conditions
or the load it's supporting.
Take a good look at the foundation. Look for cracks, signs of water, signs
of shifting, buckling, tree roots, etc. Then work your way up to the floor,
If there are large cracks in the brick, or signs of attempts to repair, then
that would be a clue.
how much "lean" are you talking about an inch in 10 feet? an inch per foot?
look for cracks in the foundation and plaster/ drywall.
small cracks would freak me out, houses settle. . its been there for 80
years, unless water is running into it or under it, it likely isn't going
to move any more
I think we would all need a great deal more information.
What is the structure? Steel/Concrete/Load Bearing Masonry/Wood
What is the foundation? Pier and grade beam/Spread/Monolithic
General conditions? Huge cracks/visible water damage/visible sink
holes, depressions, ponding/obvious bowing of roof line or wall
How many stories? What is the exterior? What was the buildings
Is this lean visible to you? Stand across the street with a plumb
bob at arm's reach for a reference.
Keep the whole world singing. . . .
If another buyer backed out, I would see if he just used leaning
as an excuse to get his money back being broke or if he had it
inspected. If he had it looked at and it was deemed bad, run like
a wild deer.
I've lived in a couple old buildings here in Chicago. In one
apartment, it was hard to keep my office chair (on wheels) at the desk
the floor sloped so much. That doesn't mean the building is going to
fall down, but obviously I want to be cautious.
There is a reason you're thinking about buying the building....I assume
you want to live in it or rent it? You'd like to get a bargain (don't
we all) but you certainly don't want to buy a "money pit"!
It's hard for someone w/o engineering or construction experience to
effectively evaluate the condition of a building.
It's hard for someone WITH engineering or construction experience to
effectively evaluate the condition of a building w/o a site visit or
VERY detailed pictures.
The fact that the lean is not very noticeable means it's "probably"
The best thing you could do personally would be to compare your
building to similar building nearby. If you do not see gross
differences, this is more data that you're probably ok.
If the all the numbers pencil out & you're more or less happy with the
building (condition, location, price) I would suggest having an
engineering take a look at it. The cost will be worth the peace of
mind & you'll be able to make a much more informed decision. You might
even be able to get the price reduced based on the eval...esp since the
other buyer backed out.
The real estate market is slowing down & as a willing buyer you're in a
pretty good position.
I saw a building 40' wide, three stories tall that was out of plumb 12" due
to soft ground under its concrete foundation be lifted and straightened for
$26,000.00 here about 2 years ago. The tell-tale signs will be if all the
doors and windows open and close freely and there are no significant cracks
in the interior sheetrock/plaster or exterior walls then the building has
shifted as a complete unit with no foundation damage. Often a building that
has settled in such a manner has very good integrity and very good
construction. It is worth noting that if your building has settled without
damage, no foundation company in the world will guarantee it will not be
damaged by the tunneling and lifting required to get 'er back in plumb!
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