Hello, I see that you don't focus on building construction issues. BUT I'm...

Asked May 10, 2016, 10:41 PM EDT

Hello, I see that you don't focus on building construction issues. BUT I'm hoping you can advise me on how to find unbiased info on my problem with a 1968 brick ranch house built on a crawl space. I have talked with a structural engineer and he told me this wasn't his area and that I should talk to an architect.?? I doubt that I could talk to an architect about this. And FYI, I'm retired on a limited income. The question is what's causing seasonal tilting in the inner (drywall) walls, opening some cracks, and separations at tops of some walls at the ceiling. A tilt in kitchen counters, down to wood toe moldings (visible spaces in several components) can be seen in winter. Because the crawl space was wet from neighborhood drainage patterns,3 years ago the foundation was excavated,and waterproofed with underground drains. This addressed some drywall cracks and humidity levels. But the tilting persists. And it's puzzling that it occurs both in north-south and east-west walls.I don't know who to trust on this issue. I have heard that it might involve attic trusses. And ideas would be appreciated.

Hamilton County Ohio home ownership new home design and construction building construction

3 Responses

I wish that we could provide truly helpful guidance; however, as you've noted, we simply do not have the expertise to answer questions about building structural issues. We are dedicated to providing research-based information and I'm not aware of anyone involved with our group who has the kind of background and expertise to provide qualified answers with your question.

With that said, I will try to provide some speculative perspectives based entirely on what I would do if it were my own home. Hopefully it will be helpful. From what you've described, if the seasonal tilting is indeed an internal structural problem, I believe it is critical to seek advice from a structural engineer from a safety perspective. While you've already tried this approach, keep in mind that engineers have a wide range of expertise. Before accepting engineering services, you should clearly describe the situation and ask if the firm or company has an engineer(s) who have expertise with assessing such structural issues; you need to stress that you want to know if your home is safe. It may also be helpful to ask about the person's engineering training and certifications.

Based on the positive changes you described when you made changes to soil drainage, the problem may be partially or entirely an external issue. You should consider talking with a soils engineer (= geotechnical engineer). You should consider contacting our Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District to seek their advice. I don't know if they can provide direct assistance, but they should be able to provide help with seeking a qualified geotechnical engineer.

Again, I have no expertise with building structural issues. However, if this were my home, I would first want to make certain the structure is safe internally by seeking an assessment from a qualified structural engineer. At the same time, I'd want to learn if there's something occurring with the underlying soil that is contributing to the problem.

I hope that my perspectives are helpful.

Joe, Thanks for your thoughtful response. I should have mentioned that the structural engineer I spoke with was the one who evaluated my house and determined that waterproofing was needed. So I know the structure is sound. And the seasonal shifting is always the same-- a fraction of an inch. It isn't progressing. That's why the trussing issue caught my attention, I want to point out to readers that if they are confused by contradicting advice from several contractors they are free to hire an independent engineer for an evaluation. Some contractors wanted to install piers (long supportive poles) around my foundation without even looking at the crawl space conditions. I was hoping that you might have a suggestion on how to communicate with someone in the home construction industry. Is there an organization or association I might be able to reach for advice? Thanks again, Chris

All building materials expand and contract with moisture and temperature. Also, we can get quite a bit of flex in a building with a big snow load on the roof, especially if the snow load is not evenly distributed. If it doesn't seem to to get worse over the years, and has the same seasonal change, year after year, it could be normal material expansion and contraction. Controlling moisture in and around the structure is the only thing that can give you some help to minimize the issue.

Now, if the "tilt" is enough to make round things roll across the floor or counter, then you may have some foundation problems. I always start out an evaluation by looking at the structure, inside and out, to make sure that all horizontal and vertical lines of the building are horizontal and vertical. I usually don't find truss problems unless there are sags in the roof. More often the problem area will be the area that has had moisture damage.

See these resources.

http://extension.missouri.edu/webster/house-moisture-problems.aspx

http://extension.missouri.edu/p/G1700 I know this one is for basements but it translates well to crawl spaces.