Bad, Bad Foundation

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Posted by: from Woodbridge
11/7/2011 at 11:19:27 AM

What to do about a foundation so bad that it turns to dust if you touch it? I'm not talking about the 2 yr old skim coat someone did to cover up the problem, I'm talking about foundation walls bowing in, supports made of red brick that you can poke a screw driver through and it's not local to one spot in the basement.

The whole basement is dire straights. The customer wanted us to remove some drywall and do some "patching". Upon inspection, we found the foundation in such a state we feared for our lives being down there and quickly left. We told the customer that this isn't safe and he's got a much bigger issue happening. He doesn't believe us. He feels it's a money grab. What's worse is that he runs a salon on the main floor of this 90yr old home. The basement is a 4' crawl space and it's not a question of "if" it's just a matter of time before the foundation crumbles in. Our structural engineer doesn't even want to go in as he feels it's too unsafe. His words are that it's the worst he's ever seen in 50years.

What can I do? The customer said to me. "so after 90 yrs, all of a sudden there's a problem? Yeah right!"

Customer wants to just skim coat some patch and put drywall up to cover it up. the weeping system under the home doesn't work, as after rain the basement has about 8-" of standing water for a few days. Customer feels a dehumidifier will solve this. The water is coming through the foundation walls, the walls look like sponges.

I don't even want the job, BUT I don't want anyone to get hurt and I am genuinely concerned for people that are in the home. It's a salon, and I keep having visions of the structure giving way on day when the salon is full of women and children getting the hair done for Christmas.

What are my options? Do I contact the city? Who is the best to deal with?

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Date/Time11/7/2011 at 2:04:23 PM

Hi Ryan - WOW! I have read some of your posts and you have always come across as an honest, ethical, honorable, straightforward kind of guy. I don't see you changing now. IMHO, you could walk away to ensure you and your crew are safe (sounds like you have done that) and give the guy a written report with photos showing the actual state of his foundation. I am sure your engineer could add something as well. That COULD be then end of it.

Personally, (and it sounds like you feel this way) I couldn't live with myself if I knew that people were being put in a very dangerous situation every day without their knowledge and that the guy that is putting them there (the owner) knows about it. I wouldn't be able to drive down that street or listen to 680 News or watch CP24 in case the thing actually collapsed and people were hurt or killed, knowing I could have done something to prevent it.

There must be some anonymous way to contact the city and have the building inspected. At the very least you have escalated the situation and the owner will get a second opinion (probably a lock on his door) with a view to public safety, not just cost control. It happens with restaurants all the time, why not buildings ready to fall down?

If this guy is in denial, he needs a serious wake up call!

Good Luck with this one!

Jim Kuzma

Kettleby Handyman Services

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Date/Time11/16/2011 at 3:56:05 PM

Thanks Jim,

I did contact the city and sent pictures, I haven't heard back though. The file is still sitting on my desk staring at me but I think I've done all I can do. It's up to the city now. I tried to communicate to the customer that these issues are bad and to get another opinion, but we both know some guys rather make a quick buck and just add duct tape. The one bad thing about doing things right, is that sometimes it's expensive, and customer's are always trying to save a buck. I don't blame them and I do as much as I can with their budgets, but I will not compromise and cut corners. That only guarantee's that customer will have a horror story dealing with a contractor and further ruins the industry.

If I hear about it in the news, you can bet I'll post the link.

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Date/Time1/3/2012 at 7:42:03 PM

Hi Ryan,

If this ever happens to you again try and have your engineer review the building and as long as the owner has approved the engineer to inspect the building. The engineer can condenm the building if he or she see's that it is unsafe. The engineer would also send a letter to the city as well.

I have done this a few of time. Mostly to churches because there steeples where going to fall over. We then had to remove them and rebuild them but that's a different story.

Stay safe,


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