Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Foundation repairs

Here are a few pictures of the foundation problems we discovered in the house after we were able to rip down some of the walls in the basement. These and some other problems are what conviced us to build new rather than renovate. While anything can be fixed for a price, it was hard to justify the cost of these repairs while still ending up with a seven foot basement and a sloping floor.

In the image below, this crack was directly beneath a window. The wall did not have enough strength to hold back the force of the ground on the other side. To fix it would have required pulling out the window and pouring a new concrete sill heavily reinforced with steel, which would prevent the wall from buckling in. The cost was estimated to be as high as $5000.

In the two images below, a large crack (about 1" wide) can be seen running down the wall from the ceiling to the floor. Amazingly, the basement window is also bent, but the glass is not broken.

The image below is from the garage, where frost has made its way under the insufficiently insulated floor. It's hard to tell from the photo, but this whole section of wall is buckling inwards due to the uplift of the floor and the force of the ground on the other side of the wall pushing in. To fix it would require supporting the house above while the entire wall is ripped out and rebuilt. The cost for this repair alone was estimated at $15,000 - $20,000

It was interesting to hear from our builder some of the history of these types of cinder-block foundations. Apparently, when these houses were built in the '50s, poured concrete foundations were available, but were more expensive and required a trained crew. A builder could save some money by using cinder blocks because the blocks were cheaper than the equivalent volume of poured concrete and the builder's own workment could usually do the job.

Interestingly, today the situation is reversed and it would now cost more to build a cinder-block foundation (not that I think you ever would want to).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hurry up and wait

One thing about building a new house, no matter how hard you try to hurry some things along, they just will not go any faster.

Almost three weeks ago we got a draft contract from the builder along with some drawings and technical specifications. We submitted these to the bank for review so that they could finally do the building loan.

Since then, it has been a painfully slow and unnecessary wait for a bank that has a funny interpretation of customer service (not to name names, but it's a national chain that hails from the province with the name New Scotland)

When I submitted the documents, I asked if there were any other documents I needed to submit. "Oh no," said the Bank, "we have everything." One week later I asked for a status update. "we need a letter of employment" was the curt reply". Within one business day I sent off the letter of employment and asked if they had completed the appraisal of the land. After two days with no response, and almost two weeks after submitting the necessary paperwork, I was on the phone to the bank manager seeking some answers. The bank manager agreed they may have dropped the ball, but then said the delay in ordering the appraisal was because they were waiting for documents from me! huh? This week, I finally met the appraiser at the house. Hopfully, by this Friday (three weeks after I submitted the paperwork) we may actually have a loan.

Once we have a loan in place, we can sign the contract with the builder and away we go.