Home Foundation Problem Poses a Quandary for Seller

Special to The Times

Question: My home will soon be listed for sale, and a preliminary home inspection revealed cracks in the foundation. Because of this, my Realtor advised a price reduction to reflect the cost to repair it.

As an optional approach, he suggests having the foundation repaired and then proceeding to list the price at full market value.

What if I pay for these repairs and the buyers' home inspector deems the work to be inadequate?

What recourse would I have?

Answer: Your Realtor has made some excellent suggestions. Start by determining the actual extent of the problem and the cost of making adequate repairs.

This begins with an evaluation by a licensed structural engineer who can diagnose the foundation problem and prescribe the needed repairs.

A licensed general contractor can then bid on the job of implementing the engineer's recommendations. At that point you'll know whether it's worth proceeding with repairs.

If repairs seem viable, all work should be done with permits from the local building department and approved by the municipal inspector.

In that event you'll have the engineer's report, the contractor's warranty and the building department's approval to assure buyers. All of this documentation should be included with your disclosure statement.

On the other hand, if you elect to sell the property without making foundation repairs, the engineer's report and the contractor's bid can be included with the disclosure statement, and the price can be adjusted as your Realtor suggested to reflect the amount of the bid.

In that case you will have provided your buyers with accurate information regarding the condition of the property.

Regardless of which course you pursue, the buyer's home inspector will be preceded by a reliable engineering report.

Driveway Is Not What It's Cracked Up to Be

Q: Our concrete driveway was installed only 10 months ago, and already there is a crack more than 10 feet long. The contractor has suggested that we cut a quarter-inch-deep groove along the crack and fill it with cement.

This sounds like a hokey repair to us. We think the contractor should replace the entire driveway.

What do you suggest?

A: It is not easy to evaluate a crack without actually seeing it.

If the crack is a hairline only, 1/16 inch wide or less, that is typical for concrete driveways. A wider crack would be unusual for a relatively new installation.

Most driveway cracks can be prevented by using proper procedures before pouring the concrete. These include compaction of the soil, placement of an aggregate base (rock and gravel), installation of steel rebar or wire mesh as reinforcement, and expansion joints to accommodate stresses, ground movement and shrinkage.

If these steps were skipped, then cracking of the pavement was predictable.

Attempting to eliminate the crack by cutting and filling the surface will not produce the kind of finished appearance you expect when you pay for new pavement.

If agreement on an acceptable solution seems out of reach, a third-party expert should be consulted.

If arbitration would be mutually acceptable, a qualified home inspector or general contractor could be hired to serve in that capacity.

Putting the Chill on Recessed Ceiling Lights

Q: Some of the recessed lights in my house have overheated, and I'm worried about fire. When the bedrooms were repainted, I removed the fixture covers and found that the hardware and surrounding drywall were badly discolored.

Two of these lights had 100-watt bulbs instead of the 60-watt bulbs recommended on the manufacturer's label. How can I be sure that heat buildup in these fixtures will not cause a fire in my home?

A: Incandescent ceiling lights, when properly installed, are reasonably safe if the bulb wattages are in accordance with the manufacturer's specifications.

Since these fixtures have been exposed to excessive heat, they may have incurred damage and should be replaced to avoid problems.

Another consideration is insulation. Even when the correct bulbs are used, overheating can occur if insulation in the attic is installed over recessed ceiling lights. The attic should be inspected to ensure that there is unrestricted air space between the insulation and the fixtures.

To further minimize heat problems, you can change to fluorescent bulbs. This will have the added benefit of reducing your electric consumption, since far more power is needed to produce heat than to make light.

If you have questions or comments, contact Barry Stone through his Web site at www.housedetective.com. Distributed by Access Media Group.

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