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25 November 2010 @ 11:01 pm
retaining walls and foundation cracks  
I'm considering going to an open house of a house I've already seen twice. The house basically meets our check list but it doesn't thrill me and the price is still kind of high. There is also a mild concern because the house is perched on the edge of a pond. The back of the house is only about 6ft from the retaining wall which is clearly no longer plumb. There are also multiple foundation cracks. Now, since I'm not an expert I have no clue how much or little to worry about these things, so the question I'm asking anyone reading is:

What things should I look for to try to become more or less worried with this problem?

One cool thing is that I first saw the house about 5 months ago, so if this is a fast moving thing, I'll be able to tell, but I'm betting it's not. The big question is this 13 years of ground movement or 5?

So if anyone has any advice, I'd love to hear it, or if anyone is bored enough to come along and take a look and be a sounding board... unlikely, I know.
 
 
 
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Someone I am is waiting for my courageforgotten_aria on November 26th, 2010 04:37 pm (UTC)
The wall is about 5' tall. It's hard to tell how close to the edge of the pond, since the pond's hight is determined by rain fall. Here's the satellite photo of the house:

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=s_q&hl=en&geocode=&q=Dapper+Darby+Drive,+Stoneham,+MA&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=37.052328,89.121094&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Dapper+Darby+Dr,+Stoneham,+Middlesex,+Massachusetts+02180&ll=42.469416,-71.09311&spn=0.000527,0.00136&t=h&z=20

The house was built in 1997.

How did is pass code if it's such a death trap?
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Someone I am is waiting for my courageforgotten_aria on November 26th, 2010 06:05 pm (UTC)
I don't trust them, which is why I'm being worried by the signs, but there's a huge vast spectrum between "just fine," "money pit." and "death trap." I'd be a little surprised if death trap got built in 1997. Not saying it's impossible, just unlikely.
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eub on November 26th, 2010 07:04 am (UTC)
I am no expert either, but here's what I've heard:

In a house/earthquake class, the instructors sounded unconcerned about fine cracks in the foundation, from normal settling. If they're wider, or people have patched them and they reopened, that's worrying.

The couple of times I've seen leaning retaining walls fixed (pulled up to vertical and anchored better) it wasn't a real big deal of engineering, though I think not cheap. But a retaining wall six feet from a house, and over a pond, is outside what I've seen.

It sounds dicey enough that if you get to the point of a home inspection, they'd likely recommend having a geotechnical engineer...

You know, if they get no offers after the open house, I wonder if they'll pay for you to run an inspection, and if it has reassuring results (but you don't make an offer) they can wave it at future prospective buyers.

Edited at 2010-11-26 07:05 am (UTC)
Someone I am is waiting for my courageforgotten_aria on November 26th, 2010 04:41 pm (UTC)
There is evidence that they've been patched and re-cracked. See this photo I took a few months back. You can see that something was smoothed over the original texture of the wall but there is still a crack.

eub on November 27th, 2010 12:51 am (UTC)
Yeah, you could use that as a homebuyer's educational photo of continuing earth movement. :-} Too bad, if it's a nice house otherwise.
champagne and formaldehydecoffeekitty on November 26th, 2010 07:52 pm (UTC)
completely unrelated - could i get you to email me yr current mailing address?
ktnxbye :-)