When buying an investment property or first home, I can’t stress enough the importance of ensuring the foundations are in good health. As a building designer and builder, I can tell you that the most expensive item on a house initially and also the most expensive part to repair if it starts to fail is the foundations. Always avoid large trees around the house as they are a major cause of foundation movement. Also, look at what type and size of trees are in the neighboring properties as they can at some stage affect your foundations (consider that you may need to install root barrier at some stage if neighboring trees are affecting foundations). Generally, trees should be at least 1 x the mature height to 1.5 times the mature height away from the residence pending the species of tree. So, keep this in mind when next looking to purchase a property. Below are some general foundation tips on recognizing foundation problems for when you’re looking to purchase your next investment
a) Brick Veneer Homes
- Look for visible signs of cracks in brickwork
- Inspect expansion joints to see if the gap is consistent. If the gap at the bottom is eg. 10mm and at the top say 40mm then this is generally a sign that there is foundation movement.
- Squeaks in flooring
- Cracks in wall
- Out of level door header. This is sometimes a sign that there has been movement and repairs have been carried out
- Check if downpipes are connected and not just running onto the ground as this is a major cause of foundation footing movement
b) Weatherboard Homes
- Check if stumps are timber or concrete (if timber, it’s almost a guarantee that it will need restumping in the not too distant future).
- If you look along the walls down the length of the weatherboards, you can generally tell if the house has moved. If the weatherboards drop at ends or are like a speed hump this is a good indication that the house is out of level.
- If flooring squeaks then this is an indication that you may need to have a re-stumper look under the house and provide leveling and blocking (generally over time stumps will move independently especially in clay sites like the western suburbs)
- Also refer to items iv, v and vi of ‘Brick Veneer Homes’ as this will also apply.