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Friday, 08 February 2013

Faulty Foundations: Homebuilders exploit loophole
SAN ANTONIO - How solid is the house you are sitting in right now? For thousands of people in San Antonio… that's a troubling answer. Cracked walls and broken concrete are often blamed on the shifting soil of south Texas. But there is often another reason: shifty homebuilders. Your home's foundation may be crumbling underneath you right now. And that may be because your homebuilder took a shortcut when constructing the foundation.

Collister Investigates
Faulty Foundations: Homebuilders exploit loophole

SAN ANTONIO - How solid is the house you are sitting in right now? For thousands of people in San Antonio… that's a troubling answer.

Cracked walls and broken concrete are often blamed on the shifting soil of south Texas. But there is often another reason: shifty homebuilders. Your home's foundation may be crumbling underneath you right now. And that may be because your homebuilder took a shortcut when constructing the foundation.

Sherman Henry has cracks in the walls, doors not closing properly and sticking. He even has cracks in the ceiling at his Southwest Side home. The house he's lived in since 1984 is crumbling.

“I feel like I got ripped off,” says Henry.

The 74 year old recently had to hire a company to level part of his house - for the third time. And it's cost him more than $20,000 just to fix this problem.

The problem is the soil underneath - which was brought in by the builder to fill the lot.

"A lot of it is the old clay soil. I mean there very expansive soils,” says Bill Gregson with Hy-Tech Foundation Repair. “These things dry out and you see right now, and you see right now it's got some moisture in it. But when they dry out, they shrink and that's the problem. The house is going up and down just like a yo-yo.”

But a foundation - too weak to handle the fluctuations caused by the expanding and contracting - is also to blame. So the house has to be propped up.

The City of San Antonio has one of the strongest city codes, dictating how a foundation must be built. But the Trouble Shooters uncovered a loophole. Builders can get around the code by simply hiring an engineer to design a new foundation - and get around those tough standards. That can save the builder thousands in construction costs.

Licensed home inspector Mark Eberwine says these foundations that are not built to city code - and are called "engineered foundations" - are turning out to be weak.

“You decrease the amount of concrete you need, the amount of cable, and the amount of steel, and the amount of soil compaction,” says Eberwine.

City records reveal builders have gotten permits for more than 43,000 "engineered foundations" over the past ten years. And a map showing every permit submitted to the city of San Antonio to fix a faulty foundation reveals the problem is equally spread throughout the city.

The home inspector says builders could make stronger foundations by just spending more money.

“It's anywhere from eight hundred dollars to two thousand dollars to beef that foundation up where it is pretty rigid and the likelihood of any foundation problems is minimized,” says Eberwine.

Attorney Bryan Woods specializes in representing homeowners who wind up buying poorly built homes.

“I personally believe that the foundation especially is not where you should save money,” says Woods.

The lawyer believes cracked foundations start with engineers being pressured by builders to keep up with their high volume construction.

“I’m finding the tremendous amount of work being put on engineers. I'm concluding from that there is no way due care can be exercised in both the design
and the inspection,” says Woods.

We wanted to ask area home builders about the practice of using engineered foundations. When we contacted the spokesperson here at the Greater San Antonio Builder's Associations we were told they would find someone who would sit down with us for an interview, but that never happened.

To help you find out if your home is built on an engineered foundation, you can view a list all of the homes in the City of San Antonio where an engineer submitted a report.
Click here for that list...

These are public records supplied to WOAI by the City of San Antonio in response to a request under the Texas Public Information Act. The fact that your home is on the list does not mean you have a faulty foundation, instead you should consider checking your home periodically for cracking. In the event you find cracks, you may consider hiring an independent engineer to evaluate the problem before contacting your builder or the company that provides your home warranty.

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 You, Jc Dufresne and 85 others recommend this.Jc Dufresne and 85 others recommend this.
8 Comment(s)

Comments: Show | Hide

EmmaE - 2/6/2013 12:10 PM

2 Votes
It doesn't end with Home builder’s poor construction but starts with the selling process. From faulty claims of their warranty during the sales process to the forms they file with the federal gov't. Home builders begin by falsifying the 92541HUD form that tells the gov't that there is not expansive soils or hazards that need to be mitigated. Just because this might not be you with one of the homes or an FHA or VA loan don't think it doesn't affect you. HUD backed those loans and for some homeowners the problems are too great or the home becomes inhabitable that they let it go into foreclosure. The # of these cases are increasing for this but, also have another impact. When the values of the homes begin to decline it dominoes down into the taxing entities, city, county, and most of all YOUR SCHOOLS. The way this happens, is that with the decline of home values the school district, city, and county must increase the tax rate in order to collect the same amount as last year…leaving the burden to all the citizens for the damaged homes. I could go on to tell you the greater impact because there are many but, please understand this becomes everyone’s problem in the end that the BUILDER CREATED. The problem is a growing problem not declining so ask your legislatures to support their constituents with laws that protect the homeowners of Texas. Stop allowing them to be paid off by the builders with campaign contributions and speak up. Contact your Congressman and ask them why your government is not holding accountability for these homebuilders who have continuously falsified and deceived the federal government and the citizens of the U.S. To end, if you think it is too expensive for them to fix, think again & look at these homebuilders last 10 years of investment (profit) reports, they have one of the highest profit margins out there. Nothing is wrong with profits as long as you’re not raping and pilferaging people & communities along the way. CALL YOUR LEGISLATURES TODAY!

MarcelinoCR - 2/6/2013 7:14 AM
3 Votes
more corporatee capitalizm crimes!

ABC123 - 2/6/2013 7:05 AM
3 Votes
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Why would any place but a third world country allow builders to cut corners and weasel out of proper building procedures? Castro thinks cable cars are going to make San Antonio a world class city? How about building houses that don't fall apart Julian?

CiboloAggie - 2/6/2013 12:52 AM
3 Votes
Sad to say our home is suffering foundation issues too out in Cibolo. Looks like our lot is on expansive soils and we're seeing cracks in our brick, multiple dry wall cracks over 2' long, swinging doors, soffit pulling away from the garage, shower pulling away from the wall, and other issues in addition to having foundation cracks. Our city officials have been proactive on the issue trying to encourage lawmakers to pass a Homeowner Protection Act. This would help future home buyers but folks like us are left to see our home values plummet. We hoped this would be our last home being retired from the military and being a disabled veteran but.......we're faced with a possible loss on a sale and looking to head out of the area.

debtex - 2/6/2013 12:17 AM
4 Votes
Glad to hear this problem being brought up - I live in Falcon Ridge in Cibolo and this is a big problem we are facing with our builder DR Horton who cut many corners to make a profit while building in the area. The buyer is left with expensive problems that don't appear until the builder has moved on and the builder continues to make a profit elsewhere with their next victim.

cosagrande - 2/5/2013 10:43 PM
3 Votes
The City of San Antonio does not review plans for structural designs. The City of San Antonio does not inspect foundations. The City delegated this inspection to the engineers. The engineers hired by the home builders are too busy to conduct foundation inspections and it can get too costly for the home builder. Therefore, the engineers send a technician to conduct the inspections and minimize the cost to the home builder. That is a problem!!!

wdoug62 - 2/5/2013 10:28 PM
3 Votes
This is a timely article. The associated list is mostly recent construction, as these shortcuts have been taking place for many years. More especially building outside of the city limits then the city annexed the areas. The major foundation problems mostly show up after the builders warranty has expired and the homeowner foots the expense.

dustoffkid - 2/5/2013 10:15 PM
4 Votes
C'mon out to Cibolo, you'll find faulty foundations all over the place.

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