Well, here we go again. Another “Minimally Functional Foundation.” This is an expensive house and it is displaying signs of foundation damage at one year of age. Perhaps these cracks are purely cosmetic but we are not optimistic because they have appeared shortly after construction and this homeowner clearly has a foundation issue.
Why would a new house have brick cracks around windows? The answer is fairly simple. The most common cause would be soil movement and a slab foundation unable to resist the forces of nature. The clay soils in this part of Texas will expand in volume when wet and will shrink in volume when they lose moisture. This expansion and contraction process places great stresses upon the concrete slab foundation. So the question is, “Is this home’s concrete foundation strong enough to resist these forces of nature?” The answer is “probably not.” Home foundations are built as cheaply as possible to increase home builders’ profits. So the concrete is thinner than it should be and concrete slabs likely have the absolute minimum of steel rebar installed during construction. That is why we call them “Minimally Functional Foundations.” If home builders included more steel rebar and made the slab a couple of inches thicker then a majority of home foundation problems in Texas would be avoided.
So here is our advice – Call an attorney and then call the home builder. DOCUMENT EVERY CONVERSATION AND CONTACT WITH THE HOME BUILDER. You will want one or two foundation inspections from independent structural engineers. Once you have those engineering reports your attorney can guide you through the process.
The home builder must honor his warranty for the house for a period of 10 years. However, these warranties have their exceptions and “requirements” that can limit the options of the homeowner. In addition, if you can not reach an agreement with the home builder on the repair of the foundation then the homeowner will be forced by contract to submit to Mandatory Arbitration. This is BAD for the homeowner because this form of arbitration is heavily weighted in favor of the home builder and the homeowner has very limited rights and recourse. We are very critical of Mandatory Arbitration and the statistics reveal that 10% or fewer consumers (homeowners) win their case with this resolution method.
Our last piece of advice concerning this foundation issue is to NOT accept any recommendation for a cheap, low quality foundation repair (Pushed Piles). This is an expensive house, and probably a large, heavy house and we recommend a Permanent, High Quality foundation repair method – Bell Bottom Piers.