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Author: TheRealBCF Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 14985  
Subject: Hello Date: 8/21/2003 9:34 PM
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Hi everyone, it's been a long time since I posted here - I was "TMF Runkle" back then, but in the meanwhile I left the Fool, got activated by the Reserves and shipped to the Mideast once (Abu Dhabi), and Central Asia (Uzbekistan) the second time. I'm now home and happily running my business again. I've gotten into a lot of consultations for structural problems in homes, in particular for Realtors and I work with a foundation repair company.

Anyway, I had an interesting experience yesterday. I get a call from a homeowner who has a house he's selling. He told me he had some "minor cracking" which existed when the house was bought, and it hasn't moved at all. Then he asks me how he can be sure I'm not "fly by night" (his words). I told him I'm licensed as a Professional Engineer, and I have been in this business for a while. I also mention that I partner with this certain foundation company in doing foundation remediation, so I'm pretty up on this subject. He seizes on that and starts asking how he can be sure I'm not just promoting the foundation company. I start explaining professional ethics, etc... and my phone battery dies.

A couple hours later the guy calls me back. He is stuck on whether I'm "fly by night" and wants to know if I'm "bonded". I explain I have a million dollars of General and Professional Liability. He states "that's just so you can't sue me if you hurt yourself". I should have hung up right then. Anyway, I explain Professional Liability, and he says that he doesn't want me making mistakes. He also got going again on how could he be sure I wasn't promoting this foundation company. He again started on how the cracks in the house weren't moving, and how he didn't want me trying to sell him $40,000 or so in piers he "doesn't need".

I was in the neighborhood of his house, so I suggested I go over there. Usually, I tell a homeowner to have a check on site (they tend not to pay if billed). He has a bunch of excuses, and assures me he'll issue me a check soon as he gets the report. Like an idiot, I agree. I drove over to his house, and go over everything with his wife.

This is what I found:
- a 3/4" crack in the masonry, a 5/8" crack in the masonry, and a 1/2" crack in the masonry. The cracks had been sealed with caulk, which had been pulled apart. His wife tells me the caulk had been there the whole time they were living in the house. To me, it looks pretty fresh. I also note that the house is built on fill next to a creek bed. I checked the soil near the foundations, and it is very loose.
- The wife tells me where they got my name. It was from the foundation company mentioned above.

I got back home, and it hit me what the guy was trying to do. He was trying to set me up to say the house was fine, and no more settling would take place. If I recommended piers under his foundation (which he needed), he was going to scream I was just promoting this foundation company. I sent him a fax telling him to take his business elsewhere. He called me at 10:30 PM, and blocked the caller ID. Of course I didn't answer.

This morning he called me again, and started to whine and complain. I hung up on him after telling him to go away. I'm out the time I spent at the house, and a lot of aggravation. In hindsight, I should have told him to go away early in the phone call, like after he asked me if I did have letterhead.

It kills me how people try to pull little con acts. This guy wanted an engineer's letter to waive at the buyers when they questioned the cracking. He wanted me to say the house was not going to crack anymore, and things were OK. Not only is the ethics bad in such a case, but I could be setting myself up for a big time lawsuit. It felt good to tell him to go away.

Anyway, sorry for the long post, but I had to share the story.

George aka BCF
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Author: desertdaveataol Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 8032 of 14985
Subject: Re: Hello Date: 8/21/2003 10:48 PM
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I hope you let others in your profession know what he's up to.

If you know the real estate broker he's using (really using!) you might want to have lunch with him/her and tell your story without mentioning any names or addresses so you're both "clean" if the broker pulls out of the deal.

You owe it to the community to get the word out on this guy's scam because in addition to trying to screw you and the broker he's trying to screw the buyer.

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Author: TheRealBCF Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 8033 of 14985
Subject: Re: Hello Date: 8/21/2003 11:30 PM
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I hope you let others in your profession know what he's up to.

I thought about that tonight, and I'm going to give a heads up to the people I know. The funny thing is a homeowner trying to pull this scam is so transparent because he's not really familiar with the business of buying and selling houses. This is the second homeowner I've had try to mislead me about structural problems on the house.

Even funnier is I'm one of the few professional engineers around here that does this type of work with homes. Most of the engineering firms that he may call will refer him back to me. I made a memo for my file in case this goes to court some day. It's likely he'll find an engineer to say what he wants, and when the house changes hands there will be a lawsuit. In such case, if I get called as an expert witness, my notes will be very helpful.

I wish I had a recording of how annoyingly obnoxious this guy is. He has a whiney voice, and is really anal retentive. The stupid questions he asked me actually made me laugh, which made him angry. Questions (like I mentioned earlier) "Do you have letterhead?" "Are you approved, licensed and all that stuff?" "I want to make sure you're not some fly by night operation" (which is more humorous being I was recommended by a major foundation repair company here), and "I want to make sure you're not just promoting piers for xxxx"

George

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Author: VeeEnn Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 8034 of 14985
Subject: Re: Hello Date: 8/22/2003 6:29 AM
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Hey George....welcome back. I often wondered what became of you.....I thought you'd forgotten us or got too fancy for us or something.

Vivienne

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Author: desertdaveataol Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 8035 of 14985
Subject: Re: Hello Date: 8/22/2003 8:12 AM
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On second thought,

You might want to do a public service project with this guy.

Agree to do the inspection (knowing you'll never get paid) and write it up recommending ALL of the repairs you deem necessary.

Make sure the Realtor gets a copy.

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Author: ednmkn Two stars, 250 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 8036 of 14985
Subject: Re: Hello Date: 8/22/2003 9:04 AM
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For what it's worth, thank you for your service in the Reserves. I appreciate your sacrifice.

ednmkn

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Author: cathykk One star, 50 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 8037 of 14985
Subject: Re: Hello Date: 8/22/2003 2:20 PM
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Me too... thanks for the service to our country .

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Author: TheRealBCF Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 8038 of 14985
Subject: Re: Hello Date: 8/22/2003 2:37 PM
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Hey George....welcome back. I often wondered what became of you.....I thought you'd forgotten us or got too fancy for us or something.

Well, let me recount the events since I was last here. That was way back in 2001, in spring I quit TMF to concentrate more fully on my business. Things were a bit rough because I had clients that didn't pay, overhead that was high, and not a good client base. However, things were coming about, and I was up to two employees by the end of August. One of the two was worse than worthless, but that's another story. I also had no control of my overhead, and was concentrating on the wrong business segments.

Then 9-11 happened. I was leaving my office going to a jobsite when I heard the news. My first thought was a selfish one - "my business is ruined". The second thought was utter horror about what happened, and what could happen next. As a result of the bombing, I actually fell into a major depression for a while, and had no desire to run my business. I let go of the worthless employee immediately. In early November I was asked to go to the Gulf for 3 1/2 months, and I agreed. I had no desire to run the business anyway, and even if I did, everything had come to a screeching halt. I let go my second employee.

I got back in March of 2002, and started again. I moved offices to one with more rent. I didn't hire back my admin employee, but I did get a testing contract where I hired a woman to work in the field for me. I did pretty good getting the business back, it took about 2 months. By summer I was doing well, the clients were paying this time, and I avoided the troublesome ones. However, my overhead ate up almost all of the money I made. I hired a high school kid to do admin work, and he had a problem following instructions. It also added to my overhead.

Since I suspected that I'd be mobilized again, I hired a bookeeping service to do my books. By September they learned how to invoice my jobs, and collect on accounts. Overdue accounts dropped FAST.

By October there were rumblings that my unit would be mobilized for a year or two. To avoid getting sent to work in a basement at Langley AFB, I volunteered again for duty overseas. This time it was Uzbekistan. I went there for 4 months, and got involuntarily mobilized while over there. I came home, got 2 weeks off, and was sent to work in a basement at Langley AFB (which was REALLY miserable). After working at Langley for a month, they decided to release me on a hardship (my younger son is disabled). I happily accepted, I hated that basement room.

I got back here in May, I thought business would come back in a couple months. It didn't. It came back in about a week and a half. My wife closed the office while I was overseas, I never opened it up. I never hired an admin person. Instead, I spent some time with Microsoft Access and programmed it to do most of my work. My bookkeeping service does my books and invoices, and tracks my A/R. I keep overhead to the bone, and upped my prices drastically on services I hate doing. Also, I got friends of mine in this business to stop referring business they didn't want to me, which helped eliminate troublesome clients. I also got a few key relationships, like with the foundation repair outfit.

I have one employee again, it's a part timer. She's an engineering student, and helps fill in gaps of what I can't do. So far she's doing very well, and allowing me to take on more work. I also wrote a thorough business plan WITH realistic projections. That's part of the reason I don't have an admin employee or office at this time. The overhead from those two items is a killer.

As far as the Reserves, I was going to retire, but I found out that if I did, I'd get busted from Lt. Col. to Major upon retirement because I wasn't in the grade of Lt. Col. for three years. So, I didn't go through retirement, I have two more years until I can retire at this grade. Hopefully, I don't have any more big adventures ahead.

That's what happened to me in a nutshell. Pretty busy period.

George


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Author: TheRealBCF Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 8039 of 14985
Subject: Re: Hello Date: 8/22/2003 6:07 PM
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You might want to do a public service project with this guy.

Agree to do the inspection (knowing you'll never get paid) and write it up recommending ALL of the repairs you deem necessary.

Make sure the Realtor gets a copy.


Actually, he doesn't have a Realtor yet. If he did, I would have been saved the agony probably. The Realtors around here aren't that hard up to sell houses, most of the ones I know aren't willing to risk lawsuit, etc... by hiding some existing condition. I think the guy was trying to be clever by getting some sort of letter before he got a Realtor.

Sad thing is, there are engineers out there that will write anything he wants, and Realtors that will go along with it. How these people stay in business amazes me, but they do.

George

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 8040 of 14985
Subject: Re: Hello Date: 8/22/2003 7:14 PM
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<<I hope you let others in your profession know what he's up to.

If you know the real estate broker he's using (really using!) you might want to have lunch with him/her and tell your story without mentioning any names or addresses so you're both "clean" if the broker pulls out of the deal.

You owe it to the community to get the word out on this guy's scam because in addition to trying to screw you and the broker he's trying to screw the buyer.
>>


I'd consider sending a letter to the buyer's real estate agent putting a summary of your finding on the record. That should prevent the fraud from working.

I get similar kind of inquiries from buyers and sellers in my furnace repair business. Most people are interested in being honest, and I don't either exagerate nor minimize the problems that I find. I've never had any follow up problems (law suits or threats) following that approach.


I also leave a sticker on the furnace with the date I was there and any pertinet actions I took.




Seattle Pioneer

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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 8041 of 14985
Subject: Re: Hello Date: 8/22/2003 7:28 PM
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Quite a story, George. That's a pretty drastic cure for depression, but it sounds as though it's worked!


It also sounds like you've figured out how to make a buck in your business, and it sounds like you've had some supporters who have helped you get your business and profession back on track.


Sounds a bit like my father during WWII. He's started a butcher shop in 1936 at age 25, and it was doing land office rush business by 1942 when he closed it to serve in the Navy as a Chief Commisary Steward at age 31.

When he got out of the service, his business landlord and competetors set him right back up in business, doing what they could to minimize the disruption that his navy service caused. I hope you have met with similar help from grateful citizens.


And you have my thanks.



Seattle Pioneer

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Author: mollyd77 Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 8043 of 14985
Subject: Re: Hello Date: 8/24/2003 10:17 PM
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That is hilarious. I guess all I can say is, Some People's Kids...

Glad you're back from your deployment safe and sound!

-Molly

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Author: uwalum Big red star, 1000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 8046 of 14985
Subject: Re: Hello Date: 8/25/2003 12:37 PM
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George,

One of the first lessons I learned when I started my business was that I was interviewing the clients as well as them interviewing me. There have been several clients that I culled rather than keep.

I feel your pain.

Next time, follow your gut and tell them you are too busy to help. Not having the check was a huge red flag. I fell for it once, but never again.

L

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Author: TheRealBCF Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 8047 of 14985
Subject: Re: Hello Date: 8/25/2003 2:49 PM
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Next time, follow your gut and tell them you are too busy to help. Not having the check was a huge red flag. I fell for it once, but never again.

The check was a red flag, but so was the fact the client was getting ready to sell his house but didn't have a Realtor. In normal circumstances, even if you KNEW that you had to address an item, you would get a Realtor first, to see what other things you had to take care of with your house. I would suspect the guy got a Realtor, who told him he needed the foundation fixed. He probably declined to go with the Realtor and just decided to "fix" it himself.

I went to another job where the client didn't have a checkbook. It's OK, I need to learn how to lien a house anyway, so I m going to try it with this fellow if he doesn't pay :)

George


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Author: uwalum Big red star, 1000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 8049 of 14985
Subject: Re: Hello Date: 8/26/2003 11:34 AM
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"It's OK, I need to learn how to lien a house anyway, so I m going to try it with this fellow if he doesn't pay :)"

I went through this process. It's not fun, and you don't get your money unless there is a sale. I know that you are working with folks who are planning to sell, but it's just something to keep in mind in the future. The only person who ever stiffed me on payment told me that the check was in the mail. I have a lien on his property now and don't expect to get it anytime soon.

L


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Author: desertdaveataol Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 8051 of 14985
Subject: Re: Hello Date: 8/26/2003 9:15 PM
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Am I missing something here?

Why not do the inspection and if the guy pays by check you deposit it and mail him the report when the check clears the bank.

If he claims he doesn't have his check book you type up the report and wait for the check to arrive in the mail. No (cleared) check no report.

What am I missing?

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Author: TheRealBCF Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 8052 of 14985
Subject: Re: Hello Date: 8/26/2003 9:50 PM
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Am I missing something here?

Why not do the inspection and if the guy pays by check you deposit it and mail him the report when the check clears the bank.

If he claims he doesn't have his check book you type up the report and wait for the check to arrive in the mail. No (cleared) check no report.

What am I missing?


I think you misunderstood the whole discussion, but.... The problem isn't with the checks I've gotten - I've never had one bounce. It's the guy who "accidentally" didn't have his checkbook with him when I did the report. I probably should have billed him first, and sent him the report once I got the check. That's extremely obvious, which I didn't think of until I saw your post.

Well, next time I run into that situation (which I will), I'll hold the report until I get the money.

George


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Author: desertdaveataol Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 8054 of 14985
Subject: Re: Hello Date: 8/26/2003 11:59 PM
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I probably should have billed him first, and sent him the report once I got the check. That's extremely obvious, which I didn't think of until I saw your post.

When we were first getting started we got cheated twice. That cured my faith in human nature. Since then it's been "In God we trust all others pay cash."

I have a sign up in my store that reads: "No Checks Or IOU's -- Yes They Are The Same Thing!" I've had several people comment on how true it is.

I realize that not all businesses can run on a Cash Only basis (Even I take a few checks from people I know.) but from what you said here it would seem waiting for the check to clear should/would be the way to go.

I don't know about where y'all are, but here the local DA won't even bother with a bum check for less than $1000 and if you ride them they may eventually send a letter.



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Author: uwalum Big red star, 1000 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 8061 of 14985
Subject: Re: Hello Date: 8/27/2003 12:44 PM
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"Am I missing something here?

Why not do the inspection and if the guy pays by check you deposit it and mail him the report when the check clears the bank.

If he claims he doesn't have his check book you type up the report and wait for the check to arrive in the mail. No (cleared) check no report.

What am I missing? "


For me, there is the time involved in doing the work with the possibility that I won't be paid. So, I wouldn't want to go out and do the work (holding the report) because of the time it's taken from my life for clients like these. I've only been stiffed once. I cull the clients that I no longer want. Those that are a pain to work with, or don't pay. Hasn't happeneded too often.

L

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Author: Volucris Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 8062 of 14985
Subject: Re: Hello Date: 8/27/2003 2:45 PM
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Hi,

It's interesting you should post this just when I was sitting around wondering how to find a reputable engineer to do an inspection of my foundation.

I have a claim in with the home owners warranty company, so if the engineer tells me it's fine, that's OK, and if I need piers, that's OK too. But, how do I know that the engineer I hire knows what he is doing? do you have a rec for the Denver Colorado area?

PS - I'm a PE too, but I am a mechanical PE and not all that familiar with foundations.

John

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Author: TheRealBCF Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 8066 of 14985
Subject: Re: Hello Date: 8/27/2003 7:36 PM
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I have a claim in with the home owners warranty company, so if the engineer tells me it's fine, that's OK, and if I need piers, that's OK too. But, how do I know that the engineer I hire knows what he is doing? do you have a rec for the Denver Colorado area?

Unfortunately, or fortunately for me, not many engineers work in this business. A lot of engineers look down their noses at work in the residential area (good, less competition), and of the few of us that do work in residential stuff, even fewer do work for individual homeowners.

The best bet is to call a foundation repair company and ask them to recommend an engineer. There is an inherinet conflict of interest, but if Denver is anything like Atlanta, foundation repair companies don't need engineers to drum up business for them, they have enough.
For a good foundation repair contractor, check out this web site: http://www.atlassys.com/

Atlas has a good foundation remediation system, and any of their local contractors should be able to push you towards an engineer.

George


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Author: Volucris Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 8067 of 14985
Subject: Re: Hello Date: 8/27/2003 8:53 PM
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Thanks. I have been checking around and calling foundation companies. Luckily (luckily?) I live in a place that has lot's of bentonite, so I see numerous foundation companies doing work on houses and can get references that way. I know my foundation has settled a bit in one corner about 2 inches. I think I would like to get it anchored where it is instead of moving it back. We'll see.

Thanks again.

Volucris



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Author: SeattlePioneer Big funky green star, 20000 posts Top Favorite Fools Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 8069 of 14985
Subject: Re: Hello Date: 8/28/2003 1:39 AM
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<<I have a claim in with the home owners warranty company, so if the engineer tells me it's fine, that's OK, and if I need piers, that's OK too. But, how do I know that the engineer I hire knows what he is doing? do you have a rec for the Denver Colorado area?

Unfortunately, or fortunately for me, not many engineers work in this business. A lot of engineers look down their noses at work in the residential area (good, less competition), and of the few of us that do work in residential stuff, even fewer do work for individual homeowners.
>>


Is this shortage of engineers a factor in the poor foundations that get built? And what percentage of foundations for new homes are inadequately designed and built, in your experience?


How reliable are home inspectors in identifying serious foundation problems in your experience?


Seattle Pioneer
Always interested in hearing from experts

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Author: TheRealBCF Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 8071 of 14985
Subject: Re: Hello Date: 8/28/2003 7:43 AM
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Is this shortage of engineers a factor in the poor foundations that get built? And what percentage of foundations for new homes are inadequately designed and built, in your experience?

Yes - most foundation inspections are done by county/municipal inspectors and they don't always have the training and knowledge to spot problems. Also, they tend to have a heavy workload and they don't test the bearing capacity. Most houses are built on good soils, which saves them by luck. About 75% of the ones built on bad soils fail. So, if you buy that beautiful house by a creek (ALWAYS) an indicator of bad soil, you have a 75% chance it will fail. Of course 64% of statistics are made up on the spot, and so are mine.


How reliable are home inspectors in identifying serious foundation problems in your experience?

If they are qualified (ASHI members for example - American Society of Home Inspectors), they bat pretty close to 1000. Unfortunately, here in Georgia home inspectors aren't licensed, and anybody that hates his day job can become one. Many of those guys can't find their own a$$ in the dark with both hands, much less foundation problems.

George

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Author: czbill Two stars, 250 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 8076 of 14985
Subject: Re: Hello Date: 8/28/2003 12:54 PM
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<<< Unfortunately, here in Georgia home inspectors aren't licensed, and anybody that hates his day job can become one. Many of those guys can't find their own a$$ in the dark with both hands, much less foundation problems.>>>

Scary...I live in Georgia [Conyers] near a creek [usually dry unless there are heavy rains]...and we are looking to sell w/in the next year...
czbill


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Author: TheRealBCF Big red star, 1000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 8077 of 14985
Subject: Re: Hello Date: 8/28/2003 8:36 PM
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Scary...I live in Georgia [Conyers] near a creek [usually dry unless there are heavy rains]...and we are looking to sell w/in the next year...

If you haven't seen any cracking in the foundations, and your floor slab hasn't developed big cracks and is still fairly flat, you are most likely OK (note the dancing around legal speak - I can't say something is "definitely" OK). Things to look for:

- Diagonal cracking in your basement walls

- Cracking in exterior masonry

- Diagonal cracking above door frames

- Countertops pulling away from the walls

- Over 3/16" cracks in the floor slab in the basement and garage

Feel free to e-mail me at GeorgeR@RunkleConsulting.com. I'm up in Grayson, so I'm not too far away. Just don't ask me to certify your house is Okie Dokie as it settles into quicksand :)

George


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Author: czbill Two stars, 250 posts Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 8079 of 14985
Subject: Re: Hello Date: 8/29/2003 12:06 PM
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George,
thanks...since I read the original post, I won't take ya down THAT road again. :-)

Let me see what the lady of the house wants to do...she may shoot you an email. Mine is cz_bill@yahoo.com, or balboaconsult@comcast.net.

btw...want to echo the thanks for serving in the reserves...I grew up in Panama, & many of my friends are military.
cheers,
czbill

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Author: ShelbyBoy Big funky green star, 20000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: 8081 of 14985
Subject: Re: Hello Date: 8/29/2003 1:09 PM
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Of course 64% of statistics are made up on the spot, and so are mine.


The last serious study on this topic I read indicated that this number has grown. As of the end of 2001, 67.93% of statistics are made up on the spot. I think the 64% number is old - back from the 1960's or 1970's.


ShelbyBOy


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