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Monday, January 10, 2005

Ask the Home Inspector

If you have a question relating to home inspections, you may ask it by using the 'Comments' below.  Keep in mind that anything you post in the 'Comments' will become a permanent part of this blog.  If you have a more personal question that you do not want published, you may email me your question instead.

Your question will be answered within 48 hours.  If you email your question, the answer will be emailed to you.  If you post your question in the Comments, the answer will be posted in the Comments.  Please understand that I cannot always answer your question definitively without actually seeing and inspecting the condition you are asking about, but I will do my best!

You are always welcome to call my office with any questions or concerns.  My contact information is below.  Have a great day, and remember...an ounce of inspection is worth a pound of repair!

Click here to visit Scott Hubbard's Home Page      Scott Hubbard
    Certified Home Inspector, ASHI Member

    Homewerx Home Inspections
    Office: (480) 503-2611   (Email me)

Posted by Scott Hubbard, Arizona Home Inspector on January 10, 2005 | Permalink


Hi, my wife and I have family in Scottsdale, Arizona, and we having been coming out there for years, and absolutely love it. We are coming out in a few weeks and are thinking very seriously about buying a second home now that we can come and stay in and then eventually retire and sell our home here in New York and move there permanently. My question is this, with all the research we have been doing on communities, we came across some articles which quite frankly have us very concerned. We don't know if people are over reacting or it is something we should be very concerned over. It concerns new home construction being built on expansive soil and/or collapsible soil whereby the house has foundation cracking and/or settling. Is this a major problem in Arizona and what areas if so, should we stay away from. I see Mesa, Gilbert Antham over to Cave Creek and some of the Phoenix areas in and around the city center have high soil shrink/swell potential. Am I overreacting?

Rich Verdi

Posted by: Rich Verdi | Jan 26, 2007 7:09:51 PM

Hi Rich,
Thanks for your question about expansive soils. I guess the short answer to the question, Should you be concerned about expansive soils? Is...It depends.

Now for the long answer. You are correct to be concerned. There are several areas in the valley that do indeed have expansive soils. You can see a map of the expansive soil areas here. ftp://ftp-fc.sc.egov.usda.gov/AZ/phxshrinkswell.pdf

When you are looking for a home, new or used, it is a good thing to know what kind of soil is present in the area. However, as you can see from this map, you really can’t tell what the composition of the soil is under any particular property. So with that in mind, this map can only really give us an idea of what the potential is for expansive soil damage. In addition to this map, you can ask to see a copy of the public report for the subdivision. This document should be readily available from the sales office in a new subdivision or you should be able to get a copy from the county recorders office for an older area. The public report should give you geological information that is pertinent to the neighborhood as well as other information

The key things that I look for at any specific property is proper grading and drainage of storm water off the lot. If water is not allowed to collect and soak into the soil adjacent to your foundation, then there is a smaller potential for damage. Please remember that storm water is only one source of water and structural damage can still occur if there is another source present such as a leaky pool, leaky underground pipe or sprinkler system, etc.

In addition to proper drainage and monitoring of other water sources, I would look at the floor slab in the garage for a post tension stamp. Many new homes are built in expansive soil areas and builders, in an effort to minimize the potential for damage are using a post tensioned foundation/slabs system. Without getting too technical, a post tensioned slab is of greater strength then a traditional footing and stem wall type arrangement and will better resist the movement of expansive soils. Now having said that, damage can still occur with a post tension slab, so grading and drainage is still very important.

The areas that you mentioned do have expansive soils and problems have been experienced. But I would not worry too much about it until you have a specific property in mind. As with all areas of the country, there is always some kind of geotechnical or weather related concern that can damage our property. My best advice is to ask questions, have an inspection and do your homework prior to any purchase. One of the services that we provide and highly recommend is the Arizona Disclosure Reports and the Neighborhood Environmental Reports. These reports contain a lot of information about the area surrounding a specific property including expansive soils and soils subject to fissures. You can get more information about these reports here. http://www.homeinspectionblog.com/homewerx_home_inspection_/2006/09/now_offering_ar.html#ADR

Oh yea, don’t forget to get home owners insurance…I guess that is really the best any of us can do to protect ourselves against the loss of our homes.

Posted by: Scott Hubbard | Jan 28, 2007 2:49:34 PM

I think this is a very good idea to get some of our queries answered by a home inspector. Thanks for this posting.

Posted by: Home Inspector Tampa FL | Aug 26, 2009 2:11:50 AM


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