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Cracked Houses: What the Boom Built
WSJ ^ | 01 July 2009 | M.P. McQueen

Posted on 07/01/2009 8:16:43 AM PDT by BGHater

Robert and Kay Lynn lay in bed shortly after closing on their new home in the Blue Oaks subdivision in Rancho Murieta, Calif., abutting an 18-hole golf course. They were listening to the “pop, pop, pop” of what they thought were acorns falling onto the roof.

The Lynns soon realized those were not acorns dropping on the roof.

“Little did we know it was the house cracking,” says Mrs. Lynn, 67 years old. Mr. Lynn, 68, says they bought the property in 2002 for $357,000 as a weekend home and an investment. The stucco house was moving and shifting, with part of it subtly pitching toward the golf course, resulting in cracks and fissures in the walls, ceiling and floors, the couple says.

Many of their neighbors say they had similar problems. In the Sacramento Valley subdivision of about 250 houses, more than half the residents have reported some type of flaw. The Lynns and dozens of their neighbors last year filed construction-defect lawsuits against the builders, and the lead case is expected to go to trial next week. They are seeking enough money to permanently repair the houses, a figure expected to total millions of dollars.

A spokeswoman for the builders, Reynen & Bardis Development LLC, said they would have no comment pending litigation, but a response the company’s attorneys filed with California Superior Court said time limits for some of the plaintiffs’ claims had run out.

Whatever the outcome of the case, hundreds of thousands of people from California to Georgia say their almost-new homes need costly repairs because of construction defects. The furious pace of home building from the late 1990s through the first half of the 2000s contributed to a surge in defects, experts say.


(Excerpt) Read more at online.wsj.com ...


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Miscellaneous
KEYWORDS: building; cheaplabor; construction; homes; housing

1 posted on 07/01/2009 8:16:43 AM PDT by BGHater
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To: BGHater

I do hope amnesty is passed so we can get this problem to spread across the nation!


2 posted on 07/01/2009 8:17:41 AM PDT by relictele
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To: BGHater

Crap homes built by cheap illegals. Thank God my home was built by “rednecks” who knew what they were doing.


3 posted on 07/01/2009 8:20:18 AM PDT by Frantzie
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To: BGHater

They spent $357,000 for a weekend home in their late sixties. God love ‘em


4 posted on 07/01/2009 8:20:52 AM PDT by Jim from C-Town
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To: BGHater

The builder will declare bankruptcy leaving the owners to twist in the wind. Six months later the builder will open a new business on the other end of town and continue his shoddy workmanship under a new name. Been there.


5 posted on 07/01/2009 8:22:07 AM PDT by mbynack (Retired USAF SMSgt)
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To: BGHater

A friend bought one of these badly-built McMansions. Shortly after they moved in, the rooms started to separate from the house. Floods followed, roof destruction, cracking foundation, daylight through the walls. They tried suing the builder. He laughed at them and moved back to Russia. They ended-up paying an additional 50% to get the house repaired by someone competent. However, this had nothing to do with a housing boom and everything to do with how we license builders.


6 posted on 07/01/2009 8:22:50 AM PDT by pabianice
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To: Frantzie

One wonders where the building inspectors were during this time. That is why they exist.


7 posted on 07/01/2009 8:23:12 AM PDT by lurk
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To: BGHater
Although my home isn't new, it's a Condominium conversion that has been riddled with problems. When these places are retro fitted, the contractors often overlook the 20+ year old plumbing inside the walls, which eventually spring leaks.
8 posted on 07/01/2009 8:24:57 AM PDT by T Lady (The MSM: Pravda West)
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To: lurk

At the height of a bubble, everyone is embezzling from everyone else- in this case, inspectors, bankers, homeowners, homebuilders, investors. That is the nature of a bubble. Eventually the players notice the inherent mendacity and the bubble pops.


9 posted on 07/01/2009 8:28:55 AM PDT by oblomov (Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods. - Mencken)
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To: Frantzie

While I would love to agree with you, look at the “defect” THE HOUSE IS SHIFTING!!!!. In California this is common. We have land that is almost always on the move. If you want a house that doesn’t settle or slip you have to be careful where it is built.


10 posted on 07/01/2009 8:35:40 AM PDT by the long march
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To: BGHater

When my last house was 9 months old, it went through a fairly substantial earthquake (2001). The floor in the bathroom shifted almost an inch on one side, and a crack developed in one of the walls. My current house was built in 1972. It went through the same earthquake and a couple more. It has none of the same damage. After the old (new) house, my requirement for my next house was either 1- old construction or 2- custom construction that I personally oversaw. Since #2 wasn’t going to happen, I went with #1.


11 posted on 07/01/2009 8:43:52 AM PDT by conservative cat (America, you have been PWNED!)
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To: BGHater
I call it "California Construction".
Cheap labor building homes with sub-standard foundations.
12 posted on 07/01/2009 8:46:24 AM PDT by Zathras
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To: pabianice

If the inspectors are good we do not need builder licensing. Let the buyers seek a good inspector.


13 posted on 07/01/2009 8:46:38 AM PDT by bvw
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To: pabianice

Tell me about your friend’s house. What did the foundation consist of? Was there a basement? Were proper footings installed?


14 posted on 07/01/2009 8:48:43 AM PDT by Former Proud Canadian (How do I change my screen name now that we have the most conservative government in the world?)
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To: BGHater
Doesn't this same sort of thing happen to Habitat for Humanity houses?

Homes slapped together by clueless nonbuilders with no knowledge or experience that fall apart in 20 different ways a few years down the road...

15 posted on 07/01/2009 8:50:17 AM PDT by Lizavetta (Politicians: When they're not lying, they're stealing.)
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To: Former Proud Canadian

I have no idea.


16 posted on 07/01/2009 8:51:13 AM PDT by pabianice
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To: mbynack
You have nailed it. Easy to do when you operate your bidness on other peoples' money.
17 posted on 07/01/2009 8:51:26 AM PDT by hinckley buzzard
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To: BGHater
It turned out that much of Blue Oaks Estates was built on clay soil that expands in the rainy season and contracts in the scorching summers, the builder, Reynen & Bardis, acknowledges. This is damaging the homes’ foundations and subtly twisting the frames, causing homes to slowly pull apart—as evidenced by cracking floors, walls and ceilings, separating gutters, and jammed windows and doors.

We live in a tiny little house that was built sometime before 1940, and it has a pier and beam foundation, so that when the soil shifts (and in South Texas, you know it will), it can be re-leveled without a lot of hassle. It's creaky and drafty and apparently haunted, but I'm glad we didn't end up in one of the mid-boom houses.

18 posted on 07/01/2009 8:51:39 AM PDT by LongElegantLegs (It takes a viking to raze a village!)
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To: conservative cat

My first house was built in 1870. Every system — electrical, plumbing, etc. — had been a retrofit. But man! Was that house solid! The foundation was of huge granite blocks cemented together.


19 posted on 07/01/2009 8:54:15 AM PDT by pabianice
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To: pabianice

Well, it makes a BIG difference. I have no experience with California building techniques. However, if the house was built on a concrete slab, you are asking for trouble. If there is a proper foundation or a basement with proper footings, unless the ground was shifting, there should have been no problems.


20 posted on 07/01/2009 8:56:38 AM PDT by Former Proud Canadian (How do I change my screen name now that we have the most conservative government in the world?)
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To: lurk

“Sorry senor - inspector and workers no speaky gud english I don’t theeenk.”

This type of contruction is more than adequate for shanty towns outside Mexico City and Rio. This is where the workers learned their “trade.”


21 posted on 07/01/2009 8:58:20 AM PDT by Frantzie
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To: Jim from C-Town

$350K in my neck of the woods buys you 550 sq. ft. in a middling to bad neighborhood far from the train. Don’t count on having a washer/dryer in your unit either. This is all at the bottom of the real estate market, btw.


22 posted on 07/01/2009 8:59:40 AM PDT by Clemenza (Remember our Korean War Veterans)
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To: mbynack

“The builder will declare bankruptcy leaving the owners to twist in the wind. Six months later the builder will open a new business on the other end of town and continue his shoddy workmanship under a new name.”

You know my builder!

Actually, mine was caught trying to cross the border into Canada under an assumed name...


23 posted on 07/01/2009 9:02:04 AM PDT by Mr Rogers (I loathe the ground he slithers on!)
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To: bvw
If the inspectors are good we do not need builder licensing. Let the buyers seek a good inspector.

I did all my own contracting and inspections during the construction of my home. I ensured that EVERYTHING was up to code.

24 posted on 07/01/2009 9:02:12 AM PDT by Sarajevo (You jealous because the voices only talk to me.)
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To: the long march

When you had Americans building the homes in CA they usually knew how to compensate for it. Commercial construction in CA uses higher quality workers in most cases. For example - in Nor Cal the Costco uses wood roof trusses to flex for earthquakes. In Florida they use steel roof trusses.

Pedro “ain’t” slap dashing commercial buildings in many cases because if it falls down - a lot of people could get killed and sued.


25 posted on 07/01/2009 9:04:06 AM PDT by Frantzie (Remember when Bush was President and Americans had jobs (and ammo)?)
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To: Frantzie

Yep. Exactly the problem. Personally, I’ve sued builders on behalf of clients who are the victims of this scam.

Cheap illegal labor equals bad craftsmanship. The builders declare bankruptcy to deflect any lawsuit damages and the buyers are left holding the bag.


26 posted on 07/01/2009 9:06:47 AM PDT by Feasor13
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To: Frantzie

True true.


27 posted on 07/01/2009 9:14:33 AM PDT by the long march
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To: BGHater

For an ordinary house (in Californica $357,000 is “ordinary”), I don’t believe they ever hire an actual civil engineer to do an actual soil analysis and foundation design. It’s pretty obvious that many entire subdivisions are built without any input from a licensed civil engineer.

Umm, I take that back. With the environmental laws we now have, they need to hire tons of engineers and other researchers to make sure that there’s drainage, and to make sure that the underground blind newts don’t get drowned by the new landscape. Just no effort expended on the actual houses, though.


28 posted on 07/01/2009 9:22:18 AM PDT by Erasmus (Barack Hussein Obama: America's toast!)
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To: Jim from C-Town
?????

2002 is the "late sixties?"

29 posted on 07/01/2009 9:22:32 AM PDT by Publius6961 (Change is not a plan; Hope is not a strategy.)
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To: the long march

If the soil is that bad, drive pilings and then put the footings and foundation on top. Spend an extra $20,000 now or $100,000 later. But still, where were the building inspectors??? What the hell is their function anymore except to get a paycheck and run up the cost of building???


30 posted on 07/01/2009 9:25:44 AM PDT by rednesss (fascism is the union,marriage,merger or fusion of corporate economic power with governmental power)
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To: Publius6961

No the people who bought the house are in their Late Sixties. ‘

They are 69 and I think 67 years of age. I just thought that it was a large amount of money for people to spend on a second home when they are in there LATE SIXTIES and are not living there full time.

Did you read the article?


31 posted on 07/01/2009 9:27:21 AM PDT by Jim from C-Town
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To: lurk
One wonders where the building inspectors were during this time. That is why they exist.

One of my apartments is an interesting case. The original builder saved $3000 on the plumbing job--well, actually, closer to $2900.

Proper piping would have cost him $3000 in materials, but he got his daughter to steal soda straws from the neighborhood McDonalds' for a month, and that did the job.

He did have some out-of-pocket expenses though. $50 to his daughter for all those McD's visits, and another 50 to her for that wild weekend with the building inspector.

32 posted on 07/01/2009 9:29:45 AM PDT by Erasmus (Barack Hussein Obama: America's toast!)
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To: BGHater

must be 0bama’s fault.


33 posted on 07/01/2009 9:43:14 AM PDT by Only1choice____Freedom (FDR had the New Deal. President 0bama has the Raw Deal.)
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To: rednesss

It is not a soil issue. When the plates shift on a pretty much continuous basis ( you have heard of earthquakes I take it) you need to build differently.


34 posted on 07/01/2009 9:54:31 AM PDT by the long march
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To: BGHater

I’m a private, state licensed property inspector, working in an area where new McMansions are being built next door to 125 year-old properties, so I see the full range of construction mistakes from several eras of building technology.

The big problem with most modern construction is it leaves little room for error - it’s assumed for example that the interfaces between various materials will be performed according the manufacturers installation instructions, however given the build schedules and the quality of the labor available there are defects admitting water in around a third of the newer homes I inspect.

Over the course of their lifetime, water will get into the structure in most older properties as well, but in many cases this can go on for decades without seriously degrading the structure. OTOH the materials and construction techniques used to build the typical McMansion in my area can result in significant damage to the structure when there is water intrusion for periods as short as a few months.

The bottom line is that unless the people building a modern house achieve something close to perfection (which seldom happens) it’s often going to degrade a lot more quickly it’s much older neighbor unless someone is watching for and quickly correcting problems as they develop.


35 posted on 07/01/2009 10:04:43 AM PDT by M. Dodge Thomas
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To: M. Dodge Thomas

Are you saying that OSB doesn’t like to get wet??


36 posted on 07/01/2009 10:22:22 AM PDT by rednesss (fascism is the union,marriage,merger or fusion of corporate economic power with governmental power)
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To: the long march
Yes I seem to remember reading something about those earthquake thingies in college. But I assume that they aren't trying to build across an open fault line.


37 posted on 07/01/2009 10:25:25 AM PDT by rednesss (fascism is the union,marriage,merger or fusion of corporate economic power with governmental power)
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To: rednesss

California has hidden faults in almost every location. Shifting is standard for houses here


38 posted on 07/01/2009 10:34:58 AM PDT by the long march
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To: the long march

I still gotta think that there’s an engineering solution that isn’t being used because the upfront cost is deemed too expensive. Pay me now, or pay me lots more later.


39 posted on 07/01/2009 10:51:51 AM PDT by rednesss (fascism is the union,marriage,merger or fusion of corporate economic power with governmental power)
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To: BGHater

A friend of mine went to look at a home in a McMansion subdivision in Phoenix and since she had been an office manager in a construction company for many years before retiring she knew what questions to ask. There was very little footing under the houses, and when she told the salesman that was not enough footing for even a small one story much less a 4000 square foot 2 story- he said in the desert where the ground doesn’t get much moisture they really didn’t need any footing!! Needless to say she didn’t buy. Contractors with pride in their work used to build great homes- not just meet the barest standards of code. This cracking of the house sounds to me like not enough footing and support structure for the house to begin with.


40 posted on 07/01/2009 11:11:04 AM PDT by Tammy8 (Please Support & pray for our Troops; they serve us every day. Veterans are heroes not terrorists!)
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To: rednesss
There is nothing wrong with OSB (or even synthetic stucco)if, as the previous poster implied, it is properly installed, sealed, joined (to other materials), and maintained. That is a tall order, however, for most builders and homeowners. There are brick houses in Texas that are crumbling because the Mexican bricks were of poor quality. I've seen brick veneer fall off $500k houses because the mortar wasn't mixed properly.
41 posted on 07/01/2009 11:11:19 AM PDT by riverdawg
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To: rednesss

Oh yeah. Sometimes it is as simple as don’t build there


42 posted on 07/01/2009 12:04:43 PM PDT by the long march
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To: riverdawg

And sand with salt in it. Use it to make cement, water gets in the cement later, salt dissolves...cement falls apart.

I see it everyday. Brick walls built 3 yerars ago that I can push over with my foot. (And I don’t mean some super-powerful gung fu push either...8-)


43 posted on 07/01/2009 9:05:27 PM PDT by Tainan (Cogito, ergo conservatus)
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