Ok, I never expected to be writing about this phenomenon in Oklahoma. The reality of it was very apparent when showing homes yesterday to some clients in the Jones area. It was one of those….when the price seems too good to be true…it is. Face it. Every buyer wants a deal. This one was only $39.00/sf! The photos online looked good. All the kitchen appliances were there, the cabinets in place, light fixtures intact and even some wood flooring in the dining room!
As we drove up, it was on an attractive acreage, had curb appeal and we could easily see beyond the need for a fresh coat of paint in a year or two. However, immediately upon entering the home, it was apparent that the pictures were deceiving! This particular “deal” was a home that had already had some minor structural issues when it was placed on the market. The homeowners were already underwater on the mortgage and when the earthquake hit, the existing cracks in the walls and foundation grew dramatically. There were gaps in walls that were 3″ wide and a crack in the floor of the kitchen that a small pet could disappear in. Had the need for pier work been determined early and done soon after cracking had appeared, it’s likely that this home could have been saved. Instead, it became uninhabitable and just another casualty of the economic crisis.
So the question is “Should you pier your home after an earthquake?” The answer, like so many others, is “it depends.” My recommendation is to contact a structural engineer and have them review your home for damage and provide written recommendations as to the repairs needed. Some cracks are caused by wind, while others are caused by earth movement, either from settling or in some cases from earthquakes. If you just call a piercing company, their answer in most cases – unsurprisingly – is that you need piers. I have seen many times where a piercing company recommends piers, while a structural engineer may or may not recommend piers, depending on the cause of the cracks. So you are much better off paying for an engineer to give you a written recommendation rather than just doing what the piering company recommends. A good structural engineering inspection will cost less than a single pier and is well worth the money.