West Knoxville woman's home sinks due to improper soil

West Knoxville woman's home sinks due to improperly compacted soil

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It took several days for a home restoration crew to jack up and put Stephanie Groves' West Knoxville condominium unit back on a solid foundation last month after it began sinking. It took several days for a home restoration crew to jack up and put Stephanie Groves' West Knoxville condominium unit back on a solid foundation last month after it began sinking.
There is a wide crack and noticeable slope through the floor slab in her bedroom as well as the living room, indicating a serious foundation problem in the 9-year-old unit. There is a wide crack and noticeable slope through the floor slab in her bedroom as well as the living room, indicating a serious foundation problem in the 9-year-old unit.
"I didn't even know what fill dirt meant when I bought the house. I just bought it like every other person does. I expected it to stand," said homeowner Stephanie Groves. "I didn't even know what fill dirt meant when I bought the house. I just bought it like every other person does. I expected it to stand," said homeowner Stephanie Groves.
Putting the house back on a solid foundation has added up to an unexpected expense of about $30,000. Groves was left wondering why the inspection of the ground below her home failed to reveal a problem years ago. Putting the house back on a solid foundation has added up to an unexpected expense of about $30,000. Groves was left wondering why the inspection of the ground below her home failed to reveal a problem years ago.

By DON DARE
6 On Your Side Consumer Investigator

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - If a house is built on a strong foundation, it should provide a lifetime of carefree living. However, if the foundation is weak, cracks can develop and there could even be worse problems.

It took several days for a home restoration crew to jack up and put Stephanie Groves' West Knoxville condominium unit back on a solid foundation last month after it began sinking.

The problem revealed in and engineering report says, "fill compaction did not meet the minimum building requirements."

The house has been settling several inches into the ground.

Josh Smith and his team from Master Dry, a foundation repair business, dug under and around Groves' home at Belmont Condominiums.

They were installing a push-pier system of high strength steel tubes and brackets to transfer the load in order to lift and stabilize the sinking foundation.

"The footers have to be put on solid ground," said Smith. "When it is not, the house and its weight will settle and cause the problems you see here."

"This is the master bathroom. The tile was my first indication something was going wrong," explained Groves.

The tile alignment that separated in Groves' bathroom isn't the only problem. There is a wide crack and noticeable slope through the floor slab in her bedroom as well as the living room, indicating a serious foundation problem in the 9-year-old unit.

When the drywall on inside walls started separating and cracks on the exterior brick veneer wall began to develop, Groves called her insurance company.

"I didn't even know what fill dirt meant when I bought the house. I just bought it like every other person does. I expected it to stand," said Groves.

A home inspector Groves hired when she bought the home in 2007 found nothing wrong, but his inspection did not probe the fill dirt behind her condo.  He also did not go 20 feet below the ground where the engineering report found wood chips.

Groves' insurance company would not pay for expensive repairs after the engineering report found the soil had been improperly compacted.

"As of right now, I cannot get a response from anyone: the builder, the developer, the engineer," said Groves.

The builder, Plaza Partners, says contractor Bill Coleman closed his business several years ago.

The statute of repose against Coleman has long expired, and the statute bars any legal action after a specified time period.   

The engineering company told 6 On Your Side the footing inspection was performed according to standard practices and there were no observed issues.

Meanwhile, the developer says all rights of Groves' lot had been transferred in 2003 to the builder.

Groves was disappointed with the responses.

"The only thing I can conclude is apparently the evil soil fairies were at work one night, excavated my soil and replaced it with some bad soil," she said.

As her home is put back together inside, Groves has put together a book of facts called "Solid Foundation and Building Principles 101."

She has learned there is a big difference between a home's normal settlement and settlement due to "improperly compacted soil."

"Something like this is not normal. It's a whole new language. I've walked into a world something I never understood or knew about," she explained.

Putting the house back on a solid foundation has added up to an unexpected expense of about $30,000. Groves was left wondering why the inspection of the ground below her home failed to reveal a problem years ago.

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