Crum­bling Foun­da­tions: More Than Just a Town issue

By Tama Moni

UConn News writ­ing II class / April 17, 2017

Hal­lie West­cott, a home­own­er, lives in Man­ches­ter, Connecticut.

Her home has a prob­lem. The foun­da­tion of her home cracks and breaks off.

She said she has two parts to her home. The first part was built in 1967 and the sec­ond part was built in 1992.

She said it’s the sec­ond part of her house that has the dete­ri­o­rat­ing foundation.

She said she had her foun­da­tion inspect­ed by a licensed engi­neer and that the engi­neer deter­mined that pyrrhotite, a nat­u­ral­ly occur­ring min­er­al, was the cause for her foun­da­tion crumbling.

West­cott, along with oth­er home­own­ers in Man­ches­ter and oth­er Con­necti­cut towns have come for­ward with this dete­ri­o­rat­ing foun­da­tion prob­lem of their homes.

This issue has reached the Con­necti­cut State Leg­is­la­ture. Gov­er­nor Mal­loy has addressed the issue in his bud­get pro­pos­al for the 2018/2019 fis­cal year.

A dete­ri­o­rat­ing foun­da­tion can­not be repaired, but replaced. Replac­ing the foun­da­tion is how the prob­lem can be solved.

Yet the aver­age cost to replace the foun­da­tion can range from $75,000 to $150,000 based on the size of the house.

Homes that were built in 1982 and lat­er are the ones affect­ed by this foun­da­tion problem.

John Rainal­di, the direc­tor of assess­ment and col­lec­tion for Man­ches­ter, said there are some home­own­ers that have come for­ward to address that their foun­da­tions are break­ing off.

We reduced the assess­ments for less than 50 prop­er­ties for the defec­tive con­crete prob­lem,” Rainal­di said. “That means that rough­ly 350 own­ers did not come for­ward yet.”

Rainal­di said that Man­ches­ter has an esti­mat­ed 400 prop­er­ties that could be affect­ed, but com­pared to oth­er towns with more prop­er­ties, that Man­ches­ter was one of the “less­er impact­ed” towns with this crum­bling foun­da­tion issue.

In order to help its res­i­dents, the town of Man­ches­ter adopt­ed an approved bill from Connecticut’s Gen­er­al Assem­bly, that would reduce the assess­ments of home­own­ers’ foun­da­tions that were built with defec­tive concrete.

If a Man­ches­ter res­i­dent sus­pects their house has dete­ri­o­rat­ing con­crete, they must first get a licensed engi­neer to inspect their prop­er­ty and then file the inspec­tion with the depart­ment of assess­ment and col­lec­tion. Then the depart­ment sends some­one to assess the val­ue of the property.

Rainal­di said that while reduc­ing the cost of assess­ments may help home­own­ers save some mon­ey on their tax­es, the cost of replac­ing their foun­da­tion still exceeds the sav­ings on their taxes.

That is help­ful for the own­ers to have their tax bill reduced, how­ev­er, with the aver­age repair esti­mat­ed to cost $150,000 to $200,000, the own­ers will still need to obtain a very sig­nif­i­cant amount of mon­ey to fix their foun­da­tion,” Rainal­di said.

West­cott, who is one of about 50 home­own­ers that have come for­ward in Man­ches­ter over this defec­tive con­crete issue, said the bill approv­ing the reduc­tion of the cost of assess­ments does lit­tle in help­ing her.

It has low­ered my tax­es some, but not enough,” West­cott said. “It’s not enough.”

She said her home has no val­ue because the sec­ond part of her house has the dete­ri­o­rat­ing foun­da­tion, along with oth­er struc­tur­al prob­lems. She said she can­not sell her home.

The Depart­ment of Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion in Con­necti­cut said that pyrrhotite, a nat­u­ral­ly occur­ring min­er­al, reacts with water and oxy­gen, to cre­ate cracks with­in the concrete.

Beck­er’s Quar­ry in Willington

They said that they con­duct­ed an inves­ti­ga­tion into this con­crete foun­da­tion prob­lem and report­ed that the grav­el from Becker’s Quar­ry in Will­ing­ton con­tained traces of pyrrhotite in it and that JJ Mottes, a con­crete com­pa­ny in Enfield, receives their grav­el from Becker’s.

The attor­ney gen­er­al and com­mis­sion­er of the depart­ment of con­sumer pro­tec­tion said that they asked JJ Mottes and Becker’s Quar­ry to stop sell­ing rocks and con­crete to res­i­dents in north­east­ern Con­necti­cut until June 2017.

West­cott said she saw in an NBC Con­necti­cut inves­tiga­tive report that JJ Mottes was the con­crete com­pa­ny respon­si­ble for much of the res­i­den­tial build­ings in east­ern Connecticut.

Joseph DiNar­do, a Man­ches­ter home­own­er, said his house’s foun­da­tion was also affect­ed by the defec­tive concrete.

DiNar­do said that his sit­u­a­tion is a legal mat­ter as well as a struc­tur­al matter.

He felt his sit­u­a­tion was so con­flict­ed that he request­ed anonymi­ty, in exchange for telling his story.

I’m okay with all details; giv­en the sen­si­tiv­i­ty of the legal bat­tles, I sim­ply don’t want my name dis­closed,” DiNar­do said.

So, DiNar­do only said a brief expla­na­tion of his how he has been affect­ed by the crum­bling foun­da­tion issue.

Yes, I live in Man­ches­ter, house was built in 1984, it has been inspect­ed by experts, cause for fail­ing con­crete is well doc­u­ment­ed, costs of repair are approx­i­mate­ly $350,000 (lift house, replace foun­da­tion, repair fin­ished base­ment, land­scap­ing, irri­ga­tion, side­walks, legal, etc),” DiNar­do said.

West­cott said to check out a web­site called Con­necti­cut Coali­tion Against Crum­bling Base­ments, which allows home­own­ers to anony­mous­ly reveal their crum­bling foun­da­tion stories.

Coali­tion Against Crum­bling Base­ments web­site mis­sion statement

The home­own­ers that start­ed this site said they cre­at­ed it to help home­own­ers seek finan­cial help to repair their foun­da­tions and spread aware­ness of the issue.

The site said that the state gov­ern­ment knew about this con­crete foun­da­tion issue for over a decade and that they’ve not tak­en action until now.

West­cott reit­er­at­ed their state­ment that the state gov­ern­ment knew about the con­crete foun­da­tion issue.

This has been an ongo­ing prob­lem that they knew was there,” West­cott said.

She said that this prob­lem will be a “slow-mov­ing train wreck” in the future. She said it will affect future real estate in Con­necti­cut because many peo­ple can­not sell their homes because of the val­ue lost with this crum­bling foun­da­tion issue.

West­cott, like many oth­er home­own­ers across north­east­ern Con­necti­cut, is deal­ing with the finan­cial and legal con­straints their crum­bling foun­da­tions have had on their homes.

There’s a lot involved,” West­cott said.

She said the crum­bling foun­da­tion issue has been a time con­sum­ing and ter­ri­fy­ing ordeal.

It’s also been so emo­tion­al­ly drain­ing,” West­cott said.

West­cott is a sin­gle moth­er and takes care of her two dis­abled par­ents as well as her child.

She knows her house has lit­tle val­ue and would be hard to sell.

She esti­mates the cost of replac­ing her foun­da­tion would be $120,000, which would be finan­cial­ly dif­fi­cult for her.

Now she search­es for what the next step will be.