Q. I’m thinking of buying a house that has a crawlspace. The foundation is in very bad shape. While the house looks quite bad, it’s got good bones. Is it possible to completely remove a bad foundation and install a new, taller one? What’s involved? Who does this type of work? What would you make sure gets done if you’re going to all this work? – Hanna S., Hartford, Connecticut
A. Anybody buying such a dilapidated house needs to negotiate a really good deal. The good news is that the old foundation can be removed and replaced with a new cast-concrete foundation, creating a full basement. The task is not much different from eating an elephant. You just take one bite at a time.
Hanna’s question reminded me of a fascinating time early in my building career. Fresh out of college, I had just rehabbed my first house in Cincinnati. It didn’t need a new foundation, but it was otherwise in pretty bad shape. Four months of work transformed the house back to its former glory.
About a half-mile away, a developer wanted to put in a small shopping mall, but there were about 10 houses and an apartment building in the way. Not only did he buy all these properties, but he proceeded to move them about a mile away on some wooded land he bought at the end of a street. I remember watching these houses, and parts of houses that were cut in half, creeping down the road to their new foundations.
Hanna needs to contact different foundation contractors to see which ones have done exactly what she wants to do. Not all foundation contractors have the expertise to work underneath a house that’s suspended above the work site, sitting on cribbing made with timbers the size