ckelley116

Fear of my house falling down

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I typically suffer from health anxiety, but every now and then Iatch on to an unrelated fear and obsess over it. Lately I’ve been terrified that my house is going to fall down. My house was built in 1900; we bought it 5 years ago and it passed inspection with no problems. But for some reason, I keep thinking there are undetected foundation problems. I find myself checking the walls and ceilings and each time I find a crack - there are a lot of them, mostly in the plaster ceiling - I go into a panic, positive it’s a sign of foundation damage. Our basement is unfinished and I keep looking for damage in the rocks on the walls or signs that the wood joists are bad. The kitchen floor is uneven, which our inspector noticed and said was fine 5 years ago, but I wonder if he was wrong and we’ve been letting the foundation damage get worse until it either costs tens of thousands of dollars we don’t have to fix, or the house starts to fall apart. For what it’s worth, the house next door was built in 1862 and doesn’t seem to have any problems, but the owner also seems to keep on top of things (more on that below).

I also fear destructive insects, like termites or carpenter ants, damaging the wood inside the house without us seeing it. Every loose or uneven floorboard scares me. I feel like I keep finding new soft or uneven patches of floor I never noticed before. We did discover termites in a tree out front just 5 days ago. The exterminator is coming out tomorrow to do an inspection and I worry he’s going to tell me they’re all over the house (mind you, I’ve never seen any evidence of either termites or carpenter ants inside my house, though everything else likes to come in and make itself at home). 
 

My husband accuses me of catastrophizing - which I do. I freely admit that. But it also means that when something is truly a concern, he still insists I’m overreacting. His response to everything that goes wrong in the house is “well, it’s an old house.” Of course it is, but old houses last long enough to get old because people maintain them. He’s the type who will refuse to pay a plumber to resolve a small issue, instead either coming up with some idiotic “fix” or waiting until a pipe bursts in the wall - so it’s hard to get him on board with hiring someone for even routine house maintenance. I feel like if he was less cheap and more open to this kind of stuff I might not worry so much... but then I’m sure I’d find something else.

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Back in 1988, we bought a new townhouse. One day when it rained heavily, water began to pour out of the foundation in the basement and the builder came and sealed it up and we never had any other issues with it again. In 1995, we bought a rancher that was built in 1959. In June 2017, we had a larger sewer leak in our basement and there was black terrible smelling sewerage in our basement. We had to get it pumped out and had a special sanitizing company come in and clean it up. On top of all of that, our tile floor had asbestos in the glue in some spots, so we had to have an asbestos removal company remove the tile and clean everything up. All a very big headache. 

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I haven’t been able to shake this obsession. I feel like I’m finding new cracks in the ceiling and walls all the time. They’re basically hairline cracks, which from what I understand are mostly benign and cosmetic, but I worry they’re an early  sign of foundation problems. We just had new laminate floors put down and discovered that the load-bearing wall is visibly concave. Not bowed, but curved in. This is likely due to the age of the house or maybe it was never perfectly straight to begin with? There are also two (that I know of) areas on our basement wall that seep water when it rains heavily. It doesn’t pour out, and our basement has never flooded, but it’s definitely detectable on the wall and floor. I’d love to have someone come out and tell us it’s fine and just patch it up, but my husband says I’m panicking for no reason and “basements get wet”. But with all the wood holding our house up, the last thing I want is for it to rot from the moisture. 
 

Marc, thanks for replying! I can sympathize with the sewage problem - we’ve never had it enter the house, but our main sewer line to the street is clay and it backs up a couple of times a year when tree roots get too deep into it, and we have to have someone come out and clear it. That’s something else we’ll have to address sooner than later I suppose.

We have asbestos siding, but strangely I’m not concerned about that at all - the inspector said it was very safe in that form (encapsulated).

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We have a foundation inspector coming out today. He'll be here in a few hours. I've pretty much worked myself into a panic expecting to be told we'll have to replace the entire foundation (which can cost more than $100,000). Obviously that's worst-case scenario and I like to think we'd have more obvious problems if that were the case, but I'm nervous as hell anticipating bad news...

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I have this exact fear.  Foundation issues = money and heartache and stress and more money.  I've been meditating lately (or trying) and the narrator said something that stuck.  When the anxious thought comes, you can label it, either with what it is or how it makes you feel (like "basement foundation - anxiety") but can also tell yourself what you're doing.  There's "planning" which is what you did when you hired an inspector, so done! But also "ruminating" and "speculating" - I find myself speculating a lot!  And when I call it what it is, it helps over time to reduce it and clear it out of my head faster.  I recommend The Worry Trick by David Carbonell.  It has helped me so much redefine my relationship with anxiety and gave me great tools.  Good luck!

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I'll have to check that book out; thank you! I think it's been on my Amazon wish list for a while; I've just never ordered it. I'm definitely deep in the "ruminating" and "speculating" part of it all!

I feel even worse now that the guy has come and gone. When I made the appointment I was told he'd be here for 60-90 minutes, and I expected that in that time he'd do a thorough inspection of the house and would address any concerns I had about wall and ceiling cracks and other things I've noticed that could point to structural problems. Instead, he spent about 10 minutes in our basement and the remaining time trying to sell us a $21,000 waterproofing system. Water wasn't even my main concern - it's the general structural integrity of the existing walls. I know that the water seepage we have needs to be addressed, and this can be done by having a mason come out and repoint the joints. And this isn't to say that waterproofing is a bad idea, but it isn't why I called them. He addressed nothing about my actual concerns and after coming up from the basement, never left the dining room table which is where he sat for almost 2 hours trying to get us to agree to letting them dig up our basement to install a drainage system (which doesn't even address the walls, which is where the very minor water we get enters). Even if he couldn't tell me anything was wrong, he made no suggestions to have a structural engineer or a mason come out. He just kept talking about this waterproofing system which would only serve to conceal the stone-and-mortar walls, leaving the existing mortar - which is already aged and crumbling - to continue degrading behind the insulation barrier he wants us to buy. He also told us that "you can't repair a stone foundation, you can only replace it" which 5 seconds of Googling reveals isn't true.

We didn't commit and have another company coming out tomorrow, and I hope they're a lot less salesy and more concerned with the reason I called. I'm just so discouraged now. 

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