Kansas City Foundations And Inspections

Classic Rock - The Foundation Of A Home

There are 5 major areas in every home.  And no matter how big or how old it is, they are always the same:

  1. Foundation
  2. Plumbing
  3. Roof
  4. Electrical
  5. HVAC

These 5 areas also make up our Major-Items Inspection and form the basis of our discussion at the end of every inspection because they not only mean the most to me, but to everyone else who’s ever bought a home.

Depending on the age, your Kansas City house foundation can be made from:

Let’s talk about typical Kansas City foundations so you know what to expect from each type.

Brick Foundation

What is it made from?

Red brick and mortar

When was it used?

This is a very early type of foundation. European homes used brick as early as the 1400s and it was used extensively throughout Kansas City until around 1920 (even longer in rural farmhouses).

How long should it last?

100+ years with ongoing maintenance.

What can I expect?

A labor of love.

This foundation is charming, but you’ll earn every bit of it through regular maintenance. Bricks and mortar are porous and absorb moisture easily so over time they will deteriorate and even disintegrate into powder.

It’s also prone to cracking, leaning, and movement by both the weight of the home and outside soil pressure, especially when the soil is saturated since perimeter drain tiles were rarely used during this time.


If there is no cracking, shifting, or bowing, pat yourself on the back. You’ve found a gem. All that’s left to do is clean and tuck-point areas when they start to show signs of wear.

If there is seepage and moisture (which is normal), you may want to consider installing a sump pump, exterior perimeter drain, or both.

If you install a perimeter drain, be sure to take extra special care not to damage the exposed foundation when putting the dirt back (these are materials that haven’t seen the light of day in over 100 years).

While you have it exposed, also repair and seal the exterior foundation to protect it against future moisture and movement.

Kansas City Foundations And Inspections
brick wall
Kansas City Foundations And Inspections
seepage through bricks
Kansas City Foundations And Inspections
deteriorated bricks and mortar
Kansas City Foundations And Inspections
foundation replacement

If you have cracks and deterioration (which is also normal), it’s time to begin the lifelong task of tuck pointing the stone and applying parging (cement top coat) to keep it nice and strong.

If there’s major shifting and movement, you can either reinforce the areas by installing a concrete wall in front – or – choose the bigger, more expensive, but (frankly) better long-term option of replacing the foundation.

Despite being a $30k-$50k repair, replacement might be a better solution because the brick will continue to deteriorate behind the support wall. 

And since the support wall is not designed to bear any of the home’s weight, future movement is likely. 

Also, a new foundation will include a footing that will better distribute the weight of the home.

As a side note, never finish a brick basement right after you move in. 

Wait at least a year and if you still decide to do it, take plenty of before photos to prove to future buyers there’s nothing hidden and they’re not going to find major problems after they move in.

Kansas City Foundations And Inspections
stone basement
Kansas City Foundations And Inspections
deteriorated stone foundation
Kansas City Foundations And Inspections
seepage through stone foundation

Stone Foundation

What is it made from?

Stacked limestone or rubble.

These foundations were usually built by stacking two 8-inch walls (or wythes) side-by-side with a 4-inch gap in between. The space was filled with mortar then the outside was tuck-pointed to seal the openings.

When was it used?

This is the earliest type of foundation going back thousands of years.  It was used extensively in the Kansas City area until about 1940.

How long should it last?

100s of years with solid, regular maintenance.

What can I expect?

Just like brick foundations, these are a labor of love.

This is a beautiful material but also porous and prone to seepage as age and neglect allow the stone and mortar to let moisture through the cracks.

You can also expect cracking, shifting, and movement if regular maintenance is not performed.


Ongoing maintenance for stone foundations is very much the same as for brick. 

Watch for spalling (deterioration), cracking, and movement.  For minor cracking, tuck pointing can be done by the homeowner and is an ongoing project.

If moisture is seeping through an area, consider sloping the ground away from the foundation, parging (cement skim coat) the area and installing a sump pump to keep it dry.

If there is major movement in a stone foundation, your best bet is to call a qualified structural engineer to give their professional opinion. 

These walls are complicated to repair (sometimes even different engineers don’t agree on what to do).  The engineer will give you a written schematic to give to a foundation company so they can fix it right the first time.

Concrete Block Foundation

How is it made?

Pre-built concrete blocks reinforced with steel rebar

When was it used?

The 1940s to today

How long should it last?

80 to 100 years

What can I expect?

Block foundations have better compression strength than poured concrete (weight-bearing capacity), but have weaker lateral strength (take less force to be pushed in).

Because block foundations are weakened by grout lines, they’re also more likely to bulge and crack than poured concrete.  And since they require skilled masons to repair and rebuild, major repairs are more expensive than poured concrete.

Deteriorated grout lines also cause this foundation to leak water easier than poured concrete.

Many crawlspaces in Kansas City are still made out of concrete block.


Block foundations don’t deteriorated and crumble like stone or brick so maintenance revolves around moisture and movement:  

Kansas City Foundations And Inspections
block foundation
Kansas City Foundations And Inspections
horizontal movement in block foundation
Kansas City Foundations And Inspections
seepage through block foundation
  1. Keeping the outside dirt sloped away from the foundation

  2. Keeping gutters clean

  3. Keeping downspouts extended at least 6 feet away from the home

  4. Keeping storage items away from basement walls

  5. Installing a sump pump where seepage happens

  6. Sealing the foundation – inside and out – as soon as seepage occurs.

If cracking happens:

  1. Tuck point the crack – inside and out – as soon as they happen

  2. If a crack keeps moving after you tuck point or grows larger than 1/4″, call a foundation company

  3. If a horizontal crack forms, call a structural engineer because it’s being pushed in and failing
Kansas City Foundations And Inspections
concrete slab-on-grade

Concrete Slab-On-Grade Foundation

This is a thin foundation made up of a concrete slab that sits directly on the ground.   It has thickened footings at the edges and beneath load bearing walls.

When was it used?

1950s to today

How long should it last?

80 to 100 years

What can I expect?

Uneven floors if it’s not built well.  Also, moisture may seep through cracks and damage to flooring or personal items.


There is no maintenance of a slab-on-grade foundation. 

The foundation is almost entirely hidden from sight except in unfinished areas.  You’ll want to look out for uneven floors and moisture, especially around the perimeter of the home. 

In extreme cases, a badly uneven floor might require leveling by having support piers installed beneath the floor.

Poured Concrete Foundation

How is it made?

Poured concrete foundations are poured into forms and reinforced with steel rebar. Walls are usually 8-10 inches thick.

When was it used?

1912 to present

How long should it last?

150 years

What can I expect?

This is faster and more efficient to build than block foundations since it does not require skilled craftsmen.  With fewer joints, it’s also less likely to leak since and delivers better resistance to movement from soil pressure.

Kansas City foundations and inspection

I’m All About That Base, No Trouble (The Foundation Inspection)

When it comes to foundations, the 2 biggest concerns we (and you should) have are movement and moisture.

And because the foundation is so important, 80% of our time is spent trying to find cracks and leaks throughout the home. 

First, the outside

With Kansas City foundation inspections, we examine the ground around the home to make sure it’s keeping moisture away from the foundation.  

Next, we look at the foundation and siding for areas that are bulging, cracking, breaking, buckling, and swelling.  This helps us know which areas inside the home might need closer attention.

Then, the inside

We start in the highest level of the home and look for signs of movement in the walls and ceilings as we work our way down to the crawlspace or basement.  

Using our very own Gravity Flow™ Process, we can connect any outside damage to inside movement in order to paint the complete picture as we work our way toward uncovering the root cause.  

Once we get to the lowest level, we then start at the ceiling and check the perimeter from top to bottom. 

We assess any cracks (the width, location, and direction) along with any signs of moisture.  Then we’ll connect them to any problems we noticed outside the home and in the upper levels.  This way we can translate the data into a level of concern we’re able to pass onto you.

But remember, cracking is normal so don’t get too concern if you find some.

What needs to be weighed is a combination of the age of home, the type of crack, the size of the crack, the degree of any shifting or movement, and signs of moisture so we can help you decide how concerned you should be.

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