The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a haven for those who love the great outdoors, beaches, and towering sandstone cliffs. But with our rugged landscape comes unique construction challenges.

Foundation issues are a common problem we run across here at U.P. Home Inspection LLC. And if you’ve looked into the cost of Marquette foundation repair – you understand all too well why catching an issue like this during your home inspection is so important.

In this blog, we’re going to reveal:

  • The unique foundation types found in the Upper Peninsula
  • Common foundation issues we run into during our inspections
  • And lastly, what we look for when inspecting foundations in the Upper Peninsula

So, if you’re in the market to snatch up your dream property in the U.P., stick with me – this quick blog could end up saving you thousands of dollars in repairs (and tons of headaches).

Common Foundation Materials in the Upper Peninsula

We love our vintage U.P. homes!  But because so many of the homes in our area are older (some over 100 years old), the materials used to build your home’s foundation may not be up to modern industry standards.

Let’s examine some common foundation types I find during my inspections…

3 Stone Foundation Types Found in Older Upper Peninsula Homes

foundation issues in a stone foundation
This is an example of foundations issues in a stone foundation.

When I talk about “stone foundations,” I’m referring to several types of foundations popular in the U.P.

  1. Cobblestone foundations –Also known as “field and river stone foundations,” this type of foundation consists of a variety of rock and stones that vary in color and are usually round in shape. These stones are harder than limestone or sandstone and do not scratch or crumble as easily.
  2. Sandstone foundations – Sandstone is ubiquitous in the U.P. because this material was readily available when many of the first homes in the area were built. Sandstone foundations are built with blocks or rubble stones that can be small or large in size. Each block is usually a different size and consists of broken pieces that are interlocked. Sandstone is a very soft rock and can scratch and crumble easily.
  3. Rubble Stone Foundations – Rubble stone foundation construction dates back thousands of years and is one of the oldest foundation techniques known to man. In fact, rubble foundations were used in the earliest pyramids of South America, Mexico, and Central America. Your U.P. home might have a rubble stone foundation if it was built between 1850-1890. In a rubble stone foundation, walls comprise of random-sized, uncut stones that are carefully fit into rows in an interlocking fashion. Lime-based mortar is installed between the stones to keep them in place.

Stone Foundation Issues

If you are considering buying a home with a stone foundation, keep these common problems in mind when touring a home with your realtor:

  • Visually evident water damage – If foundation walls are parged or painted, they can trap water. You will notice paint flaking off if this is the case.
  • Tree roots – Foundation walls can bow inward or collapse when external pressure from tree roots exert force on them. 
  • Efflorescence – A white powdery substance on the surface of or in-between bricks or stones (especially sandstone or limestone) may indicate water damage.
  • Exterior cracks – Unless your foundation has brick or stone veneer, exterior cracks may be indicative of settling issues.

If you keep an eye out for these foundation issues, you may spot a foundation problem that’s on the brink of spiraling out of control. As always, it’s best to schedule a home inspection with an InterNACHI-certified home inspector to be 100% sure what’s going on with your foundation.

How to Maintain Stone Foundations

One of the biggest stone foundation issues we find is water intrusion that eventually decays the mortar (and even the stone itself). If you run into this problem, you will need to remove any crumbling material and resurface with mortar to maintain the foundation’s integrity.

With stone foundations, always remember to:

  • Check that water is flowing away from the home
  • Ensure gutters are not clogged and flowing
  • And, finally, reduce dampness with a dehumidifier

Wood Foundations

Wood foundations are pretty rare, but not so much in the Upper Peninsula. I’ve actually found two of them during my inspections this summer alone! Wood foundations are easier, cheaper, and quicker to install than masonry foundations – making them popular with builders. But here’s the thing: they won’t last as long as masonry foundations and tend to be less resilient in the long term.

In the 1960s, when pressure-treated wood was developed, builders started using wood in foundation walls. If your home was built after the mid-1960s, there’s a chance you could have a wood foundation.

Wood Foundation Issues

During a home inspection, we look for these wood foundations issues:

  • Bowing – Especially the wall near to the basement stairs.
  • Inadequate moisture barrier – A moisture barrier should rise above grade and be visually evident.
  • Buckling –Constant pressure or the back-filling process can cause wood foundations to buckle.
  • Decay – Wood decay may be evident below grade from inside the house if the interior wall is not covered by drywall.
  • Leakage – If a sealant isn’t used at butt joints, evidence of leakage may be present.
  • Dampness – May occur due to an inadequate drainage system, a rising water table, or inadequate damp-proofing.

How to Maintain Wood Foundations

To care for wood foundations, you can apply a closed-cell spray foam on the exterior side of the foundation. The most important ways to ensure a wood foundation doesn’t degrade are free-draining back-fill (crushed stones or stones with sand) and a functioning footing drain.

Suppose you’re wondering whether your home builder has taken steps to mitigate moisture problems with your wood foundation. In that case, we recommend scheduling a home inspection with an InterNACHI-certified home inspector as your next best move.

What Do We Look For During a Foundation Inspection?

When you schedule a home inspection with us, it will include a foundation inspection every time. We are well versed in the unique challenges U.P. homes face when it comes to foundation issues.

U.P. Home Inspection LLC. conducts the following checks to ensure your foundation’s stability, longevity, and integrity:

  • Look for signs of efflorescence.
  • Examine the outside to see if the foundation has been parge coated or sealed.
  • Search for exterior foundation cracks.
  • Evaluate floor structure, beam structure, and supporting structure.
  • We also look from the foundation into the center of the home – including chimney foundations, posts, and beams, to see they’ve been done correctly.
  • Look for cracks in beams, old posts, and dry rot.
  • And more!

U.P. Home Inspection LLC. is also honored to report that we are now collaborating with MFD Home Certifications LLC to provide manufactured home foundation/addition certifications!

Schedule a Comprehensive Foundation Inspection TODAY  

Ready to find out what’s going on with your home’s foundation?

Reach out to InterNACHI-certified home inspector Rich Beasley, owner of U.P. Home Inspection LLC, today at (906) 360-3879. Or schedule your appointment online 24 hours a day – 7 days a week.