1) First check out the outside corners of the home foundation. Look for a vertical crack about 1′ from the corner. Look for the crack to be tuckpointed all the way down. Even if the tuckpointing mortar is the same color as the rest of the wall there should be no crack here. A crack in this location indicates the wall has snapped and has moved inward.
2) Inside the basement look for signs that new tuckpointing has been done on the walls. New tuckpointing always means the walls have cracked and been patched. Also look for extra wide mortar joints which mean the wall has moved in and has been tuckpointed to hide the movement. Fresh paint can’t hide an extra wide mortar joint.
3) Look for signs that the floor tiles were or are loose. Leaking walls and water problems will pop the tiles loose and destroy them over time. Sometimes damaged perimeter tiles are replaced to make a decorative band around the room. Be suspicious when you see this.
4) If the walls are covered try to look at the wall through the electric service box or gas service shut-off line area, or look in the utility room. Look for horizontal cracks or water stains at the bottom of the wall. Also look for white discoloration of wall paneling at the bottom or along the board seams. Broken and cracked basement walls are bad news, generally requiring a lot of money to fix them properly. Sometimes unscrupulous home sellers will hide foundation problems and not disclose them. They are hoping you won’t discover any problems until they are long gone. It’s in your best interest to learn all you can about some of these hidden basement problems. If in doubt bring in a basement expert! If you are in the greater Cleveland, Ohio region, bring us in!