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Home inspector cites structural problems in Skokie, Morton Grove homes

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Joe Zekas

20 years on the North Shore without going native.

Split-level homes, Wilmette, Illinois

I was driving around West Wilmette yesterday, and thinking how familiar it would look to anyone who's spent much time in Skokie or Morton Grove. Many of the homes are split-levels built during the great housing boom of the late 50s and early 60s.

I was curious about the types of problems homes of that vintage might typically experience, so I put in a call to Robb Packer, a veteran home inspector who I've known for more than 20 years.

I quickly learned a lot more than I can report in a single post, so I'll limit this one to structural issues.

"When a home inspector talks about structural issues," said Packer, "he typically isn't talking about your home falling down. We're talking about money / value issues where you need to spend money reinforcing the structure. You may need some type of system underneath the footing to support the foundation wall."

"The freeze line in the Chicago area," Packer continued, "is 42 to 48 inches. Quite a few split-level homes built between 1958 and 1965 didn't have a deep enough foundation wall. As soon as the land freezes, it forces the foundation up and destabilizes it. If you're lucky, nothing will happen."

And if you're not lucky, I inquired? "The foundation cracks when it settles. You'll see really distinctive step cracks in the foundation," Packer responded. "The genius of the Chicago market is that builders like a mortar that's slightly different, so it makes that settlement crack really pop out at you."

Check back later for much more from Robb Packer on typical problems in 50-year old homes in the northern and North Shore suburbs. If you'd like to reach Packer in the meantime, connect with him at Metrospect.

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