That cannot and should not be determined by a home inspector. It's up to the inspector to call it out in his report but not determine the cause or cost therein. At that point they should suggest or recommend that you get a structural and even a soils engineer involved.
Hillsides are volatile as they are usually built on what are known as "cut and fill" excavation and grading protocol. This is where they have to cut into a hillside and remove indigenous soil and displace it in order to create a level pad grade for the construction of a home.
In so doing they are altering the natural terrain which requires what is know as compaction whereby heavy rolling equipment with "Sheeps feet" (large heavy steel rollers with protruding steel spikes make several passes over the soil accompanied by continuous watering. This eventually compacts the displaced soil as closely as is possible to the indigenous soil usually up to an industry accepted 95%.
In some instances soil has to be imported to achieve adequate excavation and grading parameters. When combining imported soil for fill or inadequately displaced and compacted indigenous soil you it often ends up in what they refer to as "settling" The indigenous soil holds firm while the imported and/or inadequately compacted and displaced soil remains volatile.
Then there's the issue of expansive "clay" soil which is continually expanding and contracting thereby leading to soil erosion issues which can undermine the footing and foundation leading to cracking. This is a very serious problem. The continual movement of the soil causes inordinate weight displacement issues on the structure overall which can also result in foundation and stem wall cracking. Definitely a deal breaker.
However, there are contractors who specialize in these types of issues and we are one of them. When we say we acquire and rehab distressed properties we really mean it. We specialize in truly "DISTRESSED" properties i.e. foundation cracks, burn outs, wind related issues, floods or structural problems as a result of termites, dry rot or roof problems we love those types of properties.
Feel free to contact us if you need anymore information. We'd be happy to discuss it with you anytime and not cost to you. Information is free.
Tirso De Ubago,cio
Castle Rock Inspections
Chief Inspection Officer
Home / Pool / Condo / Multi Unit Inspections
PO Box 3431
Walnut Creek CA 94598
Toll Free: 1.800.995.8242
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Department of Education accredited inspection school.
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* Contra Costa, Delta and West County Association of Realtors
If, however, there are serious cracks in the foundations as well â€¦ that is an entirely different matter.
I don't know abou cracks being common to this area, a crack here may not e the same as a crack there.
The condition that is common to this area is adobe soil. It expands in water during the rainy season and contracts in the summer months.
There are 3 common way to repair cracks, 1) Patch it (filling it in) 2) Float it (a thin layer over an area) or 3) replace it.
It is very important to find out the reason for the crack, not just the cost to repair.
All the best to you.
If a doubt, hire an expert to look at this.
If this house is built on a hill, you may want to include an inspection by a structural engineer especially if your property inspector mentions it.
As long as your offer is contingent on your doing your inspections, you are entitled to do your due diligence by ordering as many inspections as you see fit.