I-Team: How Connecticut helps homeowners with crumbling concrete replace their foundations

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STAFFORD, Conn. (WWLP) – Fixing a home with a crumbling foundation is no easy task. It includes lifting the house up off the bad concrete, digging it out, pouring in a new foundation, then dropping the house back down.

Right now, if a home in Massachusetts has a crumbling foundation, it’s on the homeowner to pay for the repair. This can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars out-of-pocket. Across the state line in Connecticut, the legislature passed a bill that created a fund to help people pay to get their foundations fixed.

Sue Toomey went through it with her home in Stafford, Connecticut. It was built in 1995 and 20 years later, she noticed the tell-tale cracks in her foundation.

“20 years I had the house, 20 years I paid the mortgage, 20 years I paid my taxes, my insurance premiums. Then all of a sudden you wake up one day and it’s all gone,” Toomey said. “You just can’t explain how devastating it actually is. What goes through your mind is ‘Do I walk away? Do I give the keys to the bank? Do I tear the house down? Do I start all over again?’ There’s so many different scenarios and none of them are good.”

Sue Toomey standing in front of the foundation of her Stafford, Conn. home when it was being built in 1995. Twenty years later, her concrete began to crumble.

The cracking is caused by pyrrhotite, a naturally-occurring mineral that causes concrete to slowly deteriorate as it’s exposed to oxygen and water.

Toomey’s home was one of the first in Connecticut to be fixed in 2019 when the legislature passed a funding bill. The state covered the $115k cost to get a new foundation.

“Once you find out you’re eligible for the funding, you’re very excited,” Toomey said. “Then reality sets in, and it’s like, I have to find some place to live while this is happening. I still have to pay my mortgage. I have to pay rent while I’m paying my mortgage.”

The funding from the state only covers the foundation work, and doesn’t replace landscaping, walkways, decks or driveways damaged by the work. She bought a camper to live in while her home was up on stilts – a cost also not covered by the state.

“That’s all fluff,” Toomey explains. “You got your equity back. You can retire someday. You can send your kids to college. You can sell your house if you get a job transfer. It restores your life. It restores your financial wellbeing.”

So far, there have been 1,847 claims made in 48 communities in Connecticut totaling about $74 million. A portion of that is paid for by a $12 a surcharge on everyone’s homeowners insurance.

Sue Toomey’s home in Stafford, Conn. up on stilts as the concrete foundation gets fixed in 2019.

Homeowners in Massachusetts are dealing with the same issues just a few miles from Toomey’s home. She believes the funding in Massachusetts will come through eventually, just as it did in Connecticut. She is now urging Massachusetts homeowners to get their foundations tested so there is an accurate count.

“If the state kicks in some funding, it’s not going to be enough if it’s not a realistic number,” Toomey said. “I know, me of all people, I know how easy it is to live in denial. But, once things start happening, they happen quick.”

There is a bill at the Statehouse that would help people in Massachusetts pay to get their crumbling foundation fixed. The first hearing for the bill is set for January 4th.

The concrete of concern was poured by now defunct JJ Mottes in Stafford Springs, Connecticut from 1983 to 2015. A state commission has determined that homes built during that time within a 50-mile radius of the quarry could contain pyrrhotite. That’s about 95k homes, although there is not an exact number of projects JJ Mottes supplied concrete for because of “a lack of documentation.”

Right now, the only help offered by Massachusetts is testing reimbursement. Homeowners within a 20-mile radius of JJ Mottes can get a visual test done, and get 100% back up to $400. For core testing, homeowners can get 75% back up to $5,000.

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