5 On Your Side

Sinking driveway prompts call to 5 on Your Side

Posted July 15, 2008 5:28 p.m. EDT
Updated July 15, 2008 8:55 p.m. EDT

— WRAL's 5 on Your Side hears about a lot of house problems, but a sinking driveway was something out of the ordinary.

“You never buy a home thinking it's gonna cave in,” Tyjuanna LaBennett said.

Now, LaBennett's home has not caved in, but she said she can't help but worry it could because of what a construction crew found when they tried to repair her sinking driveway.

"They said, 'You need to come out and see this, ma'am.' And when I came out to see it, I was floored,”  LaBennett said.

The area underneath the driveway was filled with railroad ties.

“What you're seeing here are 10 feet of stacked and staggered rail road ties. ...Ten feet deep,” LaBennett showed 5 on Your Side's Monica Laliberte.

A foundation repair contractor, hired by LaBennett, said he saw two main problems: the criss-cross ties also serve as a support for the front of the garage, and it appears other support walls underneath the home are not properly reinforced.

“Goes right through. Look at that. Nothing in there. Hollow,” contractor Rodney Carrington said. “So all it has is a shell. An outside shell. Outside framework, but nothing of substance that supports it.”

Because of that, Carrington said he fears the garage could collapse.

“This is dangerous,” he added.

Carrington's estimate for the fix: about $100,000. LaBennett also called Pulte Homes, the company that built the house 20 years ago. She wanted someone to at least look at the problem.

“They said, 'We won't be sending anybody out here. We're not gonna even look at it,' they said, because the driveway and the garage is only warranted for two years,” LaBennett said.

WRAL asked Bob Strowbridge, chief building inspector for the town of Cary, to take a look.

“This is a new 'wow.' I haven't seen this before. I really haven't. But that's not a throw-up-the-red-flag-and-run-for-the-hills kind of thing right now. It's certainly something that can be dealt with,” he said.

Strowbridge said while railroad ties are very unusual, support walls can be built out of many materials, as long as the design was approved by a licensed engineer. 

"If it's done properly, not bad at all. Absolutely nothing wrong with it, if it was designed and built properly," he added.

Since the house is 20 years old, it is not clear whether the design was "engineered." However, the town of Cary has hired an engineer to assess it.

After 5 on Your Side called Pulte, representatives went to LaBennett's home. The company also hired an engineer. As for LaBennett, she said she is just worn out.

“This is why I call this 'the house from hell,'” she added.

WRAL talked Tuesday afternoon with a Pulte spokesman who said the railroad ties were "intentional" and 20 years ago were a "fairly common and acceptable practice." He also said the company's engineer has been out to the house twice and expects to file a report soon.

LaBennett had another big problem with her house, and it is one that many other homeowners could be dealing with. Watch WRAL News at 5 on Wednesday to learn more.