COPPERAS COVE — When Angie Vanlandingham walks through her home, she doesn’t see the nearly $140,000 four-bedroom house she bought in November.
Instead, she walks through the house wearing shoes, hoping not to cut her feet on broken tile. As she moves from room to room, she can’t help but notice large cracks running along floors, ceilings and up walls.
In some bedrooms, drywall has been pulled apart and light can be seen escaping from one room to the next.
Shutting and opening doors is almost impossible.
“When it rains, we hear pop, pop, pop and that is the tiles cracking,” Vanlandingham said. “Some of the cracks are so severe that you can put your finger through them.”
Vanlandingham is one of at least five homeowners in the House Creek North subdivision dealing with failing foundations.
Warranty adjusters worked on several properties to repair damage, but some of the homeowners said repairs are not enough.
“Why would you stay in a home that people were coming into every day?” asked Roggen Buck, whose home is having foundation issues. “Nobody is going to buy these homes.”
First time with problem
Neely Homes LLC started building Vanlandingham’s home in November in House Creek North Phase II, according to Copperas Cove permits.
The Vanlandinghams bought the house while it was being drywalled, said Wilson Neely, owner of Neely Homes. Since they moved in, there has been problem after problem caused by a failing foundation.
“I have been building in the Killeen and Copperas Cove area for the last 15 years, and this my first one,” Neely said, noting he’s never seen foundation issues like this. “I originally put 16 piers because there was fill on the lot.”
But the piers, which are meant to ensure the integrity of the foundation, didn’t help. Some parts of the house have fallen 3½ inches, according to engineer documents Vanlandingham was issued by her home warranty company.
“There was no indication that there was going to be a problem for us,” Neely said.
Curtis Emmons, with BA Emmons Homes, is a homebuilder for at least two properties with similar issues. His company partnered with Coy Charping and Lee Richter to develop House Creek North.
Phase II was completed in 2005, according to the plat of the subdivision.
Those lots sat vacant for more than four years before home construction started, Emmons said.
“The pads were nice and everything looked beautiful,” Emmons said. “(The subdivision) was accepted by the city... and (those lots) had been sitting there until we built those houses last year.”
The longer the fill sits, the more compact it should get, Neely said.
While the two builders can’t explain why the foundations and the soil under the homes are giving way, Emmons said the drought probably played a contributing factor.
“Where those houses are sitting there may be a little bit of moving on the dirt because of (this year’s) rains. ... I am not blaming it on this, but we built it during the drought season,” he said.
Emmons said he built 80 homes in 2011 and 2012 and only two that he knows of have foundation problems, both on Lindsey Drive in House Creek North.
Kimberly Robles is one of those homeowners.
“We have windows that are separated from the actual house,” Robles said, describing what has happened to her home. “When you walk into my son’s room, it feels like you are walking downhill, and when you walk into my daughter’s room it feels like you are walking uphill.”
Robles has met regularly with Buck, Vanlandingham, Melissa Elmer and Maria Zepeda, who are facing similar problems with their residences on Lindsey Drive.
Robles’ claim for foundation repair was approved and the warranty company and builder are working to restore her home to new.
“My concern is if it works,” Robles said. “I need this to last as long as the house lasts. I don’t want the house to be valued at less than what I paid.”
Elmer has a video taken from underneath her house that shows a several-inch gap between the foundation and the soil.
“Where did the dirt go?” she asked.
Tired of trouble
With repairs and insurance or warranty people constantly coming into the five homeowners’ lives, they said they are tired of the problems.
Neely’s crews have made numerous repairs to Vanlandingham’s house, but they are “band-aids” not fixes, she said. She has since refused to work with Neely.
He offered to place more piers under her home, but Vanlandingham doesn’t want to move forward until the warranty company completes soil samples and drafts a repair plan.
“He is willing to fix it, but he is not willing to get to the source of the problem,” Vanlandingham said. “The whole house is just a mess — every single room and every single wall has an issue.”
Neely repaired floors, tried to fix doors and re-mortared portions of the house’s walls.
“She says I haven’t done anything, but I am the one that has turned it in to the home warranty company,” Neely said. “I am working with them. Until the foundation is fixed, there is no use to fixing anything inside because the problem is just going to show back up.”