What You Need to Know About Foundation Repair
Sometimes it is easier to just nod your way through a conversation. Nobody wants to ask a dumb question. But if you are standing on your porch, discussing the slab under your home, asking questions is the smartest thing you can do. Never start a process as invasive as foundation repair without knowing what to expect.
HOMEOWNER'S INSURANCE COVERAGE?
- Your policy may cover "accidental discharge of water" that is adversely affecting your homes' foundation
- Insurance companies have begun to "sell back" this covered peril into existing policies
Bottom Line: Check with your individual insurance carrier to determine if you have coverage. Who knows, all those years of paying annual premiums might just pay off after all!
- Should take at least 30 minutes but usually not more than 1 hour
- Should include visual inspection of interior and exterior warning signs
- Measurements should be done with an electronic water level or other measuring device
Bottom Line: Nobody can just stroll in, look around for a few minutes, slap a level on the wall and tell you what's going on. Assessing a foundation accurately takes the proper equipment and a thorough investigation.
- The foundation repair industry is not regulated by the state of Texas.
- No insurance, bond or licensing of any kind is required. (Some local municipalities require it, but it's not a high priority)
- If you have a truck and some tools, you can wake up tomorrow and call yourself a foundation repair company.
Bottom Line: Know who you're dealing with. Check more than just the references provided by the company. Visit the local Better Business Bureau. Look up the physical address. Check out the Secretary of State website to confirm registration. Have any of your friends or neighbors used them before? Were they satisfied?
DO I NEED REPAIR?
- Cosmetic stress inside a home is a good indication of movement. That being said, indications of movement do not always result in the need for repair.
- A variation in floor elevation greater than one-inch per thirty feet coupled with cosmetic stress often warrants repair.
Bottom Line: The age of the home, period of ownership, interior and exterior stress and elevation variations all need to be considered. Never hesitate to ask why someone is making a recommendation. If they can thoroughly explain their reasoning and it makes sense to you, it is probably reliable information. But if something seems the slightest bit off, press for more or politely thank them for their time.
"SUPERIOR" PIERING METHODS
- Drilled pilings. Steel pilings. Pressed pilings. New fangled, hybrid pilings. They all work, though the warranties and prices vary.
- No method will stop all movement in your soil. If someone tells you they can, they are misleading you. If that was possible warranties wouldn't exist.
Bottom Line: It is more about the warranty than it is the piering system. It doesn't matter what method was used if the company you hired won't return your calls or take action when they should.
- Unless there is an extremely good reason, your estimate should include any necessary permits and a post-repair completion letter from a third party, independent, structural engineer.
- Permits ensure work is done according to local code
- Fines of up to $2,000 can be levied against both the contractor and the property owner if proper permits are not secured.
- A third party engineer ensures that code is followed and documents project completion in a good, workmanlike manner. In addition, the letter from the engineer is required to close out the permit.
Bottom Line: Be cautious of contractors who cut corners in an effort to underbid the competition. How much do you really save if you end up being fined for a repair that has to be readdressed down the road?
"MUST-HAVES" WHEN PURCHASING A REPAIRED HOME
- Copy of the original repair agreement. Who did the work? Are they still in business? What are the terms and conditions of the existing agreement? Is it transferable?
- 'Scope of work' or repair plan. One that looks like a drawing of the home without the roof. Does it lay out the repairs that were made? Can you see where the work was done? This is important as the scope of work defines what is covered under warranty.
- A final third-party engineering report. This documents the repairs and confirms that they were done according to code. This report should also provide final elevations of the home after repair to be used for future reference if needed. You will also need this report to show a future buyerís lender should you decide to sell.
- The warranty. Is the company still around to honor it? What is cause for warrantable action to be taken? Read the fine print and call the company if you have questions. Do they sound trustworthy and answer you in a straight-forward manner
Bottom Line: If you canít get your hands on these items, itís going to be more difficult to seek remedy if, and when, you need it. And if you decide to sell down the road, the potential buyer will be asking you for these items, so get them as you purchase the house and save yourself time, money and headaches later on.
WHEN SELLING A REPAIRED HOME
Today's lenders are looking for good, working collateral. They have grown increasingly cautious about extending loans on homes with existing foundation problems. Which means unless you have a cash buyer willing to handle foundation repairs on his own, you will need to address them before any sale is made. You have two options, here.
- Have your foundation repaired prior to listing the home. This puts you in the driverís seat. You get the estimates, pick the service provider and decide how much youíre willing to pay. Then, at job completion, you have the warranty and engineering report in-hand.
- Roll the dice and list it as-is. The problem with this approach is, if you do find a buyer, they will be dictating what needs to be done, who is going to do it and how much to pay. In other words, you have no control over the situation.
Bottom Line: Nobody wants to get involved with a house with unresolved foundation issues. There are too many "good" houses available. So if you do want to sell, have the repairs done and keep yourself in the driveríseat.