If your home's foundation is rock solid, the rest of the house can be deemed structurally sound.
Rightly so, because the foundation is your home's most important structural feature.
The foundation is the part of the house where literally everything rests. It bears the load of the entire structure and transfers it to the ground safely and efficiently. It also provides groundwater resistance and serves as a barrier to water and soil vapor. Once compromised, lots of problems could stem from it and, since it is underground, it could build up insidiously and get out of control really fast.
Therefore, if you have foundation problems, it is important that you find out early by having it inspected.
We put together this handy guide regarding foundation inspections so you will know when you may need one and what you can do about it.
What is a Foundation Inspection?
Foundation problems cause instability in your home, manifesting in widening cracks, crumbling floors, and eventually, a collapsing roof.
Of course, you don't want that to happen. Suspected issues should be taken seriously and urgently. If your foundation issues worsen to the point of collapse, it can get really expensive to fix them. Sometimes it may even lead to your house being condemned.
A foundation inspection is exactly what it says: it involves a licensed structural engineering professional physically assessing your home foundation in order to gauge its structural health.
When Should You Have Your Foundation Inspected?
There are many instances that would warrant a professional foundation inspection, such as:
You are Selling a House
As a seller, it is important to disclose to buyers whatever issues the house may have. Calling home inspectors to have your property looked at is essential for an older house, where age can take its toll and structural issues may be present.
Disclosure builds trust between you and your prospective buyers, and also protects you from being embroiled in legal hot water later on.
Furthermore, in most states, you are required to fill out a disclosure form, so it is important to get ahead of foundation issues (if there are any).
If the inspection uncovers any structural damage, then you can decide whether to repair it yourself, give your buyer repair credits, or just sell as-is.
You are Buying a House
As a buyer, you'd want to buy a property that is structurally sound. Having a structural engineer inspect the property before closing on the sale not only ensures your safety, it also protects you from making repairs (sometimes costing tens of thousands of dollars) later on.
The report after an inspection would help you decide whether you will negotiate with the seller or walk away from the sale.
You Have Noticed Cracks in Your Walls, Flooring, and/or Ceiling
If you have been noticing symptoms of foundation damage such as bowing walls, vertical cracks, and slanted floors, a foundation inspection would give you a more in depth look on the actual state of your property.
You are Being Required by Your Mortgage Lender
Some mortgage lenders require the borrower to fix the problems before they approve the loan. They want to be certain that the you have the capacity to repair the foundation issues and pay the mortgage. So, before you can do anything with the property, a home foundation inspection is usually the first step.
Do Structural Engineers Perform the Foundation Inspection?
An unbiased third party such as a licensed structural engineer is usually the one who performs the foundation inspection.
Structural engineers are professionals who specialize in the design, analysis, and evaluation of the structural components of a building. They have a bachelor's degree in civil engineering and a master's degree in structural engineering. As indicated by the P.E. in their name, this means they have fulfilled the requirements to be licensed in the state they practice in.
If a general home inspector finds what is suspected to be foundation damage, they will recommend that the property be looked at by a structural engineer or a foundation specialist to get an in depth look at the problem and undertake the correct foundation repair.
What to Expect from a Home Foundation Inspection
The foundation inspection process is fairly straightforward.
The goal is to find out if there are any cracks, bowed walls, damaged or sagging flooring and ceiling, as well as other signs of trouble. This allows you to do something about it before the foundation issues becomes too great (and expensive!) to fix.
What do House Foundation Inspections Involve?
When you arrange an inspection, it usually starts with a conversation about whatever you have been experiencing in your home.
It is advisable that you are present during the inspection so that the foundation inspector can readily ask you questions that may help them narrow down the problem and recommend the best solution for foundation repair.
You will be asked about relevant past events such as storms, earthquakes, or flooding if there are any. They might also have questions regarding the presence of standing water in the basement, doors and windows that are suddenly difficult to close, or if the floor appears to be tilting in one direction.
This would give the inspector an idea of foundation repair areas to focus on in order to find the root cause of the problems you may be having.
Visual inspection of the foundation
The structural engineer will then get into the crawl space or basement to visually inspect the foundation.
They will check for any lingering dampness or mustiness which is typical of cracked foundations in which water has already penetrated. The cracks will be measured, located, and logged so that they can be repaired later. Normally, cracks over 1/4 of an inch are indicative of foundation problems; even more so if there are horizontal cracks.
If the house has a wooden pier and beam foundation, it will also be checked for the presence of rot and mold which can cause major structural problems.
They will measure floor elevations to check whether the foundation has shifted due to ground settlement. Uprightness of the basement foundation walls will also be verified since bowed walls mean that there is a buildup of hydrostatic (groundwater) pressure against the wall, and left unabated, it can cause major damage.
Visual inspection of the surroundings
A lot of foundation issues arise from improper drainage.
The structural engineer will do a walkthrough of your property's perimeter to examine the storm water management, the grading, and the surrounding soils. They will also take note of cracks in your sidings or fascia boards which are indicators of an underlying foundation problem.
Tree root intrusion can also cause cracks in the foundation. The presence of large trees and shrubberies will be noted in the report, so you can contact an arborist later on, who can advise you on the proper prevention methods to stop foundation damage.
The structural engineer will determine the cause of the foundation issues based on the above findings.
Some of the main causes of foundation problems are:
- Change in soil properties brought about by natural disasters;
- Inadequate understanding of soil properties leading to poor grading and insufficient foundation design.
Submission of Inspection Report
Once complete, the signed and sealed structural engineer foundation inspection report which contains the observations, diagnosis, conclusions, and foundation repair recommendations will be delivered to the homeowner.
The recommendations will depend on the results of the forensic analysis. For instance, if the underlying soil is found to have poor load-bearing capacity, grout or mortar can be injected into the soil to increase its stiffness. If damage to the home's foundation is found to be caused by improper drainage, then suggestions will be made to fix the sewer system of the house.
How Long Does a Foundation Inspection Take?
A foundation inspection typically takes around 2 hours to complete from the interview to the property walkthrough.
How Much Does a Home Foundation Inspection Cost?
Most of the time, you can get free foundation inspections from foundation repair companies. While this free inspection may sound attractive, their findings may be leading towards availing of their foundation repair services which you may not need.
It is better to hire structural engineers for the home foundation inspection, as they are there to provide an objective observation. They are not motivated by future financial gain on their repair recommendations, thus giving you an honest opinion.
A professional foundation inspection costs under $1,000. The cost can vary depending on the size of the house, the accessibility of the foundation, the project complexity, or the expertise of the engineer.
Nevertheless, it is a small price to pay for peace of mind. It could save you from headaches down the line and from spending thousands of dollars in unplanned foundation repairs, especially when the issues are caught early.
What Information Can be Obtained from a Foundation Inspection?
A structural engineer foundation inspection report determines whether the house or the building is still safe to be occupied.
It could tell you whether there is a foundation settlement and what can be done to stabilize it.
If there are cracks present, the structural engineer would also be able to gauge whether these threaten the structural integrity of the house and recommend repair methods.
The report would also tell you if the freeze-thaw cycle affects the foundation and what you can do to mitigate its effects.
The foundation report is important as it helps guide you in making informed decisions for your property.
If there are no foundation issues, then the report can help you confidently market your property, as this implies a clean bill of health as far as structural integrity is concerned. On the other hand, if you're a buyer, this gives you peace of mind--and that is priceless!
What Happens if a House Inspection Finds a Foundation Problem?
If the structural engineer foundation inspection turns up a problem or several, they would recommend repair methods to address the foundation damage. Afterwards, get in touch with a foundation repair company to get a quotation.
You can then evaluate whether you have the time, energy, and capacity to undertake the necessary repairs. If not, knowing the repair costs would guide you in determining your asking price; or, if you're a buyer, you can bring this to the negotiating table.
What are Methods of Foundation Repair?
There are different ways to address foundation issues which is outlined in the foundation report.
For minor cracks, structural epoxy can be injected to prevent the cracks from growing further and aggravating the damage.
In certain cases where foundation settlement is observed, slab jacking may be the solution. This involves drilling predetermined holes and injecting grout or polyurethane foam to lift the slab foundation.
For homes found to be leaning at an angle, underpinning using hydraulic piers can stabilize it. This is done by driving tubes made of concrete or steel deep underground in order to reach the hard, stable layer.
Depending on what you need to do, foundation repair can cost between $250 to beyond $100,000. That's why it is absolutely essential to have a foundation repair professional onboard so you can be certain that the solution is appropriate and effective.
Final Thoughts: Home Foundation Inspection
Having your foundation inspected can save you plenty of headaches down the line.
As a seller, this also allows you to get ahead of the foundation issues and help you decide how you would like to proceed with the home transaction: do you repair first, or just sell as is?
On the other hand, as a buyer, you can use the report in the negotiations. Depending on the result, you may be able to rest easy that you're buying into a certified safe property; or, it can also spare you from purchasing a property with repairs that you may not be ready for.
In any case, there are a lot of benefits to having a home foundation inspection.
If you're thinking about selling your home, regardless whether you'll be repairing first or considering an as is home sale, we can help you!
At Sell My House Fast, we connect you with one of our local buyers familiar the market conditions in your area, so you'll get the best price for your property.
You won't have to deal with real estate agents and their commissions, so you get everything that's on the offer. We even cover all closing costs for you!
Fill out the form below to receive a free quote for your home or give us a call us at (844) 207-0788, and we'd be happy to answer any questions you may have!