Foundation Inspection Checklist

Foundation Inspection Checklist

Foundation Inspection Checklist

As foundations age and a house settles, some crack propagation can be expected. Over time, water ingress may occur with subsequent damage to not only the concrete foundation itself but also to the interior structural and finish components. Foundation failures are always expensive to repair and the sooner identified, the better. Fortunately, most cracks will never require attention. Nonetheless cracks are certainly not insignificant. Use this checklist as a quick reference to determine if your house foundations have any of these ‘red flag

Winter is the ideal season to perform a home foundation inspection. This is especially important if the house is located in an area where the soil shrinks in the hot summer weather. In addition, winter soil has not yet expanded due to spring rains.

While homeowners can call in a professional foundation repair contractor perform this task, many prefer a DIY home foundation inspection checklist. This requires paper, pencil and a laser level.


  • Property lines are clearly marked or easily determined from existing survey markers. Property lines shall have strings delineating property line locations.
  • Lot line survey letter onsite at time of inspection if required by the Planning Department (usually required
  • if within 30ft to a property line). Survey letter shall be wet stamped/signed by the licensed surveyor.
  • Setbacks from ascending and/or descending slopes are in compliance with the Building Code and County Ordinance (agency at state level)


Footing depths & dimensions conform to plan and minimum code requirements. Footing depths shall extend 12” below the site´s frost depth.
6” stem wall thickness is standard if stem wall height is less than 4’-6” or per project engineering. Certain shear walls and/or retaining walls may require 8” minimum stem wall; check plan details for complete requirements. 7/8” and larger hold-down anchors require a minimum 8” stem wall.

Steel grade, size, laps, ties And clearances
Rebar grade/strength per plans/engineering (Seismic Design Category D0 and greater shall be grade
60 minimum for example in California).
3” minimum clearance to earth, 1-1/2” min. to forms, ¾” min. to air (depending on rebar size)
All reinforcement is secured against displacement when walked on or disturbed during the placement of concrete.

Reinforcement is clean of loose scale, rust, ice, mud, oil or other deleterious coatings.

For the foundation elevation, the top of exterior footing must be a min. of 12” plus 2% above the street gutter as a standard but check local building codes. Likewise, 6” min. drainage fall for 10’ away from building foundation to an approved drainage way.

Trenches are clean, free of debris & soil is properly conditioned.

Hold-downs bolts/straps are in place per plan (i.e., diameter of bolts, embedment depth, edge distances conform to plan and manufacture’s recommendations). Refer to applicable manufacturers catalog for current
installation info and sizing of required anchor bolts.

Min. ½” diameter foundation anchor bolts (or larger if required per plan) with a minimum embedment of 7”;
spaced at no more than 6’ oc for up to 2 stories and 4’ oc for over 2 stories (check local building code regulations for these cases). Spaced no more than 3 ½”, nor more than 12” from sill ends. These bolts may be “wet-set” at the time of concrete placement unless the shear schedule indicates a 36” or closer spacing.

Sketch The Footprint

The first step is to create a drawing of the house, either on paper or with a computer program. The drawing should include all windows and doors.

Inspect The Windows And Doors

A wall becomes weaker at the locations where openings, such as windows and doors, are created. These weak points are often where foundation problems begin. The three most common signs of trouble in a foundation are listed below.

• Gaps. These spaces will form between the wall and window frames, door frames and the floor.

• Cracks. These extend out in the drywall from the corners of windows and doors.

• Separation. This is when a window or door itself separates from its framing or the finish on the exterior of the home.

In addition, homeowners can check for alignment issues by opening and closing all windows and doors to ensure they are working properly. Door latches and locks should also be examined. Anything of note should be added to the sketch.

Look At The Floor

Walking through a house will alert the homeowner to any sagging, bowing, bouncing or cracks in the floor. An uneven floor may indicate a gap or separation from the wall. The laser level is helpful to determine if there is a slope. The initial reading should be taken on the main floor of the house with the level pointed at the walls. The differences between the laser line and floor should be noted on each side of every room and written down on the sketch.

Check For Cracks In Ceilings And Walls

Drywall cracks inside of a home usually indicate foundation settlement. These cracks tend to be more visible in the upstairs rooms. The following types of cracks are signs of trouble.

• Corner cracks. These are seen extending out from windows and doors.

• Seam cracks. This type of crack will follow the seam in drywall.

• Tape cracks. These form when the tape is pulled, buckled or ripped.

• Nail popping. When the nails pop free from the drywall, this is the sign of a serious problem.

All cracks that are found should be noted in the house sketch along with a description regarding the width, direction and severity.

Check The Basement Walls And Interior Foundation

This step of the inspection requires looking at the walls in the basement and crawl space. Generally, walls constructed with concrete blocks will show horizontal or zigzag pattern cracks that form along the mortar lines. Both patterns indicate there is settlement. Basement walls made of poured concrete will show vertical cracks.

In particular, the basement walls should not be bowing or curving inwards more than 2″, that is the acceptable range for a bowing basement wall: 2″. There are several symptoms that we have studied in detail: walls that are caving in and walls that are buckling. The cause is usually hydrostatic pressure and the solution can be expensive.

Radon testing: Ensure that there are no filtrations of radon gas including this quick scrutiny in your foundation checklist when you order a foundation inspection. It is very toxic and affects notoriously the air quality and you will not be able to smell it. EPA recommends testing for radon on the lowest lived-in level of a home.

Plumbing And Piping Network

Basically check for leaks, if there are standing puddles of water and which could be the reason, such as heavy rains in the area, a water heater leaking, or rarely, a dehumidifier in the basement that does not function well.

If there are plumbing works, check its status and if the plumbing top out stage is completed.

If the inspection is taking place in a mobile home, they do not have a proper “foundation” and there should be a water heater approved by HUD different than the ones in a regular home. In mobile homes, water heaters are located in a compartment closet secured by hex or square drive screws so it would be out of scope for the foundation inspection checklist.

Look At The Exterior

In the final stage, the exterior of the home should be checked for sinking, shifting or other changes, especially around patio areas and chimneys. In many cases, a chimney will stand on its own foundation and is at a higher risk for settlement and separation from a house. Brick homes show cracking along the mortar lines with wider cracks indicating the walls are rotating in an outward direction.

If any of the above problems are found during the inspection, they will not go away on their own. They should be evaluated and repaired immediately by a professional foundation repair service. While a DIY home foundation inspection checklist is a good way to keep tabs on the condition of a home, it is only the first step to stabilization and avoiding a decline in value.

Recommended Articles

We have some articles that I would like to recommend to the readers.

Foundation Repair And Maintenance

We have described here the type of foundations, what is a foundation inspection and what should be included in a good foundation inspection checklist. We can discover problems in the foundation to make us ask ourselves if it is safe to live in a house with foundation problems, and what entails a foundation repair. Not only the repair activity itself but how it affects our wallets.

I explain if the foundation repair is actually covered by homeowners insurance and the actual foundation repair cost. We disaggregated these foundation repair costs and determined, the cost per pier when footings or piers are the solutions for the settlement of a foundation.

To repair a foundation, the service provider might require an underpinning system using piers: push piers vs helical piers where helical piers are preferable for residential real estate objects, despite their costs. Also when you compare helical piers with concrete footings, we can determine that helical piers are more cost-efficient than concrete footings, in my opinion.

We have water in the crawlspace, which can be an issue for the whole foundation if the problem persists, and an additional difficulty when selling a house with water in the crawl space, as it can provide the prospective buyer with a lot of bargaining power, so what can we do: I explain what to do when the crawlspace is flooded or there are simply puddles of water always standing, thus I describe how to remove quickly the water in the crawlspace and how to prevent the problem for the future. So I discuss if it is normal to have water in the crawlspace after a heavy rain, and the importance to perform a crawlspace waterproofing thereafter, normally by installing a vapor barrier.

I describe how to improve the air quality in the crawlspace and to accomplish this, I am reluctant to use lime powder in this article, where I explain the pros and cons, as I would be using lime powder only to avoid the dangers of raw sewage under the house.

We discuss the sill plate replacement cost and how to avoid the outdoor sump pump freezing because it happened to me once.

There are always new methods for repairing foundations. One of them that we investigate here is the Powerbrace foundation repair method.

Animals can be a problem when they live near the foundation: In the following articles, we describe how to remove them and how to prevent them from digging and burrowing. The articles are about animals digging holes around the foundation or when they are burrowing below concrete, below a concrete slab, or between gaps in concrete footings, for example.

In regards to basements, I describe how to solve the hydrostatic pressure in the basement, which is a lateral pressure that is the main cause for having a basement wall that is bowing, or that can be caving in or buckling. While a slight inward curve for basement wall bowing is acceptable, after that degree, you have to address the issue and face sometimes relatively high basement wall repair costs.

I provide to you some reasons why we will need a certified specialist to deal with a risky sewage backup in the basement because bacteria survive a long time in a contaminated sewage network, and also we discuss how to deal with a basement drain backing up in general and what to do when it happens only when flushing the toilet, something that is not a DYI project at all.


I explain here the process of concrete lifting or concrete raising, which can be done through mudjacking or slabjacking. We recommend the latter, which injects polyurethane foam.


There are some interesting articles here, in this Framing category. I refer to sistering floor joists, as a methodology to reinforce existing floor joists with some emphasis on sistering 2x6 floor joists or sistering with 2x8 instead, and about the building code for sistering joists, for sistering rafters, and the code for notching floor joists.

Many of these problems have a consequence: sinking or sagging floors.

Water Heaters

About water heaters, we have a complete guide about water heater types and their installation requirements, about power vent water heaters, and venting in tankless devices, and I also explain in detail the difference between a mobile home water heater and a standard water heater. I also describe in detail how to remove the heating element without an element wrench using just a socket, and how to fix leaks.

We have a few reviews when a water heater falls into our hands, such as the Titan product portfolio, Navien lineup, the Titan N-160 reviews, the most praised by our readers, and the Rinnai R94LSi.

I study several water heater capacities and tested 20-gallon water heater units and a comparison between point of use and tankless water heaters.

We open a tankless water heater to show how does it look like inside a tankless water heater, and how to protect your water heater against the effects of hard water. I also explain the pros and cons of tankless water heaters because many people consider that tankless units are better than standard heaters and it is not always the case.

After the lifecycle of the water heater is over, I reveal to you different options to proceed with its disposal.


Just because they became popular and related to current news, I study how to identify aluminum wiring and once discovered, how to proceed with its remediation or retrofit.

Pest Control

I have a featured article where I compare Orkin vs Terminix pest control services.

Photo of author

BY M. Kogan

Hello, I am Marcio. I am an architect and designer, alma mater is Mackenzie. Retired in theory, but an architect never retires completely. Along with architectural projects, I am a filmmaker and have completed some short documentaries. Filmmaking and design are my passions. In HomeQN I write about home decoration and foundations. The goal is to teach homeowners to DYI as much as possible, and when this is not possible, enable them through knowledge, to evaluate service quotations and choose the best service technicians.

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