Because the foundation is the bedrock upon which everything else rests, any problems may escalate into a huge and expensive nuisance.
On average, foundation repairs cost up to approximately $12,320, based on the degree of the damage. Worse still, if the expenses are incurred as a result of ground movement or normal wear and tear, homeowners insurance policies might not cover them.
A foundation inspection takes place when a professional inspector examines the structural integrity of your home’s foundation.
There are three different kinds of foundations: concrete slab foundations, basement foundations, and crawlspace foundations. The licensed home inspector will perform a scrutiny for indications of damage both within and outside the house, such as cracks, bent walls, or slants.
The procedure entails performing specific tasks such as looking for foundation cracks, damaged walls and floors, and other signs of trouble. This is done to ensure that your structure is stable and not prone to sinking or cracking. As part of the process, a foundation company representative will meet with you and listen to what you have to say. Next, the contractor will evaluate the exterior of your property. If you have a slab foundation, the process involves walking around the perimeter of your house to look for cracks in your slab, brick veneer, fascia boards and other things.
If your house has a pier and beam foundation, the procedure is slightly different from examining a slab foundation. In the event that you have a home constructed using piers and beams, the contractor will enter the crawlspace under your structure and carefully examine it to determine if it’s wet or musty. They will check out the condition of your piers, beams and joists. If any wooden members are wet or rotten, you may have a plumbing or foundation drainage problem that will need to be corrected.
In both cases the foundation repair contractor will enter your home to check for further damage. During the procedure he or she will look for cracks in floors, walls and ceilings and take measurements to determine how out of level your foundation is. The contractor will be able to tell if certain parts of your home are 1” lower than others, or even as much as 6” lower. Once the contractor has completed this process, he will speak with you regarding your foundation inspection and make recommendations about where foundation piers should be installed. It is common to find that foundation repair is not needed. That’s because some cracks are cosmetic and do not need to be fixed.
As a general rule, you should be present at the examination. If your house is vacant and has a lockbox on it, it’s important to be in attendance and meet with the contractor in order to let the inspector enter inside the house so that it can be properly evaluated. The contractor will ask you questions regarding past plumbing and drainage problems in an effort to determine what may be causing some of your issues. The contractor will let you know when and if you need a structural engineer’s report on your foundation.
HUD Manufactured Home Foundation Inspection
The government Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers guidelines and specifications for manufactured homes, including their foundations. Inspectors must have compliance with HUD rules and FHA guidelines when checking the foundation of a manufactured home.
Mobile Home Foundation Inspection
The term “mobile home” is a bit confusing and misleading. However, manufactured homes are sometimes called mobile homes since you can technically move them from one foundation to another. Almost all manufactured homes stay in one location due to the high cost of moving them. But it is possible to change locations while keeping your house.
Because mobile and manufactured homes are two terms for the same thing, they both fall under HUD’s jurisdiction regarding foundation inspections.
Foundation Inspection Certification As A HUD Inspection
Since HUD inspections have specific rules and regulations, manufactured home foundations come with an engineer certification. When buying or selling one of these houses, the foundation certification must be no more than six months old. So, if you are a homeowner and want to sell, you will have to get a new certificate first. Any inspectors used must meet HUD requirements.
Structural Engineer Foundation Inspection Process
When the foundation experts arrive, they will look at both the outside and inside of the foundation, basement and/or crawl space. They search for any signs that the concrete is compromised, has structural integrity issues, or has been infiltrated by water.
These signs include cracks or crumbling areas in the concrete. This means outside pressure is being exerted on the concrete. This pressure stems from the soil around and under the foundation that absorbs water from rain or melting snow. The soil expands and pushes against the building material. Once water enters a crack or crumbling area, it wears away at the concrete, worsening the damage.
Specialists will also look for water spots, pooling water, and mold. Mold can be toxic to those with respiratory illnesses such as allergies and asthma, as well as to those with weaker immune systems, such as children. Mold must be cleared before selling a home. Make sure whoever removes the mold is a certified mold remediator; otherwise, you risk mold spores being released and multiplying if the remediator is not properly trained.
Inspectors will check to see if previous repairs have been made, including patch jobs or crack filling. If previous work was done, it means the home has been damaged before. If repairs were properly made and the source of the problem was fixed, then you’re fine; if the source wasn’t addressed, you will have future problems.
A structural engineer foundation inspection is performed by a licensed structural engineer (credentials are “PE”) to ensure a foundation’s structural integrity is intact.
Now let´s go into more detail about the foundation inspection so we will understand clearer what to expect from this process and what should we ask the inspector.
Bulges and curves
Spotting bulges or curves in block foundation or concrete walls could indicate foundation movement. In Canada, our nation’s extreme temperatures cause soil to expand and contract, sometimes putting pressure on foundation walls in turn.
The soil surrounding home foundations is loose post-excavation. When this soil settles and nearby vibrations occur, it can cause cracks in your foundation.
If you have cracks in your foundation, this spells big trouble. While plastic perforated piping (weeping tile) is installed on the outside of footing (concrete slab below the foundation) to collect accumulating water, this doesn’t always save the day. Ultimately, when too much water penetrates these cracks, you’ll experience a leaky basement that provides a damp, wet and poorly ventilated breeding ground for mould to grow.
it’s easier for water to percolate through loose soil before accumulating. This loose soil is packed against basement and foundation walls when constructed. As water accumulates in the soil, it then seeps into walls causing damage.
- if the building is safe to occupy
- if existing cracks threaten the structural integrity, and if so, how they should be repaired. Cracking in interior/exterior brickwork. Floor tile cracking
- Damp walls and basement mould
- if the freeze-thaw cycle is affecting your foundation, and if so, how to stop more damage from occurring
- Imbalanced or sloping flooring. if your foundation has shifted and how that affects the rest of the structure, for example, water in the basement, uneven floors, or safety issues. Most homeowners can’t notice sloping floors. Quick ball tests can help to find out how level your floor is. If the ball rolls across the room, chances are the substructure slopes, and you need to consult a structural engineer to get inspection services.
- Bowing and honeycombing/flaking in walls
- Doors and windows that no longer fit their framework
- Cavities between walls and the ceiling/floor
Every structural engineering firm’s process is unique, but most will include a few basic steps:
–A visual inspection of the foundation
Usually, the first step during an inspection is walking the exterior of a house. Look for areas that bulge as these are indications of uneven load on your substructure. Home and substructure walls should always be flush and level.
Experts will also identify potential water damages and cracks in concrete. Standing water can result in shifting of soil, and this often leads to serious damages. It can also be an indication of leaking pipes in your home.
Common inspection points are windows and any failure or separation of trim on the outside of the home. The inspector will look at the direction of diagonal or stair-step cracking. Gapping or stretching of caulk lines can also help the contractor in assessing the problem. All these signs aid in determining where the damage is to the foundation and which way the foundation is settling.
Inspecting the soil around the home, gutter runoff, brick cracking, and the foundation itself are all included in the exterior inspection of the home.
The structural engineers will look at the foundation/basement walls and check for signs of structural movement like ceiling/wall cracks or sloped/uneven floors inside the home as well as moisture, mildew or general water inside the basement.
For poured, block, and slab foundations, the perimeter of the house will be examined to look for cracks, brick veneer issues, fascia board conditions, etc.
If your home/building was built with a pier/beam foundation, the engineer likely would physically enter the crawl space and make notes on the internal climate; is it damp or musty. Building members such as piers, joists, and beams will be examined as well.
If cracks or shifting are found, measurements will be taken of the displacement. Photos will be taken of any/or all findings.
- Inspection inside the house
Cracks and separation are signs that you need substructure repairs. In some cases, the cracks may not be present, but you’ll notice that walls are out of place due to shifting foundations.
Specialists will then check floors. If you notice that floors are uneven, that’s an indication that the floors are shifting. Tests are done to establish whether balls will roll when placed on your home’s floor.
Specialists will also check windows and doors. They should open and close smoothly. If they are jammed, that’s a sign that your foundation has moved.
Going through the house is important, and having access to the whole home is needed. If all areas of the home are not available for review, the inspection may not be able to be completed.
Most inspections start where the homeowner has seen symptoms of damage. These problem spots are either communicated to the inspector in person during the assessment or in advance through phone conversations and pictures.
After taking a look at the areas where homeowners noticed the issues, the inspector will look for less noticeable signs that a homeowner might not even realize are an issue or an indicator of a problem.
Inspecting the interior of the home is key to finding where the issues are occurring to the foundation. Measurements of the rooms in the home are taken to provide the inspector with clear dimensions for the scale drawing of the home and the location of any problem found.
– A visual inspection of the surrounding landscape
Often times, improper water management can cause foundation issues. The structural engineer foundation inspection should take into account the grading around the foundation as well as the roof water management system in place or lack of one.
They may even consider the types of soils surrounding the foundation as well as shrubbery/large tree roots nearby.
Not only will the inspector look at the exterior and interior of the home (i.e., load-bearing walls), they will pay attention to the surrounding property. For example, if there are any cracks or signs of drainage issues in the lawn, the foundation might be in jeopardy. During this stage, the engineer will also look for signs of previous repairs since they could indicate past foundational problems.
All of these factors can affect your foundation’s conditions and if managed poorly can lead to cracks, structural issues, and basement water.
– On site communication
The engineer will communicate their findings with you throughout the inspection and answer any of your questions. If you have any specific concerns, be sure to verbalize these while the engineer is on site.
The home inspector or engineer will talk to you, the homeowner, and ask questions about specific elements about the home’s structural integrity, such as uneven floors, stuck windows or doors (signs of shifting foundation walls), and noticeable cracks. These questions help the structural engineer know where to look first.
-A stamped engineer report of findings
This report could include findings, photos, diagnosis, suggestions, or even a scope of repair if necessary. Typically, a report such as this, will be sufficient to satisfy your mortgage lender, building department, contractor or personal needs.
However, be sure to communicate with your engineer the reason for your inspection and any specific criteria you may need in the report. This will help the structural engineer understand your expectations and tailor the report for your needs.
A licensed structural engineer will draft a comprehensive report that discusses any current or potential structural damage. These reports are highly detailed and may include photos of specific damage points, as well as recommendations on fixing the foundation, including crack repairs or how to level your foundation.
If you request a foundation inspection as a homeowner, you are the only one who gets the engineer’s report. However, if the examination is part of a real estate transaction, everyone involved may obtain a copy, including the mortgage lender and both the home buyers and sellers.
The Foundation Inspection In the Case Of Basements
Since the basement walls are holding up the rest of the house, the inspector will need to go inside to see whether there’s damage to the floors, walls, or ceilings. If your basement extends above ground level, the inspector will check the exterior for noticeable weak points or foundation cracks.
Foundation Inspection For Concrete Slabs
A slab foundation is just a bare concrete slab settled into the ground. While slabs are the easiest to create, they can come with some significant foundation problems. Since pipes and other infrastructure pieces are inside the concrete, contractors must break it open to do any work.
Another issue with slab foundations is that they can crack more easily due to ground shifting. Since concrete is not exactly flexible, if one side of your house sinks lower than the other, the slab will crack.
It is harder to see how well the foundation looks since the inspector cannot go inside and check it out.
Instead, they will scrutinize the exterior and pay attention to any signs of settling. The inspector may also check the home’s interior. The inspector checks if the walls are cracking or bending outward due to the slab shifting.
In truth, most poured concrete foundations have typical shrinkage cracks (less than 1/8 of an inch) that are caused by concrete curing and drying. While these are considered par for the course, sealing any crack big or small with sealant can guard against water leakage.
Foundation Inspection For Crawlspaces
A pier foundation means your home sits on wooden or concrete piers that go deep into the ground. If your house has a full crawl space underneath it, you have a pier and beam foundation. This design’s benefit is that the inspector can easily enter the crawl space and check on the beams. Typically, damage occurs when moisture or pests get into the foundation.
Experts look for moisture and mold, which can lead to rotting of wood supports. The supports should also be inspected for rotting, which can weaken them.
Duration Of a Typical Foundation Inspection
The length of time of a foundation inspection depends on the type of foundation you have. If you have a crawl space or a basement, the process can take a couple of hours. That is because the inspector must go under the house. If you have a slab foundation, however, the inspection is typically much shorter.
Foundation Inspection Costs
Fees for inspections can range from $150-$200.
Structural Engineer Foundation Inspection Costs
Pricing for structural engineering inspections will depend on the size and complexity of the project.
Elements that could affect your fees:
- Square footage
- Project complexity
- The professional’s expertise
- Building location
- Access to foundation
For basic residential homes, you could expect to pay between $400-750.
Larger more complex projects could cost upwards of $1,000-3,000.00.
At first glance these charges could seem high, but remember the value an inspection and report delivers.
It could save you from buying a home with hidden issues leaving you with thousands of dollars in unplanned repairs, or provide you with a maintenance schedule to prevent serious issues from appearing.
Potential homebuyers have also used a structural engineer report to negotiate a lower price for the home they want to buy!
Reasons To Request A Foundation Inspection
1. A home inspector requested further evaluation of the foundation by a structural engineer to ensure structural integrity
There are times when a general home inspector may request a client to seek a structural engineer evaluation. Typically, this would be for cracks in poured concrete walls/block foundations that are larger than ⅛”, severe movement/bowing, or for uncommon foundation designs such as wood foundations. This is because structural engineers have specialized knowledge in foundation design and can provide structurally sound solutions if complicated issues exist.
2. A mortgage lender (or other party) requirement:
An unsafe/under performing foundation can compromise the building’s longevity. A mortgage lender wants the “insurance” or confidence that they are investing soundly in the building by getting a certification from a structural engineer. Lenders also want to make sure the potential home buyer has the resources to fix potential issues and also have the ability to pay the mortgage. Some lenders may require borrowers to fix problems.
3. You are purchasing a home as an investment property or flip house:
Before investing in a new property it is always a good idea to make sure the structure’s bones are strong. If you discover later that the foundation is bad, you may end up draining your budget on unplanned repairs.
Sometimes these foundation issues are so large that a demolition becomes the best financial option. Ooof…talk about a huge change of plans! Spending less than $1,000.00 to have a foundation inspection up-front looks very reasonable compared to that.
However, maybe a demolition was your plan from the start, well a bad foundation doesn’t matter in that case.
4. You notice that an existing crack has grown larger or new shifting has occurred:
Most cracks under ¼” in size are typically structurally safe and sound. However, it is still a good idea to have the cracks examined by a professional in case repairs are necessary.
Depending upon the climate you live in, the freeze thaw cycle may affect your home. If water is able to infiltrate a crack, then that moisture freezes during cold temperatures, the expansion and contraction of ice and water can cause the cracks to grow over time. If this cycle is affecting your home, a professional can tell you how to stop the cycle before other issues arrive.
A structural engineer can also help determine the cause of any shifting or movement of foundation walls. Many times the issues have to do with incorrect soils. Soils, like clay, will hold moisture in the ground. Moisture around your foundation can cause a lot of problems because of hydrostatic pressure.
In this context, hydrostatic pressure can be described as the inward & downward pressure exerted on your basement/foundation walls from water pushing against it.
Not only do you have water putting a tremendous amount of pressure on the walls, but if temperatures drop enough, that water next to your foundation will freeze and expand causing even more pressure to occur.
When the ice freezes, you may notice cracking, shifting, or bowing. Overtime, this can cause serious issues.
The two main reasons for needing a foundation inspection are selling or buying a home and noticing damage in your foundation, basement, or crawl space. For those wanting to purchase a home and are taking out a mortgage to do so, the lending institution requires a home inspection before issuing the mortgage. This includes the foundation. For those looking to sell their home, it’s important to know the status of the foundation so you can price your home accordingly.
If you are trying to purchase a home, a general inspector will be the one assessing the home for any issues. However, if you’re trying to appraise your home for selling, go with a company specializing in foundations and basements. They will tell you what you need to do to repair any problems such as cracks in the foundation. In a real estate transaction, if your home does not pass inspection, you may have to repair the foundation before the buyer will accept your terms and the agreed-upon price.
Foundation and/or basement damage can reduce a selling price by thousands of dollars. The worse the damage, the less money you will get or you should offer to pay. As a seller, you also run the risk of a potential buyer turning away because of the cost of required repairs. As a buyer, you want to know what those repairs are and how much time, effort, and cost it will take to deal with them.