ENC Properties LLC has added Home Inspection services to their expertise for anyone needing to know more about the condition of a home (especially foundation repair). Eric Christie is a licensed Professional Home Inspector who can provide customized home inspections for each client. We have availability this week, so call us today at 281-783-3030 to schedule an appointment.
Today lets discuss foundations and what to do if homeowners think repair work is needed. First off, the foundation is the base your home is sitting on. Older homes were built on pier and beam foundation, so the floor of the home was several inches off the ground and crawlspace was under the home. Modern homes are most often built on “slab on ground” foundations or a poured concrete slab.
In either of these cases, you will need to look for warning signs and take appropriate steps for foundation repair. Homeowners must keep in mind that all houses settle, which means the entire house will move a little in response to the grounds ability to hold the weight of the home. If the house settles uniformly, there is unlikely to be any issue with the foundation. Think of pressing a brick down in the mud evenly. If everything remains level, then the house is probably okay.
If differential settlement takes place, it means one part of the house settles more than another part. If the difference between these two areas (or multiple areas) is significant, the house can have issues. It is “normal” for a house to have up to 2” of differential settlement or movement. Beyond that homeowners will likely see the beginnings of cosmetic damage and possibly structural issues requiring foundation repair.
Cosmetic problems will most likely be cracks in finish coverings such as gypsum board, trim pieces, exterior coverings, gaps or lack of gaps around doors and windows. As movement becomes greater, the cosmetic damage will become more pronounced along with the structural issues. The damage to exterior and interior finishes will be more obvious. Any cracks that may have developed will become wider and move farther along a wall or finish. In the exterior coverings, cracks may form in paneling, shingles, or siding, and brick veneer. The brick veneer is very common on homes of all ages. The cracks may form in the mortar or even in the bricks themselves. It is difficult to determine from a single crack where the problem is. Homeowners will need to look for additional indicators.
Additional indicators are any damage to interior or exterior finishes. What the homeowners needs to identify is corresponding damage on an interior wall when cracks are seen on the exterior wall. In many cases, there will be cracks inside the house around the windows or doors. These cracks usually radiate outward and an angle from the upper corners of the door or window. Open and close the door or window and make sure the frames have not moved as a result. Identifying multiple indicators will help narrow the part of the house that may have the problem.
Homeowners should pay close attention the foundations. It is a good idea to take pictures of the foundation all the way around including any wall coverings. It is recommended to do this once a year. If a crack is spotted, the homeowner can go look at the previous year’s images and see if the crack existed and was smaller. Once identified, there is no need to panic. Monitor the crack or cracks over time. Mark, measure, and record the length, width, and location of the crack. Re-measure monthly or quarterly to see if the crack is static or growing. Check the cracks after a heavy rain or a sudden temperature change. Re-measure and note the environmental effects at that time.
So what should a homeowner do after monitoring foundation settlement and suspecting foundation damage? It is recommended that homeowners contact a licensed Professional Civil Engineer to evaluate the property. If the excessive settlement or excessive differential settlement is confirmed, the civil engineer can develop a repair plan to stop further movement of the foundation and correct any environmental issues like excessive moisture or lack of moisture in the soil. A licensed civil engineer will be familiar with local soil conditions and be able to incorporate any changes required.
Once the plan is developed, contact foundation repair companies to bid on the work to repair. Secure 3-5 quotes breaking down the labor and materials needed for the job. Since the engineer has developed the foundation repair plan, the quotes should be close as the materials for the work should be similar. Labor costs would be the point of scrutiny. The foundation company would warranty their work and materials and the plan followed should be guaranteed by the civil engineer.
Homeowners should review warranty coverage from the engineer and the foundation repair company carefully. It is best to work with companies that provide lifetime warranties and preferably ones that will transfer to the new homeowner if the house is sold.
The civil engineer can return when agreed to monitor the repair and ensure further movement is not continuing. After 60-90 days, the homeowner can make repairs on the cosmetic damage on the inside and outside of the home. Ensure that windows and doors open freely as this could be egress safety issue. Hire licensed and qualified contractors to make any necessary repairs as needed. Same rule applies here as it did for the foundation companies. 3-5 quotes broken out in materials and labor. Homeowners, can compare each quote.