When you spot the signs of a foundation problem, the first thing you should do is call a professional repair company to come out and inspect the foundation. Having a professional assess the damage, determine what repairs need to be done, and give the homeowner a quote for those repairs saves a lot of hassle and worry. However, if it’s your first foundation inspection, you might not be sure what the experience or the cost are like. Here’s what you can expect from a foundation inspection – and why it’s important to have more than one.
When to Call for a Foundation Inspection
When is it time to call and have your foundation inspected by a professional? There are some important signs to look out for that indicate your foundation may have a problem. Any one of these signs doesn’t necessarily mean that your foundation is on its way out, but it does mean that it’s time to call a professional and have them take a look.
Your walls are one of the most important tools to help you judge what’s going on with your foundation. Most homes have a few minor cracks in the floor, especially concrete basement floors, but walls are a different story. Cracks that you could fit a dime into are cause for concern, as they might be a sign of a foundation that’s shifting under your house.
Water damage can have a variety of causes, ranging from local weather to issues with your appliances- a broken dishwasher, for example. However, if the water damage is in your basement, your foundation may be the culprit.
Who Checks My Foundation?
When you call a foundation repair company and make an appointment for a foundation inspection, you’ll want to know who’s coming to your home to work on it. You’ll meet and talk with a few different people while you’re arranging to have the foundation repaired and while the repairs are being performed; here are the most important ones.
- Structural engineer: The structural engineer may also be referred to as the inspector. This is the person who will come physically inspect your house. They will be the ones taking measurements, making sure walls are straight, and inspecting both the interior and exterior walls of the foundation.
- Contractor: The contractor is the one who plans out the actual repair and how it will be carried out. They’ll be the one overseeing the project as it goes on and giving out instructions to the crew. They’ll also be your point of contact for questions about the project.
- Crew: The crew is the group that does the physical work on the repair. For most foundation repairs, you’ll have a crew at your house for a few days in a row.
What to Expect on the Day of the Inspection
Now that you’ve booked your foundation inspection, what can you look forward to during the actual inspection when the structural engineer is at your house?
First, the engineer will inspect the exterior of your house, checking around the foundation for signs of cracking, crumbling, sinking, or other damage. They’ll also check up near the roof where your house likely has trim. The trim is a good tool for them to judge the damage by, since it usually starts to crack or separate when the foundation shifts.
After the engineer has thoroughly inspected the exterior, they’ll move on to the interior. This is likely when you’ll talk to them the most, showing them the initial signs of damage that you’ve noticed- sinking floors, cracking walls, sticking doors, and so forth. They’ll make a note of those, then go looking for damage that you haven’t noticed. They may need to get into your crawl space if you have one, your basement, and most of the rooms in your house to do a thorough inspection.
When their assessment is complete, the structural engineer will come talk to you and share their findings. They may create a drawing to show you where the damage is, along with a plan for the repairs they recommend. They should be able to answer any questions you have about the damage itself and how it affects your home. For questions about the repair process, you may need to speak with the contractor.
Are Foundation Inspections Always Free?
Many foundation companies offer free inspections- in fact, a large percentage of them do. Unfortunately, not all foundation inspections are free. Bob Vila’s estimate puts the average foundation inspection cost anywhere between $400 and $750, though some companies charge as little as $200. This high cost is part of why foundation companies offer free inspections in the first place- the idea of saving a few hundred dollars can be quite a draw for homeowners.
After reading that an inspection is usually relatively expensive, you might be concerned about having to pay for a “free” inspection later. Is the inspection really free, or is it only free if you end up booking with the company who did it?
Be sure to read the fine print when you book your free inspection. There may be language that states that the cost of the inspection will be deducted from the total cost of your repair when you book it, meaning that you won’t get that money back if you decide not to book with that company. However, if there’s no fine print stating that, it should genuinely be free- and if it’s not, that’s false advertising.
How Many Inspections Do I Need?
It never hurts to get a second opinion, and getting a few different opinions on your foundation is a great idea to ensure that you’re getting a fair price and accurate inspection. We recommend getting at least three different estimates. While this may seem excessive, there are a few reasons why it’s a good idea.
- It may tip you off to scams. If you get a quote from two contractors and one is much cheaper than the other, you may actually be inclined to go with the pricier one to avoid cheap or low-quality work. However, if you get three quotes and one is much more expensive than the other two, this may be an indication to steer clear of the one whose cost is much higher for the same work.
- It’ll give you a comprehensive view of the damage to your foundation. You know the old saying: two eyes are better than one. In this case, six eyes are better than two. Having three people inspect your home separately means that you get three different perspectives, and one may catch something that the other two didn’t.