Why you should call a Structural Engineer First instead of a Foundation Repair Company
The General Public can be confused about what to do when there’s a potential foundation problem. Notice we said “Potential” foundation problem because you may not have a foundation problem at all. It’s the job of a Structural Engineer to determine whether it is a problem or not (regardless of how many cracks you see), and the Structural Engineer is the only person qualified to diagnose foundations and recommend solutions.
Structural Engineer Designs Foundations
Why is the Structural Engineer the only qualified person to look at your foundation? All foundations in San Antonio, Austin, and anywhere in the world are designed (or at least supposed to be designed) by Structural Engineers. The term Foundation Engineer almost always refers to Structural Engineer. The person who designs the Foundation (i.e. The Structural Engineer) knows what affects a foundation, how the foundation is supposed to perform, the amount of movement allowed, etc. Therefore, the Structural Engineer who designs foundations is also the most qualified person to know when a foundation is not doing what it is supposed to do.
Also something worth considering is that regardless of what kind of repair you do, if you’re trying to sell or refinance your house, the bank will require a letter from the Structural Engineer if the appraiser says there might be potential problems.
Not Every crack is a Structural Crack
There are many different sources that could create cracks in your walls and ceiling, and even the concrete slab itself. There are also different sources that could be affecting your foundation. The point we’re trying to make is that just because the foundation has moved and you see cracks it doesn’t always mean that your house is going to collapse and you’re in desperate need spending thousands of dollars for a repair. By the way, most foundation repairs are temporary. So, if you do end up needing a foundation repair you must certainly want to have an independent structural engineer give you recommendations instead of going to a foundation repair company directly.
The Structural Engineer is NOT Selling you anything
One of the greatest benefits to hiring an independent Structural Engineer to look at the Structure (including Foundation) of your house is that The Structural Engineer works for you. Working for you instead of working for a repair company means that the Structural Engineer is looking out for your best interests and is not trying to sell you a repair system. In other words, the Structural Engineer doesn’t have the inherent conflict of interest that exists when the Engineer is working for a Foundation Repair company. The small fee that you pay the Structural Engineer to look at your foundation is practically nothing in comparison with the Thousands of Dollars that you could be wasting on a foundation repair that might not work and you probably don’t even need. Beware of Free Foundation Inspections by Foundation repair companies… they are free because they’ll make their money back in the thousands of dollars you’ll spend using their foundation repair system.
The Foundation repair companies do not send Engineers to look at your Foundation
Foundation Repair companies usually send their Sales person to your house. Sometimes, this sales person may introduce himself as an Engineer. This is where we would offer you an important word of caution: First, only someone who is licensed or works for an engineering company (and he himself went to engineering school) can identify himself as an Engineer (according to Board of Professional Engineers Rules) and it is very difficult to become a Licensed Engineer (University degree from one of the very few Accredited Engineering Schools like the University of Texas, years and years of experience, passing several State exams, etc.) so if you go against the suggestions of this article and call a foundation repair company first, then you might be getting someone who is not qualified. Second, there are different types of licensed Engineers, such as Mechanical, Electrical, Civil, Structural, etc. Go to the Texas Board of Professional Engineers website and look for PEs. If you don’t see the person listed or if you don’t see STR or STR2 or STR16 as the type of license they hold, then that person may not qualified to give you any opinions on your foundation. Ultimately, the person who signs your report is that person.
We cannot stop emphasizing that the only thing a typical press pile foundation repair company knows is that if your foundation is not leveled then it must mean you have foundation problems and it is their job to re-level it. Sometimes you do have foundation problems, many times you don’t. And when you do have a problem, the best thing is to get a Structural Engineer involved first anyway. The Structural Engineer serves you in two ways: First, he determines whether you do have a problem (and most of the times you don’t), so you should call a Structural Engineer first. Second, he’s the most qualified person to recommend/suggest a repair.
The Foundation repair company is a contractor, and as such, it should wait for the recommendations from a Structural Engineer before doing anything. Traditionally and in practice, especially in the Commercial construction industry, that’s the way it works; the Engineers do the design first and then several contractors bid on the project based the Engineer’s recommendations. It is unfortunate that the residential construction industry is not as well regulated.