If you want a good Foundation, Don’t let a Home Builder Choose your Foundation Engineer
Would you let a Fox guard the Hen House? Would you let the waiter take whatever amount of money he wants from your wallet for his tip? Would you let an inmate be in charge of the Keys of the Jail? If your answer is a resounding and common sense “NO” to all the above questions, then if you want a good foundation for your house, letting the home builder or even a custom home builder choose his own foundation engineer is NOT the best thing to do. A home buyer, as a future homeowner, needs a qualified person on his side, to protect the homeowner’s interests, not on the side of the home builder, whose main goal is to maximize profits while lowering costs.
Most Home Builders Almost Always Hire Engineers that are not Structural Engineers
The Foundation is part of the structure. The only qualified Engineers to design foundations are structural engineers. Many times structural engineers are called Foundation Engineers, mainly because many times in the residential construction, structural engineers are only hired to design House Foundations instead of also designing the framing, as would be the case in commercial construction
Unfortunately, many of the engineers performing foundation designs in the residential industry and claiming they are foundation or even structural engineers are in fact not structural engineers and are theregore NOT QUALIFIED to design foundations. For more on Licensed Engineers misinforming people into believing they are Structural or Foundation engineers (Although sometimes engineers have the CIV designator and have failed to update their records with the board of professional engineers instructing them of their competency in Structural Engineering; to be certain, make sure they have the designation because unfortunately, many of the engineers offering services to the residential clientele are Electrical Engineers, Civil Engineers, etc.), please read Structural Engineering License in Texas.
Since hiring a Structural Engineer (i.e. someone who knows what they are doing) is more expensive than hiring another kind of engineer (i.e. someone who we can infer DOES NOT know what they are doing), then the vast majority of Home Builders and Custom Home Builders just hire other types of Engineers.
The Foundation is the most important part of any Structure, do not let the Home Builder give you a sales pitch that he and his people are the best in the World. INSIST in you hiring your own Structural Engineer.
Sadly enough, likely the only reason most builders hire Engineers – any kind - to design a foundation is because most local governments (city of Austin, San Antonio, Georgetown, Houston, etc.) required foundation plans to be signed and sealed by an Engineer. Even sadder is that the great majority of local governments are not required by law to enforce who can sign and seal foundation structural plans, that is left to the Texas Board of Professional Engineers.
Many Engineers hired by many Builders do Not look after the Homeowners Interest
In the eyes of the home builder or Custom home builder, paying any type of engineer to design a foundation is a waste of money, so they hire the cheapest engineer available to simply stamp their plans. House Builders understand also that people are usually more interested in spending money in things they can see, like a big tub or a big kitchen, but not on things they cannot see but are more valuable, such as the structural components of the house, like a Foundation. Your house may have Marble imported from Italy, but if your foundation is designed and built wrong, then that Marble is worthless.
Many times the home builder is simply not getting you the most qualified person for your house foundation. Is it worth it to you to save a few hundred dollars (depending on the size of your foundation) by hiring the wrong type of Engineer? It’s a no brainer we believe, why save a few hundred dollars on a qualified foundation engineer if saving it could mean spending tens of thousands of dollars in the future in foundation repair.
It’s simple economics, either invest a few hundred dollars now on a Structural Engineer hired by YOU, or let the home builder probably chose a non-structural engineer and you’ll spend tens of thousands of dollars in the future in foundation repair.
Name a custom builder or home builder out there, they have, many times, been in situations where the foundation moved and caused damages. Some are very good at keeping it a secret. When you have someone else other than a structural engineer design your foundation, you may be gambling with the future performance of your foundation and house. Some homeowners are lucky that nothing ever happens, other homeowners have to eventually pay for it. If you don’t pay for it now, you’ll pay for it later.
And don’t think the Home builder warranty or a lawsuit is going to pay for foundation repair. More on this in the article that talks about Foundation Surveys.
Another Little secret: Many Home Builders get another engineer to inspect and approve the foundation
Many Home builders end up doing what they want, regardless of what the structural plans say or who the engineer is. Many engineers, structural or not, end up caving into the home Builder’s wishes and ways, and end up approving things that are not built correctly. So, you have two problems with many engineers, first, the foundation design is incorrect because the engineer designing the foundation is not a structural engineer. Second, even if the engineer is a structural engineer, when he goes do the inspection before pouring concrete (called “pre-pour inspection”), then the engineer might accept something that is not completely built correctly because he doesn’t want to lose more business from the Custom home builder.
So, if an engineer goes and does the pre-pour inspection and finds things with the construction of the foundation that are not correct and tells the home builder to change it, then if the home builder thinks the changes are too much work, he will call another engineer to “approve” the foundation and write a letter saying that everything is fine.
Not all builders are like this. We know many builders who are honest, knowledgeable, and want to do the right thing. But, even in those cases where we know the builder, we prefer to work directly for the owner, so that there is no conflict of interest.
Another important thing to do, mainly after construction of the house is a foundation elevation survey. When you do a survey of your foundation right after construction, it gives a benchmark to track movement of your foundation. If you don’t do a foundation survey right after construction, you will lose the window of opportunity for ever to gather such precious data!
A-1 Engineering, LLC is a Structural Engineering Company with Structural Engineers in Austin and Structural Engineers in San Antonio, Structural Engineering is all we do. We design foundations everywhere in Texas, and inspect and perform foundation elevation surveys everywhere in Texas.