Types Structural Inspections for Houses (and Foundations)
Many people see a crack in their walls or floor and automatically assume it is a foundation problem. The structure of a house is composed of more than just a foundation; Wall Framing, Floor framing, and roof framing. And there’s more than just gravity Stresses; there are also wind and earthquake induced stresses, temperature and Shrinkage, moisture, etc. A structural Engineer is the most qualified person to investigate the Structure of a house and determine the likely source of potential structural problems and give recommendations on what to do.
The inspection/investigation for Foundation and Framing from a structural engineer is done in accordance with standard of practice engineering, the building code (The International Residential Code), and for foundations also the Texas American Society of Civil Engineers guide for the evaluation and repair of Residential Foundations because is a common document used by many residential engineers. Below are common types of Structural evaluations A-1 Engineering performs. Please Note that our fees are about the same than our competition but we deliver Much greater value, starting with our engineers, Who are Structural Engineers according to the Texas Board of Professional Engineers (http://engineers.texas.gov), most of our competitors are Mechanical, Electrical, Industrial, or Civil Engineers. Would you rather have a Mechanical Engineer inspect your foundation/framing or a Structural Engineer? Structural Engineers are qualified to inspect foundations/framing, mechanical engineers are NOT. Being Structural Engineers we're able to observe for structural concerns and not being associated with a foundation repair company or contractor, ensures that our professional opinion will save you money in potentially unnecessary repairs.
Structural Framing and Level A Foundation investigation
The Structural Engineer would make a visual observation during a physical walk-through of the property. There is no equipment used other than perhaps a water level, the investigation is strictly visual with no destructive discovery. The vast majority of the time, this type of investigation is satisfactory. If we think there's enough damage, then we will get in the attic space to see if there are any damages to the framing.
The Structural Engineer may verbally explain his opinion on site or if requested, a written report may be provided and delivered to the requester at a later date for an additional fee, usually within 24 hours. The report, which is usually two or three pages in length, typical contains a general description of what was observed, opinion of the source of cracks, discussion on what may be affecting the foundation, general recommendations for potential remedial (no design, plans, engineering, etc.), and conclusion stating whether the house structure, including the foundation, is structurally sound and safe (this is what the bank or lender are really interested in). Sometimes we do use Foundation survey equipment for our own reference only if we're having problems visually determining where the foundation is moving. The Elevations survey that we take for own reference cannot be shared in the report; if you're interested in a copy of the floor elevations, please request the Level A+ assessment. In fact, if you're a homeowner and plan to stay in your house for over a year or if you're buying a house, we recommend you request the Level A+ assessment so you can have this very precious piece of information, which is the floor elevations of your current foundation. No Pictures are included in this report.
For pier and beams foundation, very often (and if possible and accessible), we crawl the underfloor space to see if we observe any damages. Notice that Unlike many other Engineering companies, we're one of the few to actually crawl the foundation to see if any of your floor framing requires repair, and for an additional fee, we can also advise you on the construction cost of repairing such pier and beam foundations so you can protect yourself against potential misleading contractors.
Some foundation movement is generally accepted in Engineering, so cracks are not necessarily a sign that you need foundation repair. Just a small fee to the Structural Engineer can save you several thousands of dollars on a foundation repair you probably don’t need and likely will not fix your problem.
Structural Framing and Level A+ Foundation Investigation
Most people (including buyers of real estate) want something more than a Level A but not as involved (and not as expensive) as a Level B, the result is the Level A+ which is just a Level A but also includes a relative elevation survey of your Foundation; if you're a homeowner or are buying a house, the Level A+ floor elevations are priceless to you because you will have a reference point to compare against in the future and therefore will help you easily monitor the performance of your foundation, this is why this kind of assessment is very popular with our clients. The Level A+ makes more sense from a value stand point compared to a Level A. A foundation survey is very useful because it gives you a benchmark on your foundation and lets you compare the elevations of your foundation with previous elevations surveys or future elevation surveys, thus helping you know to a good level how much your foundation has moved.
Structural Framing and Level B Foundation Investigation
This type of investigation includes everything from the Level A foundation investigation along with further more specific discussions, but also includes doing a relative elevation survey of the foundation and doing a report which will also show a plan of the residence with those relative elevations. It's a little more involved than a Level A. Sometimes we may include pictures, or elevation profiles, but mainly, it includes further discussion on why/what went wrong and how to fix it.
Typically, this type of investigation is requested by people who are interested in knowing if the foundation repair that a foundation repair company did on their property is still correct or by individuals (including Lawyers) who are interested in starting legal action against the contractor, or by those interested in doing a foundation repair.
Structural Framing and Level C Foundation Investigation
This type of Inspection includes everything from level A and B, however, it also requires the assistance of other qualified professionals because plumbing testing, material testing, steel reinforcing survey, Soil sampling, etc. need to be done. Commercial construction may do this type of intensive level on inspection but it is seldom done in residential construction. The cost of such an investigation is excessive.
The preceding was a description of the different types of inspections we do for houses. It is worth noting that we are strictly structural engineers and our investigations are only limited to structural members and Not to non-structural members. For example, we won’t investigate and give opinions on roof leaks, plumbing leaks, broken pipes, etc. We can only give our opinion on the exposed structural pieces of the house as we are able to visually observe during our walk-through.
Note: the word "inspection" through out this website means "assessment"