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Structural + Civil Engineering Consultants                    Serving San Antonio and Austin

Top 5 mistakes Homeowners make in regards to Foundation Repairs

We all make mistakes. Some mistakes are substantially more costly than others. Learning from someone else’s mistakes can prove to be valuable and extremely cheap. Foundation Repair in San Antonio and Austin can be tricky. Below are some common mistakes made by homeowners (and sometimes people advising them, such as realtors and property managers) when it comes to Foundation Repairs for their house:

1) Calling a Foundation Repair Company First

Big mistake. Foundation repair companies do serve a purpose, but not at the beginning stages. The first thing that needs to be done is to call a structural engineer. The structural engineer is the type of engineer that designs all sort of structures, including foundations. Therefore, the only person qualified to diagnose and recommend repairs for a foundation is the structural engineer. Plus, chances are that if you call a foundation repair company first, you will probably get a lot of contractors who do press piles or something like it.

By calling a structural engineer first, you will be able to learn whether the foundation is first of all safe and structurally sound. Just because the foundation have moved down (settlement) or moved up (heaving) and you see some cracking it doesn't mean the foundation is inadequate. A structural engineer is the only person qualified to tell you if the foundation is acceptable.

Foundation contractors, on the other hand, are used to 're level' the foundation if any movement in the foundation is detected. They simply don't know, structurally speaking, if a foundation is acceptable or not. They are simply asked 'is the foundation level?' and their answer is 'no, but we can re-level it for you'. It's not that they are dishonest, it's just that they are not engineers and are just trying to remedy the issue. They might sell you the most common and cheapest system in the market, which is the press pile, and by the way, many foundation repairs are temporary.

You could save tens of thousands of dollars in avoided Foundation repair just by paying a few hundred dollars for a Structural Engineer to go look at your house.

2) Hiring a Structural Engineer Who Works for a Foundation Repair Company

If you call a foundation repair company, regardless of whom they send to your house, a sales person or an Engineer, the foundation repair company will most of the times recommend foundation leveling; see it for yourself, call a handful of them, you'll see most will try to sell you something. Moreover, many of the Engineers who do work for foundation repair companies are not even Structural Engineers. This takes us to the next common mistake.

3) Hiring the Wrong Kind of Independent Engineer

There are several branches of engineering, such as civil, structural, geotechnical, etc. Don’t rely on an engineer to tell you that he’s a structural engineer. Instead, go to the Texas Board of Professional Engineers website and look them up. If an individual is indeed a structural engineer, then you should see STR or STR2 or STR16 as the type of license. Many engineers who work in the residential industry are usually retired from a different field, such as mechanical engineering, which is a MEC type of license. There are also many civil engineers who have tried to supplement their income by trying to venture into the foundation engineering business; civil engineers are a CIV type of license. Please read about Structural Engineering License in Texas

4) If Foundation Repair is Done, the Wrong Kind of Repair is Done

Maybe we shouldn't say it's the wrong kind of repair. We should say the most common type of repair, which is push piles or press piles, is not the kind of repair that is expected to be permanent. Because this system is the cheapest of all systems, it is also the most used, but it is also the system that has the highest potential for future movement. There's nothing wrong with using this system as long as everyone understands that the foundation will move again eventually. Sometimes the expense might not even be worth it and the structural engineer might give you an option which could be substantially cheaper than the traditional foundation repair methods.

5) Choosing the Wrong Contractor

Never go with the cheapest guy. Ideally you want to have 3 contractors to give you bids on your foundation repair, they should all be within 20% each other price range (compare within the same system! that is, don't compare press piles with drilled piers, for example, you're comparing apples and oranges, drilled piers are going to be a lot more expensive but a lot better as well). If foundation repair contractors are within 20% of each other (if compared to the same system) and the third company is 50% cheaper then you should be suspicious that something is very wrong with the cheapest option. 

The best thing to do is get the structural engineer to do a plan of the repair because in that way, all the contractors will be giving you a bid based on the same system and amount!  

It also helps to have referrals from other home owners or other Engineers.

Please remember that many times press piles foundation repair is a temporary solution. 

In conclusion, the best option to save you money while checking the adequacy of the foundation is to hire a Structural Engineer. Call us, we’ll assist you in investigating your foundation and determine if the foundation is acceptable. Just a small fee to a knowledgeable Structural Engineer for his opinion can save you thousands of dollars on a repair that you will probably not need… many foundations, in fact, do not require foundation repair. And if you do, you'll get the system that fits your particular situation.

Please visit our Structural Engineers San Antonio page or Structural Engineer Austin page.