What is the difference between a foundation repair and foundation leveling?
To repair a foundation implies that the foundation is broken. Assume you have a concrete slab on grade foundation and you see a lot of cracks throughout your house. Your first thought is that you need a foundation “repair” company to come in and “repair” your foundation so that you no longer get cracks in your wall and so that your sticking door can finally work again. The method used by most foundation repair companies includes lifting your house with some type of underpin system until the floors are relatively level, cracks close and the doors work again. In that whole process of underpinning or leveling, what was fixed? The obvious answer is nothing. Did the repair company actually fix the cracked slab or repair the bad soils that are moving the foundation? The “repair” company simply leveled your house. As mentioned in the article “Foundation Repair Scams”, the foundation is not stabilized since the problem still exists….which is bad soils. Isolating the foundation from the bad soils is not feasible once your foundation is constructed. The services provided by the foundation “repair” company then is really a foundation leveling service. Take the word repair out of it and lets call it for what it is, leveling. Most reputable foundation leveling companies will identify themselves as such and not try to mislead you by telling you they will repair the foundation. Leveling the foundation will not stabilize your foundation since the bad soils are still subjected to changes in the moisture content hence movement. Expect for the foundation levelness to be temporary and will last for as long as the moisture in the soils remains constant.
Final word of advise, hire your own structural engineer to conduct a Level B assessment of the foundation after leveling operations. A Level B assessment is a foundation assessment that will identify areas of structural distress (cracks) and also include a slab survey. It is highly recommended to have the structural engineer take before and after measurements of the slab to monitor and track the amount the foundation has been lifted and to establish a base elevation to monitor throughout the life of the structure. If the foundation leveling company offers their own engineer, make sure the engineer is a structural engineer. Refer to the article “Does the foundation ‘repair’ company need to pull a permit” to learn how you can check if the engineer is a structural engineer. Remember, leveling a concrete slab on grade may cause more cracks to appear, break plumbing, window, doors or roofing. These repairs are not covered by the leveling company.
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