Home – Slab Performance

The purpose of this site is to provide home inspectors and real estate agents with independent, unbiased information about slab-on-ground foundations. The information presented is intended to be used by licensed real estate agents and TREC inspectors for self-learning and in-house training.

This website is a gold mine of information about slab-on-ground foundations

I know that sounds like I’m bragging, but it is true and a true statement is never bragging. Just stating a true fact.

Give me ten minutes and I’ll show you that time spent reading articles on this site is time well spent

Home Inspectors & Professional Engineers should be independent & unbiased

Every Texas Professional Engineer is required by law to be fair to everyone involved regardless of who is paying the fee. So far as I know, this does not apply to TREC home inspectors. It should be.

The Texas Board of Professional Engineers considers anyone who interacts with the house to be a party to whom the engineer is obligated to respect. This includes the buyer (including future buyers), the seller (including future sellers), the real estate agents, the appraiser, and anyone else who might be affected by the report. 

They provide no explanation as to how a Texas Professional Engineer is supposed to know how to do this. 

The hidden bias no one talks about   

Have you ever heard of a Professional Engineer being sued for recommending foundation repair? No, you have not. In my opinion, Professional Engineers are always mindful that every client brings a potential legal action. 

Distress, damage, failure, (including “structural failure” and “performance failure”

The Texas Board of Professional Engineers has reported that engineers create a lot of problems by not defining the words they use. They recommend that words such as “distress”, “damage”, “failure”, etc. be defined. Further, with the terms “structural failure” and “performance failure”.

Some jargon is always going to be in these reports, but it should be avoided where possible.

Foundation measurements are out of tolerance

When I see this or similar wording, I always ask: What tolerance? Whose tolerance? Is it published? Where is it published? Who accepts the published tolerance? The answer is that there is no level of tolerance published by any engineering organization that I know of. Certainly, the Texas Board of Professional Engineers has not done so. The same is true of the American Concrete Institute and the Post-Tensioning Institute.  

Foundation performance indicators versus repair indicators

The Texas Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers and TREC have published foundation performance indicators. Examples include drywall and brick veneer cracks. They are not foundation repair indicators. Unfortunately, elevation differences are often treated as repair indicators.

TREC home inspectors: what they can do and what are they not allowed to do

Home inspectors should, and are required, to inspect the foundation and render an opinion of the foundation’s performance. A TREC inspector cannot render an opinion regarding anything outside what the TREC requires in the Inspection Standards of Practice.

What about an opinion concerning foundation repair? There is nothing in the Inspection Standards of Practice that authorizes a home inspector to render an opinion on the need, or lack of need, of foundation repair.

Recommending impractical repairs

To me, this is just common sense. If the recommended repair is impracticable, why recommend it at all? If a Texas Professional Engineer recommended the foundation be leveled using pixie dust, no one would be fooled. I contend that recommending impractical repairs is not significantly different. 

You might ask for a real-life example. It goes something like this:

Since the slab surface is outside the construction tolerance, foundation repair is recommended to bring this slab surface back into the construction tolerance. The degree of releveling should be discussed with the repair contractor prior to any work. Bear in mind that I know of no foundation repair contractor who is willing to promise that the foundation will be brought into a specific level state such as plus / minus 3/4 inch.       

The TREC definition of performance

How TREC defines performance:  achievement of an operation, function, or configuration relative to accepted industry standard practices with consideration of age and normal wear and tear from ordinary use. 

I like this definition. It is much better than the previous admonition: serving the purpose intended. Why do I say that? Intended by whom? The builder, the owner, the local Building Official. They all could have different ideas about what the intended purpose is.

I really like this part: “with consideration of age and normal wear and tear from ordinary use”. Why? Because foundations typically perform less well with the passage of time. This is especially true if floor sloping or levelness is used as a proxy for slab performance.

Foundation repair contract terms and conditions – counting the cost

My father once gave me some valuable advice: Never sign a contract without carefully reading and understanding the Terms and Conditions section. His words: That’s where they get you.

So what is typical in a foundation repair contract? The number and type of pier or piling. The cost along with a warning that the cost may go up (without any limit) if problems arise. Who determines what the new cost will be? The contractor of course.

The Terms and Conditions section will also state that the repair process may cause additional damage including structural damage to the concrete, drywall cracks, sticking doors, and brick veneer cracks. Regardless of how severe the damage is, the homeowner must accept all the risks. 

Two final points: (1) you will not know what the cost will be until after the work is done and (2) the contractor may leave your house and foundation significantly more damaged.         

When is foundation repair legitimately required?

In my opinion, three conditions have to be met:

(1) There are structural integrity or structural safety issues that can only be corrected by underpinning the foundation.

(2) Foundation repair must be cost-effective compared to other approaches.

(3) The owner or owners understand and accept the risks inherent to the repair process.

The takeaway

If you read the material on this site, I am convinced you can provide a more professional and better service to your clients while making transactions go smoother and incurring less liability.

How to use this site

First, go to the Articles page and click on any article that appeals to you. Agents might want to start with the article titled Three Errors Real Estate Agents Make. Inspectors might want to start with Two Types of Errors TREC Inspectors Make.

Each article is written so you can read and understand it independently of the others, so you can just dive in anywhere your interests take you.

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