I am not sure why so many TREC inspectors get this wrong, but I see problems with the way this is handled, or not handled, in report after report. All TREC inspectors are required to do is to state their opinion, their true unbiased opinion, regarding the performance of the foundation. What could possibly be so hard about that?
The elements of a proper foundation performance opinion
If you look at the definition of performance in the TREC SOP, the opinion should consider accepted industry standard practices with consideration of age and normal wear and tear from ordinary use. I would consider the following as examples of a properly formed foundation performance opinion:
In my opinion, the foundation has performed in a normal and expected manner as compared to other houses of similar construction, location and age. On a scale of 1-star to 5-star, with 1-star indicating poor performance and 5-star indicating outstanding performance, I would give this foundation a 3- star rating.
In my opinion, the foundation has not performed in a normal and expected manner as compared to other houses of similar construction, location and age. On a scale of 1-star to 5-star, with 1-star indicating very poor performance and 5-star indicating outstanding performance, I give this foundation a 3-star rating. The reason for the 3-star rating is the extent of the drywall cracks, the brick veneer cracks at the door issues.
Now let’s look at some all too common examples of performance opinions that are not properly formed:
Serving the purpose intended
How would the inspector know and whose intent is at issue here? At best, such a statement is vague and unpersuasive. At worst, it is meaningless. It does not address the performance criteria set out in the TREC SOP. It is not really a performance opinion at all.
Movement was observed
The problem here is that the statement almost certainly false. It is highly unlikely that you observed movement. No one will have any idea what the inspector is talking about. Perhaps you saw a ghosting door, or you saw a crack open up or close right before your eyes. In most cases what was observed was not movement, but indications of past movement: specifically the red flags in the SOP.
You should be looking for the red flags specified in the SOP. If your report is to be seen as credible to all the parties involved, you need to be specific. Simply stating that movement was observed tells the reader nothing about your opinion about how the foundation is performing, especially as compared to other similar houses.
The foundation needs repair
This is an opinion as to whether the foundation needs repair; it is not an opinion of how the foundation is performing. In my opinion, rendering an opinion as to whether the foundation needs to be repaired is asking for problems. If you suspect this true, you should render an opinion of the performance of the foundation and then recommend that they consult with a Professional Engineer as to what, if anything, should be done.
The SOP requires that you report exposed cable ends and rebar as needing repair. There should be no liability for reporting anything required by the SOP. That is not the case with reporting the foundation as in need of repair. The SOP does not authorize or require you to report on that issue one way or another.
The foundation performing in a manner that suggests you need a second opinion
There is nothing wrong with encouraging or recommending your client to get a second opinion, but doing so does not satisfy the requirement that you provide your client with your unbiased opinion of the performance of the foundation.
Opinion of a class
I often see this, especially in engineering reports, but also in TREC inspection reports. An example would be this: our policy is that when we find there are two points 10 feet apart that have an elevation difference of 1 inch or more, foundation repair is recommended.
This is an opinion about repair generally needed by a group of foundations, not about performance of a specific foundation.
Note also that the opinion, as stated, is ambiguous. It refers to our policy without stating the basis for the policy or who “our” is. Also, who recommends foundation repair and why is repair being recommended? Ambiguity in your report will hurt you in a courtroom.
Opinion of the condition of the slab
The foundation was in good condition. The SOP does not require you to comment on the condition of the foundation and I see nothing to gain by doing so. In any case, it is not a permitted substitute for a performance opinion.