Most homes that show expansive soil distress
should not have the foundation repaired because they are not sufficiently damaged to warrant repair. (US Army Corps of Engineers)
Diagnosing the cause of substandard slab performance
Making a reliable diagnosis can be difficult and time-consuming. There may be multiple possible sources of distress and damage in the house. For instance, there may be a large oak overhanging the foundation, poor drainage around the foundation and no automatic watering system.
To discover the cause you could have the offending tree removed and then wait at least two years to see what benefit you get. This procedure can be repeated until the foundation is acceptably stable.
There may not be any obvious cause. There might be several potential culprits. When nothing seems to work, the final step is to retain an engineer to seek his advice. If there is a structural safety issue or a structural integrity issue and underpinning will solve the problem, then foundation repair may be a necessary option.
Most money spent on foundation repair is a waste
The heart of virtually any foundation proposal comes down to this:
- The homeowner promises to pay the contractor a specific sum of money unless it turns out that the contractor discovers that more work than was originally anticipated. So the reality is that when you sign the contractor’s proposal, you really do not know what the final cost will be.
- The contractor promises to make the foundation more level. That’s it. No guarantee that the foundation will be brought to a specific degree of levelness.
- The contractor’s proposal will almost surely state that the homeowner understands that the contractor may damage your foundation and your house and that the homeowner understands and accepts that repairing any damage is the responsibility of the homeowner, not the contractor.
If this seems unbalanced, that is because it is unbalanced, even grossly unbalanced. But you should not blame the contractor. The reality is that foundation underpinning is risky.
Foundation repair is like rolling dice
Don’t take my word for it. I learned this from Richard Rash, a retired foundation repair contractor in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. It is a roll-of-dice for the simple reason that you do not know what the final cost will be and it will be at least 2-years before you will know if the foundation is more stable.
Competent foundation repair
Creating a foundation repair plan in expansive soil areas requires a soil report from a licensed Texas geotechnical engineer. Even so, very few people are willing to spend $800 to $1200 for a soil report, especially when foundation repair contractors tell homeowners that they don’t need a soil report.
Competent foundation repair requires an engineered repair plan. Whether the contractor uses piles or piers, the contractor needs to know the depth to stable soil.