Slab Performance and the TREC SOP

We have seen that the TREC SOP includes a definition of performance. That definition applies to slab-on-ground foundations as much as it applies to every other item, component or system that is required by the SOP to be inspected. Unfortunately, the way TREC worded the definition makes applying it to slab-on-ground foundations ambiguous.

The TREC SOP provides a list of what the SOP calls “indications” and what I call red flags. (We shall use indications, indicators and red flags interchangeably) Those red flags provide the inspector with implied instructions on how to apply the SOP performance definition to slab-on-ground foundations.

What is the TREC Inspector specifically required to do?

1. Render an opinion of how well or poorly the foundation is performing.

2. If the foundation performance is adverse, the inspector must generally report present and visible “indications” used to render the adverse opinion. Examples of such indicators are:

binding, out of square, non-latching doors;

framing or frieze board separations;

sloping floors;

window, wall, floor or ceiling cracks or separations;

rotating, buckling, cracking, or deflecting masonry cladding.

  • This list raises some immediate questions and comments

    First, if your opinion of the foundation performance is not adverse, you do not need to make any reference to any of the indicators or red flags. You could simply report something like this:

    In my opinion, the foundation is performing in an average manner as compared to other foundations in this area, of similar construction and the same approximate age.

    You could also report it in this manner:

    In spite of some irregularities in the brick veneer and drywall, it is my opinion that the foundation is performing in a normal, expected manner for a slab-on-ground foundation in this area of town and at this age.

    Second, if the opinion is adverse, the inspector must generally report present and visible indications used to render the opinion.

    Notice the phrase generally report. I interpret this to mean that you do not have to be specific. Here would be an example that I think would work:

    Due to the severity and number of drywall cracks, it is my opinion that the foundation has not performed in an expected normal manner. I recommend you consult with a Texas Professional Engineer. He or she can provide another perspective and discuss what options, if any, should be considered to improve foundation performance.

    You could use similar wording if you find the performance acceptable but want to suggest or recommend that they retain an engineer for another perspective.

    Third, it is not clear what is meant by indications or indicators. I assume the term is used in this sense: drywall cracks, to take just one example, may indicate the possibility of less than desirable foundation performance. We use the word “may” because drywall cracks can be caused by things that have nothing to do with the foundation. Other possible causes are teenage boys, sagging wood frame floors, someone in the attic slightly stepping onto the ceiling drywall, wind gusts higher than 90 mph that cause minimally braced walls to rack – we could go on, but you get the point.

    What is true of drywall cracks is true of every other indicator on the TREC list. All of the listed indicators are a legitimate concern, but none of them are dispositive of poor or substandard foundation performance. Nor is any combination of these indicators. Nor is the lack of such indicators dispositive of good foundation performance.

    Whether the inspector is a TREC inspector or a Professional Engineer, these indicators are, and should be, a basis for making a judgment about how well or poorly a given foundation appears to be performing. The key word here is “judgment.” Your judgment has to be based on what you discover on-site, but also on your training and, especially, your experience.

    A very important consideration concerning opinions about foundation performance is that such opinions are necessarily subjective. This is true whether the inspector is a TREC licensed real estate inspector or a licensed engineer.

    What is the TREC Inspector required to base his or her opinion on?

  • TREC inspectors are required under the SOP to base their opinion on the visible condition of the house, specifically on the TREC indicators.
  • You should notice two things about the list:

    • There is no mention of cracks in the concrete. Concrete cracks are not even required to be reported as a deficiency. That may seem odd to you, but it does not seem odd to us. All concrete cracks. They are rarely related to foundation performance one way or another. It makes as much sense to require the inspector to report the presence of cracks in concrete as it would be to require an inspector to report that the framing lumber has grain in it.
    • The second point we want you to notice that the performance of the foundation is to be based on what you see in the house, not what you see by looking at the visible portion of the foundation.

    What is foundation performance according to TREC?

    The answer seems simple enough to us: TREC wants inspectors to render an opinion based on the inspector’s judgment of how the foundation is performing based on the red flag items, or indicators, listed in the SOP.

     

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