The Texas Board of Professional Engineers recently issued a Policy Advisory concerning whether a TREC licensed home inspector would be in violation of the Engineering Practice Act by inspecting a foundation in expansive soil areas. The short answer is: no, so long as he or she stays within the Standards of Practice.
Below is a longer answer.
Doing any of the following might be considered as engaging in the practice of engineering
Giving advice regarding repair
Advising a client that a residential foundation does or does not warrant repair falls within the jurisdiction of the Engineering Practice Act. In my opinion, offering advice concerning foundation repair when you are not a licensed engineer is foolish. Slab-on-ground foundations are intended to be continuously ground supported. Lifting them is a dicey situation no matter how you look at it. Even if the foundation is underpinned, but not lifted, the slab will the next time we experience a significant drought. As the soil shrinks it pulls away from those portions that are now supported by piles or piers.
There is nothing in the SOP that authorizes a TREC inspector to give advice concerning foundation repair.
Creating a repair plan
If creating a repair plan does not fall within the jurisdiction of the Engineering Practice Act, I do not know what does.
Reporting that visible distress or damage is, or is not, due to foundation distortion
As a TREC licensed home inspector you are required to render an opinion as to the performance of the foundation. Your opinion should be based on your observations of indicators of foundation performance as listed in the SOP.
What a TREC licensed inspector is allowed and not allowed to do
A TREC licensed inspector is required to render an opinion based on visible conditions or symptoms as noted in TREC rule §535.228(a)(1)(A); however, per the TREC Standards of Practice, a TREC licensed inspector is not required to analyze or determine the cause of a potential failure or recommend any required corrective action.
Analyzing the cause of a condition, recommendations for repair, or providing any other expert engineering opinion associated with a foundation, including the foundation systems and components, would be considered the practice of engineering per the Act §1001.003(c)(1) and count warrant disciplinary action from theTexas Board of Professional Engineers if conducted by an individual unlicensed as a Professional Engineer (PE). We conclude that a TREC licensed inspector who conducts a visual real estate inspection in conformance with the TREC Standards of Practice does nor engage in the practice of engineering.
The TBPE’s position is consistent with how they have consistently worked with other licensing boards in the past. For instance, licensed plumbers, heating/air conditioning contractors, and electricians are free to do their work with no interference from the TBPE so long as they do not perform any work not authorized by their respective licensing board.
The bottom line
Make your judgment of how well or poorly the foundation is performing based on the indicators in your SOP raking into consideration the age, location, and normal wear and tear, and your experience. If it is s hard call, say so, give a reason and recommend they consult with an engineer.
Regardless of your opinion, give a reason. Everyone in the transaction is entitled to know why you said the performance was average, better than average or worse than average.