No homeowner is happy to learn that their property may have a foundation problem. If you see warning signs that your foundation may be in trouble, it is important to have your home professionally evaluated. It may turn out that the signs you are seeing have nothing to do with the foundation, or it could mean that you need to investigate repair options. If the latter is true, it is helpful to understand the foundation assessment and repair process from start to finish before engaging with a foundation repair contractor. Although every property is different, here is what a homeowner should typically expect during the foundation repair process.
Step One: Engineer’s Assessment
As soon as you suspect a foundation problem, it should be assessed by a licensed structural engineer. An engineer will visit your property and investigate the cause of the symptoms you are observing. This may include an in-depth look inside your attic, crawl space and behind/around landscaping along the perimeter of your home. The engineer will complete a gas level survey of your floor to measure the amount of settlement. If soft soils are suspected, the engineer may recommend soil testing by a geotechnical engineer before proceeding with a repair design.
Step Two: Repair Recommendations
The engineer will present his or her findings and suggest solutions for repair. Because every home is unique, there is no one-size-fits-all repair for a foundation. The repair may include pin piles, helical anchors or in some cases push piers as a last resort. It may also require a soil test. Before moving forward with a repair design, your engineer should explain the reasons why the solution is right for your home.
Step Three: Develop a Site Plan
In addition to the repair design, a site plan of your property is typically required by the local jurisdiction to permit the repair. Sometimes, homeowners already have a site plan or survey of their property that can be used. If you do not have a site plan, and engineer can create one or a surveyor can provide survey.
Step Four: Repair Design and Permitting
Once approved by the homeowner, the engineer will produce repair drawings, suitable for permit and construction. The engineer can also submit it for permitting to your local jurisdiction. Engineers understand the permitting process and will work with your jurisdiction to address any issues or questions.
Step Five: Contractor Selection and Construction
Once the repair drawings are approved by the local jurisdiction, you can use the drawings to obtain contractor bids. If you do not have a contractor in mind, the engineer may be able to recommend a few reliable contractors they have worked with in the past.
When you are facing a potentially serious or expensive foundation repair it can be tempting to simply hire a foundation repair contractor to design and complete the repair without a consultation from an independent structural engineer. This is a risky plan. An independent engineer will provide an unbiased recommendation for the best way to accomplish success. Structural engineers have the technical knowledge and experience to provide a structural repair design that will stand the test of time. Your consulting engineer has a single goal – to design a safe, effective repair that can be carried out by the contractor of your choice. If you are unsure if your foundation is settling, contact a professional structural engineer to perform a level survey of your home and suggest the next steps.