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What to Expect from a Home Foundation Inspection

Article Courtesy of Doug with Granite Foundation Repair


Are you seeing signs around your home that suggest that your home's foundations might be in trouble? Perhaps you have been toying with the idea of getting a home foundation inspection but don’t know exactly what to expect?

If you think your home's foundations may have some problems and you are worried about it, you should be. The foundation of a house is the most important structural element of the building. Issues that affect the foundation will radiate to the other parts of the house.

Foundation issues are best detected early and dealt with decisively. But the only way to know if the foundation is failing is to have it inspected. What can you expect when you hire an engineer to inspect your home's foundation?

Is the home foundation inspection necessary?

As the owner of a home with suspected foundation issues, the home foundation inspection will help you understand what you are dealing with and how to proceed with the situation. But if you are a buyer, the home foundation inspection can help you determine the nature and extent of a problem and help you determine if a home is a good deal or not.

What are the processes involved in the home foundation inspection?


Step #1: The interview


In this step, the inspector will talk with you to get a background on the problem. The interviewer will ask about the timeline of the observed damage as well as previous problems with the home's plumbing and drainage.

This allows the inspectors to do their due diligence, estimate the seriousness of the problem, and determine their inspection criteria. It also gives you a chance to gain clarity on the issues by asking questions that have weighed on your mind.

Step #2: Floor-elevation survey


In this step, the inspector compares the data on the property's floor elevation when it was first built against the current floor elevation. The data on the home's floor elevation serves as a benchmark. And the current elevation of the home is compared against it to determine if there has been any movement. If the floor is out of level, the measurements will detect it.

Step #3: Visual inspection of the home's interior, exterior, and surroundings

This step involves a thorough examination of the physical structures of the home for separations, cracks, fractures, sticky windows/doors, leaning walls, and other signs of a failing foundation.

The inspector will also examine the gutters, slabs, fascia boards, brick veneer, grading around the home's perimeter, and all other outdoor features. Additionally, the inspector will enter the crawlspace or basement, and also inspect the home's piers, beams, and joists.

Step #4: Test for plumbness and alignment

In this step, the inspector uses a plumb and level to gauge if the foundation is out of level and the degree of its misalignment. The step also involves checking doors, trims, cabinets, windows, and walls for listing. If there are deviations between the expected plumbness of these parts of the home and the actual plumbness measured, the inspector will note the level of deviation.

Step #5: Conducting a forensic analysis

The forensic analysis is designed to trace the problem to its origin, in order to uncover its root cause. The goal of this step is to determine if the problem was created by bad construction, poor grading, standing water at the base of the house, or movements of the soil underneath the house. The forensic analysis helps to determine the best approach to solving the problem.

Step #6: Conclusions & recommendations

This is a verbal explanation of the problem and the recommended solutions. It comes at the end of the inspection process and precedes the preparation of the formal report which will treat the issues in more detail. This step gives the property owner a glimpse into what they can expect when the real process of solving the problem begins

Step #7: Delivery of the engineering report


This report contains details of the interview, conclusions, recommendations as well as the scope of the inspecting engineer's services. Depending if it was paid for, the report may also include a CAD format of the detailed floor elevation map of the home. To be valid, the engineering report must be signed and sealed by a licensed engineer.


How long does the inspection last and how much does it cost?

It takes 90 minutes to complete a home inspection foundation and this is including the interview. The cost of the inspection varies. If it was ordered by a homeowner, the cost may be zero, since many companies offer free home foundation inspections to homeowners. But, the result of a free inspection is not binding because it is not the opinion of a structural engineer.

If the inspection is ordered by a buyer, they would have to pay. And the cost is usually $150-$200. But if it includes a CAD map of the home's elevation, the home foundation inspection can cost $350 – $500.

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