When you notice signs of foundation damage, either cracks in your basement foundation walls, or doors and windows sticking upstairs, the next step you take is critical to the long-term health of your home and your wallet. Because foundation damage usually happens in stages, the stage at which you address it will determine the extent of the repairs you’ll need.
Foundation problems that aren’t directly tied to poor construction, drought, or building on the wrong land, typically begin with too much water directed around the foundation. At the beginning stages of foundation problems, redirecting the water may be all you need to stop further damage. However, if the water has been oversaturating your foundation for a while and the damage is now more advanced, you’ll need to both manage the water and repair the foundation.
If at some point you find you have a foundation problem, you’ll likely hear plenty of opinions about how it should be corrected. Don’t be surprised if each opinion differs greatly. It’s like talking to different doctors to figure out a course of action for a health problem. Each is likely to have their idea for treating it. And contractors are similar to doctors - one might address only the symptoms while another also identifies and treats the root cause. So how can you figure out if you’re being recommended a band-aid or a true long-term cure? Below are some things that can help you decide.
1. Proper Diagnosis – A quality foundation repair estimate should be based on information collected during a comprehensive review of your property. The estimator should have discussed with you the problem’s history, performed a close visual inspection of the current state of the problem, and used instruments to accurately measure and determine the extent of the damage.
2. Unquestionable Methods – The repairs outlined in the estimate should involve a quality repair that goes beyond minimum code requirements, using heavy-duty materials installed liberally along the structure to be repaired. In broad terms, if a company is recommending a nail, you should find a company who will routinely use screws or bolts instead.
3. Price – Foundation repairs are expensive if done correctly. Your foundation is no place to cut corners because it’s keeping the rest of your house standing and the forces pressing against your foundation walls won’t go away by themselves. Remember, if the repair you choose doesn’t fix everything the first time, you will be the one paying the price a second time to have it repaired again.
4. Complete Solutions – When you’re talking about the health of your foundation it’s important you make an educated choice in selecting a contractor and a solution. Make sure the professional you’re talking to about repairs explains what is happening to your foundation, why it’s happening, and exactly what measures are going to be taken to correct the current damage and the source that’s causing it. Don’t let a contractor leave you with unanswered questions.
5. References – Repairing foundations properly, especially ones that have become unstable, requires a lot of experience. Different combinations of soil, construction methods, and foundation types each present very different challenges. Look for a company that can provide references of people they’ve helped with similar problems to yours. Talking to these people will help you know the level of satisfaction you can expect when you work with that company.
6. A Clear Contract – Your foundation repair estimate should provide clear details as to what will and will not be done as part of your project. For example, who applies for the permit? How is outside landscaping handled? And what costs aren’t covered? Make sure to read and understand all the details as well as the General Conditions. When you sign the contract you are agreeing to all of the contract’s terms and conditions. If you don’t understand exactly what you’re signing you might be agreeing to less than you expect or getting something you don’t want.
7. Complete Warranty – Some warranties promise to repair or replace the materials used to fix the foundation, but say nothing about protecting the foundation from further damage. The better warranties protect the results – that is, they will warranty that their fix will keep your foundation from significantly moving inward or downward. Remember a warranty is only as valuable as your ability to get it enforced, so learn about the claim process. Is it as easy as picking up the phone and talking to a live person to get warranty work? Or will you have to make your request to the contractor’s answering machine and hope he calls you back?
Foundation repairs are serious business and it doesn’t pay to enter into such a major project without making sure even minor details have been considered and discussed. At U.S. Waterproofing we treat every customer’s project as if we were doing it at our own house. That is why you should feel comfortable contacting us when you’re considering work on your home’s foundation.
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