One smart thing a homeowner can do when a house is suspected of having a settling foundation or other type of structural foundation damage is to arrange an inspection with a consulting engineer. Consulting engineers are experienced professionals who provide their technical services for hire for businesses and homeowners to make assessments of damages and recommend courses of action.
Just as in any profession, every engineer will take a different approach to an assignment. Regardless of the way he or she approaches the assignment, every consulting engineer who inspects a home should deliver a minimum of service and information to the homeowner; the homeowner has every right to have expectations met and get the information necessary to make the right decision about repairing the home.
What Should My Consulting Engineer Do for Me?
Of course, each situation is unique and what is right for one homeowner may be overkill for another but there are some constants to look for:
Inspection = Data Collection – When a homeowner engages an engineer, the first step in the process will be an inspection of the home. A highly experienced veteran structural engineer may be able to make an accurate diagnosis of the problem just by “eye-balling” the home and the foundation but the homeowner is entitled to a more thorough inspection that is focused on collecting empirical data about the condition of the home.
In order to collect this data, the engineer should come equipped with a few tools – nothing exotic, just a tape measure and a level will do the job. A camera may be useful, too, to document cracks, wall movement and other anomalies. The level, preferably a laser level but a 6- or 8-foot beam level will work, should be used to determine where foundation walls or aboveground structure have moved out of level or plumb. If all or portions of the home are out of level, this indicates a dropped or settling foundation, as will aboveground walls out of plumb; foundation walls out of plumb indicate wall bowing or inward rotation.
Once the site of damage has been determined, the measuring tape can be used to determine the amount of movement, which indicates the extent of the damage.
A Letter is Not a Report – Quite often, the end product of an engineering inspection is a letter, embossed with the engineer’s professional seal, stating that, yes, this home has structural damage. Having that certification may be valuable for some uses but a homeowner will benefit more from receiving a detailed report of damage and a plan to repair it. There may be a small incremental cost involved but receiving a more detailed report from the consulting engineer will prove invaluable.
The ideal engineering report will describe in detail the damage that has occurred from the settling foundation or other structural factors, including measurements and specific notations on locations and extent of damage. A complete report will also include a specific repair plan that can be followed by a foundation repair contractor. For example, if a foundation has settled or dropped and caused cracking and other damage, the foundation will likely require underpinning with hydraulic push piers to stabilize and support it. The engineer’s report should specify the number of piers required and their placement, taking into account the size and construction of the home, condition of the foundation and other load factors. Other repair recommendations should be offered with similar specificity.
When hiring a consulting engineer to inspect foundation damage, a homeowner should be specific about his or her expectations and be sure to include a repair plan in the contract. Once that plan is in hand, the homeowner can then bring in an experienced, versatile foundation repair contractor to stabilize their foundation and repair their home. At U.S. Waterproofing, our highly trained foundation repair team, including advisors and technicians, work regularly with structural engineers and combine their knowledge with our in-house expertise to deliver the right solution at the right price every time. Why not ask for a free consultation?