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What to Expect from an Estimate to Repair your Sinking Foundation

May 3, 2013 • By Matthew Stock.

What to Expect from an Estimate to Repair your Sinking Foundation


As much as you hate to admit it, you have a foundation problem.  You noticed that doors had gone out of line in your home and that windows were sticking and took all your strength to open or close. 

In the basement, large cracks were running through the walls on one end of the foundation, even worse than the ones running through the drywall upstairs.

Outside, more cracks; these are “stair-stepping” through the bricks on the lower section of the house, some of which look as if they’ve separated from the wall beneath.

In other words, all the signs of foundation damage.

So, you called the foundation repair company and they sent out an advisor.  He crawled all over the house, measuring, taking pictures, running a laser level, taking notes.  After he was done, he said that your foundation is sinking and promised to get back to you shortly with an estimate for repairs.

Today’s the day; the foundation expert is meeting you to go over the estimate.  You’ve never done this before, so what should you expect?

What’s in a Thorough and Fair Estimate to Repair a Sinking Foundation?

The process to repair a sinking foundation is called underpinning; steel push piers are driven to rest on a load-bearing stratum in the ground around the house and hydraulics are used to lift the house back to level and keep it there.  The key to estimating this process is determining the number and placement of piers:  too few will not support the house and it may sink again; putting in too many is a waste of money.

An estimate for underpinning should include:

Load Calculations – The foundation repair industry has its share of long-timers who claim to be able to determine the proper number of piers for a sinking home by intuition and experience.  Not to discount professional experience, but repairing a sinking foundation is an engineering project and engineering requires facts, numbers and calculations, not guesses and lucky rabbit’s feet.  Your estimate should clearly show load calculations that take into account the size of the house and extent of the damage.  The only accurate way to estimate this kind of project is to run the numbers because numbers don’t lie.

Site Conditions – Just as every house is different, no two building sites are exactly alike.  Factors like soil composition, depth of load-bearing stratum, water table and others will help to determine the extent of repairs.  Also, non-structural factors like property lines, proximity to utilities, outlying structures and others should be explained in the estimate, particularly if they impact cost.

Drawings – Unless you happen to be an engineer or a general contractor, it may be difficult to visualize exactly what will be done to your home.  A proper estimate should include a full set of engineering drawings that help to explain what the underpinning will look like, what the result will be and where excavations will be made and piers will be placed.  A quick sketch on the back of an envelope just isn’t enough.

Itemized Costs – Let’s be honest – repairing a sinking foundation is not an inexpensive job.  You deserve to see exactly what you are paying for on an itemized estimate that includes everything, not just labor and materials.  If engineering charges, permit fees or any other miscellaneous expenses add to the bottom line, you should have an explanation before you authorize the work.  Just getting one big number isn’t fair to you.

Repairing a sinking foundation is a big job and one that ensures a long life for your home by stabilizing the foundation.  Before you sign on the bottom line, make sure that what you’re signing has all the facts you need to make the best decision, clearly spelled out and supported by understandable numbers.  At U.S. Waterproofing, our foundation repair team includes professionals with the knowledge to prepare and explain an estimate that is based on facts, numbers and engineering.  Please ask us for a free consultation on your damaged foundation. 

Tags: sinking foundation repair chicago, foundation repair estimate, repair sinking foundation

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