Whether you are buying a new or a previously owned house in Texas, it is standard procedure to have a home inspection carried out first. It is in fact mandated by Texas law that a home inspection report outlining any completed or pending repairs be included among the sale documents when a building changes hands.
As a savvy buyer though, you should insist on the more particular home foundation inspection. The latter type of inspection, usually carried out by an independent structural engineer, provides more valuable information about the quality and reliability of the home’s foundation.
Granted, a home inspection will also include details of the foundation’s state of repair but it will contain neither the comprehensive details nor the specific recommendations which a structural engineer’s report will offer.
How Much Will a Foundation Inspection Cost?
There is no standard price for home foundation inspection services. It all depends on the size and complexity of a building as well as the billing practices of the particular structural engineer. But it is rare for the service fee to exceed $1,000.
Indeed, to sweeten their offers, some leading realtors and foundation repair contractors in Houston, Texas, are known to include home foundation inspection services to prospective customers for free.
That said though, it is recommended that you have an independent structural engineer perform a home foundation inspection. This is because they are more likely to offer solutions which match your needs rather than those of the person footing their bill.
What is the Importance of a Home Foundation Inspection?
A foundation inspection is important if you are to be certain that your prospective new home is structurally sound. There are three standards of performance and structural quality which a structural engineer will need to evaluate during the course of a home foundation inspection. They are:
- Is the foundation performing its intended purpose?
- Is the foundation compliant with current building codes and standards?
- Does the foundation need any repairs or modifications?
Elements of a Home Foundation Report in Texas
There is no strict set of guidelines outlining the format or content of a home foundation inspection report in Texas. However, any structural engineer in the state will be guided by the standards and professional code set down by the Engineers Board of the State of Texas. With this in mind, there are some elements which must of a necessity be included in the inspection and eventual report.
The structural engineer will examine the home from the outside to determine if the foundation is structurally sound. The structural engineer should be proficient in evaluating the soil structure while providing for variability in moisture content through the seasons. This is especially paramount in areas like Houston and towns around the Gulf of Mexico. Here the soils are mainly Vertisols with inordinately high clay content. The specific details the structural engineer will inspect and report on are:
- Soil content, evolution and any fissures on the ground
- Landscape, water drainage and irrigation
- Any fissures or cracks evident on the exterior walls of the house
- Signs of crumbling concrete or degraded building materials
- External bulges, signs of buckling on the wall or irregular sloping
By following the building’s contours to the inside, the engineer will establish if the structure is consistent with building plans and blueprints. Specifically, this inspection includes:
* Identifying any cracks or fissures and evaluating their threat levels
* Examining the structural integrity of support beams and other load bearing features of the foundation
* Testing how snuggly the doors, windows and vents fit
* Assessing the quality and performance of concrete walls and floors within the larger foundation superstructure
The structural engineer should conclude their inspection report with a set of recommendations. Of course the exact nature of the recommendations will depend on the findings of both interior and exterior inspections. The recommendations must however include:
- Summary of the damages and weaknesses found
- Outline of the best recommended solution including materials
- Alternative solutions for the problems, if any
- Estimated cost of each proposed solution
- Recommended timelines for the repairs and replacements to be completed
Whether you are a prospective buyer or already a homeowner concerned about the integrity of your home’s foundation, having a comprehensive home foundation inspection carried out is a sensible course of action. Such an inspection should be carried out by a qualified structural engineer in compliance with the standards set out by the Engineers Board of the State of Texas.
After examining both the interior and exterior of the building for foundation weaknesses and damage, the engineer will draw a report outlining the nature of the problems and the recommended solution or solutions. While the cost of the inspection is often affordable, some repair contractors and home resellers often pay the engineer and offer their customers the inspection report for free.