Your home's foundation is usually one of its most crucial components. Since the foundation is what everything else sits upon, any issues could turn into a massive and costly headache. On average, the cost of foundation repairs can be upwards of $10,000, depending on the damage's extent. Worse yet, homeowners insurance may not cover these costs if they are due to ground shifting or wear and tear.
The best way to avoid foundation disasters is to get a home foundation inspection. While these inspections help monitor your property, they may also be necessary when buying or selling your house.
This article will get into the nitty-gritty of foundation inspections so that you know what to expect.
What is a Foundation Inspection?
As the name suggests, a foundation inspection is when a licensed inspector checks your house's foundation to ensure it is structurally sound. There are three types of foundation options: slab, basement, and pier and beam foundations (AKA crawl space). The inspector will check inside and outside the home for signs of damage, such as cracks, bowed walls, or slants.
What Does a Foundation Inspection Consist Of?
The precise nature of a home foundation inspection depends on the type of foundation you have. Here is a breakdown of all three options.
Basement Foundation Inspection
Since the basement walls are holding up the rest of the house, the inspector will need to go inside to see whether there's damage to the floors, walls, or ceilings. If your basement extends above ground level, the inspector will check the exterior for noticeable weak points or foundation cracks.
Some houses have full basements, while others have a basement and either a slab or pier foundation. If your basement does not span the entire home, the inspector will check the rest of the foundation based on its type.
Slab Foundation Inspection
A slab foundation is just a bare concrete slab settled into the ground. While slabs are the easiest to create, they can come with some significant foundation problems. Since pipes and other infrastructure pieces are inside the concrete, contractors must break it open to do any work.
Another issue with slab foundations is that they can crack more easily due to ground shifting. Since concrete is not exactly flexible, if one side of your house sinks lower than the other, the slab will crack.
It is harder to see how well the foundation looks since the inspector cannot go inside and check it out.
Instead, they will scrutinize the exterior and pay attention to any signs of settling. The inspector may also check the home's interior. S/he checks if the walls are cracking or bending outward due to the slab shifting.
Pier Foundation Inspection
A pier foundation means your home sits on wooden or concrete piers that go deep into the ground. If your house has a full crawl space underneath it, you have a pier and beam foundation. This design's benefit is that the inspector can easily enter the crawl space and check on the beams. Typically, damage occurs when moisture or pests get into the foundation.
For example, if you have termite-infested wooden beams, it is only a matter of time before part of your home collapses.
How Does a Structural Engineer Inspect a Foundation?
A structural engineer inspection typically consists of three stages, including:
- Pre-Inspection Conversation. The home inspector or engineer will talk to you, the homeowner, and ask questions about specific elements about the home's structural integrity, such as uneven floors, stuck windows or doors (signs of shifting foundation walls), and noticeable cracks. These questions help the structural engineer know where to look first.
- Visual Inspection. Not only will the inspector look at the exterior and interior of the home (i.e., load-bearing walls), they will pay attention to the surrounding property. For example, if there are any cracks or signs of drainage issues in the lawn, the foundation might be in jeopardy. During this stage, the engineer will also look for signs of previous repairs since they could indicate past foundational problems.
- Post-Inspection Foundation Report. A licensed structural engineer will draft a comprehensive report that discusses any current or potential structural damage. These reports are highly detailed and may include photos of specific damage points, as well as recommendations on fixing the foundation, including crack repairs or how to level your foundation.
If you request a foundation inspection as a homeowner, you are the only one who gets the engineer's report. However, if the examination is part of a real estate transaction, everyone involved may obtain a copy, including the mortgage lender and both the home buyers and sellers.
How Long Does a Foundation Inspection Take?
The length of time of a foundation inspection depends on the type of foundation you have. If you have a crawl space or a basement, the process can take a couple of hours. That is because the inspector must go under the house. If you have a slab foundation, however, the inspection is typically much shorter.
Foundation Inspection Cost
On average, it will cost between $350 and $500 for a home foundation inspection. However, the exact price depends on your property's size, the foundation type, and the extent of the damage. For example, if there are numerous openings and cracks in the walls and concrete, the inspector must document each one. That inflates the price.
Fortunately, it is easy to get a free estimate on foundation repairs. If you are lucky, a foundation repair company may offer free foundation inspections in your area.
The homeowner is always the one who pays for these inspections. So, if you are purchasing a home, you can request a foundation inspection from the seller.
HUD Manufactured Home Foundation Inspection
The government Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers guidelines and specifications for manufactured homes, including their foundations. Inspectors must have compliance with HUD rules and FHA guidelines when checking the foundation of a manufactured home. You can see the complete list of HUD FHA guidelines here.
Mobile Home Foundation Inspection
The term "mobile home" is a bit confusing and misleading. However, manufactured homes are sometimes called mobile homes since you can technically move them from one foundation to another. Almost all manufactured homes stay in one location due to the high cost of moving them. But it is possible to change locations while keeping your house.
Because mobile and manufactured homes are two terms for the same thing, they both fall under HUD's jurisdiction regarding foundation inspections.
Foundation Inspection Certification
Since HUD inspections have specific rules and regulations, manufactured home foundations come with an engineer certification. When buying or selling one of these houses, the foundation certification must be no more than six months old. So, if you are a homeowner and want to sell, you will have to get a new certificate first. Any inspectors used must meet HUD requirements.
Get a Home Insurance Quote!
Home inspections are a vital tool to help mitigate the cost to fix pricey repairs. Homeowners insurance can help cover these expenses if foundation damage occurs from a natural disaster or accident. Compare home insurance quotes and see which policy works best for your needs. Click below to get started.
Hope that helps!
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