Home Foundation Building: Key Questions to Always Ask the Contractor

Before you bring in a contractor, make sure you have all your bases covered. That means finding someone who knows what they’re doing when it comes to steel reinforcement, water tables, backfill and soil conditions. Here are a few key questions to ask any contractor before you hire him or her.

What Foundation Repair Methods Do You Use?

There are numerous methods used in foundation repair, so you’ll want to find out how the contractor installs pressed concrete piers, steel piers, and other types of foundation piers.

You will want to verify that the contractor or construction company has experience installing these types of piers too.

For example, when your foundation requires poured concrete pilings, are they familiar with how to pour the concrete? This type of foundation building and restoration process requires the contractor to pour liquid concrete into holes that have been made in the soil around your foundation.

Usually, these types of piers are used when you need to anchor your foundation deep into the Earth. Some steel pilings can be put 68 to 70 feet into the ground. The idea behind such pilings is that they can be put all the way down to bedrock levels.

On the other hand, your home may be better suited to helical pilings which are made of steel and are used when there is no heavy concrete slab foundation or pier and beam foundation.

Some homes need belled concrete piers, and the home simply will not be stable without them. But, they are also not appropriate for all homes. Does your contractor know any of this and do they know how to make that judgment call?

This is something you want to know before you hire them for your job. Ask for referrals and go see the jobs. Specifically, go to customer job sites where the foundation was poured 5-10 years ago and ask how it’s holding up.

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What’s Involved In Repairing The Foundation?

There’s a difference between installing an exterior pier and installing an interior one. Does the contractor know the difference?

You might need to look for a good foundation construction distributor when you tackle a big foundation job, and this is one of the first questions you’ll want to ask.

Interior piers require cracking the concrete slab foundation to install the piers underneath it. That also means that any tile in the home, as well as any carpet and furniture, will have to be removed. That’s extra work, and it adds to the cost. But, sometimes, it’s necessary.

How Long Will It Take To Fix The Foundation?

No one likes to get a surprise bill at the end of a job because costs ran over. In the same vein, no one likes to have jobs run over. Most foundations take 2-3 days to repair, but if the property is heavily damaged, it might take a week or more to fix.

Do You Need To Do Any Soil Tests?

Before your foundation is poured, you may need a soil engineer to come out and run tests on the soil. Some types of soil are more porous than others. Mineral content, and other factors, can dramatically impact how the ground reacts with your new foundation, whether the foundation will settle, how much, and what the impact will be on your home.

You don’t want to be surprised when the job is done to find that your new foundation cracked because your contractor didn’t assess the soil and build in countermeasures to combat settling.

Is A Structural Engineer Needed To Before Repairs Are Made?

Sometimes a structural engineer is needed to approve the job. This can be a regulatory hurdle, but it can also be a safety issue if you have a special foundation repair.



Is A Building Permit Required Before You Start?

In most cases, a building permit is required, but don’t assume that your contractor will get one. Always ask, and see what the response is. Ask if you can get away with not getting one. If he says “yes,” this is a red flag. He may try to cut corners in other ways that he won’t tell you.

How Much Will All Of This Cost?

In general, foundation repairs should cost you between $1,800 and $10,000 depending on the extent of the damage. Minor work shouldn’t cost you more than $2,000. A full rebuild might cost you more than $10,000.

Have the contractor outline all of the costs, breaking them down and itemizing them for you. Then, go over each expense in detail and research it so that you can be sure you’re not being taken advantage of. If something seems out of place or too expensive, ask the contractor about it.

Don’t rush a judgment. Just find out why the cost seems high, and gauge the contractor’s response. If he seems defensive, that’s a red flag.

It’s difficult to guess how much a repair might cost unless a contractor comes out to your home, and you might benefit from multiple quotes. Don’t assume the most expensive is representative of the best quality. At the same time, don’t chase price.

Sometimes, contractors will bid low because they intend to cut corners to meet your expectations concerning cost.

Dennis Lewisham is an independent building foundation contractor and foreman. He has been in the building industry for two decades now and he enjoys sharing his expertise on various topics. His articles mainly appear on homeowner and DIY blogs.


Tags: architecture, building, foundation, repair methods, structural engineer

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