BAY’s Foundation Repair Wiki – Frequent Q&A’s

Foundation Repair Wiki

Welcome to Foundation Repair Wiki, your one stop guide to help you with the house foundation related questions. Learn about the most commonly asked questions by people about problems related to house foundations like cracks in wall, sloping uneven floors, sticking doors, settlement cracks and more.

Foundation Repair Questions and Answers

What is foundation repair?

The foundation of a home is susceptible to problems and can be damaged over time. The problems can sometimes be only due to defects in the structure and construction, while other times it could be the land under the foundation that could cause the problem. In either case, it is necessary to identify and correct the problem, as neglecting it can pose a threat to the integrity of the structure. The symptoms that suggest there is a problem with the foundation of a home are:

  1. Cracks in the foundation
  2. Sticking windows and doors 
  3. Cracked tiles
  4. Sloping walls and floors
  5. Cracked walls or ceilings
  6. External cracks in brick walls
  7. Sagging beams

Foundation repair involves strategically adding additional support to stabilize and possibly lift the structure. If you observe any of these signs, it may indicate that your foundation requires repair. In such cases, it’s best to call a trusted foundation repair professional to inspect and solve the problem before it worsens

How much does a foundation repair cost or is it expensive?

The cost of foundation repair depends on the degree and extent of the problem at hand. Besides this, the expenses incurred on foundation repair depend on the labor cost, the materials used, and the type of foundation (slab, crawl space or basement). On an average, foundation repair will cost you anywhere in between $ 4500 to $ 15000 or more. 

The other factor that impacts the cost are the methods used and the contractors hired for the repair. Contractors with big corporate overhead and high marketing expenses cost the most. Local contractors that specialize in foundation repair, with a history of success, are usually your best option.

Is foundation repair covered by homeowners insurance?

The homeowner’s insurance only covers low-risk situations that concerns the foundation. The events typically covered under homeowner’s insurance are:

  1. Damage to the property due to civil disturbances
  2. Property damage caused by the melting snow, ice or sleet
  3. Damage caused to the house due to aircraft crash
  4. Accidental damage caused due to vehicle crash
  5. Damage caused due to falling objects
  6. Property damage due to fire
  7. Lightning strike on the property
  8. Riots and vandalism
  9. Damage caused due to volcanic eruptions
  10. Damage caused by plumbing leaks, HVAC system outages, and AC overflow

The events or incidences that are not covered under homeowner’s insurance are:

  1. The expansion or contraction of the soil beneath the foundation resulting in its settlement
  2. Natural bulging or cracking
  3. Damage due to floods
  4. Damage due to earthquakes
  5. Foundation problems caused due to faulty construction

Problems due to the presence of trees in the vicinity(tree root pressure)

How long does foundation repair take?

Generally, foundation repair can last for two to five days on an average. However, the time required for foundation repair can vary depending on the extent of the problem with the foundation. Deep excavations to correct footings require extra restoration work and pier installations may therefore take a significant amount of time. Besides this, if the foundation is under a concrete landscaping then excavation would require additional time and efforts and restoration following the repair.

When to repair foundations?

As a homeowner, it is essential and necessary for you to understand and be able to identify signs that indicate problems with foundation. The foundation is the most important component of the house structure and the entire integrity of the house depends on the health and state of the foundation. Other than ensuring the structure is safe, foundation repairs also prevent the depreciation in the value of the property. Therefore, the signs that you look out for to keep your house and investments safe are:

  1. Sloping or uneven floors: The soil under the foundation can expand or contract over the years and cause the settling of the structure. Sloping and uneven floors provide a testament to foundation settlements and should be investigated and corrected to prevent the foundation from any further damage. 
  2. Cracks: Foundation damages start manifesting as cracks around the house. Differentiating between the cracks is necessary to comprehend the extent to which the foundation has been damaged. Hairline interior and exterior cracks which are less than 1/8 in width might not signify any structural damage. Cracks wider than 1/8 in suggest structural defects. Cracked tiles mean that the foundation underneath which the tiles are placed may have been cracked. Hollow or loose tiles suggest the house has settled significantly on one side to create space between the tiles and the foundation underneath.
  3. Sticking doors and windows: If you struggle to open and close the doors and windows of your house around the year then it is an indication that the foundation has been damaged and should be inspected. 
  4. Water accumulation around the house: Growth of mildew and mold along with standing water around the house suggests a drainage problem that might be damaging the foundation. An inspection should be done to ascertain the cause. 
  5. Structural gaps around the house: Doors, windows, and garage door separations, gaps between kitchen countertops and walls, ceilings, separating walls are all signs of foundation settlements and warrant quick action. 

If you come across any of these problems, you should call a structural expert and get it investigated to understand the extent of the damage and then proceed with the repair of the foundation.

Is foundation repair tax deductible?

Foundation repair qualifies for tax deductions if the following conditions are met:

  1. If your basement is your office: If you use any part of your house as your office to run a business or a company, the repairs done to make it a habitable workspace qualifies for tax deduction. If you use your foundation or basement as the office and make repairs for the same then it would qualify for tax deductions. However, you should go through the repairs that are covered as tax deductibles before counting on them ahead of time. 
  2. If you are renting your basement or foundation: In case you are renting your basement or area in foundation to a third-party, the expenses incurred for all the repairs in the rented area are tax deductible. 
  3. If the repairs add value to your property: According to the Internal Revenue Service, not all foundation repairs qualify for tax deductions. Home repairs that are done to maintain the property and not for introducing a major change for improving livability are not covered under the tax deductions. Home improvement, however, falls under tax deductions. Foundation replacement, increasing the foundation space, etc fall under the home improvement category while fixing of leaks, cracks in the foundation or basement walls fall under the home repair category.

What if I can't afford foundation repair? Can you finance foundation Repair?

The homeowner’s insurance only covers a restricted list of incidences as described in the answer above. If the foundation problems you are dealing with are caused due to any incidences that are not covered under the homeowner’s insurance category then you can opt for the following options:

Grants: When you do not have enough equity to loan the amount required for foundation repairs, you can opt for grants. Grants are awarded by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to people falling in the low to moderate income brackets. The provisions and specifications of the homeowner’s loan provided by the US department are listed under the Title 1 Property Improvement Loan Insurance program. You may also qualify for a Single Family Housing loan or grant from the US Department of Agriculture subject to your area of residence. To qualify for the grant, your income should be less than 50 percent of the median income in the area where your home is located. 

Personal Financing: In case you don’t qualify for a grant but still require aid for foundation repair, you can opt for a personal loan. You can get a personal loan through your bank and can repay the amount in easy monthly instalments. Payment via low or zero-interest credit cards is another viable option you can opt for. You can also leverage your high-end assets as collaterals to finance your foundation repairs. However, this can be risky as you can lose your asset on failing to pay out the loan. 

Payment Plans: If none of the above-mentioned option works for you, then you can seek a contractor that provides flexible payment options and charges you in instalments. These contractors partner with financial firms to get a loan with low or zero interest without the need for you to put down any money or asset as a collateral. 

Is foundation repair a capital improvement?

Anything that adds value to the house, prolongs its dwelling life or allows a certain area to be adapted for new uses is considered to be a capital improvement. Repairs, in general, are not considered to be a capital improvement as it is a process required for house maintenance and does not contribute any additional value to the house. However, any structural replacement to ensure and elongate the integrity of the structure is considered to be a capital improvement and qualifies for tax deductions.

Should we buy a house with previous foundation repair?

Investing in a house which has undergone foundation repair can actually be beneficial for you. The reason behind this is that the soil beneath the foundation has already undergone shrinking, sinking, compaction or expansion and may now be in a stable state. The new piers installed rest on a stable soil and ensure the integrity of the structure. However, you need to ascertain whether the repairs were done satisfactorily using standardized methods and will ensure the safety of the house over time:

  1. Find out who the contractor was:  The first thing you need to do is ask your seller for any reports on foundation repairs provided by the contractors. Typically, experienced foundation repair contractors provide detailed cost estimates of all the repairs required. Post repairing, the contractors also provide reports of how the work done and the expenses incurred during the process. Read through the report to find out who the contractors were. Research online and read reviews to gauge their experience and effectiveness as structural experts. If you are unable to find them online, chances are that they aren’t experienced and you should hence avoid buying the property. 
  2. The extent of repair: The next thing to consider is the scope of repairs. You need to find out whether the repairs were restricted to a certain area or the whole foundation was replaced. The larger the extent and scope of the repair, the more are the chances of it failing. Therefore, you should avoid houses that have undergone extensive foundation repairs.
  3. The repair warranty: Find out whether the repair is covered under a warranty by the contractor. And if yes, is the warranty transferrable on the selling of the property. While some contractors allow transferrable warranties on selling of the property, others revoke the warranty once the new owner of the house takes charge. 
  4. Your period of stay: When buying a house with foundation repair, you need to determine your period of stay. Whether you will stay in the house until retirement or will sell it in a few years. This way you will be able to determine whether or not the house will require a fresh repair and identify all the questions that a future buyer may ask. 

In case you are still unable to make a decision, you can take the opinion of an expert structural engineer. These engineers have the expertise and the experience required to identify flaws in repairs and will be the right people to guide you towards the next steps required to be taken.

Can you claim foundation repair on homeowner's insurance?

Homeowner’s insurance only covers a few incidences where foundation repairs can be compensated for. The conditions when a foundation repair can and cannot be covered under homeowner’s insurance has already been covered in the answer to question number 3.

Should we buy a house with previous foundation repair?

Homeowner’s insurance only covers a few incidences where foundation repairs can be compensated for. The conditions when a foundation repair can and cannot be covered under homeowner’s insurance has already been covered in the answer to question number 3.

How long does foundation repair last?

The longevity of foundation repairs depends on an array of factors such as the quality of the materials used, the experience of the contractors employed for handling the repairs, the nature of the soil on which the foundation is based, and other man-made forces that could impact the integrity of the foundation. However, the factors to keep in mind when looking for a contractor for foundation repairs are:

  1. Look for contractors providing lifetime warranty.
  2. Review contractors online. Read reviews and feedbacks from former customers about the quality of work provided by contractors. 
  3. Consider the inception and longevity of existence of contractors’ business. The contractors who have been in the industry for longer have the experience and the expertise to provide quality services. We recommend only hiring contractors that have been in business a minimum of 3 years.

Calling in expert engineers for inspection and taking a rough estimate of the repairs required and the processes to be followed is also a good idea to ascertaining their experience. 

Can I do foundation repair without permit?

If the repairs are trivial and minimal such as fixing the cracks in the foundation then there is no requirement for a building permit. However, if repairs have anything to do with structural changes, electrical fixing, fencing, plumbing, new additions or remodelling of the structure, or HVAC system maintenance then you will require to obtain a building permit from local authorities. Obtaining permits is tedious and can be costly when trying to fix any extensive foundation problem by yourself. Contractors are more qualified to handle getting permits effectively and easily. Therefore, you should hire contractors to get foundation repairs job done if it involves getting a building permit. 

How to repair foundation parging?

Parging refers to the application of mortar or concrete mix to the foundation walls. The mixture is applied to foundation walls above that are above the grade. This is done to improve the appearance and beautify the structure. The application of the mortar-mix hides the imperfect structure of the foundation walls and also protects it from harsh weather. The absence of parging can result in cracking, peeling, and leakages, problems that require extensive expenses for repairs. The steps to follow to repairing foundation pargings are:

  1. Remove the existing clumps and mortar using a hammer and repair the wall before applying the concrete mixture. You can use a knife to cut out the sections. 
  2. Fill the cracks with concrete mixture or mortar and let it set and dry. 
  3. After some time, brush the wall with detergent or soap to get rid of the extra material

Things to note before applying the mixture:

  1. Smoothen the wall on which the concrete mix is to be applied
  2. Ensure the wall is moist. 
  3. Apply a thick layer of the mixture onto the wall. 
  4. Use multiple coatings to ensure parging stays intact over time

There are a lot of pre-requisites required to be fulfilled before repairing foundation parging. To begin with, the foundation wall where concrete mixture is to be applied should be free from stains and brittle material. Besides this, the parging mixture should be kept moist while being applied on the wall. Therefore, it is best that contractors and structural experts are hired for handling the procedure.

How do I qualify for the home improvement grant?

As discussed earlier, home improvement grants are a handy way of financing repairs and restructuring of the house. However, you need to qualify and be eligible for the home improvement grant. These grants are offered by federal and state governments as well as local municipal authorities and the qualification varies on the basis of the region. Grants are provided to homeowners who fall under the moderate to less income bracket. You can get as much as $ 7500 under the scheme for home improvement procedures. Typically, to qualify for the grant your annual income should be less than 50 percent of the median income of the region. You can find out the precise qualifications by researching your eligibility online on the basis of your region and income brackets. 

How are foundation cracks repaired?

There are different types of foundation cracks namely vertical, diagonal, horizontal, and step cracks. Each of these needs to be identified before proceeding with repairing them. Here is how to identify and repair each of them:

Vertical: Vertical cracks are a common occurrence and can be found in almost every house. These cracks run up and down. They are typically formed in two to three years of construction when concrete sets and shrinks cracking under tension. While these cracks do not signify structural damage, they may lead to water seepage into the foundation which can cause significant problems over time. Vertical cracks, however, are easy and affordable to fix. The best solution to repairing vertical cracks is to use epoxy or urethane injections. These materials are injected into the cracks through holes drilled from inside the house, typically a basement. Following this, a sealing material is injected to close the cracks. This material is flexible which guarantees that the crack does not open up if the foundation undergoes settlement in the future. 

Diagonal: These cracks run at 30 to 75 degrees from the vertical of the wall and are formed due to uneven foundation settlement. When one corner of the house settles it puts the house under a combination of vertical and horizontal tension giving rise to diagonal cracks. Due to this uneven foundation settling, the cracks are wider at one end and narrower at the other. The wider end of the crack points to the precise area of the house that has settled down. The occurrence of these cracks also calls for house owners to inspect the causes and extent of settlement with expert help from expert foundation repair inspectors. 

Horizontal: The cracks that run sideways are dangerous ones as they indicate structural damage. Brick and concrete block foundations are more prone to developing horizontal cracks. These cracks occur as a result of a bowing foundation. The causes that can cause a foundation to bow are:

  1. A back filling of dirt and gravel is used to fill the exterior of the foundation wall. If it is filled improperly or undergoes over compression or is not properly drained then it can cause foundation to bow inwards. 
  2. Excessive rains followed by snow or freezing can increase the hydrostatic pressure inside the soil and cause the foundation wall to bow inwards. 

This is a serious issue which warrants immediate action to be taken by homeowners as bowing foundations can lead to structural failure and culminate in collapsing of the house. There are numerous ways in which horizontal cracks can be dealt with. Using high-strength strapping on the inside of the foundation or reinforcing the basement or crawl space with braces are some of the common methods use to prevent foundation from further bowing inside and developing cracks. However, these cracks require expert evaluation. The procedure finalized by the structural engineer should be followed to correct the problem. 

Step Cracks: There severity varies depending on the nature of the cracks. Like diagonal cracks, these cracks are caused due to differential settling of the foundation. Mostly common in brick and concrete blocks, the cracks appear on the exterior wall of the foundation. If the cracks only exist between brick and mortar then it means that the foundation problem is not serious and the cracks can be repaired by repointing mortar. However, if bricks seem to be moved in or out of its place then the crack may signify structural damage. Step cracks are treated in the same way as diagonal cracks. However, you should always bring in expert help to evaluate and analyse the severity of these cracks.

Is foundation repair covered by home warranty?

Home builder warranties often cover structural defects in the house for up to 10 years. These warranties differ greatly from the warranties offered by home sellers. Home builder warranties do not cover minor cracks in drywall or exterior walls of the foundation but major problems such as foundation settling, plumbing, bad wiring, and other defects are covered under home builder warranties. On the other hand, home seller warranties only cover the repair of plumbing, duct work, HVAC system, and any in-house appliances bought with the house.

How many piers for foundation repair?

The number of piers required for foundation repair depend on the building structure and extent of the damages. An expert contractor or structural engineer decides on the number of piers required for foundation repair after evaluating the following aspects:

  1. The type of the structure whether it is a brick structure or a frame.
  2. The number of storys the foundation supports
  3. The height at which the foundation currently stands
  4. The area affected by the settlement
  5. Any obstacles that will need to be avoided

An effective way to strengthen foundation and prevent it from further deterioration is to install piers at each end of the settled structure and throughout the center of this area. Keeping this in mind, the appropriate pier spacing guidelines will help you ascertain the number of piers required for the foundation repair. The guidelines for appropriate pier spacing are:

  1. Pier separation, regardless of their type, should not exceed 8 feet for a single story building and should be less than or equal to 6 feet for two story building. 
  2. Monolithic wing walls exceeding 3 feet in length should be supported at an interval of 8 feet. 
  3. Wall setbacks such as the front entrance of the building ranging in length from 3 feet to 9 feet should be supported by 4 or more piers. 
  4. An exterior wall changing direction should be supported by a piling or pier support at each corner. 
  5. Masonry fireplaces two by six in size should be supported by 2 piers on the outside face of the chimney, for most structures.

How much will foundation repair cost in my city?

The cost of foundation repair varies depending on the extent of damage, the location, and the contractors employed to undertake the responsibility of fixing the foundation. The breakdown of the costs for each foundation problem has been listed in the answer to question 2.

How do you cover foundation repair?

Exposed foundations mar the beauty and the visual appeal of the house and can eventually impact its overall resale value. A few good ways to cover foundation repairs and exposed foundations are:

  1. Veneers for concrete: The exterior concrete foundation walls can be covered using stone veneers that stick to concrete. Although expensive, these veneers can add to the look of your home and can be installed easily with a little practice. An important thing to note is that these veneers should only be used after foundational cracks have been repaired and dealt with. 
  2. Stucco: It is a fine plaster used for beautification of concrete walls or molded into architectural decorations for buildings. You can find a stucco that matches the color of your house or contrasts the exterior color of your house and blends with the trim.
  3. Paint: The easiest and the most affordable way to cover the foundation is with paint. If you have a concrete porch, you can color the foundation using the same paint to give it a seamless look. Paint is great way to hide marks and stains on concrete foundations. 
  4. Landscaping: Using flowers and plants is a great way to cover the foundation. However, it is necessary to ensure that the roots of the plants do not go in too deep as it may cause foundational problems. Also, plants encourage flow of water into areas where it is not supposed to go creating hydrostatic pressure which eventually leads to bowing foundation and other problems.

Are foundation repair companies licenced in Virginia?

Every company that undertakes fees partly or completely for foundation repair tasks needs to mandatory be licenced in Virginia as stated in the Virginia Code. If a company works without a licence, they do not have the right to file a suit for not being paid. It also impacts their chances of obtaining building permits for complex tasks.

How to repair foundation cracks from outside?

Cracks on exterior foundation walls can be fixed and repaired using parging, only after the necessary foundation repairs have been completed. Details on the procedure have been provided in the answer to question 13.

Is foundation repair necessary and permanent?

Foundation repair entails an array of benefits that make it a profitable investment. The major benefits of foundation repair are:

  1. Protects the resale value of your home: A home with foundation problems is hard to sell. Homes with foundation problems are marked at significantly low prices compared to the real estate rates. This means it is a good idea to get rid of any existent foundation problems to get the optimal resale value of your home. 
  2. Ensures the safety of your family: Ignoring foundation problems can eventually impact the integrity of the entire structure and cause it to collapse over time. Therefore, it is necessary to deal with foundation problems to ensure the safety of your loved ones. 
  3. Save big on energy bills: Cracks in foundation walls are usually the cause behind incomprehensible spikes in energy bills. These cracks allow moisture and outside air to enter the house causing HVAC systems to overwork to maintain the air quality inside the house which eventually translates into hefty electricity bill. 
  4. Protect your home from pests and mold: Cracks in the foundation walls become an entry point into the house for moisture, pests, and rodents. These organisms can cause numerous health problems inside the house and can even lead to the development of life-threatening health hazards. 
  5.  Avoid future repair investments: If ignored foundation problems can worsen and take significant amount of money, time, and efforts for repair. However, when dealt in early stages foundation repairs are cheaper and can enable you to save huge sums of money in the longer run. 

Therefore, foundation repair is necessary and an investment that is worth every penny. 

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