Before Foundation Repair Consider a Structural Engineer

It’s hardly ever a bad idea to seek out advice especially on a project with the expense of concrete foundation repair.

In most cases for a few hundred dollars you can hire an independent professional structural engineer to inspect your foundation and recommend a method of repair that’s best for you.

You should look for a professional licensed individual or engineering firm that provides the following:

  • A thorough inspection of the inside and outside of your home for foundation related issues.
  • Inspection of the crawlspace, if you have a pier & beam home.
  • A foundation elevation survey performed and evaluated by a licensed professional engineer.
  • A drawing of the home floor plan including site information and interior foundation elevation measurements.
  • An engineer’s written report with recommendations and a repair plan if needed.
The advice should be way less biased simply because the engineer is going to get paid whether you need foundation repair or not.
If you do need foundation repair the method he recommends stems from his professional opinion untainted by visions of commission dollars dancing in his head. Or her head.
Most states in the U.S. are going to have a governmental licensing authority and most will also have a trade association website where you can search for member engineers.
In Texas, you can find structural engineers in the data base of the Structural Engineers Association of Texas. In your state, look for member associations on the national website of the
National Council of Structural Engineers Associations.
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    • May 8, 2007

    Dear Sir or madam,
    My name is Jude and my phone nember is 202-256-2310.
    Please, I need a structural engineer to help me. Tree fell on my house and we need an urgent accessment help.

  1. Jude,
    Click on the National Council of Structural Engineers Associations link just above your comment. Click on the listing for your geographic area, then on member firms. It looks to me like you have quite a few to choose from.
    Good luck!

  2. Good post on getting an engineer to evaluate a foundation. That’s about 30% of my business in Atlanta as an engineer, and I realize I have to add to my different memberships the Structural Engineer’s Association of GA. I already belong to about a half dozen professional associations, so what’s one more :).

    Anyway, the amount of investigation needs to be proportionate to the damage in the house. For example, an elevation survey isn’t needed if there is some cracking in just one corner in the slab. Depending on the firm you hire, you could easily spend more in engineering fees than the repair would cost you. So, it’s CRITICAL to use an engineer experienced in foundation investigation and repair design.

    I recommend you ask the following questions:
    1. How much of your business is foundation failure investigation? This is pretty obvious. You want experience in this, even the best structural engineer will be clueless if he or she hasn’t done foundation failure investigation before.

    2. Do you routinely do work for homeowners? Firms that do primarily commercial and government work are not set up to do small jobs, and may do too much investigation and give you little in the way of results.

    3. Will you provide me a definitive repair design? The design should include where piers are required, if pressure grouting is required, and so on. It should include a drawing and a statement of work for the repair. This question is really important because a lot of engineering firms will do an extensive investigation (costing you a fortune) and the end recommendation will be “the foundation should be repaired by a qualified contractor” or some such nonsense as that.

    4. Will you provide me a list of qualified contractors? If the engineer is working in foundation repair, he or she should know the contractors that do this work intimately ,and should know who is good or bad. If the engineer knows the different contractors, that is a pretty good indication that he or she has experience in the business and has seen the actual repair done. There are some dishonest foundation repair contractors out there, so the engineer ought to be able to help you steer clear of them.

    Often the answer to items 3 and 4 will be “no” because of “liability reasons”. That’s a classic excuse for poor service. If you get that, move on.

    Too find an engineer the professional association websites don’t give much information. Do a google search in your area using “foundation failure engineer xxxx” with xxxx for your city. Call a couple foundation repair companies and ask them for the name of a good engineer. If several companies recommend the same engineer, that means he or she is good, and is not tied to a certain company. Avoid foundation repair companies that tell you they have their own engineer, that is a built in conflict of interest.

    Hope this helps,

  3. George,
    You make some excellent points. It’s also good to hear the point of view of an experienced engineer first hand. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.
    Best Regards,

    • George Runkle
    • February 14, 2009

    Hey Digger, here’s another one that you have to look out for – I am always evaluating different contractors that I can recommend to my clients. I found one on the Internet that looked interesting, so I met with them. I was really impressed. Then their office called me and told me that I was on their “Partners” program. They would pay me $100 for my first referral to them, and after that 10% of whatever the job was in subsequent referrals.

    There are so many levels of wrong in that scheme. If I am getting kickbacks like that from a foundation repair contractor, how independent is my evaluation? It calls into question my judgement as an engineer. It also could get me in trouble with the state licensing board, and if the homeowner sues the foundation contractor, it increases my chances of getting sued too.

    Anyway, whenever you talk to an engineer, ask if he or she is getting any kind of “referral fee” from companies they recommend. If they say yes, move on. If they say no, MAKE THEM PUT IT IN WRITING!

    I’m putting that statement in standard language on my report form.


  4. George,
    Excellent points. Thanks for the input.

    • D Merri
    • July 21, 2009

    I just started the process of hiring a contractor to do foundation work on my home. I have read enough to be dangerous and I am still unsure which method is appropriate for my house. The comments and information I found on this blog are extremely helpful. Instead of going to a foundation repair company, I am convinced that I should start with a structural engineer. Thanks for the info!

    • needrepair
    • August 10, 2009

    I found your website very helpful. Can you please provide/or email me some PE references for houston? I’m a first-time homebuyer, and the house I’m looking at does not have a foundation warranty and the inspection report is showing some foundation problems. I read that I should be looking for someone who inspects home foundations, but the website link does not allow that kind of search. Many thanks.

  5. Houston is home to the trade group Foundation Performance Association. There are structural engineers listed on their website:

    Good luck!

    • chemicass
    • June 6, 2010

    As naiive new homebuyers in Austin, TX (right before the real estate bubble burst), our realtor warned us about the common foundation problems caused by Central Texas clay soils. They mentioned hiring a structural engineer for a ceiling issue, but we got the impression that it was an unnecessary expense.

    Due to cracks in the walls and tile that developed a few months later, we ended up going with a large local foundation repair company and got a 20 year foundation warranty. They had to come back a year later to fix continued movement and the lack of focus of the supervisor (he would rather chat than watch the work being done), made me question the quality of the work originally done.

    Now we have widening. bulging cracks in our ceiling that don’t seem to be associated with water damage and one of our outer walls has moved nearly 1/2 inch over a short period of time, destroying the tile work we had done to repair the original movement.

    I am now on the hunt for a structural engineer to provide a written repair recommendation, but I was wondering what recourse I have with the foundation company, if any, in making the “correct” repairs. Are they obliged to make the repairs as we request them from the engineer’s recommendation?

    Thanks for the tips in shopping around for a structural engineer. And thanks for any insight you can provide.

  6. I would go ahead and get an inspection done by a structural engineer, and one who has solid residential foundation experience. Then armed with the inspection report, contact the foundation repair company with whom you have the warranty.

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    • December 10, 2010

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    • Anna
    • October 3, 2012

    It’s hardly ever a bad idea to seek out advice especially on a project with the expense of concrete foundation repair.

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