Foundation Repair-Beware The Pier Salesman

How does the home owner get a fair price on the cost of foundation repair? To begin with,
remember the following rule of thumb.

Foundation repair companies sell piers. The more they sell and the more they can charge you per pier, the bigger the salesman’s commission and the more the company makes.

Be aware that in large metropolitan areas with foundation problems, several companies that do foundation leveling may also own other foundation repair entities.

This means you have a real possibility, without you realizing it, of getting multiple bids from the same company. They just use different names. And the different phone numbers could be going into the same office.

Beware that most every foundation repair contractor has a preferred type of pier.

They may say they have them all but they probably also have a “favorite” one. The favorite one is usually picked because it is cheapest for them to install.

Another reason for a preferred type of pier is inventory control.

It’s easier and less expensive for foundation repair companies to have a single product they use all the time. The biggest reason for a “favorite” pier or repair method is to have a cookie cutter operation.

If they treat all slab foundation repair jobs the same that means anybody can do any job. They don’t need a seasoned crew experienced in several methods of foundation leveling if all their repairs are basically performed the same way. They just need a foreman and a bunch of day laborers.

Beware of the foundation repair company that lowers the price of piers and then makes up for it by installing more piers than you really need.

So how do you avoid stepping into the net of the pier salesman? There is no magic bullet, no absolute guarantee, but you can do this.

Hire an independent licensed professional structural engineer with residential foundation experience who has no financial ties whatsoever to any foundation repair company to inspect your slab.

For usually the cost of one pier or less, the engineer can inspect your foundation and produce
an unbiased report on whether or not you need piers, what type would be best for your
situation, how many and where.

If he can save you from one unnecessary pier, he’s paid for himself. If you don’t need piers at all, you’ve bought some piece of mind.

How do you find a structural engineer?

Do an internet search using the terms “professional structural engineer” or “residential structural engineer” or “foundation engineer”, keywords like that.

Search for civil or structural engineering trade associations in your state. Or search for
foundation repair trade groups. They will have a membership list that usually includes structural engineers. And of course you can check your local Yellow Pages.

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    • Rey
    • November 26, 2010

    Hi Digger
    Just bought a house (South Africa). Sitting on clay soil, and has a massive (30+ year old) tree about 3m from the foundation, and standing 10m+ high. Your blog has really helped me make some decisions on what I’m going to do. Thanks

  1. Rey,
    Thanks for stopping by and reading the blog.

    • Bob
    • January 1, 2011

    I agree that a good engineer can be more objective. In areas like Texas, good forensic engineers are more common place. In areas of less common soil problems many local engineers can actually make the proccess more confusing. In some areas it can difficult to find engineers familiar with foundation repairs. Engineers and repair contractors that belong to the Foundation Repair Association subcribe to ethics that promote honesty.


    • Anna
    • October 17, 2012

    Thanks for sharing this post to us. This really adds more information about foundation repair problems to the homeowners. Keep posting!

    • Dave
    • October 23, 2014

    Hi Digger,
    I had an unfortunate event with a structural engineer here in my area. It seems the engineer was slightly biased and had a favorite pier group in his back pocket. I had to do the leg work which I had hoped to gain from a paid report from the engineer. The information I gained from doing my own research took some time to get up to speed on. I believe I could trust my own research and the value of a long standing reputable company over that of the engineer. To your point I would just add that just as you find companies that have favorite pier products so too do engineers have favorite companies that might not have the right product for your home.

  2. Dave, I agree. The engineer I used has a favorite type of pier, the old fashioned bell bottom, or “drilled” piers. The reason he gave was that is the only type of pier he can truly inspect. In other words, see with his own eyes if the pier was built correctly and is going to do what it is supposed to do. Once the other types of piers start disappearing into the ground…who knows for sure?

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