How to Tackle Home Foundation Repairs When You’re Trying to Sell the House

Home foundation issues are more common than you’d think: 80% of structural home insurance claims are the result of foundation movement, while 25% of homes in the U.S. will suffer from some kind of structural defect during their lifetime. That’s according to a review of 10,000 structural claims presented by Will Keaveny, a veteran risk management specialist, to the National Association of Homebuilders.

“I’ve actually seen porches pulling away from houses,” corroborates Danny Freeman, a top-selling real estate agent in Memphis.

“I’ve seen inch-wide cracks in sheetrock internally, and when you’re to that point, you’ve got to have major home foundation repair work done.”

Unfortunately, the charm of the Leaning Tower of Pisa won’t translate to your home sale. A sinking or damaged foundation is more likely to receive crickets than foot traffic. So if you’ve chosen to invest in foundation repairs rather than drop your asking price, then we’re here to guide you through your options.

cracks in wall that shows home is in need of foundation repair.
Source: (Alexej Simonenko/ Unsplash)

What are the signs that your foundation needs repair?

If you’re not an engineer or construction professional, you’re likely wondering how to know if your house has foundation issues. Freeman points homeowners to the exterior of their homes.

The easiest foundation issue to spot is cracking around the footing or the base of the exterior of the structure; if you see a diagonal crack in the brick, you want to call in a professional to evaluate your foundation. While exterior cracks may be the most common and visible sign that you need to look into home foundation repair, there are a number of red flags that something’s off-kilter with your house.

Here we’ve compiled the key indicators of foundation problems that should be on every homeowner’s radar from the Foundation Repair Network, a one-stop resource for education and resources regarding foundation repair, and HD Foundations, Inc., a foundation repair company with an A+ Better Business Bureau rating and locations across Texas:

  • Cracks or gaps in the walls, floor, or foundation itself
  • Damp crawl spaces or standing water around the foundation
  • Sagging or uneven floors (½ inches of sag could become 1½ or 2 inches over time)
  • Doors and windows that stick or fail to properly open and close
  • Gaps between the garage door and the pavement on either side of the door
  • Diagonal wall cracks extending from the corners of doors and windows
  • Cabinet doors not staying closed
  • Leaks and cracks in and around the fireplace

Freeman shares that the majority of foundation issues with newer houses built on concrete slabs will manifest around the outer edges of the home’s exterior. Older homes with conventional foundations will often exhibit signs of foundation problems inside—this is where you’ll see cracks in walls, uneven floors, and sticking doors—because the foundation was blocked up with a crawl space beneath. Cracked floor joists are another common issue.

While these are signs that your foundation may be compromised, knowing the most common foundation issues and their fixes will get you on your way to repair.

Home lifted off ground in need of major foundation repair.
Source (re-sized): (Visitor7/ wikimedia commons)

What are the most common foundation issues homeowners face?

The foundation issues Freeman sees most often are due to water damage from “water not being diverted away from the house.”

Missing or poorly constructed gutters can cause water to pool around the foundation, causing it to crack and lose integrity. If left untreated, a water-damaged foundation can lead to major structural damage on both the inside and outside of your home.

When a buyer orders a home inspection, the inspector will be looking for key indicators of foundation issues. Specifically, a home inspector will check to see that the house is level across its windows, doors, and the sides of the home.

The base or footing of the home will be inspected for signs of cracks or sinking. Earth Contact Products, a foundation repair product company with over 20 years in the industry and an A+ rating by the Better Business Bureau, shares a few of the most common foundation issues with their causes and the fixes:

Foundation settlement and sinking
Caused by: Soil changes beneath the foundation
Necessary fix: Installation of piers and brackets to secure and support foundation from further settling.

Foundation crumbling, chipping or flaking
Caused by: Weather and water exposure lead to the deterioration of the concrete and masonry comprising the foundation.
Necessary fix: Depending on the cause of deterioration, crumbling or flaking foundations are fixed by eliminating the causes—fixing malfunctioning downspouts and gutters, making sure there is adequate drainage in and around the foundation, crack injections, creating vapor barriers, and encapsulating crawl spaces.

Floor, wall, or ceiling cracks
Caused by: Cracks are a sign that something is amiss with the foundation, which can be settling, sinking or shifting.
Necessary fix: Minor cracks can be repaired using crack injection, but major cracks or those continuing to grow are signs of a more serious foundation issue; a foundation repair professional will determine the cause of the failing foundation and provide recommendations for repair (often the installation of piers to brace and support the foundation).

Uneven or sloping floors
Caused by: Soil changes causing a foundation to sink or settle.
Necessary fix: To fix sloping floors, the foundation issue must be located and corrected, often by the use of piers to brace and support the foundation (thereby correcting the uneven floors).

Door and window problems
Caused by: Separating, sticking, and cracking doors, windows, and frames are a sign that there is a foundation issue.
Necessary fix: Once a foundation repair professional locates the foundation issue, the fix will likely involve installing piers and anchors to brace and support the foundation.

Bucket of plaster cement and tool used for home foundation repair.
Source: (rawpixel)

Tips for getting your home foundation repaired

Before getting on the phone, make sure you’re ready to vet the right home foundation repair professional for the job.

The Foundation Repair Network suggests that homeowners get three licensed contractors to assess their foundation and submit proposals.

Homeowners should try to educate themselves as much as possible about foundation repair so they can understand what the issues are and what the contractors are proposing. The Foundation Repair Network offers some quick pointers for hiring a home foundation repair contractor:

  • Be aware that the average foundation inspection takes around two hours to complete.
  • Know the basic repair methods and don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions.
  • While it may be tempting, don’t hire based upon the lowest price (it may well be too good to be true).
  • Only do business with a contractor who has their foundation repair methods evaluated by ICC-ES (International Code Council Evaluation Services), a nonprofit regulatory organization.
  • Ask about the company’s warranty and pay close attention to the terms—you’re looking for a lifetime warranty that is transferable. Also, ask if the company offers a warranty trust, which provides support even if the company goes out of business.

How long does foundation repair take?

With such an important job, you might think that foundation repair takes weeks to tackle, but the reality is much different. “Usually they can have the work done in less than a week,” says Freeman, but “they may be 30 days out before they can get to you.”

If you suspect your foundation has issues, it’s better to take care of it before listing your home on the market in case there are delays that could run up your days on market if you jump the gun.

And if you’ve already listed your home, Freeman says to address the issues on the front end. Have a structural engineer come out and assess the damage—you can share these findings with potential buyers, as well as when and what is being done to remediate the problem. Having a plan and everything out in the open makes buyers more confident making an offer on your home.

Does insurance cover foundation repair?

If you’ve found signs of foundation damage in your home, you may have a lightbulb moment, reminding you that you have insurance coverage for things like this. Well, probably not, and here’s why.

Insurance policies typically only cover damage caused by a direct event, such as a broken pipe flooding the home. Edens Structural Solutions, a foundation repair product company with over 35 years in the industry, states that “as a general rule, your home insurance won’t help cover general foundation repair.”

However, it never hurts to put a call into your agent to find out if your home insurance policy will cover anything related to your foundation issues. Edens recommends starting the conversation with your agent by asking the following questions:

1. Do they cover the repair of small cracks?
2. What foundational repair methods do they cover? And to what extent will insurance cover the costs?
3. What has to cause the foundation damage for insurance to step in?

If you’ve discovered signs of foundation issues, your first call should be for a reputable structural engineer to come out and evaluate the extent of the damage. Most structural engineers are familiar with which insurance companies cover the costs associated with foundation repair and can point you in the right direction.

Family with piggy bank and cash collecting for home foundation repair.
Source: (roungroat/ rawpixel)

How much does it cost to fix the foundation of a house?

Before you panic, you should know that a foundation issue doesn’t always translate into exorbitant repair costs—the only way you’ll know is if you contact a professional to inspect the damage.

Depending on the issue, foundation repair can cost anywhere from $300 to $30,000; it depends on what’s going on and how to remediate the problem.

Home Advisor lists the national average for foundation repair in 2018 as $4,061, with the low end running $450 (minor repairs like filling cracks) and the high end of repair work costing $11,500 (significant repairs such as installing hydraulic piers).

The Foundation Repair Network provides the following estimates for foundation repairs:

  • A repair of a simple crack in a poured concrete wall is usually in the range of $800 to $1,500 per crack.
  • For slabjacking work, the typical cost of concrete removal and replacement on a porch or sidewalk is $150 per hole.

In addition to repairs, the Foundation Repair Network shares associated costs that homeowners should take into account:

  • Hiring a structural engineer to assess the damage (typically $300 to $1,500)
  • Soil report prepared by a geotechnical engineer, if needed (about $500 to $3,000)
  • Obtaining a local building permit, if required ($75 to $150)
  • Dealing with hidden obstacles in the ground, such as old repair methods, extra-deep footings, or tree roots (may add an average of $1,000 to $2,500 to the overall cost)

Finding out that you’re in need of home foundation repair doesn’t have to throw you into a panic or automatically doom the sale of your home. Acquaint yourself with signs your foundation may be losing integrity and seek out a professional opinion. Educating yourself about foundation repairs will make the process of hiring a reputable contractor much more manageable and get you well on your way to a foundation fix!

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