This is the most common question asked of an inspector. The second being about the roof. Probably because these two parts of our home can give us the most grief. In the state of Texas, an inspector is required to render his opinion on the performance of the foundation. Note that the inspector is not required to inform you of what actually is happening with the foundation, but his opinion. The reason for this is the fact that no one can determine what is going on underneath your home without extensive testing, which does not happen during an inspection. Inspectors look for clues to the foundation’s performance. Here are some things to look out for when considering if you need some one to look at your foundation:
1.Trees- a trees roots will extend to where ever the canopy of leaves reaches. That is where water is available. If the canopy is over your roof, then the roots are under your house, having fun with your foundation. Generally, a tree should be as far away as it is tall, but this poses the problem of your lot size. Most lots are not large enough for forty foot high trees. Trees typically take six years to recover after extensive pruning.
2. Soil the type of soil around your home effects how water travels around your property. Much of Houston, for example, has a heavy clay soil referred to as gumbo by locals. This soil retains water, so it expands. During drier conditions it contracts. This causes the foundation to move around, which in turn can lead to a failure of the foundation. If you see cracks in the soil during dry conditions, and a solid mass during wet conditions, you should be concerned about foundation movement.
3. Plumbing- if the water is taking some time to drain from the sink or tub, you may have a problem underneath the home. If water from the plumbing is leaking there, it could lead an issue with your foundation. If you have this symptom, consider having a hydrostatic test done to determine if a repair is needed. Foundation companies will do this kind of test. However, make sure your drains are clean first. You do not want to pay for a test, for the hair down the drain. Tests can cost in the are of $250 for the first system, and around $200 for the second system. An indicator that you would need a hydrostatic test is if you have a cast iron or black plastic ABS clean-out; they will decay under the house. Cast iron was used in the 60s, and ABS was used in the 70s.