Does repairing your house now, prevent problems from happening again? Is the contractor feeding me a line? Is that the repair I really need? All good questions, so let us consider the answers.
On my post describing how to take care of a foundation, a commenter asked about repairs that were being suggested by a professional. Her last question struck me, because I frequently go over this topic with my clients. To sum it up: if I do these foundation repairs, what will happen in the future? I believe that most homeowners think once something has been fixed, it stays fixed; they do not worry about what may happen. Most are concerned if the repair is needed. We should all be asking both questions, and more to understand the issue.
I had completed my home inspection, but I had to stay to lock up the property after my client and the foundation expert were done. I had gone over my findings, which included the foundation, and I had mentioned factors contributing to the foundation problem. I was now listening to the repairs laid out by the owner of this foundation company, which focused on the repairs that he was going to make and how this would resolve the problem. Since my client had just heard from me, he asked this professional, what about the large tree next to the house? Dealing with the tree was not in the scope of work for a foundation company, so he only dealt with the issues that were pertinent to his service. After a short stunned look, this professional suggested that the tree should come down. Then my client asked about drainage and gutters, which were dealt with well. Was this service provider not doing his job? Did he lie when he said that his repairs were take care of the situation? I know that this happens with contractors all the time.
He was doing his job, but he was only thinking about his specific area. If my client had not been informed by me of these other issues, and how they relate to the foundation, he may never have asked. If he did ask a generic question, the foundation man may have answered “yes, this will take care of it”. What you may want to do is ask ” are the other things that might effect this repair?”, or you may want to come to a site like this one for a little research about contributing factors, so you can ask an informed question.
Will repairing your foundation prevent future cracks? Will the repair last? Answering the more specific question about the foundation can be harder. What will be happening to the house? How will you take care of your home? Cracks are not always due to the foundation; they can be caused by movement, house settling, and this may continue to occur after the foundation has been repaired. I found that repairing the cracks after foundation work does last for a while, but eventually, I will have to make the repairs again, because other factors brought the cracks back. As for the foundation repair, I mention to my clients that you have to look at the whole system. Trees, condition of plumbing pipes, and drainage are all factors that will continue to effect the foundation. They may not be a problem now, but they could become one. Also, the quality of the foundation work is a factor, or type of repair. This may be harder to determine, but it could be that the repair is not needed, because other factors are repairing the foundation (in Houston, dry spells sink homes, while higher rain fall years raise them; this may, emphasis on the may, cause a repair to be unnecessary in some instances).
If you start asking questions before hand, you will be in better shape later. You should also ask the opinion of several professionals. Each will bring their own thoughts to a topic, and this can lead to a fuller picture.