Did you know that foundation movement is the culprit behind a staggering 80% of structural home insurance claims? Moreover, Will Keaveny, a risk management expert, reports that one in four U.S. homes will encounter structural issues at some point. This data, drawn from an analysis of 10,000 structural claims, was presented to the National Association of Homebuilders and underscores the prevalence of these problems. However, enlisting a residential structural engineer to assess a home’s foundation isn’t just about mitigating risks—it can also offer a suite of unique advantages. Whether you’re eyeing a renovation project or planning to erect a new house–a structural engineer’s expertise can prove invaluable.
Uncovering potentially unknown problems
When looking to purchase a home, having a residential structural engineer look at the foundation can uncover problems that even the seller may not have been aware of. Rocket Mortgage identifies several reasons as to why a home may have foundation problems, from soil quality to drainage problems and even poor construction. Signs of foundation problems, according to Forbes Home, include exterior/interior wall cracks, bouncing floors, cabinets or counters that are separated from the walls, a mildew smell, and sticking doors, to name just a few. If left untreated, foundation problems can result in serious damage to a home, both structurally and in the form of other issues, like water damage. If a home’s foundation problems are too extensive or severe (or you’re unable to address the issues after buying the property for whatever reason), walking away from the property may be the right decision for you.
Covering your bases when considering a fixer-upper
82% of millennial home buyers said they would be willing to buy a fixer-upper in 2022 — a 14% increase from 2019. Investing in a fixer-upper is not only a great way to save money and get exactly what you want in a home in the long run, but it’s important to realize that there are the potential downfalls if the process isn’t done properly. That said, having a residential structural engineer evaluate the foundation before purchasing the home can be a fantastic way to know what you’re getting into — and potentially avoid any extreme or costly repairs. CNBC highlights the fact that investing in a fixer-upper can already be an expensive endeavor in itself — a leaky or dry rotted roof can cost about $15,000 in a 2,000 square foot, one story home, while a missing or broken HVAC system can cost about $10,000 to install. With purchasing a fixer-upper already a costly investment, it’s important to note that foundation issues have a typical cost range of $2,000 to $7,500, according to This Old House, though the cost may be much more depending on the severity of the issue. As a result, having a residential structural engineer look at the foundation before making any decisions regarding the purchase can potentially save you both time, money, and stress in the long run while ensuring you cover your bases in knowing what you’re getting into.
The undeniable value of specialized knowledge
The presence of cracks, flooding, and uneven flooring can all be signs of foundation issues. While knowing the signs of foundation problems is a great skill for any potential homeowner to have, a professional residential structural engineer possesses specialized knowledge of the subject. When hiring a reputable individual, you’ll be sure to receive a thorough inspection of the property, in addition to other services — according to Home Advisor, a structural engineer will not only ensure that your construction project is ‘well-built and designed to last,’ but they can also create drawings that will show weak points of construction, recommend adjustments, and even review geological data in order to minimize environmental threats to the home (such as leaking foundations or wind damage). “If an engineer hasn’t seen your building plan, have them proof it to ensure that everything is problem-free.” Home Advisor goes on to note that a structural engineer can evaluate a variety of issues, including foundation cracks, water damage, and sloping floors.
It’s important to note that a residential structural engineer specializes in the structural design of homes, rather than commercial buildings. This distinction can be particularly valuable in areas that are prone to damage via elements like earthquakes. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake is just one prominent event in history that eventually led to the modern day concrete building. Shortly after the 1906 quake, inventor Thomas Edison, who felt that housing needed to be improved in order to better withstand such disasters, set about making proposals to mass produce concrete homes that could not only resist natural disasters, but pests and mold as well. While Edison’s endeavor never took off to the level he had hoped, inventor Frank Lloyd Wright completed the Unity Temple in Oak Park, Illinois; a structure that is regarded by many architects and historians as the first ‘truly’ modern building. With so much having evolved since then, it’s imperative to keep in mind that a residential structural engineer can aid greatly for those looking to design their home’s foundation in a way that can better tolerate seismic activity.
From the ground up — properly
There are a myriad of reasons why someone would prefer to build their own home vs. buy one that’s on the market. Personalization is just one major advantage involved, highlights Marc Rousso, CEO of JayMarc Homes in Seattle. “You get a blank slate,” he says. “The fun part about building a custom home is that it can be whatever you want.” New homes also require fewer repairs when executed properly. Regarding the foundation, getting in touch with a residential structural engineer will further ensure that your new home is as structurally sound as possible. This can be particularly beneficial when navigating decisions such as what type of foundation to go with — for example, while The Spruce notes that insulated concrete form (ICF) are recommended for their durability in hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disaster zones, a pier foundation may be used when the topsoil is too weak or unstable to support a structure.
Skipping out on hiring a residential structural engineer can be an easy thing to do, though it’s imperative to remember that having your foundation evaluated by an expert is an investment for the long run. Whether you’re looking into purchasing a home or you’re building or renovating one, there are more than a few benefits in involving a professional.