Mike Shadid Foundation Consulting Inc. Newsletter

Spring 2013








Value Proposition

As I write this newsletter my phone is ringing more frequently meaning that overall real estate activity is increasing.  This is a good thing for all of us in the business of helping people find the right place to live. 

As I talk with clients I am struck by how personal a home can be.  Not only are there memories of good times – and bad, but also a house is likely one of the most significant assets of the household.  When a foundation problem is discovered the value of the asset can be reduced. 

My point is that a crack in a basement wall may have huge personal consequences.

Emotions can run high and impact the sale.  The best way I have found to manage the emotions is to educate people so they understand the issues, risks, and trade-offs. 

When I perform a foundation inspection approximately 1/3 of the time is spent diagnosing the problem and 2/3 of the time is spent educating the client.  The rapport and trust I develop takes the emotion out of the deal and helps people make rational decisions. 

When people place their trust in me it also reflects on those who referred me.  I am constantly aware that my reputation is the key to my past and future success.



Case Study

Recently, I was contacted by a realtor who had a buyer for a bank-owned property.  Financing became a problem after two vertical cracks were found on the north and east walls approximately 20 feet away from the northeast corner.  The realtor did not remember these cracks being present when the house was listed two months ago. 

My inspection revealed two large vertical and step cracks had recently developed near the northeast corner.  The floor had cracks that ended at the new cracks on the wall.  A horizontal gap was evident between the top of the foundation and the floor joists.  A space developed between the floor and the bottom block of the foundation.   Cracks had developed in the upper structure in this area.  Windows and doors in the home were hard to open and close. These are serious structural issues that had to be corrected before the house could be sold.

All of the clues led me to believe that the soil under the footings was shrinking due to our prolonged recent area wide draught.  When the moisture content of soil changes significantly the volume can expand or



contract.  The recent drought was causing the soil to contract under the foundation causing settling and an unstable structure. 


The standard way to fix the problem is to excavate the exterior walls down to the level of the footings and install pilings, push piers, or hierarchal coils to provide support for the footings.  The footings needed to be stabilized to restore structural integrity.  Typical cost for this type of repair can often be $20,000 to $25,000.  My experience suggested me that dry soil could be rehydrated with a watering system under the footings. The cost of such a system would be approximately $3,000 to $5,000.  Although not guaranteed    I felt there was a high probability of success. 

A foundation repair contractor installed the system.  After three weeks of nightly watering the foundation began to rise and the foundation and floor cracks began to close up indicating structural integrity had been restored.  If future draughts occur this area can be rehydrated through the re-watering system.




Roles and Responsibilities of Foundation Professionals


There are lots of people that can get involved in solving a foundation problem.  Getting them involved at the wrong time in the process can add complications and expense to resolution.  Here is a list of people that you might interact with as you go about helping your clients identify, quantify and solve foundation problems

  1. Realtor: Inspect home foundation and other areas prior to owner listing home.  Assist buyer in filling out seller condition report.  Refer appropriate professionals to evaluate areas of concern.

  2. Home Inspector:  Provide general structural and mechanical evaluation.  Measure foundation for plumb and document position of walls.  Indicate obvious water seepage issues.  Discuss exterior water diversion possibilities.  Refer foundation structural or seepage issues to qualified professionals.  A home inspector should not determine if foundation repairs are necessary nor suggest how the repairs might be completed.

  3. Foundation Inspector – Visually inspects and measures the foundation. Provides a report documenting the condition of the foundation condition including water seepage and structural issues.  If repairs are necessary provide work specifications and price range information that multiple contractors can bid on the same job specs.  They should be able to engage the homeowner and buyers.  Educate them on the cause and severity of the problem. Foundation Inspectors are most effective when they do not provide remediation services or try to upsell other services to the homeowner.  Typically they are experts in foundation construction and repair techniques.  They should have many years of experience in the industry and understand the real estate business. They should be members of Wisconsin Association of Foundation Repair Professionals and Wisconsin Association of Home Inspectors.

  4. Drain Tile Tester: Can be an independent tester or a contractor.  Checks condition of interior and exterior drain tiles.  Provides information on condition of tiles and extent of repairs if necessary.  If tiles are functioning properly this suggests that surface modifications are probable recommendations.  It is recommended that inspectors should not be a foundation repair contractor, as contractors want to fix basements.

  5. Foundation Repair Contractor:  Provide estimates to repair structural or water seepage issues.  They generally repair conditions where structural damage is present or water seepage will not be corrected by above grade modifications.  Most contractors do not provide do-it-yourself information or methods to monitor conditions when repairs are not necessary. 

  6. Landscape Architect:  Provide a plan to execute water diversion from perimeter.  Improper drainage may cause wet walls and some types of seepage. Many landscape architects also implement the plans.

  7. Landscape Contractors may provide information on perimeter grading modifications to divert water.  Many contractors are more interested in aesthetics modifications than keeping foundations dry.

  8. Building Inspector for Municipalities: Apply appropriate best management repair standards to issue repair permits for necessary foundation repairs.  They do not evaluate foundations to determine if repairs are necessary.  They will provide a post repair inspection to ensure that proposed repairs have been completed.

  9. Structural Engineers:  May be required to provide a design for repairs for a contractor to stabilize footings.  Soil samples and a structural evaluation are often required.  They write work specifications that contractors must follow to obtain a building permit. 



In Conclusion

Having an understanding of the roles each trade and profession play will help you provide more value to your clients. Knowledgeable homeowners will make better decisions and will have reasonable expectations about repair costs.  Having work specifications will allow the homeowner to get multiple bids for work.  This will ensure a competitive environment and minimize costs.   The worst thing that can happen is to have your client get bamboozled by unscrupulous or unqualified people.

Mike Shadid, March 30, 2013

The facts, information and opinions contained in this newsletter should not be construed as a warrantee or guarantee of any type.  They are based upon observations and information obtained over 30 of doing basement inspections.  Equally qualified persons may come to different opinions based upon similar facts and observations.  Any person relying on opinions contained in this newsletter do so at their own risk.  Each basement is unique and general opinions contained in this newsletter may not apply to all basements.  If you have a problem with your basement you should have it inspected and not rely on general opinions in this newsletter.