I read an article by Mike Williams that I wanted to share it with you. Mike is a master plumber and professional engineer in Houston who has been involved in the inspection of foundations and the testing of under-slab plumbing systems since 1993. If you want the full version, send me an email: Josh@mydailyhomes.com. Mike and I had a great conversation and he said the important takeaway is not to panic if you see signs of foundation movement. He suggests that the worst thing you can do is call a foundation company out who will likely begin to install underground piers to fix the cracking and settlement areas. Your first step should be to contact a licensed, professional engineer (with the initials P.E. after their name) to come and assess the situation.
Here’s an excerpt of Mike’s article:
No two issues are more likely to hinder the sale of Texas residences than apparent foundation damage or leaks on underslab sanitary drain piping. At the same time, no two issues are more misunderstood by the typical homeowner, home buyer, home seller, inspector, engineer, plumber, and real estate professional. It is both disheartening and a source of pride that my opinions are contrary to the majority opinion of the above groups. The worst performing foundations I have inspected over the past twenty-two years were in their poor condition because of prior partial foundation repairs. Only two out of the worst hundred foundations were caused by other reasons. Put another way, the leading cause of the majority of serious residential foundation problems in Texas is prior foundation repair. In 1996 the Wall Street Journal published an article quoting an engineer as saying, “seventy percent of the money Texans spend on foundation repair is wasted.” In the same article a professor of civil engineering at Texas Tech University said, “Some so-called repairs can make the damage worse.” We were recently asked to test the sanitary piping under a foundation by a seller after an inspector for a buyer ran a sewer camera and reported that he observed hairline cracks and minor leakage and stated that it is always better to replace cast-iron before foundation-damaging leaks occur. No hydrostatic testing was performed, no video was forwarded to the seller showing the hairline cracks, and the buyer demanded that the seller replace the underslab sanitary system. We tested the system for the seller and discovered that two of the three systems did not leak, and the third dropped very slowly. The tunnel to repair the one leaking system would allow more water to migrate under the house during rain events than was currently escaping the piping under normal service conditions, and suggested that to replace the other two systems that were not leaking was not in the best interest of the foundation.
We use our knowledge and experience, our education and our honesty, and more than a little common sense, to provide our clients with the information needed to make informed choices concerning foundations and underslab sanitary piping.