It’s the dead of summer. You begin to notice cracks appearing at the corners of your doorways. Closets won’t close. And you get the sinking feeling (pardon the pun) that your foundation needs some attention. If you don’t have any experience with foundation repair, addressing the problem can be daunting. Finding a professional you trust, one who won’t oversell or underperform is key. And so is arming yourself with the knowledge to know the difference. We spoke to Eddie Zansler of North Dallas Foundation Repair, a trusted name in the industry, to get the lowdown on raising your foundation.
First, a couple of basics. The goal of foundation repair is to stabilize a house built on unstable soil by anchoring it into stable soil, or bedrock. Soil in the Dallas area is notoriously unstable. Over time (usually decades), our homes shift. Proper watering can prevent some shifting, but not all. And the phenomenon is so common, it’s not unusual to see several houses in a neighborhood undergo repairs in the same season.
Stick with us after the jump for some practical advice on repairing and maintaining your home’s foundation.
Independent Engineering Report for Peace of Mind
Most homeowners go into foundation repair pretty blindly. Do you recommend having a structural engineer do a preliminary report first or is that generally unnecessary?
“If you have a friend or a family member that can recommend someone they’ve worked with, you can have a foundation repair professional take a look at it. Myself, I have no problem doing that. There are a number of times we go out and evaluate a house and, yeah, there’s been some movement, some cracks, some deflection, but everything’s well within tolerance levels. In that case, we just recommend a drip irrigation system to try to maintain the moisture content and prevent it from getting any worse.
But if you’re new to the area, or don’t have friends who can give you a strong referral, then it’s not a bad idea to have a structural engineer come out. It also depends upon the severity of the damage. If you have major cracks and doors out of whack, or big, big issues, then maybe it is best to have an engineer evaluate it. A structural engineer gets paid a set fee. It doesn’t matter if he recommends repair or not. If you need zero piers or 55 piers, that fee doesn’t change.”
He’s not getting a kickback from the companies he recommends?
“Not at all. Not at all. The only checks I write to structural engineers are for inspections, nothing more, nothing less.”
Knowing the Accepted Methods and Average Costs
What can homeowners expect to pay for foundation repair? If you get several different quotes, and they’re all about the same, that probably tells you you’re not being taken for a ride. But what if you get two wildly different quotes? What’s the average price per pier in North Texas?
“That’s all dependent on the methods used. Drilled Concrete piers are going to cost you, on average, $350.00 per pier. Now, there are some set costs that go above and beyond that – your city permit, and inspections. There are very few cities, Rowlett, for instance, that don’t require a permit. But 95% of cities require a permit for foundation repair. Now, for a steel pier, I don’t install those, but I know they’re more expensive. Those might be around $450.00 a pier. There’s also a pressed concrete piling, which we do not endorse. I’ve heard of a company offering those for as low as $220 a piling. That’s where people get taken advantage of.”
If someone comes selling you that solution, should you be wary?
“I don’t want to disparage anyone. I just know with my experience, with my dealings with engineers, the drilled pier or steel pier method is best, based on data and track record.”
You mentioned installing drip irrigation systems to maintain a foundation and prevent further damage. What does those look like, price-wise?
“Traditionally, I offer it to my customers for about $900.00, to add that around house if we’re doing the foundation repair. It’s about $1200.00 if we’re installing it by itself.”
Bracing Yourself for Collateral Damage
What possible damage should homeowners brace themselves for? I understand plumbing can break, and landscaping can take a hit.
“There’s a rule of thumb that if it didn’t break going down, there’s a very good chance it won’t break coming back up. You hear horror stories about windows cracking and breaking. But in my experience, every window that has broken during repair was damaged while the house was down. Honestly, one thing that I would prepare homeowners for is that when you’re taking your mature landscaping out to repair the foundation, I don’t want them to expect that to survive. Be prepared for the worst case scenario and then be pleasantly surprised if it does. We’re there to do the best job we can on the foundation. We want to remove as few plants as possible, but it’s not realistic to think a 20-year-old shrub is going to be transplanted and survive.”
Eddie Zansler has been working in the foundation repair business for 22 years. Since 2007 he has owned and operated North Dallas Foundation Repair. Zansler lives in Plano with his wife and daughter. He can be reached at EdwardZansler@sbcglobal.net or 469-358-6769.