Due to fluctuating weather conditions in Texas, Austin homes are prone to foundation problems.
After hearing strange sounds in the night, member Belinda Marchand awoke to find a crack on the floor from one end of her North Austin home to the other. “The gates of hell were opening in my house,” she says. After calming down and convincing herself the crack posed only an aesthetic problem, she delayed fixing it for a few months. “Next thing you knew, I couldn’t get out my front door, and the garage door fell off,” Marchand says.
Many Austin-area homeowners face foundation problems due to the alternating heavy rain and drought conditions, as well as poorly constructed foundations. “The ground moves in Central Texas, just like glaciers,” says Douglas Plauche, owner of Douglas Foundation Repair in Austin, who repaired Marchand’s home for $6,000 by inserting steel piers underneath.
Signs of foundation problems typically first emerge in the form of cracks around windows and misaligned doors that no longer open and close properly, but can turn into separating walls and sinking homes, Plauche says, noting average repairs range from about $4,000 to $7,000.
Foundation Type Affects Repairs
Foundation repair pros and engineers say Austin homes are usually built on one of two foundation types: slab or pier and beam, which have crawl spaces and sit above ground to let water drain underneath. Slabs can shift as the ground soil expands and contracts and the pier and beam variety can also shift if foundations aren’t built deep enough, highly rated providers say.
To evaluate homes, members turn to foundation repair companies, home inspectors, who require a state license, and structural professional engineers, who must register with the state. Hiring an engineering firm that won’t perform foundation repairs can provide an unbiased evaluation, says Moises Cruz, professional engineer at A-1 Engineering, which has offices in Austin and San Antonio. Engineers examine a home’s soil, construction, design, loads and foundation type, Cruz says. A $400 assessment includes a report of problems and courses of action, and engineering a solution costs an additional $800, he says. “The contractor is in a position to try to sell a product,” he says. “We suggest an independent engineer.”
A sinkhole destroyed two foundation piers under member Phyllis Banks’ 100-year-old Elgin farmhouse that she uses as a getaway home. “My house was slowly sinking into the ground — I was terrified,” says Banks, who joined Angie’s List and called five companies before she settled on one. “Some told me just to fill it with dirt.” She paid $6,550 and hired Noah’s Ark Carpentry & Siding of Round Rock to complete underpinning that strengthened the foundation, making her home once again safe to occupy. “I grew up in that house, so it means a lot to me,” she says.
Have you ever had to hire a foundation repair company? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below.
Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article that was originally posted on July 11, 2013.