Structural Engineer Foundation Inspection

By Amanda Lutz Updated July 12, 2024

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Keeping your home’s foundation secure is a critical part of your safety. If you’ve noticed signs of a bad foundation, such as wall or floor cracks, sloping floors, or basement moisture problems, it’s time to call a structural engineer for an inspection. Learn how to decipher a report about your home’s structural integrity and what you can expect from a structural engineer’s visit in the guide below.


When to Consult a Structural Engineer

Structural engineers are vital in the face of emergencies, such as catastrophic events or severe neglect of foundation issues. If you notice any of the structural issues included in the list below, your house may be in danger of collapse. You should schedule a foundation inspection as soon as possible. Consider vacating the premises in the meantime.

Nonemergencies also warrant a structural engineer’s foundation inspection. The house may not be in immediate danger of structural failure in the following cases, but you still need more information to determine whether the foundation is stable.


What Happens During the Inspection

A typical foundation inspection takes between 90 minutes and two hours and involves thoroughly surveying the home’s foundation walls. An engineer will identify and record any anomalies, such as discoloration, bowing, and sinking, and will document and measure any cracks. Once the engineer has inspected the foundation, they will look inside the home for signs of structural damage. The engineer will examine the integrity of the walls, floors, and ceilings in search of gaps, cracks, bowing, and sinking.

Foundation inspections may also include examination of a household’s plumbing, which often sustains damage if the foundation is cracked. The engineer may shut off the water and check the water meter to see if there are any leaks. They will inspect basements and crawl spaces for signs of moisture problems, such as leaks, standing water, condensation, and mold or mildew. The engineer will also take measurements, make notes, or take pictures.

After the inspection, the structural engineer will write up a comprehensive engineering report documenting the state of the foundation and the causes of any problems. If the engineer has found damage, the report will include recommendations for repairing foundation cracks and other problems.


Cost

The cost of a structural engineer foundation inspection and the report it generates will vary based on your home’s size and the complexity of any damage. Structural engineers charge between $200 and $350 per hour. If your home is especially large, difficult to inspect, or faces severe or unusual problems, you may pay up to $3,000.

Homeowners typically pay for their own foundation inspections, but there are exceptions in the wake of catastrophic events that may be covered by insurance. For example, if your house is damaged by an earthquake and your homeowner’s insurance covers earthquakes, then your provider may schedule and pay for a foundation inspection.

If you’re a home buyer and you want an inspection for your new home, you’ll need to pay for it. The current homeowner isn’t legally required to have the foundation inspected.

Cost data in this article was sourced from Angi.


Foundation Inspection vs. Home Inspection

Structural engineers focus on the structural integrity of the home as part of a foundation inspection. They examine the foundation as well as load-bearing walls and joists. They may also inspect the structural stability of the roof.

Licensed home inspectors perform home inspections, during which they take a noninvasive look at a home’s major systems and basic structure. If a home inspector spots a problem, they will document it and may recommend another inspection by a specialist. Home inspections typically cost a little less than foundation inspections—typically between $200 and $500—but don’t produce as much detailed information about a home’s structure.

Home inspectors examine a house’s foundation but not at the level of detail a structural engineer would. If a home inspector spots foundation damage, they are likely to recommend having it checked out by an engineer.


Structural Engineers vs. Foundation Repair Companies

Some foundation repair companies offer free or low-cost foundation inspections. The inspectors who perform these jobs aren’t typically professional engineers. The inspectors will typically recommend that their company completes suggested repairs. Keep in mind that these repair contractors may not have the same credentials as licensed engineers.

Licensed engineers typically work for engineering firms or agencies rather than repair companies. Hiring an independent structural engineer and paying for their engineering services is the best way to get an unbiased report and recommendations. If the engineer recommends repairs, you can hire a separate foundation repair company to complete the suggested tasks.


DIY Foundation Inspection

As soon as you suspect foundation damage, you should hire a licensed structural engineer to perform a thorough inspection. In the meantime, we recommend performing your own visual inspections. Examine your foundation walls, both inside and out, and check for cracks, leaks, and water damage. Inspect your basement or crawl space for excess moisture.

You’re more likely to catch problems when they’re still relatively minor if you perform regular inspections. The cost of foundation repair is typically lower when the damage is less severe.


Choosing a Structural Engineer

Structural engineers work closely with architectural and construction professionals to ensure the safety of buildings. Most real estate agents, home builders, design firms, home inspectors, and other contractors can recommend a local structural engineer to hire for an inspection. Your insurance company can also make suggestions.

Licensing requirements vary by state, but many structural engineers are licensed as civil engineers. You can check your state’s licensing board or search for your local chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers for more options.

Here’s how to narrow down your list of candidates:


Our Recommendation

We recommend scheduling a foundation inspection with a professional engineer as soon as you suspect your home’s foundation has suffered damage. Even if the matter doesn’t seem like an emergency, your home’s structural integrity may be at risk. Find a licensed structural engineer rather than a general home inspector, and take any repair recommendations seriously. Your home’s value may depend on it.


Structural Engineer Foundation Inspection FAQ

Is a structural engineer the same as a foundation engineer?

Engineers who work on foundations are structural engineers, so they may also be called foundation engineers. However, structural engineers and foundation repair contractors are two different types of professionals. Foundation repair contractors aren’t usually credentialed engineers.

How do I know if my house has foundation problems?

Here are some signs that your home may have foundation issues:u003cbru003e• Bowing or bulging wallsu003cbru003e• Cracks in walls, floors, ceilings, or windowsu003cbru003e• Gaps between walls and windowsu003cbru003e• Large or horizontal foundation cracksu003cbru003e• Sloped floorsu003cbru003e• Water in the basement or crawl space

What are the common foundation problems?

The most common foundation problems are horizontal cracks in the concrete. Also, foundations may sink or drift if the ground beneath them becomes unstable. Water damage may cause basement and crawl space foundation walls to bow or bulge.

What is the difference between a structural engineer and a foundation repair specialist?

Structural engineers are independent, credentialed engineers who perform foundation inspections and offer recommendations. Foundation repair specialists perform repair work on foundations. They’re experts but not engineers, and their inspections don’t produce detailed, independent reports.