Engineers and Foundation Repairs

Overview of the Guidelines for the Evaluation and Repair of Residential Foundations

By the Texas Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers 


The most common purpose of an engineering evaluation of a residential foundation is to assess its performance. This involves observation and evaluation of cosmetic (nonstructural) distress and structural damage. The evaluation may also provide opinions of probable causes of distress or damage, assessment of risk of further damage, recommendations for remedial measures, and cost estimates. If the evaluation determines that remedial measures are appropriate, the engineer may be asked to provide the design and construction documents.

Qualifications of the Engineer

The evaluation and repair design shall be performed by a professional engineer licensed in the State that the work is being performed. Engineers in responsible charge of this type of work must be competent to apply scientific and engineering education, training, knowledge, skill, and experience to the investigation and analysis of constructed facilities. This determines the cause and extent of diminished performance and the means of remediation. Engineers should be competent in the related disciplines or should retain outside consultants as needed.

Professional Ethics

It is essential to avoid conflicts of interest to maintain the credibility of the evaluation investigation. The evaluating engineer must demonstrate qualities of character that will ensure impartiality. These qualities include objectivity, confidentiality, honesty, and integrity.

Levels of Investigation

The engineer should recommend an appropriate level of investigation to fulfill the objective of the evaluation. However, the scope of services shall be jointly established and agreed to by both the client and engineer. The engineer should personally visit the site and be in responsible charge of the investigative activities. If requested by the client, the engineer may only provide evaluation of reports by others, but this should be described as consultation, not investigation. For the purpose of aiding the client in determining the type of evaluation desired or actually performed, the following three levels of investigation are offered as guidelines.

Level A

This level of investigation shall be clearly identified as a report of first impressions and shall not imply that any higher level of investigation has been performed. This level of investigation will typically include, but is not restricted to:

  1. Interview the occupant, owner, and client, if possible, regarding the history of the property and performance of the structure.
  2. Request from the client and review the provided documents regarding the foundation, such as construction drawings, geotechnical reports, previous testing, inspection reports, and previous repair information.
  3. Make visual observations during a physical walk-through.
  4. Observe factors influencing the performance of the foundation.
  5. If requested by the client, provide a written report containing at least the following:
    • Scope of services
    • Observations, site characteristics, and data deemed pertinent by the engineer
    • Discussion of major factors influencing foundation performance and rationale in reaching conclusions concerning the subject residence
    • Conclusions and any recommendations for further investigation and remedial or preventative measures

Level B

This level of investigation should include a written report including the items listed above for a Level A inspection and also the following items:

  1. A determination of relative foundation elevations–considering floor finishes–in sufficient detail to represent the shape of the foundation or floor adequately.
  2. A drawing showing relative elevations

Level C

This level of investigation shall include the items listed above for Level A and Level B inspections and additional services, testing, and related reports deemed appropriate by the Engineer. These may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. Site specific soil sampling and testing
  2. Plumbing testing
  3. Material testing
  4. Steel reinforcing survey
  5. Post tensioning cable testing

This level of investigation should also include a more detailed level of reporting, which may include the following:

  1. Scaled drawings
  2. Description of factors that affect soil moisture
  3. Observations of cut and fill
  4. Tree survey
  5. Photographs
  6. Detailed distress survey
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