First, remember that a standard foundation engineer’s report is based on a visual inspection of the property. Invasive procedures may be implemented, at a cost, to further investigate the structure, but most invasive procedures are expensive and the results usually do no warrant the costs, especially on residential structures.
Invasive procedures in an engineer’s inspection may be more recommended on bridges and large buildings, including soil tests, but are not the normal procedure in the standard engineer’s report on a residential structure. Usually, a visual inspection, if properly done, may reveal most foundation defects, in most residences.
Also, remember that the standard engineer’s report is a substructure evaluation, not the superstructure. The superstructure is the area above the floor, such as in the attic and the walls, and the substructure will usually include the floor and the structure below it. However, if the engineer notices a problem in the superstructure, it may be included in his engineer’s report.
Superstructure evaluations can be performed for an additional price. The engineer will be required to enter the attic area, and an inspection of the structure from there will commence. There are sometimes defects in the bracing, purlins, collar ties, and the like. Roof joists and ceiling joists may be undersized, bowing, twisted, or coming apart at the ridge or the wall plate. A standard sized home that has adequate space in the attic may cost about $400 for a superstructure inspection.
Most engineer’s reports do not include detached structures, sidewalks, driveways, patios, sheds, or air conditioning pads.
Although many engineers perform a substructure inspection differently, they are still governed by the Engineer’s Board of the State of Texas. The Engineer’s Board will require the engineer to perform professionally to meet accepted engineering standards.
In Bedrock’s opinion, an engineer’s report on a residential foundation, should contain these areas:
identify the problems, if any.
identify un-level areas of the foundation, if any.
identify drainage corrections needed to the structure.
identify foundation defects revealed through a visual inspection, if any.
conclude with some possible causes of the defects, and by what measures you used to determine your conclusions.
make recommendations how the defects or corrections should be made.
may include a map or diagram of proposed plans.
should include maintenance procedures to protect the foundation from future movement.
should be adjusted to accommodate the age, price, and style of the structure.
Good recommendations protect the seller of a home from future litigation resulting from foundation issues, and they protect a buyer from unknown future expenses related to the foundation and drainage.
Is the engineer’s evaluation complete and cover all defects to the foundation? Absolutely not, but a visual inspection from a registered professional engineer is a step in the right direction from an expert. An engineer’s opinion is based on years of experience and training, and will protect a new homeowner considerably, but Mother Nature is hard to predict, and other issues may arise that are difficult to detect from either a visual inspection or an invasive inspection.