When you choose to build a new home, you naturally assume the home that the builder will construct for you is structurally sound.
Over the years, many homebuyers have learned that the product that the builder has in mind for you is meant to generate maximum profit at minimal effort.
What follows is a list of structural issues that are often overlooked and downright ignored by homebuilders. The following list contains some of the more common oversights, errors and omissions.
Lack of site-specific soil borings. Testing of the soils that sit below and directly adjacent to the home’s foundation is crucial for a properly designed and engineered foundation.
Improperly designed/’engineered’ foundations. Lack of industry policing and state oversight has resulted in an industry of engineers who continually design minimally functional foundations and/or design foundations based on incomplete information.
Today’s Professional Engineers know that if they cost the builder too much money in testing, site preparation and foundation design, the builder will simply terminate them and find another engineer who will save the builder money and generate maximum profits.
Today’s Professional Engineers know that while cities/municipalities most often require ‘engineered’ foundation plans, they ‘never’ challenge those plans. Simply put, there is no real oversight for this industry.
Designing/’engineering’ a foundation that requires the homeowner to ‘water around the foundation’. This is a cruel hoax that homebuilders and ‘their’ engineers have burdened homeowners and society with by promoting wasting millions of gallons of water. It is a clever ruse, however. It places the onus on the homeowner to ‘maintain’ his/her foundation, by requiring the homeowner to properly hydrate the soils around and under the house that are critical to support a poorly ‘engineered’ foundation.
Designing foundations that are not compatible with engineered truss roof systems. Engineered roof systems resist deflection/bending in a remarkable fashion. Unfortunately, improperly ‘engineered’ foundations allow the slab to deflect/bend at a much greater rate than the roof framing. What follows is wall-to-ceiling cracking and separations that allow your home’s conditioned air to escape into great outdoors.
So, when you hear the builder tell you his/her slab foundations are ‘engineered’ to be cost effective, you may want to ask yourself some basis questions.
If ‘Economics 101’ teaches that the price of goods is set by what the market will bear, in this case, what the homebuyer is willing to pay; doesn’t a poorly engineered foundation simply mean more money in the builder’s pockets?
If you have to spend money ‘watering around your foundation’ until the water shortages and the watering restrictions prohibit you from doing so, are you really saving money by allowing the builder to sell you a home with a minimally functional foundation?
If your walls and ceilings separate from one another due to the poorly engineered foundation, is the builder saving you money by building you a home that allows your air conditioning to escape?
When you finally face reality and have saved your hard-earned money to be able to afford to have your foundation ‘leveled’ or stabilized, has the builder saved you money or simply increased the builder’s profits?
Wait! Your builder touted the Limited 10-yr Structural Warranty.
If you think the structural ‘warranty’ that most builders offer, will pay to repair your cracked, bending, tilting foundation, think again.
Ask your builder for a copy of the ‘warranty’ he/she offers. Read it carefully. The majority of houses with structural deficiencies have deficiencies that don’t rise to the level of distress required to cause the warranty company to be responsible to repair the damaged structural component.
Simply put, the health and safety of the homeowner must be at risk for the typical structural ‘warranty’ company to be responsible for repairs. Actually compelling the ‘warranty’ company to repair is often accomplished only after a lengthy and expensive legal battle.
Insist on a site-specific soil borings and analysis. Insist on the results, in writing.
Insist on soil-compaction and compaction tests when the site requires ‘fill’ materials. Insist on the results, in writing.
Insist on a foundation design/criteria that does not require ‘watering around the foundation’ or other artificial moisture control means.
Insist on a foundation design/criteria that results in a foundation that is strong enough/stiff enough to prevent damage to the walls, ceilings, masonry cladding, floor coverings, etc.
Insist that the builder provide you with a set of the engineers design specs/criteria.
Insist on you being able to take those plans to an engineer of your choosing, for an analysis of the plans.
Insist that the builder’s contract provide a provision that allows you the opportunity to cancel the contract, at no penalty to you, if ‘your’ engineer recommends changes to the foundation design/criteria.
A new home can be the source of much pleasure or pain. As always, consult a qualified attorney and hire an experienced Home Inspector when building a home or purchasing a pre-owned home.