How to Choose a Reliable Foundation Repair Company
Thanks to the type of soil we have here in the Dallas area, foundation problems are common for North Texas homeowners.
The soil in Texas is expansive clay which means it contracts when it’s dry and expands when it’s wet. And because of that, a home’s foundation moves and shifts and the expanding wet soil can push up and out against the foundation.
If you are dealing with signs of foundation problems like uneven floors or cracks in the walls of your home, it’s time to look for a foundation repair company.
But with so many to choose from, how do you know who to trust?
Why Price per Pier Shouldn’t Matter
I get asked about pier price a lot. What is a good price per pier? And I understand why this might seem like something to take under consideration when evaluating your options.
But in my opinion, it’s not even close to being one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a foundation repair contractor.
What if one company says you need six piers and another tells you you need 20 piers? And what if you legitimately only need six piers but this other company just really wanted to sell 20 piers that particular day? Maybe it’s been a slow month and they need to make up for it. (I hate to say it, but it happens more than you’d think.)
So in the grand scheme of things, price per pier means nothing. The only thing that truly matters is what needs to be done. What type of piers you get, where they put the piers and why, and how deep the piers will go.
Go cheap and you can count on paying more now and later when they put in extra piers and the piers move quickly and have to be redone.
How many people have you known that have had to have work done twice? Or even over and over again? Or what about finding out the contractor who did the work went out of business?
Going on price alone is a bad, bad plan.
You get what you pay for. It's not about price. It's about trusting the contractor. It’s about having a contractor who stands behind the work.
Things to Consider When Hiring a Foundation Repair Company
So how do you find a trustworthy contractor?
Well it’s going to take a little bit of work on your part. But it’s worth it when you consider the amount of money you’re going to spend to get your foundation fixed.
Check their reputation
Make sure you check the reviews, the company’s social media pages, the Better Business Bureau ratings, etc. And what they say when they come out there in person also matters.
You're looking for a contractor with the heart of a teacher, not the heart of a salesman. Are they teaching you something or selling you something? There is a major difference.
Get six opinions
I usually recommend calling six contractors, give or take, to come out and give you a repair plan. Remember, it’s free but will take some time.
I saw a social media post not too long ago where someone asked, “Can I just skip the process? Just give me a name of someone I can trust. I don't want to worry about the process.”
You cannot skip the process. You need to get those opinions.
Typically you can throw out the least expensive and the most expensive. Look at the ones in the middle and the ones that overlap. See what they all agree on and that is most likely what you need done. Then go with the one you trust.
Take a look at this diagram.
So with the most and least expensive plans thrown out, you’re left with about four opinions.
Let’s say one contractor tells you you need 1 - 12 piered. And another tells you you only need piers 5 - 8. And the other two tell you you need 4 - 9.
You can assume then that you need 5 - 8 for sure.
Then you just decide who it is you trust, and if you think you should get it 4 - 9 or if you think you just need 5 - 8 piered.
Warranty on Repairs or Whole House?
A quick note about warranties here — I go a little more into warranties later in the post as well.
If you want a warranty on the WHOLE thing — which nobody does — and you want them to cover anything in the future that needs to be done, then you're going to have to go in and have them pier everything.
All interior. All exterior. Everything. Every inch of the house that can be adjusted by the piers. Otherwise you're only getting a warranty on what the contractor piered. Don't think that you can just get a small section repaired and then your house is warrantied forever for any foundation problems.
That repair solves that problem but it doesn't solve if there's ever a problem in a different spot.
So say the repair company only piered six exterior piers and later something inside moves, they can't fix it from the piers they did before. They're gonna have to come in and add more piers to be able to fix it.
Every foundation company is different but I use a general 10 foot rule.
Give or take, if your problem is more than 10 feet away from the piers they fixed, they can't fix the problem from those piers. Even if it's less than 10 feet, the problem could be emanating from a place that is more than 10 feet away, it's just affecting less than 10 feet.
So they have to actually go out to the further spot to be able to fix it and then maybe they also have to adjust some of the piers on the warranty.
Just don’t be under the illusion that having them fix some piers means your entire foundation is covered no matter what.
A Word (or Two) About Reviews
As far as reviews go, they are a good indicator about the company you are researching. No doubt about it.
But, it’s important to keep in mind there is not a company or person in the world who is perfect. It’s just not possible.
So don’t look for perfection — 5 star ratings across the board. It’s not a bad thing to see a bad review or two or even a couple complaints on the BBB. Nobody can please everybody. Any company in business long enough is going to run into problems.
What matters is if there’s a pattern.
When it comes to the bad reviews, what you want to look at is the overall situation. Was the customer being reasonable and the contractor refused to do something about it? Or was the customer being unreasonable and holding the contractor to an unrealistic expectation and the customer retaliated with a bad review?
And these days reviews are being used as extortion. “If you don’t do what I want, I’m going to give you a bad review!” Not to mention fake reviews being left by a competing company.
It is a bit of a he said/she said situation when it comes to a legitimate negative review. But you can see if and how the contractor responded to the bad review to get an idea of what happened.
Reviews are a double edged sword. They are good but they can also be abused.
And on the flip side, if there are zero negative reviews, that’s not necessarily a good thing either. It could be a case of fake reviews or companies incentivizing good reviews with prizes or discounts (which is against most review site policies).
But the bottom line is you should never make your decision based on JUST the reviews. You want the whole picture which is why I recommend looking at a number of different factors when choosing the right company for you.
Foundation Repair Warranties
Back to warranties. The warranty is only as good as the contractor doing the work.
What do I mean by that?
Companies in the service industry are upping their warranties. The industry standard is a couple of months to a year. A long time ago, foundation companies had lifetime warranties. But what good is a lifetime warranty if the company doesn’t honor it?
I once bought a house that had foundation work done by the previous owner. After I bought the house, I could never get a hold of anyone at the company to transfer the warranty much less have them out to do any kind of work on the foundation.
So what I mean by the warranty only being as good as the contractor:
- If they don't answer your calls, the warranty means nothing.
- If they won't come out there and do anything, the warranty means nothing.
- If they come out and they blame it on something else, the warranty means nothing.
What you're looking for is honesty and integrity. Can you trust them to answer the phone if there is a problem and honor what they’ve said and actually do something about it? That's a big deal.
How many times have you had a problem with someone who ignored your calls? How many times have you known somebody else who's experienced that? And I will tell you, in the contracting world, in the service business, that is a huge huge deal.
Unfortunately a lot of contractors ignore people's phone calls when there's a problem.
I don't personally put a lot of stock in warranty. Because here's another thing I believe about warranties.
I don't need a warranty on my work to stand behind anything that we did wrong.
If I find out 10 years from now that we did something wrong originally and it took that long for us to find it out, I don't need a warranty to stand behind my company’s work and do something about it. To fix it at no charge to the homeowner.
With good quality contractors, it's not about warranty. It doesn't matter. You go with a good quality contractor, and you can trust that they're not gonna ignore your problems, warranty or no warranty.
Beware of Foundation Companies Who Do This
Another thing I want to address quickly is foundation repair company addresses and names.
Now there are several companies, especially in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, that have similar names. They are independent companies and don't have anything to do with each other. They just happen to have similar names.
But there is also the reverse of that situation. You've got two or three or four completely different names but they are actually the same company.
In this case, look at the addresses. Sometimes three different foundation companies have the exact same address or something really, really close to that. It’s probably the same company masquerading under different names.
So if you want to get six estimates and you call a company with three different names, you're really only getting one company's opinion out of those three.
Buying and Selling a Home with Foundation Problems
A quick word about buying and selling a home and potential foundation issues.
Foundation work is often done when a house is being sold. And most sellers don’t want to have to do anything they don’t have to do.
Now I have a different philosophy about this. I believe if everyone selling a house approached it from the buyer’s perspective, we would live in a different world. But unfortunately, I'm different and that's not what most people do.
Most people selling a house don’t want to have to do anything. And if they do, only what they have to do. And some people do their best to cover up anything that does need to be done. And then others who will do something go with the absolute cheapest options possible.
So just know, if you’re buying a house and the seller did any foundation work, they probably went with the cheapest option available, probably press piling piers (read more about pier types here.)
And this means it is extremely likely you are going to have to deal with it on the back side.
The truth of the matter is, all piers are like that. Nobody can guarantee a pier for life to never move again. They just can't. (It's just much more likely with the press pilings.)
Remember What is Important
I hope that this helps you if you’re looking for a foundation repair company.
There are a lot of factors to take into account.
Price is not everything and actually it shouldn't be anything. In fact, price is way down the list.
Getting it done right is the most important thing. Cause if you don't do it right at first, it's going cost you a whole lot more down the road.
So take your time. Go through the process. Keeping everything I’ve said in mind, you should be able to find a company you can trust.
All advice and opinions on DFW Foundation Repair are my own, Shawn Bucklew owner of In-House Plumbing Company, based on 20+ years of working with foundation repair companies.