Choosing a house leveling contractor can be a little intimidating. What should you look for in selecting a company? Are there any good questions you should ask them that would let you know or not if they do quality work, or are trustworthy, reputable, honest, etc., etc.?
Why yes, as a matter of fact, there are some good questions to help you find out all of this . . .
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we know that homeowners are often wary and skeptical about any repair contractors. But after 35+ years of repairing foundations in Bryan, College Station, and the surrounding Brazos Valley communities, we can suggest questions to help you screen and select a foundation repair company to level your crawl space foundation home, no matter where you live.
This article will go over 15 information-gathering questions to ask a prospective crawl space foundation repair contractor and explain why these questions (and their answers) are important so that you can select the right company to repair your pier and beam foundation.
Just to clarify, we are talking about crawl space foundations like pier and beam and block and base homes here. House leveling is a term used to describe crawl space foundation repair, which is totally different from slab foundation repair.
These questions are not really in any particular order of importance but are organized from broader to more specific, and grouped according to question type. Before we get to the questions, you need just a *tiny bit* of background on this repair industry.
About the Foundation Repair/House Leveling Industry
One thing to keep in mind about foundation repair as well as house leveling is that it is an unregulated industry in the State of Texas. Your hairdresser or barber has more educational and licensing requirements than a foundation repairman! There is no stipulated formal training, no requirements for insurance or bonding, and no industry standards outlined by the state.
So, anyone with some cinderblocks and jack can call himself a house leveler if he wants to (not sure why anyone would do that but . . . you never know). Not that this is a rampant problem or anything, but it’s just that the industry as a whole does not have rules and standards coming from the government or other regulating agencies.
So, instead of relying on some kind of certification, score, or outside regulatory body to ensure that the house leveling company is legit and knows what they are doing, ya kinda have to rely on your own investigation and impressions to hire the right company.
Asking *all the right questions* will really help you as a homeowner to sort through your choices and ensure that you hire a trustworthy company.
General Questions About the House Leveling Company
These 4 questions are just general ones about the business itself, like who owns it and how long have they been in business. You might be able to find some answers to these questions in an online search. We recommend using the Better Business Bureau website because it shows ownership, headquarters, and years in business information.
1. How Long Have You Been in Business?
Since there is no official training or education process for house leveling in the State of Texas, house leveling is an unregulated industry as we mentioned earlier. If you can’t rely on some type of pedigree, diploma, license, or certification, you have to rely on history. Longevity in business is an indicator of experience and trust in the community.
A long-standing company is more likely to have honored warranty claims in the past and will continue to honor them in the future. Know-how and good business practices go hand in hand when a business is successful. Not that a new-ish company can’t be good, just know that staying-power is not established because they don’t have much of a track record.
There are also lone-wolf guys out there who don’t run a formal business but might do some home repairs freelance style. Decide if you want a company that is officially *in business* or if you’re okay with a contractor who seems to be doing things on the side and there’s no public track record to support their business history.
2. Are You Headquartered Locally?
You might not care about how local a business is right now. But if there is a problem or issue after the repair, you’ll want to be able to easily contact the company for help with a post-repair issue or warranty request.
Being in a smaller community, we see this a lot with various construction-related industries. Most recently, with roofers and hail damage. Some company shows up in town after a hail event and is offering *amazing deals* on roof replacements. But what happens later if there is an issue with your new roof and the company is nowhere to be found by then?
Look for a local, physical address — not just a P.O. Box either. An established address is an indicator that the company isn’t as likely to pick up and disappear when you need them for warranty work down the line.
3. Are You Licensed and Insured?
This is a bit of a trick question to see how a company answers it. As we touched on earlier, there IS no license that gets issued for house leveling contractors in Texas. (We don’t know what other states do, so you should check on that also.)
Anyone that says they are licensed is either unfamiliar with the foundation repair industry here or they are using words in a misleading way.
As for insurance, you would probably appreciate a contractor having insurance. These policies are for the protection of the homeowner. Technically though, insurance is not required in this unregulated industry either.
So if a company chooses to have insurance that protects homeowners, it’s a positive sign that they are concerned with your needs. Just remember that it means that your costs could be higher for the repairs since insurance costs increase overhead for a company.
4. Do You Offer a Warranty or Service Agreement? Terms?
Despite any best house leveling efforts, homes may still move and need adjustments in the future. Anyone that says you will never need anything ever, ever again is not being honest.
Not all warranties are created equal. It’s important to ask for warranty terms and conditions in writing before signing any contracts or proposals. Look for information on the warranty claim process and exclusions. Be wary of any company that requires mandatory arbitration.
A great question to ask is, “How many warranty claims do you do per year?” You’ll want to hear that they do them and that the person answering has confidence in the info they offer.
Questions About House Leveling Regulations
Just because the industry as a whole has no particular regulations doesn’t mean there are no rules whatsoever. There are still municipality rules with permitting and reporting requirements that you might contend with.
5. Do They Need to Pull a Permit for Crawl Space House Leveling?
Before you ask a house leveling contractor if they have to pull a permit, contact your city/municipality and find out the right answer. So you already know the answer for your location before you ask them the question to see if they get it right.
Most cities will have some permitting regulations, whereas smaller towns might not. Country properties will likely not have any sort of permitting requirements. If permits are required, *thems are the rules* and your contractor should be conscientious enough to follow them.
6. Is an Engineer Report Required for House Leveling?
Most cities and towns do not require structural engineer reports to work on crawl space foundations. Two possible exceptions in Texas are for the Houston and DFW areas. Those municipalities require engineering reports for slab foundation repair so it’s possible that those areas could require engineering reports for crawl space homes too. But in most places in Texas, engineering reports will likely not be required.
What you can ask a prospective repair company is if they know if an engineer report is required. If the answer is yes, ask the contractor if they happen to offer the service or have any recommendations of who to use.
If you have to secure an engineer’s report to move forward with house leveling, this will be something that you pay for separately. Between $500 to $900 is the average cost to obtain a residential engineering report.
House Leveling Questions About Previous Work and Workers
You’re checking to see how a house leveling contractor manages their business and repair crews with these questions, as well as what kind of experience they have in the local area.
7. Have You Done Similar Jobs in My Area? References?
You would hope that a local foundation repair company has done work nearby and has experience with the homes in your area. Soil conditions are localized and even just a few miles away the soil properties and makeup can be different to work with. Ask if the work crew that might be working at your home has experience in the immediate area.
Every contractor should be proud of their work and happy to provide you with a list of references. You might wonder why (red flag) if they can’t seem to comfortably refer you to past customers. Remember too that if they do give you a reference list, it’s going to include only their very happiest of customers. So, be sure to check their online web presence and information for a range of reviews to further validate your impressions.
8. How Long Have Workers Been With You? How Many Per Crew?
These might sound like easy questions, and they are for someone who knows their employees. A house leveling contractor should have quick and confident answers to these questions.
An experienced crew that has been around for a long time means the people repairing your foundation have extensive knowledge and are trusted by their employer to do a great job for you.
Repairing crawl space foundations is difficult, dirty work that also requires skills and know-how that can only be learned through experience on the job since there is no mandated training and licensure. There’s a lot *resting* on your foundation (you know . . . like you, your family, and everything you own) so you want to know that the repair team has been around the block a time or two.
9. Do You Subcontract Out Any of the Work at My Home?
The use of subcontractors vs. employees is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can invite delays, miscommunication, and unchecked quality of work.
Find out if your prospective contractor has an experienced in-house team of employees that are training-verified, or if the contractor prefers to sub out a portion of their work to non-employees. Ask about their relationship with the subcontractor and how they know that those doing the work will be monitored for quality.
Questions on House Leveling Methods, Materials, and Procedures
These are method and procedure-related questions. Finding out how a prospective house leveling contractor does things will help you better understand what is happening at your home.
10. What Type of Support Piers and Materials Do You Use? Pros? Cons?
A house leveling contractor should be able to give you some detail on the types of piers they like to use for crawl space repairs and why they choose them. Most contractors will use similar materials but you never know unless you ask what their preferred materials are.
Ask about what type of shims they use to secure the home and see what kind of detail they provide. Ask if there are any other options that they see used in crawl space homes.
A reputable contractor can be proud of their work but should also be able to discuss its drawbacks and comfortably explain their chosen material preferences.
11. Do You Test the Plumbing After Raising the Home?
When a settled home is raised, your under-slab plumbing can be “raised” along with the structure of the home, and this can cause under-home leaks or compromise your drain pipes. You may have even had a leak already that you didn’t know about that occurred when the home settled.
Leaks can happen under a home on the way up, as well as on the way down!
Many companies don’t concern themselves with your plumbing situation, they’re just there to fix the foundation and that’s it.
The hydrostatic plumbing test procedure is an easy way to verify that your plumbing has no issues or identify a problem to fix if there is one. Find out if the plumbing will be tested and what steps need to be taken to get the plumbing repaired.
If you are going through the trouble of getting your house leveled, you probably don’t want to leave a leak under your home afterward that can in turn cause more issues with your crawl space if left unchecked. Also, plumbing leaks can even void any warranty claims so it’s important to be proactive on this issue.
12. How Do You Reach the Crawl Space for Repairs?
There are two ways to get at the problem in a crawl space foundation. Does the contractor usually do house leveling work from underneath the home or by cutting through the floors?
Most house leveling can be done by crawling underneath the home. If you need new or additional piers or if sill beams are compromised, many of these repairs can be done by accessing the crawl space from outside your living space.
There are cases when the subfloor is damaged and the contractor can only cut out the floors from inside the home to do the repairs. Some contractors will cut through the floors no matter what because it requires less crawling around in the dirt even if they could access the crawl space another way.
Ask the prospective contractor to explain what parts of the foundation seem to be damaged and how they would choose the approach the problem if there is a choice.
13. How Do You Protect Landscaping and Clean-Up After the Job?
House leveling can be an intrusive process to the areas outside your home in particular. Ask for details on how the repair crew will care for outside areas, control the mess, and clean up afterward.
Ask about any particular outdoor features that are of concern to you near the home, like trees or shrubs around the home, hardscaping, or even decor items. Find out if you need to move things out of the way yourself or if they plan to take care of some of this for you.
Questions About Your Particular House Leveling Project
So far, we’ve covered things that are very general about any house leveling project. These questions are about your home and your repair job in particular that you might want to know.
14. How Long Will My Job Take and When Can You Start?
Timing can be a big factor for some homeowners, especially if you are trying to sell your home or a major holiday is coming up that you will be hosting at your home. There is a wide range of repair times from 2 days to 2 months. You will want to ask how long the house leveling will take for your home.
Find out from your prospective contractor what can affect your timeline and make sure that everything about the timing will meet your needs.
15. How Much Will You Raise My Home and When Do You Stop?
Many homes were not perfectly level when they were built and some irregularities are to be expected. Trying to raise a home to a perfectly level position can cause other problems with doors, trim, walls, and finishes.
House leveling is a bit of an art more than a science in this regard. Some homes need to be raised several inches, while others require them to be raised until a door works, and some are stabilized in place but not raised at all to take into consideration the cosmetic factors around your home or its degree of existing remodeling.
Ask the prospective contractor what tool or sign will be used as a guide in the raising process. Be wary of sophisticated level measuring tools that do not take functionality and appearance into account when lifting the home. The goal should be for things to work right, not necessarily to reach a 100% perfectly level position.
Consider Talking to More Than One House Leveling Company
You’re taking time to fully vet a foundation repair company, so your home must be important to you. In addition to asking a prospective house leveling contractor these 15 questions, there’s more you can consider to make sure you find the right match for your needs.
That might mean talking to more than one contractor if the answers to all these questions or the repair bid does not leave you feeling confident. Getting a second opinion can help solidify your choices.
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we want what is best for you and your home. After doing business in the Brazos Valley since 1985, we find that impartial information and 100% transparency serves the community and builds the most trust in our business. We don’t even mind if you want to get a second opinion.
In fact, here’s an article all about second opinions that you can check out because sometimes they are just what you need, “Foundation Repair Second Opinions: When You Should Get One.”