Home Foundation Stabilization vs. Leveling: The Pros and Cons

Tom has heard that foundation repair can cause damage to the inside of your home and then you will have to do a bunch of repairs on top of the foundation repair. Tom is hesitant.

Richard has finished an HGTV style remodel and his wife has been proudly showing it off to their friends and family. A month later, he sees walls cracking inside and trim pulling away from the home on the outside. Richard is worried.

Harriet has always lived in a home with a bit of a tilt, she doesn’t mind it much and there are no outward signs of foundation issues. But, she has recently taken up indoor roller skating and always ends up at one end of the house and it is starting to bother her. Harriet is thinking maybe she should look into repairs.

At Anchor Foundation Repair, we want you to make a good and informed decision about the needs of your home and feel confident in the choice you make to either level or stabilize your home. Most good things in life start with a solid foundation (see what I did there?). This saying certainly holds true when it comes to your home.

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After assessing and repairing over 4,000 homes in our community over the past 35 years, we have expertise in the field of foundation repair in the Bryan-College Station and the greater Brazos Valley Area. It is our mission to not only repair your foundation using the most thorough and long-lasting repair techniques but to also educate you along the way.

Both home stabilization and leveling are included in the services we provide. Each method has its merits and we are not promoting one over the other, but showing that there are situations where one could be a better choice over the other.

Every Tom, Dick (psst . . . that’s short for Richard), and Harriet reading this might benefit from knowing the difference between home stabilization and leveling by looking at the pros and cons of each method of foundation repair and what they are best for. 

This article will help all of these fictional people (and you!) feel like they know what the best option is for their home.

What is Leveling?

Leveling a home, what most people think of as “foundation repair”, is raising the part of a settled home back to its originally constructed elevation and as close to level as possible. The goal with leveling is to restore the functionality of doors and windows, return trim to proper placement, and bring cracks in the walls back together. 

bottle jack used to level a home
Bottle jack used to raise the home to level.

Our friend Tom should not be hesitant about foundation repair because it will improve these problems, not make them worse or cause further damage.

Leveling is Best for . . .

Many people will choose this as the best option for their home and there are some specific scenarios where leveling is the way to go.

  1. A homeowner who wants their home returned to level because they can feel the tilt or unlevel portions and want it fixed. Harriet’s home fits this description.
  2. A homeowner who is annoyed or embarrassed by the cosmetic symptoms of foundation damage in their home and wants these problems to go away.
  3. A homeowner who is concerned about the functionality and performance of their home and wants it to be in its best condition.
  4. A homeowner who is planning to remodel or build an addition to the home soon and knows that it is better to fix the foundation before the other renovations begin.

Pros of Leveling

  • Restores all functionality to the foundation as well as doors, windows, trim, etc.
  • Removes embarrassment, worry, doubt, and frustration about your home’s working order and cosmetic appearance
  • Corrects the underlying source of symptoms rather than band-aiding the individual signs you see around the home

Cons of Leveling

  • Leveling can be expensive, messy, and takes time to repair
  • Leveling can place plumbing at risk for separation during the raising process, resulting in extra costs for possible tunneling and plumbing repair

What is Home Stabilization?

Stabilizing a home means adding support where needed to hold a part of your foundation right where it is to keep it from sinking further. If you like more industry-sounding stuff, it’s installing piers under and around the lowest section of the home to prevent further settling. 

Either way we say it, stabilization equals holding the house where it’s at, but not raising it up to level.

A foundation repair professional would use the same number of supports under the home for stabilization as for leveling. So the cost per pier installation is about the same. But the work would cost a little less because the crew would not be raising the home to level or doing other finishing work. Fewer steps in the process equal less cost.

At each pier location, your home would be held in place with shims at its current position. If leveling were desired later, this could be done with the pier framework placed during a stabilization job.

crew working at a home
Both leveling and stabilization will include this step of digging at identified pier locations.

Home Stabilization is Best for . . .

You may be wondering why anyone would choose stabilization over leveling, but there are home situations that might warrant this choice. Here are three scenarios where stabilization might be your best option.

  1. An already remodeled home where you don’t want to damage extensive work that was just done. Like Richard and his recent remodel, his wife would not be happy about having more repair work messing up their wow-factor renovation.
  2. A home foundation that has tilted but not cracked and has no typical symptoms of foundation issues i.e. cracked walls, misaligned doors or windows, or separating trim work. Harriet’s home would fit this description IF it wasn’t bothering her.
  3. An addition was installed on an already unlevel area of your home. One part cannot be leveled without ruining the other because they become interconnected during the build-out. Also, repair points on the original home can become inaccessible due to the addition build, making it impossible to correct levelness.

Pros of Stabilization

  • Protects a recent remodel from damage
  • Prevents further movement (if it happens) in the future
  • Costs slightly less than leveling
  • Takes less time to repair due to less work/steps needed
  • Allows for leveling to be done later if desired or needed later

Cons of Stabilization

  • The home will not be level – this is kind of a big one
  • Future support might not be needed, it is only a “just in case”

An unlevel home is a big con because ultimately, the problem is not fully fixed and could still need to be raised and leveled later on. With stabilization your home will be safe, but doesn’t totally prevent the need for future or more extensive work.

The biggest con for us about stabilization work is that it’s not nearly as much fun! The leveling part of foundation repair is kind of our favorite, but alas . . .  sometimes stabilization is the best choice for your home.

Is there ever a time that the choice is clear?

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Foundation repair first, THEN remodel.

In a perfect world, every homeowner that is thinking about remodeling in the future should do leveling first if you have foundation issues. At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have had dozens of calls after a remodel has taken place and it is a tough spot for a homeowner. 

The home should have been leveled first but wasn’t. This results in stabilization being the only option but it is not optimal for the needs of the foundation.

Don’t paint yourself into a corner (that’s a remodel joke) and leave yourself with only one option. A better plan of attack would be to save for and complete the foundation repair, and then save for and complete the remodel. Don’t risk ruining a beautiful renovation with further foundation failure symptoms.

Should You Choose Stabilization or Leveling for your Home?

All homeowners have different goals and needs while living in their home and the choice is ultimately yours when it comes to selecting stabilization or leveling. There is no wrong answer most of the time, with the exception being the one mentioned above about remodeling.

“We are going to help you think through this and help you make the decision you feel most comfortable with. Our goal is never to pressure a homeowner into repairs they are not ready for or don’t align with their needs. I might even suggest that waiting or not doing the work is what I would choose for myself if it were my home.”

Craig Tripp – President, Owner, CEO, Foundation Repair Extraordinaire

Ask yourself the following questions and review the answers:

  • Is everything in working order around the home or are there things that don’t work right that you would like to see fixed? If you want to see things fixed to working order, leveling is your best choice.
  • How much do the symptoms of foundation damage bother me around the home? Do I ever feel annoyed, embarrassed, or dissatisfied with my home and worry about how long it will hold up or worry about what others think? If you want to get rid of these feelings, leveling is your best choice.
  • Will there ever be a need to sell the home and a potential buyer might want it level rather than just stabilized? If selling is in the future, a potential buyer would probably want to see it level.
  • Am I okay with a band-aid (then stabilization might be your best choice), or do I want to fix the underlying problem? Leveling will fix the underlying problem.
  • Are there plans for a future renovation or addition? Leveling would be the best first step. 
  • Am I trying to save money and get this done quickly? Stabilization would cost a little less and take less time.
  • Did I already complete a remodel or addition and don’t want to mess it up? Stabilization would be your best choice.
  • Are doors, windows, and trim all functioning properly but you want peace of mind that the foundation will not settle further? Stabilization will work for you.

As you can see, there are just about as many reasons to choose to level as there are to choose stabilization. Are you feeling the foundation repair spirits whispering an answer to you yet?

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We are here to help!

We realize that even after reading this article, you still might want to talk to someone about this decision. Anchor Foundation Repair can begin with a FREE phone estimate and later conduct an In-Home Assessment to help you decide. Contact us today for an honest and fair evaluation of your foundation issues.