Surely you have noticed that work proposals, warranty contracts, and service agreements for foundation repairs (and many other contracted repair work) are filled with legal language that is hard to read and difficult to understand.
C’mon, admit it – most of the time you don’t even read (let alone fully understand) these documents, do you? Most people just sort of glance over them and get to the bottom where you check that box or sign your name, amirite?
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we understand the stress and anxiety that comes from decoding difficult legal language on top of the frustration you might already be feeling if you need warranty work on a costly home repair project. After 35+ years in business in the Brazos Valley, our goal is to offer less stress and confusion, and more transparency to the foundation repair process with homeowner resources (like this article).
We will cover the main misconceptions and misunderstandings homeowners often have about lifetime warranties in this article. We cut the confusing *legal-ese* and discuss what warranties mean and don’t mean, leaving you more prepared for handling warranty work should it come up down the line.
Top 10 Misunderstandings About Lifetime Warranties
This is not breaking news: People tend to get upset when they need warranty work and things don’t turn out the way they were expecting.
You have to pay when you didn’t think you would. You have to get more work done that was not done before. You might not be able to get the warranty work done at all. Yes, these things are very understandably upsetting.
This upset usually comes from some common misunderstandings about what is being promised, what is being warrantied, and what some things even mean.
Here are the major misconceptions we run across when it comes to warranty work for foundation repairs. Here’s what people think that isn’t quite right:
- Warranty work is always free
- Lifetime means forever
- Warranty work is available for new work
- Warranties always cover the entire home
- Warranties cover every situation
- Nothing I do can negate the warranty
- I don’t have to do anything to make sure my warranty remains in place
- I will never need more foundation repairs
- Arbitration sounds like a fair deal
- There are industry standards for foundation repair warranties.
Now we will explore the real truths behind these misconceptions . . .
Misconception 1: Warranty Work Is Always Free
Many people will read or see the words “warranty” and think it means *free* but this is simply not the case.
I think that if any business meant that their warranty work was free, then they would probably just use the word *FREE* because that would certainly catch more attention.
I never really thought about this before, but how does the dictionary actually define a warranty? Let’s look that up now:
3: a usually written guarantee of the integrity of a product and of the maker’s responsibility for the repair or replacement of defective parts
So, nowhere in this definition does it say there will be no cost. A warranty is basically a guideline for what will be done when there is an issue and defines the company’s responsibility.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but many times warranties will still cost money.
Most warranties, including ours here at Anchor, have timelines where warranty work has no cost, and then some cost after a certain amount of time. It’s like this with car warranties too.
Misconception 2: Lifetime Means Forever
The term *lifetime* is also a bit confusing. Whose lifetime are we talking about here? The house, the company, the actual piers, or the person who bought the foundation repairs? What if the person who purchased the foundation repairs dies next year? What if the company goes out of business? Then what?
Arguments could be made in many different ways about what amount of time constitutes a lifetime and what entity the lifetime applies to. It’s just problematic and undefinable from the start.
Most companies that say “lifetime” (including Anchor) means as long as the house is there.
If that’s the case, then warranty work should be available to you on the original repairs – but it likely won’t be free. Keep in mind also that other issues could develop beyond the original area of settlement and that’s not included in the warranty.
I feel like I should repeat that last part: it likely won’t be free and other issues could develop beyond the original area of settlement and that’s not included in the warranty. See Misconception 3 for more info.
The word “lifetime” is a fancy way of offering comfort when no one can honestly guarantee that all things will last. We’re all just living one big experiment here. Slab foundations have only been around since the 1950s and that’s really not that long ago.
No one knows how much a lifetime will be whether it’s for a person, a home, or a business. It’s admittedly not the best word to use, companies probably shouldn’t use it but they do – even us. People probably shouldn’t put too much stock in the word, but they do.
Alas, it’s out there. No one can clearly define how long a lifetime is, so it’s best to take it with a grain of salt and keep in mind all the misconceptions below that could change the situation.
Misconception 3: Warranty Work Available for New Work
Warranty work only applies to the specific foundation work previously done by the same company. Only those specific piers (or pilings) that they installed are covered by the warranty. The warranty is for the supports installed, not for the home as a whole.
Companies do not do warranty work on another company’s foundation repairs. If you want a different company to come out and fix something that another company did, that’s new work for the new company.
Companies also don’t consider something to be warranty work if it’s in a different area of the home than was originally worked on. If another part of the house has an issue that wasn’t there before, that’s a new issue and new work, not warranty work. If more problems develop beyond the reach of the original repairs, that’s a new project.
The original foundation repairs were done to rectify the original areas of foundation settlement and that’s the only area covered by a warranty. I’m not sure I can say it any other way.
Misconception 4: Warranties Cover the Entire Home
Most foundation repairs are not done on the entire house. The repairs are usually only done to specifically address the foundation issue in the area that was settling or moving. Most people don’t want to get or pay for any more foundation repair than they need at the time.
To illustrate this, let’s say you need your oil changed in your car so you get just your oil changed. You don’t proceed to also get your transmission, brake, power steering, and all other possible fluids all changed also, do you? You only fix the thing that is needed.
Following that same line, if something goes wrong with your transmission after your oil change, do you expect your oil change warranty to cover that transmission problem? You shouldn’t.
The warranty only covers the area of the home where work was done, not the other parts where no work was done. Seems pretty logical, right? It’s kinda funny how often people seem to think that their whole home is covered when work wasn’t done everywhere.
Don’t get me wrong, we’d love to do whole home foundation repair supporting the entirety of a structure every time. We would make a lot more money if we insisted on adding full foundation support under every home. But that’s usually quite far out of people’s *cost comfort zone* and often not necessary.
The only time a warranty would cover an entire house is when the entire structure gets foundation support. That means the entire perimeter of the home as well as complete interior foundation repairs under the middle of the home. Then your whole house would be covered by a lifetime foundation repair warranty. To be clear, this rarely happens.
Misconception 5: Warranties Cover Every Situation
There are almost always “terms and conditions” in a warranty agreement. This means that certain terms need to be met, and certain conditions need to be in place for the warranty to be honored. In other words, warranties do not apply in every situation.
Some situations will not be allowed. The terms and conditions will list exclusions, aka things that won’t be covered by the warranty.
For example, many foundation repair agreements exclude the situation where under-slab plumbing leaks develop after repairs. Or they might stipulate that you have to get a hydrostatic pressure test after repairs to prove that there is no leaking for warranty coverage to be valid later.
I think the main point I am trying to make here is that you need to read and understand your terms and conditions. If you fail to meet the terms or conditions, your warranty coverage will likely be voided. Ask questions if you don’t understand something in your contract.
Misconception 6: Nothing I Do Can Negate the Warranty
This goes back to the terms and conditions. If you do something specifically listed as a “not to do” in the contract, then it would void your warranty.
If you are mad at your original contractor and then have another contractor come out and do other foundation repairs, that would very likely void your original warranty.
I really can’t emphasize enough to not just sign the contract without fully understanding what you can and can’t do later on.
Misconception 7: I Don’t Have To Do Anything To Make Sure My Warranty Remains In Place
You might have some requirements to ensure your warranty stays valid. Some foundation repair companies require you to check for under-slab leaks on your own by obtaining a hydrostatic pressure test after the repairs. If you don’t get the test and retain the documentation from it, then it could void your warranty later.
Some foundation repair contractors will offer a transferable warranty to new owners of the home, but you have to make a written request for the transfer. Many contracts will have a timeframe requirement of 30, 60, or 90 days to make your transfer request.
If you don’t make sure you meet the warranty transfer requirements, then the foundation repair company does not have to honor the warranty. Some will, but some will stick to their contract as written. It’s technically not something that you are entitled to if you don’t follow the rules.
Sorry, I don’t make the rules. I’m just telling you that you need to follow what it says in your contract (and document it if necessary) if you want to retain your warranty rights.
Misconception 8: I Will Never Need More Foundation Repairs
As much as everyone would like for this the be the case, sometimes you just need more work done. Expansive clay soil is tricky and no one can predict when or if a home will experience foundation settlement. If you had to get foundation repair once on a section of your home, you could need more later.
You see when a foundation repair inspection happens, the inspector can only assess your home’s current situation. They see how it has settled and where, and recommend repairs to address that issue. They cannot predict future issues, future weather conditions, or any future situations that your home might experience.
There’s no such thing as a “fortune teller of foundations”. You’d be surprised how often people seem to have this expectation that a foundation repair contractor can somehow magically prevent situations that haven’t even happened yet.
Homes can settle again. Soil and the environment around your home are a “living system” that is constantly reacting to changes in moisture levels and climate conditions. Foundation repair can fix your current settlement situation, but they can’t warranty that nothing will ever happen again or that another part of your home won’t be affected later.
The warranty helps a homeowner to have reduced costs when homes settle more in the same area. Warranties do not cover other areas of the home that weren’t worked on (see Misconception 4), and warranty work after a certain amount of time is not typically free (see Misconception 1).
Misconception 9: Arbitration Sounds Like a Fair Deal
This is going to be a hard one to explain, but I’ll do my best. Many foundation repair contractors indicate that mandatory and binding “arbitration” will be used in the case of any dispute or lawsuit.
They might even list all these laws or reference the American Arbitration Association. Citing laws and associations sounds like it’s something that’s there to protect you. But once you understand what all this means in a real foundation repair situation, it doesn’t sound like that fair of a deal.
To win an arbitration, you would have to make sure you:
- Did everything required in the contract and be able to prove it (Misconception 7),
- Didn’t do anything you weren’t supposed to do either (Misconception 6).
- Understand that the only issues covered are for the parts of the home that were repaired, not other parts of the home that were not repaired or a non-warrantied situation (Misconceptions 3, 4, and 5).
In other words, you would need to make sure that your case is not built on any of the misconceptions we’ve talked about so far. If you base your lawsuit or dispute on something that wasn’t covered by the contract in the first place, you won’t win.
If you lose an arbitration – you have to pay the other party’s costs, including their legal fees and perhaps interest. This would be in addition to your own legal fees. Once you start to add all that up, it could cost many times more than your original foundation problem. And don’t forget, you would still have an unresolved foundation issue after you lose the arbitration.
The cost to a consumer of a lost arbitration can exceed the cost of original repairs and well exceed the cost of whatever you had a big problem with paying for warranty work in the first place. If a company is proposing arbitration, it might not turn out very well for you once it’s all said and done.
Misconception 10: There Are Industry Standards for Foundation Repair Warranties
The foundation repair industry is not a regulated industry in the State of Texas. There are no rules about how a foundation repair contractor repairs your home. There are no rules about how a foundation repair company does business. There is no licensing or certification that you must maintain to do foundation repair.
Foundation repair company terms and conditions vary and their contracts can say whatever they want.
In other words, there are no industry standards that everyone goes by or rules that everyone follows. Just because Foundation Repair Company A does XYZ, doesn’t mean that other companies do the same thing.
If you are getting multiple bids or second opinions for foundation repairs, don’t assume that everyone’s contract is going to be about the same. Each company could have totally different terms and conditions.
Just make sure you read and understand the contract or proposal from the company you intend to do business with. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
On second thought, ask questions even if you DO completely understand the contract. Sometimes, the kind of responses you get from the company could raise red flags for you depending on how they answer, handle, and navigate your questions–especially about warranties.
About the Anchor Foundation Repair Lifetime Warranty
We try to keep our terms and conditions fairly simple. Here are the highlights:
- Lifetime transferable warranty for slab foundation repairs,
- First 5 years free pier adjustments, reduced cost per pier after 5 years,
- We do a hydrostatic test for you to check for under-slab leaks,
- The warranty stays with the property address,
- Warranty only covers the piers we installed and parts of the home that we worked on,
- And we DO NOT use arbitration.
Many companies out there try to freak you out with dire warnings and difficult contracts, it’s hard to know who to trust. Anchor Foundation Repair has 35-year ties to the Brazos Valley community, we confidently stand behind our lifetime, no-hassle warranty on all the drilled piers we install to support your slab.