We know choosing a foundation repair contractor can be a bit unnerving. Today Olshans own Chris Cates takes some time to offer candid, firsthand insight on what you can expect. Chris has over 20 years of experience in the industry and has served as a member for the Houston chapter of the Texas Foundation Repair Association.
Currently, Chris focuses on commercial foundation services and foundation repair in San Antonio. Here’s what he had to say.
1. Years in Business and Experience. When you’re considering a foundation repair company it’s important to consider how long they have been in business.
Sometimes a company with a good management team and reputation can be sold. While the company still carries the same name, the seemingly ”good company” may not live up to expectations under new management.
It’s also important to be aware that some companies might state that they have ”100 years of experience with slab foundation problems”, when in fact, that number is the sum of combined years of experience of everyone at the company. And who knows, those ”years of experience” may even include the two yard dogs (calculated in dog years no less). This is what companies call “creative advertising”.
2. Is the company properly insured? Ask your foundation repair contractor for an insurance certificate and make sure it comes directly from the insurance provider.
If a company does not have insurance, or if it was cancelled, they could make a copy of an old deck page. The customer would never know the difference and should something happen on the job, you as a homeowner would not be covered!
3. What System to use - “Buttons and Whistles” Every company has them and you’ll get to hear about them from all types of salespeople. Truth is, a lot of different foundation repair methods work in our soils. The trick is to know what system works best for the conditions underneath your structure. When the sales talk stops and the work starts, it’s all about the installer. A company is only as good as the work they do today.
After installation it’s all about the warranty and the willingness of the company to honor it. Due to foundation settling some systems can fail. That’s why you get a warranty. If someone in the foundation crack repair industry says; ”we’ve never had a failure”, they either haven’t done much work or they’re speaking with a “forked tongue”.
4. Warranty. A warranty is only as good as the company that stands behind it. Ask around. The way a company handles warranty issues is important. It’s always easy to fix foundation damage when you’re getting a check for it. The real test is going back for warranty work when you don’t get paid.
Ask the company for a reference on a job that they have had to go back on to fix a warranty issue. Find out if past customers are still satisfied. And remember, ”lifetime warranty” means the lifetime of the company that did the work! If the company goes out of business, that Lifetime Warranty Certificate you’re holding makes for a good fire starter, but it won’t fix your foundation problems.
5. Price vs. Benefits. How does the company’s price compare to others in the industry? Often, cheap jobs are just that, cheap jobs! If you want a long-lasting repair from a reputable company the foundation repair cost will likely be higher.
But why pay more? Are you getting more for your money? You should be cautious when receiving a cheap estimate after a foundation inspection. Good foundation repair contractors don’t come cheap and you should expect more from a pricier company. What youre really looking for is VALUE. Value is the benefits minus the cost. If there are no benefits, only a cheap fix, chances are there is no value.
6. Trade Associations. Trade associations generally set standards and have rigorous rules of ethics to follow in order to remain a member. An example of this is the Foundation Repair Association Inc. It originated in Texas and is now a national organization and authority on cracked foundations. The Foundation Repair Association Inc. (FRAI) is a very good outlet for searching for a foundation repair company. All members must carry insurance and must be in good standing with the BBB with no unanswered complaints. The association is self-governed by its members and has a free arbitration system in place. There are also advertising guidelines that must be followed. Who better to keep a close eye on each other than the competition?
7. Salesperson’s Knowledge. Is the representative that shows up at your front door even knowledgeable about house leveling? How many years has he or she been doing foundation inspections?
Although the company they represent may be good, if the person evaluating your most important and usually most expensive investment, your home, was selling roofing or cars last week, you might not have the most knowledgeable person evaluating your homes needs. This often leads to problems. But look on the bright side, he or she may be able to discuss the options of a Super Duty Crew Cab with you.
8. Salesperson’s Certifications. Is your sales person properly trained? What type of training certification does he or she have? In-house schooling is not always enough. Does your salesperson have independent training? What about continuing education credit hours?
Many engineering firms offer classes and training on house leveling. The Foundation Repair Association has a CFRS (Certified Foundation Repair Specialist) program. To be a CFRS you have to be employed by a member of FRAI. You must have been in the slab crack repair business for at least two years. You must be of good moral standing and finally you must pass a test given by the FRAI with a score of at least 75% or better. You are also required to have at least eight continuing education hours (yearly) to maintain CFRS certification.
9. Reputation. Ask around, the best referral is a personal one and a reference list is only as good as the company putting it together. Even the worst companies with a ton of complaints in the industry can put together a nice reference list.
You can also check customer reviews with watchdog groups like the BBB or Angie’s List, but keep in mind that is important to consider the size of the company and the nature of each complaint.
The BBB will post complaints about a company on their website for the duration of three years. 6-7 complaints that were positively responded to on the BBB by a very large company that does 3,000 jobs a year may be a much better record than two negative reviews left unaddressed from a smaller company that only does 40 jobs a year.
10. ”If you can’t say something nice” Beware of salespeople that spend their time badmouthing the competition. Usually if a salesperson doesn’t have enough good things to say about their own company, they will use their time to downgrade the work of others.
Most of the time, the majority of the tales are not true. It always amazes me when a homeowner believes everything everyone says and takes it for gospel. Most people can see through this type of sales tactic and the salesperson will often lose credibility with the homeowner.
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