“It is consumer ignorance and the lack of any reasonable redress that allows home builders and foundation repair contractors to offer sub-standard products and services to homeowners in Texas,” stated Martin Dawson of Dawson Foundation Repair. In a wide ranging conversation about home building and foundation problems in the Texas market Mr. Dawson was a wealth of information about what he sees as deficiencies in both industries.
“Look, you don’t have to be a math genius to understand the basic problem. It starts with home builders who build ‘minimally functional foundations’ to save money on building costs. The foundations are not thick enough or reinforced enough to resist the forces of soil movement over time. If the forces of soil movement are X pounds per square inch then home builders should build concrete slab foundations that can resist these forces. They could easily build thicker and stronger home foundations that can support and resist soil movement forces that are 1.5X or 2X for modest increases in cost. If they did that much of the foundation repair industry in Texas would be gone in 20 or 30 years,” added Mr. Dawson.
It seems strange that an owner of a foundation contractor business would be advocating building changes that could significantly reduce his business volume. But Mr. Dawson claims he feels the financial pain of the homeowner every time he does repair and foundation leveling work on a “minimally functional foundation.”
Mr. Dawson claims that in the past he would see many home foundations showing significant damage at the 25 and 30 years of age mark. Now he claims that home builders are constructing slab foundations that are LESS able to resist nature’s forces of soil movement. “Today we are seeing home foundations with significant damage at the 10 and 15 years mark. And some are showing foundation damage at 5, 6, and 7 years of age, something we almost never saw in the past. It is really simple – less concrete and less reinforcement results in weaker foundations,” added Mr. Dawson.
The second part of the Texas homeowners’ nightmares is the foundation repair industry itself. According to Mr. Dawson, the majority of foundation repair methods utilized in Texas are not up to the task. These are low cost, under-engineered repair methods based on pushing concrete cylinders into the ground. Mr. Dawson points out that these repair methods are based on hope. “Well, the foundation contractor is hoping that the hydraulic jacks push the concrete cylinders into a straight, vertical column. Sometimes that happens, and many times it does not. If they skew off at an angle then they have little weight bearing capacity and therefore little to no value as a support structure. Even if the contractor could ‘beat the odds’ and push all the concrete cylinders of all columns in a straight vertical line then the homeowner is still getting an underperforming repair system because the factor of safety is equal to one. That means the repair system cannot support any additional weight. So as soon as the homeowner has a big party, or buys new furniture, or parks a car in a garage, the low cost repair method will begin to fail because of the added weight,” stated Mr. Dawson.
Mr. Dawson feels homeowners deserve better products. He believes they should be buying new homes with stronger foundations that will be able to resist decades of soil movement. And he believes that if a home foundation needs releveling and additional underground support then the support system should be sturdy, monolithic (one-piece), and able to bear 5 or more times the required weight (a higher factor of safety). But he doubts this will change anytime soon because of the overall lack of consumer knowledge about home building and foundation repair and the lack of legal redress available to Texas homeowners.