Originally published 4/19/19, updated 10/23/23
When you notice cracks in your foundation, leaning foundation walls, or signs of settling, your first reaction is to worry. A number of questions go through your mind. What’s causing the damage to your home? What will foundation repair cost? How do you find someone you can trust? These are all valid concerns, and you deserve to get the answers you need.
Acculevel is a family-owned and operated company that specializes in foundation repairs and waterproofing. Since our start in 1996, we’ve provided services for more than 35,000 homeowners throughout our service area. Our goal is to provide whole-home solutions to our customers, helping them preserve and protect their homes for years to come.
We believe everyone deserves a safe and healthy home and that you should be treated fairly and honestly. To that end, we’re going to explain the seven essential steps you should take when you’re looking for the best foundation repair company to address your home’s structural issues.
Step 1: Talk to People You Know
Word of mouth is one of the best ways to learn about trustworthy repair companies. Friends and neighbors who live in your area are a great resource. While soil properties can vary widely, it’s likely that people in your neighborhood have experienced some of the same issues you have.
Ask them if they’ve had similar problems and who they’ve worked with. Do they recommend them? Was it a positive experience? Take notes, and then move to Step Two.
If you’re new to the area or no one has needed the same kind of repairs, you’ll have to expand your search a bit. Contact your HOA or the realtor who sold you the home; chances are, one (or both!) will have a list of local contractors that they have used or worked with themselves.
Of course, you can always search for repair companies online. The only problem you may have in this instance is that search engines like Google and Bing are businesses. Companies pay to advertise their services, and these ads will show up at the top of your searches. There’s nothing wrong with advertising (everyone does it, including Acculevel), but it can skew your search results somewhat. Which is why step two is important…
Step 2: Research Online Ratings and Reviews
Online reviews can be a good source of information, but like online searches, you need to take them with the proverbial grain of salt. Some companies will pay for reviews or have their employees or relatives write false ones to boost their ratings.
Something else you need to be mindful of: some websites charge a fee to display good customer reviews. Their business model is what some call “pay to play,” meaning if a particular contractor isn’t one of their premium customers, they limit how many (or which) reviews they show to website visitors.
This is why it’s important to check a company’s reputation on more than one platform. Some sites like Google Business, Home Advisor, and Angi’s List are more reliable than others. They try to match or verify that the review is from a genuine homeowner who has worked with the company they’re reviewing.
Full disclosure: Acculevel has experience working with the three platforms listed above. They don’t charge us for reviews, and we know they have a process for validating reviews from real customers. These companies send unique links asking for feedback or require you to log in before reviewing
When you read reviews, pay attention to what the customer’s foundation issues were. Do they reference a specific repair method or individual employees by name? If they have concerns or complaints, how does the foundation company respond? It’s true that you can’t please everyone, but the conversation between the two parties should give you more insight into how the company operates. Do they show empathy? A willingness to resolve the issue? Do their replies demonstrate concern for the homeowner?
Step 3: Verify Their Credentials
Once you have a short list of contractors, verify that they are accredited by the Better Business Bureau. Not only does the BBB have reviews from customers, but you can also view any possible disputes the BBB has helped customers resolve. This will give you an opportunity to see how (and if) the contractor responds to these complaints.
We realize that our first three steps are focused on you researching foundation repair contractors. You may think this is overkill, and maybe it is! But while the vast majority of foundation repair companies you’re going to find are solid and respectable businesses, there are a few con artists who will exploit a person’s trusting nature.
You have to be cautious, given some of the experiences homeowners have shared with us. Maybe you’ve heard about similar grim experiences like this one:
The homeowner met with a seemingly legitimate contractor (SLC). The SLC provided an estimate, the homeowner signed a contract, and they planned a start date. The SLC gave the homeowner a discount if he paid upfront in cash, so the SLC could buy the required materials. On the start date, the SLC is a no-show, his phone is out of service, and our homeowner’s money is gone.
We don’t want this to happen to you.
Why You’re Looking For a Specialist, Not a General Contractor
You need to look for a company that specializes in foundation repair services. They will know the best products, the most effective methods, and they should offer an extended warranty on their installation. Acculevel guarantees most of their foundation repairs for the life of your structure. (We warranty crack repairs for 5 years.)
A repair company that provides a broader range of services may be able to do the job — but you can’t be sure they’ll diagnose properly. As an example: one of the signs of a settling foundation is windows that stick. You don’t want to hire someone who incorrectly determines you need to replace your windows — only to discover a year later the new windows are now sticking because foundation settling was the true issue all along.
This photo was taken by an Acculevel project advisor during a free in-home assessment. Cracks like these are often signs of foundation settling.
Step 4: Customer Service is Key
When you call or email to schedule an in-home appointment with a company, take a few notes. Not like you’re studying for an exam; just pay attention to how you’re spoken to and how you’re treated. Most foundation repair companies will provide a free inspection; if they want to charge you for an in-home assessment, reconsider your options. (Acculevel provides free estimates, as do all of our known competitors.)
The Company Rep Does Represent the Repair Company
The best foundation repair companies will hire employees who embody their values. You should be able to judge the company by the person they send to your home. When they arrive, are they on time? If they’re late, did they call or text to check with you? Your time is valuable, and you should be treated accordingly.
After they arrive and introduce themselves, do they immediately start a sales pitch? They shouldn’t be trying to sell you anything before they’ve reviewed the foundation issue you’ve noticed. Do they ask you reasonable background questions? Examples of this would be:
- How long have you lived in the home?
- When did you notice a problem with your home’s foundation?
- What symptoms are you most concerned about?
This is your home, your shelter, and your greatest investment. They should want your input. In fact, what you’ve witnessed or experienced is essential. If there are multiple cracks in the basement walls, you’re the one who knows if water has been intruding (and where).
This photo was taken by an Acculevel project advisor during an in-home appointment. Water is seeping in through the cove joint (where the wall & floor connect).
Step 5: The Home Inspection Should be Thorough
If your problem is in the crawl space of your home, you probably won’t be able to join the company representative while they perform all of the inspection. But you should be able to observe them as they check out the rest of the house.
A few examples: if your floor is sagging, they should want to see the problem from the main floor and from the crawl space below. If your foundation is settling, they should want to look for cracks inside and outside the home.
How thorough is the home inspection? This can tell you a lot about the quality of the assessment and the representative’s professional experience. They should be taking notes and measurements where appropriate. They should take pictures to document the problems and be interested in showing these to you — especially if you cannot go into the area in question.
Do they carry any tools or equipment with them? Acculevel project advisors use things like laser level, tape measures, and soil probes to determine the needed materials and repair methods. You want to be wary of anyone who only casually reviews the area(s) of concern before recommending major repairs.
In the video below, Sales Director Nolan Beery demonstrates how a laser level is used to assess a foundation:
Step 6: How Does The Business Process Work?
When you sit down to discuss the results of the inspection, does the company rep clearly explain what they’ve found? Do they review the repair options with you and provide specific costs and details?
They should be able to answer your questions about products, services, warranties, maintenance requirements, etc. You should also be told if there are items you’ll need to move before the repairs can be done, if there are plants or landscaping that will need to be temporarily removed, or if you want to replant them.
Most companies (Acculevel included) require a deposit; this should be no more than 50% of the total costs. This deposit goes towards the total cost of repairs and is an indication that you want the repairs to be scheduled. You should be able to pay by check or credit card. There may be financing options available if you want to avoid paying out of pocket for the deposit.
For all payment options, a clear paper trail should be established. Cash payments should not be requested or required, and you should not be expected to pay the balance of the bill until the work is completed.
While we can’t personally be acquainted with all of the contractors in your area, we can honestly say that we do not know of any reputable company that requires payment in full before the work is done.
It is not our intention to make you nervous or hesitant about hiring a repair company. We only want you to be treated honestly and with respect. Please feel free to use our free guide, Questions to Ask a Contractor. As you’d expect, it’s a list of questions, but the article includes information about what makes a good answer versus one that is a potential concern.
Step 7: Listen to Your Gut.
It may not be scientific or strictly rational, but it’s excellent advice. If the company representative promises too much, pushes too hard, or assures you everything will be exactly like it was before, you have a right to be cautious. All home repairs come with some possible risks or concerns; the rep should be clear and upfront about these with you.
For example: excavation is often a necessary step in the foundation repair process. If you have a basement wall that needs to be straightened, exterior foundation cracks that need to be repaired, or need steel piers installed, foundation repairs will need excavation done outside the wall.
Before: this photo was taken by an Acculevel crew member during helical steel pier installation to stabilize settling foundation problems.
Acculevel has expertly trained, hard-working crews, but even they can’t dig a trench or multiple holes next to your home’s foundation and then cover it flawlessly. This isn’t realistic, and no one should be making unreasonable promises to you.
After: this photo was taken at the end of the day after all of the steel piers were bracketed to the house, and the excavations were filled in.
In the ‘after’ photo we provide above, you can see that our repair method includes a general ground fill, but it isn’t going to be featured in Garden Design. This is in part due to how much time it takes for soil to settle — our crews overfill intentionally to accommodate the expected erosion during rainfall.
Need More Information Before Contacting Foundation Repair Companies?
We have some additional resources you may find helpful!
Blogs That Tackle Hard Topics like Negotiating Cost and Value
- Many foundation repair companies offer discounts, but that doesn’t mean you’re getting the best price. We explain the pros & cons of contractor discounts.
- Want to hire a reputable company, get the repairs you need, and stay on budget? Here are three simple steps to getting the best deal.
- If you’ve scheduled for a contractor to come to your home, please consider our free, downloadable guide to questions you should ask. This can be used for more than foundation repairs; you can use this when meeting with any repair issues from plumbing leaks to hail damage on your roof.
Review Our Homeowners’ Guide to Foundation Repair
If you don’t live in our section of the Midwest, or if you have more questions about foundation repairs, please check out our guide to foundation repair.
This is a free resource available to all homeowners. It thoroughly addresses all of the most commonly asked questions about most foundation problems: cracks, water damage, uneven settling, and bowing basement or crawl space walls. It also includes details about the type of repair needed for these issues, associated cost, and explores what caused your home’s foundation damage to develop.
Are You Ready to Schedule an In-Home Assessment?
If you live within our service area, please call Acculevel at 866-669-3349. We have been repairing foundation damage for more than 25 years, have an A+ rating with the BBB, have more than 700 5-star reviews on Google, and, most importantly, will treat your home as if it were our own.
Need repairs for a commercial property? Has your structural engineer recommended foundation shoring, slab jacking, or piering? Contact our commercial division for more information.