Geotechnical Real Estate Evaluations
Should I have a Geotechnical Engineer inspect a home or building I am considering purchasing? With the real estate market very active in the Bay Area at this time this is a question that we are constantly asked.
A geotechnical inspection can be a great aid to a perspective buyer or seller. In some cases it can provide reassurance that the property has not had any soil related problems. In other cases a financial disaster can be averted by finding problems before the property is purchased. All to often we are called to inspect a site a month or two after a home has closed escrow when the new owners discover that there is unusual wallboard cracking, or excessive moisture under their newly purchased home.
We usually starts an evaluation by reviewing geologic maps and literature. Useful information regarding the geologic setting (is the site located within a strong bedrock formation, man-placed fill, or in an area with expansive soil?) can be found on such maps. Also are there earthquake faults or landslides in the site vicinity.
We also review our files for nearby properties that we have inspected (or been involved in during original construction). Many times we find that we inspected the property several years ago and comparing the condition then and now is very helpful.
The next step usually involves visiting the property and looking at the land around and under the structure. If the site is on a hillside are there indications of any past or current instability? Are there drainage problems? What is the condition of the foundation?
A visual inspection of the interior and exterior of the structure is also important. Are there any alarming cracks in the walls? Do doors operate properly? It is also important to evaluate how level the floors are (as out of level floors could suggest there is a foundation movement problem). Instruments to measure relative floor elevations are often utilized.
Often a review of building department records is performed. This may reveal that past foundation repairs have been performed. Building departments may retain the original plans, which can be helpful. We also review our files for nearby sites we have studied. (With over 5000 files we have quite a data base to look through).
We encourage our clients to be present during such inspections so that we may answer any questions that they may have.
Finally, a written report is issued that presents an opinion regarding the performance of the foundation, the stability of the land, and other issues.