How much should underpinning cost?

Trying to find out how much you should be paying for underpinning is a stressful process for many people. Discovering that you need to repair the foundations on your house is a scary time - you home is cracking or even sinking. What often follows this initial discovery is just as bad - an inability to get clear information out of underpinning contractors and structural engineers as to how much you need to spend to repair your home.

The average person will contact at least two underpinning companies for information and quotations. Along the way they will usually also talk with their insurance company, soil test engineers, structural engineers and building inspectors. The whole process quickly gets confusing and frustrating - often to the point where people just want the whole thing to be over and done with.

We've summarised the most common challenges people face when underpinning their home - including insights from a recent example on the Sunshine Coast that was shared with us - and what you can do to avoid them.

 
 

The 3 challenges of underpinning pricing

We have found that the problems people face when going through a repair on the house foundation generally fall into three categories:

#1  Every house is different

When it comes to house foundation problems, every one is different and each house needs to be individually assessed. That's not to say the solution can't be fairly straightforward for an expert to solve - it just means it is hard to get an estimated cost prior to someone assessing the property. 

#2  Underpinning Expertise

There are many underpinning contractors of all shapes and sizes out there. Some of these contractors are more competent and have more experience than others. There are also a variety of methods to underpin a house. As a result, the information you get is often conflicting. Trying to determine who you should trust and listen to can be very difficult.

#3  Cost Transparency

Unfortunately not all underpinning contractors are honest. Because most people don't understand what is required to repair their own house, some companies will take advantage, milking the insurance company and/or the home owner.

And for those companies that are honest, some are just bad at providing quality engineering assessments, accurate quotes, or transparent pricing information, so that the costs don't blow out part way though the process. 

 

An underpinning example from the Sunshine Coast

We were contacted about a house on the Sunshine Coast that had settlements & wall cracks and after initial discussions, we recommended using one of our preferred forensic engineers to assess the site and provide an expert report.

The forensic engineer went to site, concluded that the house had settled due to seepage and that the problem could be resolved using 6 underpins - fairly straightforward and cost effective. A full report was provided with the location of the underpins. We reviewed and agreed the recommendation was sound and were prepared to take on the job.

The homeowner was also talking to another company, the oldest underpinning company in Queensland, who insisted that the case was complicated and required far more underpinning and expense. Out of fear that our solution was "too cheap" and wouldn't do the job, the customer went with the other company.

Unfortunately it didn't go well and the customer has since shared all the information with us. Here's how it went:

$1,400 for a soil test

This soil test confirmed the seepage problem already identified by our forensic engineer in his report (unnecessary cost).

$1,200 for an engineering report

This report also confirmed what our forensic engineer said, however the engineers didn't take any levels at the site, as our engineer recommended (unnecessary cost).

$40,000 for the underpinning work

which was significantly more expensive than our recommended solution. Additionally the underpinning resulted in avoidable damage to the kitchen (excessive cost; damage to house).

$2,500 for additional engineering

Further "engineering" and inspections costs finished off the bill (exorbitant over-charging).

 

Insured but DAMAGED

The insurance company covered the repair in this case, but the job is still not finished and the house remains damaged almost two years later. The entire process has been so painful, the homeowner decided to sell their property.

Not a great experience. And one you certainly won’t have with our wunderpinning process.

 

What the underpinning should have cost

Typically an underpinning job of this scale would cost around $30,000 including engineering and any other miscellaneous costs. We can provide this cost estimate with confidence, as we were given full access to the engineering reports, soil test and site information by the home owner.

This means the underpinning company overcharged the home owner by 50% or roughly $15,000.

Plus they left the kitchen damaged - requiring further rectification cost not covered by insurance.

Aside from the significant monetary cost difference, the underpinning should have cost the home owner a lot less in mental stress, in time chasing up the contractor and trying to get clear, timely information. 

 

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

To avoid the same pains and costs that the above home owner went through, here are a few simple rules to follow when getting underpinning quotes.

Fixed Price Quote

The underpinning quote should be fixed price and inclusive of all additional expenses, such as any forensic engineering, soil tests, structural engineering reports, site inspections, the underpinning work and all materials.

As a comparison, we have never charged even a dollar over the original quote on any job we've completed. All Foundation Solutions quotes are fixed price so you know where you stand and can make an informed decision.

Transparent Quote

The language used in the quotation should be straight forward and free of confusing jargon. If it is not, get clarification and ensure you understand everything before proceeding.

Foundation Solutions quotes use clear language and our team is always on hand to provide further explanation, clarification and a timely response to enquiries via phone and email.

Fixed Time / Fixed Schedule

The underpinning contractor should be able to provide a work schedule that clearly outlines each stage of the process and how long it will take. They should also be able to commit to a fixed time schedule - weather dependant of course.

At Foundation Solutions we always provide a fixed schedule, showing agreed start date and time required for each stage of the underpinning work. We want our customers to be confident the underpinning job will be finished promptly, so they can get back to enjoying their home sooner.

 

want more information?

If you have any questions about pricing up an underpinning job, we'd be happy to help answer them. Give Nicole a call on 0451 824 961 for some friendly underpinning advice!