Be proactive and choose wisely in foundation repairs

Mechele Agbayani Mills is with the Better Business Bureau.

The erratic Texas weather can play havoc on your foundation. All homes settle and adjust with time, so it's not uncommon for your foundation to develop minor cracks which don't necessarily need repair. However, it is important to be proactive when it comes to foundation repair, as identifying potential problems early means less complicated and less expensive repairs. Likewise, foundation problems can cause damage to the rest of your home.

The most commons signs of foundation issues which need attention include uneven floors, mold build-up in closets, weak spots in flooring, and doors and windows sticking or not latching properly. Unfortunately, many foundation repair companies will gladly take your money for unnecessary fixes, and some take advantage of a consumer's lack of knowledge by performing shoddy work. BBB reminds consumers of the importance of choosing wisely when it comes to searching for a reputable foundation specialist.

Regardless how expensive or attractive a home or building is, without a proper foundation, the structure is at risk. That's why it's so important to do your homework to make sure you are dealing with a reputable contractor.

BBB offers tips to help consumers find reputable foundation repair companies:

n Check with your insurance. Some homeowner's policies will cover foundation repair, so check with your insurance prior to signing a contract.

n Do your homework. Check with BBB before choosing a contractor. Get referrals, compare several price quotes which can be done using BBB's Request A Quote. Always confirm the contact information of the contractor you choose.

n Ask questions. Find out how long the company has been in business, what method of payment they accept (never pay in full up front), and who will be performing the work (employees of the company or temporary labor).

n Beware of red flags. High pressure sales tactics, full upfront payment or low estimates that may potentially balloon over time or foreshadow shoddy work to come are all red flags to look out for.

n Ask about warranties. Be sure you understand the warranty agreement before you sign the contract. In the foundation repair industry, most contracts contain a clause indicating that conditions (such as structural deficiencies) might appear during foundation work that was not visible when the bid was submitted. In these cases, the desired results may not be obtained.

After the extended warranty period, a service agreement may be available to cover beyond the warranty period at an additional cost. Other companies may not transfer the warranty if you sell the house or may charge a fee for the transfer. No matter what, the conditions of the warranty or guarantee should be clearly listed in the contract.

n Review your contract. Be sure to read, understand, and agree with everything listed in your contract. Do not sign a contract that has blanks or if you don't agree with something. Make sure the work is being performed according to the bid proposal.

n Ask for before and after photos of the work performed. Check to make sure the workers clean up the mess after the work has been completed.

For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call the BBB Hotline: (903)581-8373.