Real Estate Agents! Here is what you need to know about Colorado foundations

John and Jane Doe are moving to the beautiful Colorado Front Range. They found the best Real Estate Agent in the area and immediately start searching for the right home.

Being out-of-state, John and Jane may not understand the complexity of purchasing a home in Colorado. Although the land is beautiful, there are challenges with some homes.

Upon discovering the beauty and potential of the Colorado Front Range for their new home, they didn’t hesitate to seek out a top-notch real estate agent familiar with the region’s unique appeal and challenges. Their agent, equipped with extensive local knowledge and resources, began the meticulous search for a home that met all their criteria. Understanding the geological complexities of the area, they also emphasized the necessity of incorporating Foundation Engineering Services. This crucial step ensured any prospective home would not only fulfill their aesthetic and functional desires but also stand firm against the environmental challenges characteristic of the region.

What is the problem?

A large number of homes, built in the front range, have an improper foundation for the soil type, which can lead to structural failure.

Why are many foundations struggling to remain permanently stable?

It’s quite simple really….Colorado used to be an ocean.

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The United States of America 85 million years ago. Department of Biology and Biochemistry and Milner Centre for Evolution, University of Bath, Claverton Down, Bath BA2 7AY, United Kingdom. Dr. Rob Blakey. You can see the different images from different times here.

Yes, 85 million years ago, Colorado was part of the ocean. As years progressed, the ocean retracted from the land that is now the Mountain West of the United States.

This retraction of land caused layers of different sediments to form versatile soil horizons. It is made of layers of silt, clays, and various rock compositions.

Wind and water are constantly eroding, transporting, and degrading the soils under homes. This creates a complex variety of soils that are unique to each lot.

The Front Range has been the scene of widespread and sometimes severe damage to residential, commercial, and government buildings, and county-owned roads. This damage may be largely attributed to two geologic phenomena: swelling soil/bedrock, and collapsible soil. – [Colorado Geological Survey OF-02-08]

The Colorado Front Range has hundreds of soil survey’s done each year because the soil is always mixing and/or eroding.

Why are soil survey’s important?

It’s important for these soil samples to be completed before new construction begins. The soil surveys can tell engineers and architects how to design the foundation of a home.

Jane and John Scenario #1: Don’t do this!

Jane and John may purchase a home at full market value, without knowing anything about the complex soil system in the Front Range. As they renovate their basement, they discover a large crack in the foundation for which a costly repair is required.

They have to hire an engineer, who estimates a $30,000 repair of the foundation. Now Jane and John have taken out a loan for the home and now need to add $30,000 in repair costs.

All of this could have been avoided.

Jane and John Scenario #2: Do this instead.

Jane and John Doe found the perfect home, but they learned about the soil system of Colorado before signing on the home. Before they buy the home, they hire a Licensed Structural Engineer to get an educated opinion on the structural integrity of their home.

The Structural Engineer tells them there is a crack in the basement, and estimate it could cost around $30,000 to repair. John and Jane know that this is the house for them, so they purchase the home with the knowledge of the foundation problem and ensure to budget for it. This leads to a smooth renovation and a happy ending.

They could have also decided that it wasn’t the right investment due to their financial situation and kept looking or the perfect home.

This sound decision making comes from knowing the full picture.

If you are purchasing a home in the Front Range, hire a Licensed Structural Engineer before you sign on the dotted line. A Structural Engineer will perform a home inspection and give you an educated opinion of the structural integrity of the property.

“The $275 I spent with LEVEL saved me more than $100,000 in potential repair costs. No one – not the realtor, the inspector nor the contractor I hired thought there was anything wrong with the foundation (of my proposed purchase). LEVEL identified major, costly foundation issues. I passed on the purchase. Thanks guys.” — Mike, Level customer.

Picture of Scott Zurn, P.E.

Scott Zurn, P.E.

Founder and CEO of Level Engineering & Level Design Partners. With more than 4 decades of experience, Scott Zurn has contributed to all aspects of the building industry, serving both public and private sectors. He’s achieved tremendous success in commercial and residential markets, held leadership roles such as building official, city engineer, and director for local governments, and accomplished hundreds of millions of dollars in successful commercial building and civil infrastructure as a designer, project manager, and leader. As the Founder of the Level brand, Scott is dedicated to ensuring the entrepreneurial success of design professionals, as well as creating positive environmental impacts through design work. Read Scott’s full bio here.

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