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4 things you need to know about floor elevations

If you've had a foundation problem with your home and you have gone through the inspection process then you may have heard your inspector talking about floor elevations or a floor elevation survey.

We are going to dive a little deeper and talk about the 4 main things you need to know about floor elevations surveys.

1. What is a Floor Elevation Survey?

A floor elevation survey is conducted by first establishing a base point that all of the other measurements will be based off of.  Once a base point is established, you then take readings throughout the home or structure.  Those readings will show any elevation differences from the base point.  Those readings will either be higher, lower, or the same as the base point.  Those readings are then recorded on a map or sketch of the home/structure and used to identify exactly where and how much movement has occurred in the home/structure.


2. They Provide Accurate Measurements to Floor Movement in Your Home

(when they are done correctly!)

Floor elevation surveys are capable of providing elevation differences to within 1/10th of an inch.  That is pretty dang accurate.  Floor elevations show how much higher or lower different areas are within a home or structure.  It provides the data behind the visual signs that a home or structure is experiencing movement by taking numerous readings throughout the entire home or structure.


3. What Tools or Devices are Used to Perform a Floor Elevation Survey

There are 3 main tools that are utilized to provide the data for a floor elevation survey.  They are: A Water Level, a Transit, and a Ziplevel Altimeter.  All of these will be able to provide you with that data needed to know if there is any difference in elevations when it comes to your floor.  

The Water Level is the oldest form of conducting a floor elevation survey.  It utilizes a water basin that is associated at a higher elevation than what you are measuring.  From that basin there is a line that comes out of the basin to a post.  The is then a mark placed on the line to show the level of the water compared to the basin.  If there is a difference there will either be more or less water in the line.  That difference is measured and recorded as the reading for that specific area.

The Transit is just like what you see surveyors use on large construction sites.  They have a laser that comes from the base unit and a grade rod is placed at areas throughout the home/structure.  Depending on how high or low you have to move the grade rod is the difference in elevation from where the base unit is located.

The easiest, quickest, and most commonly used when diagnosing a foundation problem is the Ziplevel Altimeter.  This device is similar to the water level, but it doesn't require you to carry a tripod and buckets of water to get it set up.  The altimeter is self contained and provides readings to within 1/10th of an inch.  This device not only saves on set up and deconstruct time, but it also allows you to quickly set new base points quickly and effectively if needed.  The Altimeter works the same as the others.  A base point is determined and then the measuring unit is placed throughout specific areas of the home/structure.  Once the Altimeter has determined the difference from the base point it provides a reading, typically within 1-2 seconds!

4. What Do Floor Elevations Tell You About Your Home

Once all of the data points have been recorded and properly labeled on the home/structure's sketch, you can then make a determination on trends of any movement within the home/structure.  These readings and trends are important to know, because they will provide you and the contractor data to compile the correct fix for repairs for the area(s) that are experiencing settlement.  If you didn't have these then you are just guessing on what area(s) you are going to repair and no expectations should be made in regards to lifting and leveling those areas.  AN ACCURATE FLOOR ELEVATION SURVEY IS HIGHLY IMPORTANT AND SHOULD BE INCLUDED WITH ANY PROPOSED SCOPE OF WORK, SO THAT, EXPECTATIONS ARE MADE AND MORE IMPORTANTLY JUSTIFIED!


Floor elevations are the number one thing that is needed to provide an accurate diagnosis and proposed scope of work when it comes to a foundation settlement problem.  Yes, knowing where some of the cracking in the drywall and stucco and the sticking doors are important, but they are really just the effects from an underlying cause of the home/structure's foundation and floor moving.   



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