Serving Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin, Houston, Temple/Waco, and San Antonio


ZIPLEVEL Foundation Elevations – Helpful or Hype?

People often ask us about using ZIPLEVELs to measure foundations during inspections. Here’s what we know and why we choose not to use this tool:

What is Required When Reporting Foundation Performance

In Texas, all home inspectors are licensed by the Texas Real Estate Commission and must follow their Standards of Practice. The standards require inspectors to visually evaluate the foundation’s performance and report any issues that negatively impact the home’s performance. The use of specialized tools like a ZIPLEVEL is excluded in the Standards.

Inspectors are not forbidden from using specialized tools or going beyond the Standards. However, it could lead to legal issues if the inspector’s actions overlap with the practice of engineering.

The Texas Board of Professional Engineers released a Policy Advisory addressing the inspection of foundations by home inspectors. Here’s a summary:

The Policy Advisory states that if someone were to analyze the cause of a foundation’s condition, suggest repair solutions, or offer any other engineering opinion related to foundations, it would be considered the practice of engineering. If performed by someone not licensed as an Engineer, it could result in disciplinary action. It also determined that TREC-licensed inspectors should stay within their Standards to avoid any conflict.

Due to this reason alone, it may not be wise to go beyond the Standards of a visual inspection during a foundation inspection.

Claims Made by Home Inspectors

Home inspectors who provide foundation elevations frequently promote this as more informative than other inspections. Here are some examples of the claims made:

  • “Don’t mess around with a visual inspection of your home’s foundation; get your foundation measured. We utilize the latest technology, the Zip Level Pro-2000…. We want you to move in with “peace of mind” knowing for a fact that your foundation is in great condition.”
  • “These measurements will show you if, where, and/or to what degree it is out of level. If you are buying or selling a home, it’s a good idea to get this level of detail, particularly in North Texas where movement is almost a given. Knowing whether (and how much) work is needed will affect your decision making about the price of the home and/or whether or not to purchase it.”

The problem with these claims is that:

  • The home inspector must perform a visual inspection as they cannot provide the required opinion of the foundation’s performance without it.
  • Keep in mind that no foundation is perfectly level when built, and those in areas with expansive clay soil are prone to movement. These foundations are designed to tolerate some of this movement. So, identifying if a foundation is level or not does not indicate whether the foundation has experienced excessive movement. Also, if a home inspector offers an opinion on “whether (and how much) work is needed” they would violate the Texas Engineering Practice Act.

We have two main concerns regarding the use of these tools. First, there are no required certifications or training needed to use this equipment. Secondly, instead of providing peace of mind, they may create unrealistic or uninformed expectations without providing additional risk reduction for the client.


We found that home inspectors who offer foundation elevation measurements often include disclaimers that state something like the following:

  • “Elevation measurements can be useful but should not be relied on as a definitive statement of foundation condition.”
  • “It should be noted that foundations may reveal some unevenness due to workmanship (as built). Therefore, measurements do not necessarily represent the actual degree of deflection from differential movement of the foundation…. these deviations/slopes are not, by themselves, a measurement of foundation movement.”

These disclaimers contradict the claims made, raising the question of why these tools should be used if the measurements cannot be relied upon.

Are Foundation Elevations Useful for Home Inspections

Measuring the elevations of a foundation during a home inspection can’t determine excessive movement since movement is a function of time. To document foundation movement, it’s crucial to have “as built” measurements for comparison, as errors in the original construction can create the illusion of movement when none has occurred. To check if a foundation has moved too much, measurements must be taken at the same spots over time.

During a home inspection, the foundation’s performance can only be judged by how it affects the overall structure. If the foundation is performing poorly, the structure will be affected, and signs of this will be visible. If a foundation is performing properly, there won’t be any sign of issues, no matter what elevation measurements may show.

Unless you’re willing to pay the price (built into the inspection fee or otherwise) to have a benchmark for future elevation comparisons then real estate transactions are not the time to perform foundation elevations.



Ready to Book an Inspection?

Schedule Today