Foundation Repairs - Pier & Beam - Concrete Slabs
Causes, Clues & Solutions to
By Jesse Waltz, P.E.
It's a home owner's worse nightmare - foundation problems. You look up and find adrywall crack in your living room. Or find acracked brick when you're planting your spring flowers. What do you do now?
You've probably thought about ignoring the problem or fixing it yourself. Don't. Foundation problems should always be repaired by an expert. Think of it this way: would you want your neighbor, who isn't a mechanic, to fix your brakes? Most of us would say no. The same philosophy should be taken when it comes to your foundation.
Your foundation provides stability and support for your home. Why take the risk?
What Causes Foundation Problems?
Your home's foundation problems can be caused by a variety of things from the type of soil your home is built on to poor construction. All foundation problems are caused by one of 4 things: soil type, the amount of water in the soil, construction preparation or natural disasters like earthquakes. And in many cases these causes are related.
It's all in the soil...
The type of soil your home is built on plays a major role in the strength and stability of your foundation. There are many different soil types, and each type has a different ability to support weight.
Some soil types are sensitive to the amount of moisture present and can fluctuate in size. For example, clay is both an expansive soil and a consolidating soil. An expansive soil dramatically expands or swells when it absorbs water. While consolidating soils shrink when the water is removed.
Think of soil like a sponge. When you take a new sponge and soak it in water, the sponge swells up and expands. And as the sponge dries it hardens and shrinks. The same thing happens to soil. Only when your home is built on expansive or consolidating soil, like clay, the shrink-swell is more dramatic and will create foundation problems.
Before your home's foundation is poured, the ground where your basement or crawl space is located was excavated. The soil was then tested to determine what type of foundation footing was needed to properly support the weight of your home. If an improper footing is built for the soil type then your home may end up sinking or settling.
After your foundation footing and foundation walls are installed, the space surrounding the outside of your foundation is backfilled. If the wrong type of backfill is used or it's not prepared properly you could end up with hydrostatic pressure and settlement problems.
Hydrostatic pressure is the weight of water at rest. When it rains or you water your flower beds the water is absorbed into the ground. If there's more water than the soil can handle, it collects underground - and in some cases this is next to your foundation.
As the water collects next to your foundation it also pushes against the exterior walls. Over time this will create waterproofing problems but it can also cause serious structural issues. The force of the water and expanding soil pushing up against your foundation can create bowed walls.
Foundation Problems Signs To Look For
Some foundation problem signs are obvious. But others, such as drywall cracks, can be mistaken for a cosmetic issue. Here are a few common problems signs to look for:
Cracked bricks in your home's exterior
Cracked concrete blocks
Gaps around windows or doors
Concrete cracks in your porch or garage
Uneven or bouncy floors
Leaning or cracked chimney
Bowed basement walls
Cracked basement walls
Creaking house noises
Sink holes in your yard
If find any of these problem signs or think you have a foundation problem, it's always a good idea to call in a professional.
If your home needs foundation repair, there are several options that may be recommended based on the type and cause of the foundation problem. Push piers, wall anchors and Shotcrete are some of the foundation repair solutions that we may recommend.
Push piers are used to correct settlement problems. Push piers are round steel tubes that are installed under your foundation. The piers are driven deep into the ground until they reach stable, load-bearing soil or bedrock. When the piers are installed resistance is created, this resistance is used to safely lift your home up to its original level.
Wall anchors are typically used to repair bowed or cracked basement walls. A strong steel plate is installed on your basement wall and is connected to a rod and anchor. Over time this system can even straighten your walls while providing the necessary structural support.
Shotcrete is used in conjunction with wall anchors to restore foundation walls. It's a fiber-reinforced concrete material that is sprayed onto your foundation wall after the wall anchors are installed. The force of Shotcrete being sprayed on has the added bonus of compacting it, which makes it two-times stronger than regular concrete.