Fixing Your Home’s Foundation Problems
Do you need to fix your home’s foundation problems? Is there also a need for a Soft Story Retrofit? Is the concrete beneath your home in distress? Foundation problems can lead to major structural damage within your home. Whether you’re a homeowner or a prospective buyer, foundation issues are scary and you likely have a lot of questions.
Two of the main questions are:
Luckily, there are ways to repair a concrete foundation without having to tear it out and start from scratch.
If you suspect trouble, do the following:
- Examine the foundation yourself for obvious issues
- Let a foundation contractor do a professional foundation inspection
- Consult with a structural engineer if necessary
What causes foundation damage?
For the vast majority of issues, water is the primary culprit. Variations in moisture cause components of the soil to swell or shrink, leading to movement beneath your foundation.
Your property may be more susceptible to foundation damage if:
- It was built on expansive clay
- It was built on improperly compacted fill soils
- The area around the foundation has poor drainage
- You live in an area with extreme seasonal changes
- You experienced a plumbing leak below your home
- Tree roots are growing too close to your home
- An earthquake, flood or drought compromised the structure
Those soils highest in clay content are generally more susceptible while those lowest in clay content are the least affected. In some areas the movement is insignificant; in others, it is quite pronounced. When unstable soils are used as a base, the movement is transferred to the foundation. Since soil movement is rarely uniform, the foundation is subjected to a differential or upheaval. The problem shows up in both slab, and pier and beam type foundations.
If all the soil beneath a foundation swells uniformly, there usually is no problem. Issues occur, however, when only part of the home settles. Then, the differential movement causes cracks or other damages.
What are the signs of foundation problems?
Are you wondering if you have foundation issues? All foundations will settle with time, but problems arise when this settlement is uneven or extreme.
Here are the common signs of foundation stress:
Exterior warning signs
- Wall rotation
- Separation around garage door, windows and/or walls
- Cracked bricks
- Broken and/or cracked foundation
- Displaced moldings
Interior warning signs
- Misaligned doors and windows
- Cracked sheetrock
- Cracks in floor
- Uneven floors
Concrete foundation repair methods
Past techniques for repair of sunken concrete has varied. Wood, concrete, cement and steel have been poured, pushed, turned or somehow forced into the ground trying to salvage these foundations and slabs, while early on, anyone and everyone, trained or untrained, became “experts” at this type of repair. Often as not, the repairs proved to be futile.
Other, more successful, methods of remediation involve extensive disruption of the family or business using the building. Usually, it is desirable that settlement of building slabs and monolithic foundations in residential areas be corrected without having to move all furniture, appliances, and possibly the whole family, or in commercial areas, without disrupting business.
However, with today’s technology and trained experts, there are a number of very successful solutions to the problem of sunken concrete that involve little or no disruption to normal living or business routine.
The two most common methods of this type of repair are slabjacking and hydraulic jacking (also known as piering).
In a slabjacking operation, grout is pumped beneath a slab or beam to produce a lifting force that restores the member to its original elevation.
In piering, steel posts are driven through unstable soil and hydraulic jacks are used for concrete lifting to raise or stabilize concrete slabs affected by changes in the underlying soil. The repair method used depends on the type of distress being treated.