Your home is probably your biggest asset. It can get very worrisome when you notice cracks, especially when they get bigger and you find more and more.
What should you do? Is it too late to start maintenance practices? Should you call an engineer and spend $400 dollars? Or can I get a free foundation inspection, will that tell me what to do? Can I fix it myself?
There are lots of questions that come to mind. We are here to walk you through everything so that you can be aware of every foundation repair option and make the wisest choice for your home.
Signs of a foundation issue
First, let’s clarify, just because you have a foundation issue doesn’t mean you need repairs. If the issues are minor you can stabilize your foundation and prevent future issues with maintenance practices.
These are some signs that you may have a foundation problem.
- Cracks in walls or floors
- Doors and windows that stick or won’t close properly
- Gaps between the foundation and framing
- Sagging or uneven floors
- Water stains on walls or floors
What To Do If You Think You Have A Foundation Issue
The first thing you need to do if you think there is an issue is get a foundation inspection. Sometimes cracks are seasonal, and you don’t need repairs. Other times, you may have a severe issue and not see any cracks at all.
So get a foundation inspection, they will take measurements around your home and determine if your home is in or out of levels of tolerance.
Let’s start with minor issues
We would classify a minor issue as a home that has slightly elevated or declined but is still within levels of tolerance.
In Dallas/Fort Worth, tolerance is considered plus or minus 0.7″ from the reference point.
These minor issues are very common, and in most cases can easily be solved using foundation maintenance practices.
Many homes have fairly average foundation issues. We would classify these as homes with measurements above or below 0.7″ from the reference point, only in a small area.
For the most part, there is not much you can do to lower a home that is raised except implement maintenance practices.
For homes that have declined below this level, there are a few options.
- Install new piers (concrete, steel, helical)
- Reshim and readjust (pier and beam only, temporary)
- Install new lumber (piers and beam only)
- Foam Injection (Slab only)
- Wait, and let the problem grow.
For these average issues, we highly recommend getting them done as soon as possible. otherwise, gravity will being to take effect and the declined area will begin to create bigger issues.
Before you get the repairs completed, confirm that everything is being conducted according to best practices. Otherwise, you may pay for piers you don’t need, get piers that are only effective for a short period of time, or create larger issues.
It is rare to have a major foundation issue. However, they do happen.
We consider a major foundation issue to be a home beyond levels of tolerance with repairs required along a large portion of the perimeter of the home, often requiring interior concrete piers as well.
In these cases, we highly recommend the following:
- Contact a structural engineer.
- Get multiple estimtes.
- Study foundation repair best practices
- Don’t Choose The Cheapest Option
- Immediately start maintenance and maintain the foundation following repairs.
- Consider selling the home, sometimes this can be a cheaper option.
Foundation Repair Methods
If you have noticed a foundation problem and decide that you want to move forward with the repairs, you have a few options.
Slab Foundation Repair Methods
- New concrete piers
- New steel piers
- Polyurethane Injection
- New Concrete Footing Piers
- I-Beam Installation
Slab foundations are very straightforward and the repair process is fairly simple. The main dilemma that homeowners run into is concrete piers vs steel piers.
Concrete Piers And Steel Piers
Concrete piers and steel piers both operate in the same way:
- A hole is excavated beneath the exterior of your home.
- Then, the pier is pressed into the earth using a hydraulic press. Each pier is pressed further and further into the ground until it hits bedrock or resistance.
- At this point, the hydraulic jack begins to lift the home and its foundation using levels taken from inside the home.
- Now that the home has been lifted it is time to stabilize it and reinforce it at this level. A cap block and two more piers are installed along with steel shims to hold the house at this level. At this point, the jack is removed and the home has been lifted.Special Note: Both concrete and steel piers only lift about 5 feet of the home’s foundation. So piers are spaced about that far apart.
So what is the difference between concrete piers and steel piers? The primary difference is the depth they go into the ground. If the piers are not pressed to refusal then the home will start to decline again after a short period of time. In some areas, the only way to reach the point of refusal is to use steel pressed pilings, such as on homes built near lakes or natural springs. However this is rarely the case, we often find homes with steel piers installed to have more issues in the future than concrete piles.
Pier and Beam Foundation Repair Methods
- New Concrete Pressure Piers (Concrete footing only)
- New Concrete Block Piers
- New Conical Piers
- New Treated Wood Beams
- New Treated Wood Sill Plate
- New Plywood Subfloor
- New Concrete Perimeter Beam
- Readjustment Of Existing Piers And Beams
As you can see, pier and beam homes have many more moving parts and require extensive assessments to determine the best foundation repair method.
The most common repairs are to replace sub-par materials, rotten lumber, and lift the concrete perimeter if necessary.
Cheapest Pier And Beam Repair Method
One of the most common and cheapest (in the short term) pier and beam foundation repair methods is simply to readjust the existing piers and beams, this is sometimes called reshimming.
Reshimming or readjusting the foundation is necessary when the interior piers begin to lean, sag, or fall due to soil movement beneath the home. A foundation company will go under the home, straighten the piers and place shims on top of the piers to raise the floor to proper levels.
This is very effective at leveling the floors and making your home feel stable. The problem is that you haven’t actually stabilized the foundation, you’ve just raised the floors, so you can expect the home to move again in the future.
Without adding additional support, replacing necessary lumber, and raising the actual foundation rather than the floor, your foundation will always have problems and it will continue to grow.
However, there are many homes that have great materials and only need to be readjusted.
We often see new homeowners run into foundation problems right after buying a home because instead of fixing the foundation, it was just readjusted. Now the sheetrock is cracking, doors won’t close, and locks don’t align.
So before you buy a home, have the foundation checked yourself as the current homeowner may not have your best interest in mind.
There are many foundation repair methods, some of them you can even do yourself if your home is only mildly damaged.
If you are concerned about your home, get a foundation inspection, review your options, and avoid choosing the cheapest contractor as you may end up with issues again in the future.