Foundation Repair

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

Bulging floors, cracked walls, and doors that won't close are all signs of foundation distress. Sixty percent of all homes built on expansive soils suffer from foundation distress. The trouble occurs when only part of the foundation heaves or settles, causing cracks and other damage.

This differential movement is largely caused by differences in soil moisture. Loss or gain of soil moisture can cause serious shrinkage or swelling.

If the frame of a house does not begin to distort until after three or more years of satisfactory performance, it is doubtful that the distortion is caused by full-depth foundation settlement, which is always evidenced by matching cracks. Cracks occur at each side of a portion of the foundation wall that is undergoing downward movement caused by soil bearing failure.

Settlement cracks are nearly always vertical, and they should not be confused with cracks that occur when a wall is subjected to lateral movement from soil pressure.

WHAT CAUSES FOUNDATION ISSUES?

For the vast majority of damage, 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.

Issues resulting from foundation settlement:

  • Damage to the structure
  • Loss of real estate value
  • Tripping hazards
  • Unsightly cracks
  • Equipment malfunctions

Whatever the cause, settlement can destroy the value of your home and even render it unsafe. If you see signs of failure, don't delay in getting the problem solved. The longer you wait, the more your foundation will sink, causing further costly damage.

Cracked Wall
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Ram Jack Systems Distribution, LLC

FOUNDATION CRACKS

Hairline cracks are a common result of normal foundation settlement. However, you should be concerned if large cracks appear suddenly. If a crack is wider than an eighth of an inch you could have a possible foundation issue.

According to a Realtor.com article about foundation problems:

“Horizontal or jagged 45-degree cracks are the most serious and usually indicate you will need professional help.”

If unsure, monitor the cracks in your foundation, if they continue to expand, call a foundation company out to inspect the cracking.

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 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.

Choosing the correct method for repairs

Before deciding on a repair method, you must determine what is causing the distress. Examine moldings and trim boards, mortar joints in brick veneer, and windows in low areas for clues. Also take note of recent weather. Unusually dry or wet weather can cause movement in the underlying soil.

The most commonly used method of correcting smaller slabs of sunken concrete, such as residential slabs, driveways, sidewalks, swimming pool decks, etc. is slabjacking.

Slabjacking is done by pumping a cement grout through small, strategically-located holes in the concrete slab. Once in place, the grout solidifies into a dense concrete mass and provides a competent bearing for the concrete slab.

If a soil-cement-lime grout is used, the lime content of the slurry will impart the benefits of lime stabilization to the base or sub-base. This combined treatment not only restores the slab to proper grade but also stabilizes the sub-soil to prevent re-occurrence of the problem.

For larger problems, especially those found in house and commercial building foundation shifting, hydraulic piers are typically used to lift and stabilize the foundation.

Piering involves the use of strategically placed mechanical jacks to lift the settled beam to grade. The beam must be raised carefully to avoid further or unnecessary damage. Once raised, the beam is held to elevation by a specially designed spread footing and pier.

The footing is set deep enough so that it will be independent of variations in soil moisture. It is also designed to adequately distribute the load without creating unnecessary bulk or mass. The pier is tied into the footing with steel and supports the foundation beam.

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