Determining When Foundation RepairFoundation repair foundation repair
Types of Foundations
The type of foundation that your home has will vary depending largely upon geographic location. Basement style foundations, while common in northern regions, are unsuitable for many southern areas of the country due to flooding caused by shallow sources of ground water. While slab foundations are popular in the South, some areas require use of piles due to steeply sloping, uneven, or unstable soil conditions. If a foundation is not chosen to meet the environmental demands of that area, it is destined to fail, needing often-costly foundation repair.
Basement style foundations are very common throughout the country. Basements are obsolete in states such as Florida. The reasoning is that the water table is so high that flooding would be inevitable. Basements provide great storage, but also increase building costs substantially. 98% of basement homes in North America feature some kind of concrete construction. Clearly wood is an unsuitable choice underground due to its lack of resistance to moisture, rodents, and termites. Additional attributes of concrete are that it does not rust, warp, or provide an environment favorable for mold to grow.
Pile foundations, also known as pier and beam are also a popular foundation choice. The piles are constructed of wood, steel, or concrete. They are driven into the ground or placed in excavated holes. The piles reach down into the earth to a stable layer of soil or rock. The piles extend above ground level in a linear manner to provide support for the walls and floor of the structure.
Concrete slabs are quite common for homes in the South. Slab on grade foundations are easy and affordable to construct. A poured layer of concrete about 4 inches thick is applied to compacted soil or crushed gravel. This base helps to improve drainage. Steel rebar or reinforcing rods are placed before the concrete is poured to make the concrete stronger. The edges and interior weight-bearing locations are typically poured to a greater thickness of 8 to 12 inches. Though popular in the South, this foundation is not recommended for areas that experience frequent freezing temperatures.
Unlike the slab on grade style, a t-shaped foundation can be used in geographic areas prone to ground freezing. This method is also known as a spread footing or continuous style. An inverted T shaped footing is first constructed beneath the frost line. This added support spreads the load over the sub-soil. Walls are built on top of the T. A poured concrete slab then connects the walls. Unfortunately, this 3-step system is one of the most costly available methods.
Frost protected foundations can withstand freezes, but come with a significantly lower price tag. The structure is built using a single step process, but is only suitable for heated structures. This means that it can be used for homes and businesses. It is not appropriate, however, for an unheated barn, garage, or storage shed. It utilizes 2 layers of polystyrene insulation to minimize heat loss. This keeps the heat generated from the above structure in the ground to prevent ground freeze even in freezing temperatures.
Why Foundations Go Bad
There are several reasons why foundations can fail, needing foundation repair. Typically, these reasons boil down to an improper foundation being laid for the home’s location and climate. Reasons for damage include the following:
• Water damage. Even if water cannot directly impact your concrete foundation, it can impact the surrounding soil. Soil can be washed away leaving the concrete exposed and unprotected. The soil can also shift due to heavy rain, causing the structure to shift or sink.
• Difficult soil type. Some soils are better suited for building than others. Ideal soils are hard and compact, providing support for the foundation. Others are sandy and easily washed away. Soil type can change over time, as well, leaving a once solid foundation in need of help.
• Compaction and expansion. One of the largest issues facing houses is the problem of soil settling. Some settling is normal, particularly in the first few years after a home is built. Repeated contraction and expansion of the ground beneath your structure, however, can cause problems requiring foundation repair. This is a more common problem facing older homes. If the soil is packed properly on new homes before the foundation is laid, excessive settling can be avoided.
Older homes often suffer from problems associated with improperly laid foundations, and they require foundation repair. These issues need to be addressed to prevent serious damage to the home and risk to its residents.
Warning Signs of a Bad Foundations
Foundations commonly have shallow cracks that do not necessarily affect the structure. Due to normal post-construction settling and concrete shrinkage all houses will have some cracking. These harmless shrinkage cracks are less than 1/8 of an inch thick and run vertically. The crack should be limited to the foundation without extending into the above structure. Settling cracks are usually a result of short-term settling of a new home. If the crack is small (less than ¼ inch), it is probably caused by short-term settlement. If the crack has been repaired and re-cracks or seems to change over time, it may be caused by ongoing settling—a more serious condition.
Ongoing settlement cracks are serious, and foundation repair will require professional attention. You can also spot ongoing settling by examining the crack itself. If the edges of the crack do not line up like puzzle pieces, you have a shear crack. A shear crack is a big problem and will require serious help as the home’s structural integrity is at stake. For these types of crack, the quarter-inch rule is of no merit. Any horizontal cracks in the foundation are also a red flag to homeowners. Regardless of the size, horizontal cracks generally mean foundation repair will be necessary.
What Can Happen
If a structurally compromised foundation is left unattended, the problem will quickly manifest itself in the aboveground structure. Your home may develop cracking in the walls, leaking or collapsing of sections of the roof. You may also notice your floors becoming uneven and unstable. If you have a basement foundation, you might see bowing and cracking of those walls. If you spot a significant or unusual crack in your foundation, you should investigate foundation repair as quickly as you can.
The Right Company
Foundation repair is not a simple procedure that can be undertaken by an average handyman. This kind of work requires the knowledge of an experienced crew. Invest in a company that will explain what the problem really is and help find affordable solutions to make your home a safe place to live. Foundation repair is a serious issue that requires a serious professional company.
You may have just bought a 50 year-old home, and now have a failing foundation on your hands. You might also have realized that the budget homebuilder you hired was cheap for a reason. In any case, foundation repair issues are of serious concern. Addressing these problems quickly will save you money and keep from any additional damage being caused to your home itself. Foundation repair sounds expensive and intimidating, but you can find reasonable solutions to save your home.