Foundation Repair FAQs
How do I know if I have foundation issues?
Below are some frequently asked questions and some tips for maintaining your foundation.
Concrete or Steel? Which is best?
Concrete pilings DO NOT hit bedrock so they have been proven to require adjustments and have a high failure rate. Steel piers are designed to hit bedrock and will require little to no adjustments. Steel piers in Oklahoma install between 12-20′ on average compared to a concrete piling that seldolm passes 2-4′. Be sure you know what you are getting.
Structural engineers in Oklahoma require steel piers, as they have been proven to be a permanent repair.
Its common for some piering companies to not mention one way or another!
Why does settlement happen?
There are many reasons a foundation can move and settle, but the main culprit is water almsot every time. The soil supporting your home continually swells and shrinks due to fluctuation in moisture during the changing seasons throughout the year.
The rainy season causes expansion in Oklahoma’s clay soil, while the heat and low moisture of the summer months cause contraction. Over time, this movement may cause a portion of your foundation to deflect and begin to sink. It’s also common that certain construction styles are more prone to suffer settling problems. In either of these cases, you can expect many homes in your area to experience the same problems you are experiencing.
Once the foundation has started to settle, it will continue to do so – sometimes, at an alarming rate. You can expect to experience: unsightly cracks, difficulty closing/opening doors and windows, uneven floors, and potentially bending or bursting pipes. If left untreated, major damages can and will occur.
The issues will get worse, not better.
Foundation failure causes additional foundation failure. The faster you remedy the problem, the less it will cost you in the long run (in both your wallet and your stress level). What can be a fairly inexpensive issue could easily turn into a very costly one if left alone for too long. Also, it can be a major deal breaker for any potential home buyers.
Settlement is normal. However, differential settlement is a problem. Differential settlement is defined as one section of the foundation settling at a different rate than the rest. This is most often caused or aggravated by poor soil conditions, inconsistent moisture content, poor building practices, or seasonal changes that affect the soil.
TIP: Most homeowners aren’t aware that you should be watering your foundation during the dry months, and protecting it from over-watering with guttering during the wetter months. This helps to maintain consistency with the soil and foundation.
How do I know if I have foundation problems?
Identifying Foundation Problems
Your home is a big investment. You want to make sure it’s well maintained. When the foundation of a home is damaged, that entire area of the structure will have damage. When you look around your home, check for some of the warning signs.
Failed foundation signs can include:
- Wall Cracks
- Floor Cracks
- Sloping Floor
- Leaning Chimney
- Bowing Walls
- Ceiling Cracks
- Doors and Windows that Stick
- Cracks in Brick
- Leaning Garage Walls
- Pad pier/insufficient structural supports
All of these are signs that you may have potential issues with your foundation.
Why is a crawl space important?
Crawlspaces can be a huge benefit to your home. A crawlspace can be a great place to have your air conditioning duct work and plumbing installed because it is easy to get to and to maintain. Crawlspaces add elevation to a structure which can help prevent termite problems. They are a less expensive foundation option than a slab foundation.
Your home is a system, and every part of that system plays a key role that influences the rest of the structure. If your crawlspace begins to rot, grow mold, or experience structural problems, this might extend to the rest of your home.
Common Crawlspace Foundation Problems:
*Moisture and Humidity
If a crawlspace is not well ventilated, and built in an area with a lot of moisture, that moisture can make its way into your crawlspace. It can cause rot in the wood floor system of the crawlspace. Moisture will lead to mold and mildew in your crawlspace. One of the most obvious signs of too much water in a crawlspace is a musty odor in the home.
Because a crawl space is built directly underneath your home, it plays a key role in your home’s structural integrity. Crawl spaces bear weight through the foundation walls and crawl space support columns. However, many crawl spaces are designed with a support system that is either inadequate, rotting, or has soils underneath the support posts that cannot bear the weight of your home.
*How to Fix It
Many times, a failing crawl space structure can be resolved by installing crawl space supports. This is an efficient job that can provide permanent, warranted results. Typical installations can be completed in less than one day.
Why slope maintenance is important
We will assume that structure was built above the surrounding terrain to allow for proper drainage away from it. However, homeowners need to maintain these positive drainage conditions in order to prevent water from sitting or ponding near the structure, which would create inconsistent fluctuations around the perimeter grade beam. If you spot ponding on your property, you can have your property re-contoured to produce a positive slope away from the structure. If a proper slope can’t be achieved, you can look into sub-surface drainage.
Aim for at least a 5% slope for the first 5 feet away from the foundation or a 3″ drop in that amount of distance and then taper off to 1% from there. Use a ground cover, like mulch or gravel, to help prevent erosion and to lower the amount of times you need to perform this maintenance throughout the year.
Regularly inspect your flat work, sidewalks, and patios
Homeowners should regularly inspect their concrete flat work, sidewalks and patios even if your home is brand new. The most important time period is within the first five years. This is the period when the most settlement can happen.
If and when the flat work settles, you should re-pour or re-level to correct the negative slope. If the slope takes within 1% it would only be important to seal all cracks and entrances to the soil below to prevent water seeping under the slab. Use a urethane sealant that will be flexible without letting water pass through it. We are also talking about the barrier that would be found in between the flat work and slab, which should be replaced regularly.
How to maintain your flower beds
Most landscapers will recommend using peat, bark, sandy loam and other planting substances that can increase the moisture levels above what’s recommended. Therefore, you will need to have systems in place to remove the extra water. We recommend a balance between good engineering and aesthetically pleasing fixtures that will prevent further damage to the load bearing soil.
The most common problem with flower beds is water is trapped inside the flower bed and not allowed to run-off. We recommend that you install barriers with adequate openings to allow water to pass.
The next problem is the choice in shrubs. Shrubs planted around the structure should be chosen for their short and very contained root growth. Recommendations for shrubs with such root systems can be found from your local nursery.
Maintaining gutters and downspouts
Gutters are an essential tool used to help prevent soil erosion and low spots that cause water pool near the slab. They should be installed all the way around the home. Those gutters should then be checked once in the spring and again in the fall. The gutter should be checked for debris and rust. Gutters that have trees nearby will have to be cleaned out more often.
The slope of the gutters should be checked regularly. Poor slope can render the gutter useless or accelerate the rate of rust. Gutters should installed with a slope at least 1″ for every eight feet in distance. Any piece of gutter that is more than 35′ long should be fitted and sloped to drain both directions or have downspouts that are spaced roughly or less than 20 ft.
Check the slope of a gutter easily by using a garden hose or pour a bucket of water into it. The gutter should then be adjusted accordingly to correct any spots that prevent the flow of water. For clogged downspouts, remove the elbow for cleaning or use a plumber’s snake or similar device to clean the downspout.
Downspouts should be equipped with an extender to allow water to be discharged no closer than 5′ from the foundation. If dirt is present at the exit and erosion could potentially be a problem, splash blocks can be placed at the discharge point to prevent those problems. Extenders remove unwanted water from the perimeter of the foundation. Erosion can cause inconsistent sloping and therefore become a problem for the soil that is supporting the grade beam.
Why you may need sub-surface drains and how to maintain them
Sub-surface drains are used when obstacles make it impossible for water to drain at the surface. The great thing about sub-surface drains is, when installed correctly, maintenance is minimal. You may only need to inspect the inlets, outlets or coverings for any blockage keeping water from passing through the drain.
Sub surface drains entrances and exits should be checked every 6 months to check for leaves, grass, soil or other things that can clog and obstruct the drain to keep it from moving water away from the structure. At the exit, dirt can build up and may need to be removed to assure proper slope. The use of a mechanical cleaning snake may be required if something in the middle of the drain becomes clogged, which can be checked be using a hose at the top of the drain to check to see if it’s coming out at the same rate at the bottom.
Driving heavy trucks across the surface of where a pipe is located can cause sub surface drains to crush, reducing the flow of water and cause dirt to build up within the pipe. Over time your yard can settle which would also cause the pipe to crush, so it’s important to check the flow every so often.
If there ever comes a point where corrective actions need to take place, it would be important to know where clean-outs and the discharge lines are located. During installation draw a map of such things and keep in a safe place for future purposes.
Understanding capillary and french drains
Capillary drains are used to collect the subsurface moisture and move it away from the home. Many times these are used when the slope does not allow for adequate removal, in these cases it’s necessary to install a sump pump to collect this excess water and force move it up and away to a shallow drain line.
Check the working condition of these pumps and drains every 6 months to clear any debris that might block the pump and to check to make sure the pump itself is working. These sub-surface pumps are prone to malfunction, and there are a couple of options to identify issues: install an alarm system or install a cover over the sump pump.
Clean-outs should be installed along the discharge lines to allow for any obstructions to be removed by the use of water jetting or a mechanical cleaning snake. Since every systems effectiveness can’t be accessed until it’s in use, it is important to to regularly backwash the system from the end and/or at the sump pump at least once every two years.
Capillary drains can be used as moisture barriers along the perimeter of a home to remove excess water and stabilize the heaving of the soil near the grade beam of the foundation. This includes the insertion of an impermeable material barrier drain pipe that can be installed under flower beds. It is important for homeowners to be careful with any planting action that can puncture the material.
Benefits of irrigation and sprinkler systems
Watering of lawns and house perimeters must be regulated to maintain consistent moisture content under the foundation, including watering of surrounding trees or shrubs since they can siphon water from under the foundation of your home.
Seasonal changes will call for different watering on the sides that receive more sunlight (south and west sides), which increases evaporation. You will also be able to identify what time of day for watering. Early morning watering is normally recommended so that less evaporation will occur.
Sprinkler systems overwatering can be just as damaging to the foundation as underwatering. If an electronic sprinkler system is installed, each of the factors listed above must be incorporated into the sequence and timing. Visual observations must also be included in the process to make adjustments beyond the capacity of normal programming.
A variety of watering heads and systems are on the market that can be customized to a homeowner’s needs. There are bubble sprays, side sprays or angle sprays that discharge from riser heads or pop-ups and can be mixed to provide complete coverage. Where evaporation is a concern, however, a drip system will provide necessary watering very efficiently. A close inspection of the ground surface is necessary to ensure appropriate volumes and consistency. The goal is to keep the soil near and under the foundation a consistent moisture (neither wet and/or muddy nor dry and cracked).
An inspection of the sprinkler system should be performed at least twice a year to determine if zones are functioning properly and if heads are improperly discharging/broken or if leaks have occurred that will provide uneven watering. This will, in the case of electronic watering systems, require running through the system to determine if times, duration and frequency have been maintained.