Foundation Problems: Causes, Clues, and Solutions By Jesse Waltz, PE
You’ve probably ignored the problem or thought about fixing it yourself, though you should always consult an expert.
Think of it this way: would you want your neighbor, who isn’t a mechanic, to fix your brakes? Most of us would say no. The same philosophy should be taken when it comes to your greatest asset – your foundation.
Your home’s foundation issues can be caused by a variety of things from the type of soil your home is built on to poor construction. All foundation problems are caused by one of four things: soil type, the amount of water in the soil, construction preparation, or natural disasters like earthquakes. And in many cases these causes are related.
The type of soil your home is built on plays a major role in the strength and stability of your foundation. In general, there are many different soil types and each type has a different ability to support weight.
Some soil types are sensitive to the amount of moisture present and can fluctuate in size. For example, clay is an expansive and consolidating soil. This type of soil dramatically expands or swells when it absorbs water, while consolidating soils shrink when the water is removed.
Therefore, think of soil like a sponge. When you take a new sponge and soak it in water, the sponge swells up and expands. As the sponge dries it hardens and shrinks. Consequently, the same thing happens to soil. When your home is built on expansive or consolidating soil, like clay, the shrink-swell will create foundation problems.
Before your home’s foundation is poured, the ground where your basement or crawl space is located is excavated. The soil is then tested to determine what type of foundation footing is needed to properly support the weight of your home. If an improper footing is built for the soil type, then your home may end up sinking or settling.
After your foundation footing and foundation walls are installed, the space surrounding the outside of your foundation is backfilled. If the wrong type of backfill is used, or it’s not prepared properly, you could end up with hydrostatic pressure and settlement problems.
To clarify, hydrostatic pressure is the weight of water at rest. When it rains or you water your flower beds the water is absorbed into the ground. If there’s more water than the soil can handle, it collects underground – and in some cases this is next to your foundation. As the water collects next to your foundation it also pushes against the exterior walls. Over time this will create waterproofing problems but it can also cause serious structural issues. The force of the water and expanding soil pushing up against your foundation can create bowed walls.
Foundation Problems – Signs To Look For:
Some foundation problem signs are obvious, while others, such as drywall cracks, can be mistaken for a cosmetic issue. Here are a few common problems signs to look for:
- Cracked bricks in your home’s exterior
- Cracked concrete blocks
- Gaps around windows or doors
- Concrete cracks in your porch or garage
- Uneven or bouncy floors
- Leaning or cracked chimney
- Bowed basement walls
- Cracked basement walls
- Cracked molding
- Sink holes in your yard
If you find any of these problem signs or think you have a foundation problem, it’s always a good idea to call in a professional.
In particular, push piers are used to correct settlement problems. Push piers are round steel tubes that are installed under your foundation. The piers are driven deep into the ground until they reach stable, load-bearing soil or bedrock. When the piers are installed, resistance is created; this resistance is used to safely lift your home up to its original level.
Wall anchors are typically used to repair bowed or cracked basement walls. A strong steel plate is installed on your basement wall and is connected to a rod and anchor. Over time this system can straighten your walls while providing the necessary structural support.
Shotcrete is used in conjunction with wall anchors to restore foundation walls. It’s a fiber-reinforced concrete material that is sprayed onto your foundation wall after the wall anchors are installed. The force of Shotcrete has the added bonus of being two-times stronger than regular concrete.
Experts Here to Help You
If you’re not sure of the source of your home’s problem, give us a call at 866-370-4816, and schedule a free inspection. We’ll find out the cause of the problem, and moreover, help you find the perfect solution.
Jesse Waltz, a Professional Engineer and a 1985 Virginia Military Institute graduate, is the founder of JES Foundation Repair. JES is a regional foundation repair, crawl space and basement waterproofing company with locations in Virginia Beach, Richmond and Northern Virginia.