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Ignoring Foundation Repair

clock June 27, 2009 20:19 by author blogadmin
By ignoring foundation repairs, your home may start to settle or move laterally. Hire a foundation repair expert to stabilize your foundation before it is too late.

 

Foundation repair is not something most of us like to think about. We tend to ignore it and hope that fixes itself. Foundation problems can be a stressful, potentially costly endeavor, filled with uncertainty, particularly if not done under the direction of a professional contractor or foundation engineer. 

Foundation Repair is needed when your foundation begins to settle or move laterally. This can be caused by building on expansive clay, compressible or improperly compacted fill soils, or improper maintenance around foundations.  

Foundation repairs aren't easily performed, so you cannot sit back and hope for the best. You must do your homework to find the best foundation repair contractor for the job. As usual, the lowest price is not always the best way to go. If you choose to make your final decision based on price, be prepared to be disappointed. Quality repairs take specialized equipment and specially trained people to perform the work. 

Needed foundation repair work can not be ignored. The traditional answer to foundation repair has been to erect piers to jack up the foundation and raise it off the expansive clay soil. The piers must be installed through the expansive or weak soils to stabilize the structure. Foundation repair can be the most expensive repair that you will make to a property. There are four major categories for this type of piering – steel push piers, helical piers, micro piles and concrete piles. Each of these have their benefits and logical applications. 

Steel push piers are hydraulically driven piers that use the weight of the structure to drive steel pier material through the soil until they reach a load bearing stratum for support. Once the pier material is driven, individual hydraulic cylinders are attached to each pier and the structure is either stabilized or lifted using a hydraulic manifold system. Steel push piers are best suited for basements, crawl spaces or other heavy structures. 

Helical piers are similar to push piers except they are screwed through the soil and use a steel plate, flight, to support the pile within layers of good soil. These piles must be monitored very closely upon installation to achieve their intended depths. Once an adequate depth is achieved, once again, a hydraulic manifold lifting system is installed to lift or stabilize the structure. These helical piers are ideally suited to light weight structures that only need a small lift or stabilization. 

Micro piles are hydraulically driven hollow steel piers that are filled with grout during installation or immediately upon completion. The hollow bar serves not only as structural steel but also as a means inject the grout. These high capacity piers use the same type of manifold lifting system as steel push piers and helical piers. While these piles have very large capacities and can be installed in soils that other piles cannot be installed in, they also require much more equipment for installation which make them more expensive to install. They are best suited for very heavy structures sitting upon poor soils laden with cobbles, boulders and trash. 

Concrete piers are piers that use a drilled hole filled with concrete that rely on skin friction for support. They are drilled or dug into the soil, usually beyond the active soils, and then filled with concrete. Once the concrete has hardened, a shimming system is usually employed to support the structure. These piers are not only messy but take much longer to complete. 

Foundation repair is critical to address as soon as you suspect a problem. For starters, the sooner you fix a failing foundation, the less damage it will cause. Due to the complexity of foundation repairs the best advice is to hire an engineer followed by a trained foundation repair contractor. These professionals will make sure that your home is fixed correctly and permanently. Do not ignore your foundation problems have them fixed by the pros.

 



Is your home showing signs of foundation problems?

clock May 19, 2009 11:03 by author blogadmin
Foundation engineers can repair foundation problems in your home by looking for wall cracks and signs of water damage.

                         

Is your home telling you that you have a foundation problem? Is there water in your basement or crawl space? Are your basement walls wet? Are your walls cracking?

If you can answer yes to any of the previous questions you need to contact a foundation repair expert today. These are all signs that your foundation is under stess and needs to have a foundation expert evaluate your situation before thigs get much worse. When things get worse they get more expensive so walk through your basement or go into your crawl space and take a look and see what your foundation is telling you. To find a foundation repair expert and learn more about foundation repair signs and causes visit www.myfoundationrepairs.com

Foundation engineers can be the best insurance that you can get when it comes to your homes foundation. An engineer will have your best interest in mind when he evaluates your homes foundation and he will give you tips and suggestions on what needs to be done and what you can do to help solve your current problem. The engineer then can oversee any repairs that need to be done and make sure that the work is performed correctly. To find a foundation engineer in your area visit www.foundationengineersnetwork.com today.

Your home is your largest investment, taking care of your home is money in your pocket.



Concrete Piles - Too Good to be True?

clock April 29, 2009 06:09 by author blogadmin
Foundation contractors are using steel push piers instead of concrete piles because they accurately measure pressure, depth and force on the structure.

Segmented concrete piles also known as pressed concrete piles, have been used for many years around the country, especially in Texas. They were originally designed for foundation repair in Texas due to the expansive nature of the clay soils located in many parts of the state. People were looking for an alternative to poured in place concrete pilings, hence the precast concrete segments. This solution became very popular and migrated throughout Texas and other southern state regions due to fantastic marketing and cheap pricing. Just now has the other shoe fallen.

With unprecedented lawsuits and educated engineers, the trend is flowing away from these stacked concrete pilings for foundation repairs. Instead of the soils being blamed for continued movement of homes, people are now blaming foundation repair contractors that use this process for their never ending foundation problems. The engineering community has become aware of these issues, many engineers are now demanding that any foundation repair system to be installed shall be driven below the upper active regions of the soils down to a load bearing stratum that is not affected by fluctuating moisture levels. This issue can be easily seen in areas with expansive clay soils. As the hot summer sun dries the clay soils, the concrete press piles cannot penetrate past the active soil layers like steel push piers can.

With the realization of these factors steel pier systems have become the favorite for homeowners and engineers alike. Steel piers that incorporate a synchronized lifting system eliminate the problems that segmented concrete piers have had while also providing an accurate way to measure pressure, depth and force on the structure. These variables allow a trained installing contractor to precisely drive pier sections to a load bearing layer of soil then lift the structure in a uniformed and controlled manner under the supervision of an engineer.

The segmented concrete piles have always had some problems but many these issues have been ignored or circumvented with shortcuts. The general impression was it is not perfect but it is cheap! For homeowners that had to live through these shortcomings, answers like these have not been satisfactory. The number one issue with these cabled or stacked concrete piles is the method and the depth that they are driven.

First, a red flag should be raised anytime a car jack (bottle jack) is used to lift a structure. Car jacks are fine for cars or trailers but should never be used in foundation repairs. Their capacities are very limited along with the fact that there is no way of determining the pressure that they are exerting on the home. In the installation of pressed concrete piles, car jacks are used to drive the concrete cylinders into the soil. Car jacks have a very small saddle that contacts the footing hence placing a much localized force on the concrete foundation. Many times footings will crack or crumble due to this method of foundation repair.

Next, the flat bottom 6” diameter concrete cylinders are pushed against the soil causing shallow drive depths. Picture in your mind the amount of force required to press a concrete cylinder into your front yard. Now picture, in your mind, that you are using a 1” diameter metal shaft to accomplish this task. The 1” shaft is using your footing to press the cylinder through the soil, obviously not a good situation. Not only are the 6” cylinders not going to drive very deep but the duress that is being placed on the footing is unacceptable.

Every foundation repair contractor worth his weight in salt calculates the weight of the structure before prescribing a method of repair. This information is necessary for driving pier sections along with lifting structures when there is a means of controlling hydraulic flow and pressure. Without being able to control flow or pressure, as with car jacks, foundation repair becomes a guessing game. Proper depth and soil conditions cannot be met when the structures weight and strength are not calculated.

To overcome the problem of not reaching proper depth many of the pressed concrete piling contractors have devised methods to help the pile drive through the soil. One such method is placing a cone shaped piece on the bottom of the leading concrete cylinder. This is supposed to overcome the resistance of pressing a flat surface against the soil. Now you will have a pointed end on the first section decreasing the friction, you will also have a finished pile resting on a pointed end. Obviously when you place the full weight of the structure on this pile it can push the pile even deeper due to the shape of the cone. If the pile drives easier due to its shape it will also settle easier due to its shape.

Another method used to overcome shallow depths is to use high pressure water jetting to lubricate (soften) the soil below the concrete cylinder. A high pressure line is forced down the center of the concrete piles blasting water into the soil making the piles install easier. Common sense tells us that if your home was built on expanding clay soils and you are having foundation issues, the introduction of more water into these soils is not a good solution. Good for the contractor yes, good for your home – No!

One of the latest innovations in the segmented concrete pile industry is a spiraled concrete cylinder. The theory is that the spiral shape makes it easier for the pile to drive through the soil and “reach up to 20% deeper”. Deeper than what? Twenty percent deeper than five feet is on one additional foot. This is not going to make any difference if the active layer continues 10-15’ below the surface.

Once again picture in your mind a spiral shaped concrete cylinder, as the cylinder is driven in the ground it turns about 90 degrees per foot of depth. Imagine, if you will, that the spiral on the cylinder causes the soil to move away from the center of the pile creating a void around the concrete cylinder. This sweeping action forces the soils outward in an irregular shape. As more cylinders follow each other a soil void is formed around the pile creating a friction pile that does not have the benefit of soil around itself. Once again this is a fine marketing tool to make your concrete cylinder different from others, but is it causing more potential harm than good?

The lift, now things really get interesting. Once the piles are driven down a couple of feet into the soil, the soil has been pushed away from the pile, the pile is setting on a muddy mess with a pointed end. Now for their lift of your home,  a block of concrete is placed on top of the last concrete cylinder driven and then the now famous car jack is placed on top of the block and they start pumping the handle. After your home is over raised, yes over raised, two small cylinders are placed along side of the car jack and steel shims of various thickness are slid between the new cylinders and the footing. These thin steel shims are now what your home is resting upon. The car jack is then lowered and your home drops down onto a stack of thin steel shims.

Segmented concrete piles were once “King” in Texas, but now due to their shortcomings, homeowners throughout the country are demanding more from foundation repair professionals. As with most home improvement projects information is the key to quality work. Like many foundation engineers throughout the country you to have been educated on foundation repair methods. Remember, do not make your decision based on advertising and cheap prices, if it sounds too good to be true – it probably is.



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