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Causes and Signs of Failed Foundations

clock November 14, 2013 12:32 by author blogadmin
Know the causes and signs of foundation failure so you can protect your family and home.

Foundation problems can be caused by both homeowners and mother nature. No matter if you've lived in the same home for years or have purchased a newer home, it is good to know the causes and signs of a failing foundation. Unfortunatly, mother nature can cause foundations to fail and a home owner can't do much about it. Knowing the signs and getting your foundation fixed by a professional foundation contractor early can potentially save you thousands of dollars. Foundation problems don't go away on their own, they only get worse.

Causes of foundation problems that lead to failure

Most foundation problems are caused by the soil surrounding a home. Throughout the year the soil expands and contracts from moisture and temperature levels. Foundations fail when there is too much water or not enough. Sections of the soil can have different moisture levels causing the soil to swell and shrink at various locations. Some sections of the soil can become much drier or wetter than other parts causing stress on your home's foundation. These inconsistencies in the soil generally result from overloading, poor water management, faulty compaction, abundance of organic materials, and erosion.


Transpiration
The soil dehydrates from tree roots beneath the home. The soil shrinks because of this loss of moisture. The soil shrinkage causes homes to settle. 

Plumbing Leaks
Water can seep into the soil from leaky pipes. This causes too much water in the soil and can contribute to unneeded stress on yWater from leaour home's foundation.


Drainage
Poor drainage both on the exterior and interior of your home's foundation can cause exess moisture to build up in the soil. This may cause soil heaving. 

Poor Building Site Preparation
Commonly on building sites soil is removed from part of a building and piled on other soil. The soil needs proper stabilization before the structure is built; otherwise the soil may move below the structure.

Common Ways Homeowners Cause Foundation Falure

  • Overwattering lawns - this is common way to create the ununiform areas of wet and dry soil
  • Planting Too Close To House - It is important to keep plans a safe distance from the foundation, usually more than 5 feet. Roots can cause soil moisture differences and can also grow into the home's foundation.
  • Swimming Pools - seepage from a swimming pool can leak into the soil causing increased pressure on the foundation.
  • Gutters and Downspouts - gutters and downspouts not installed correctly can lead water directly down to your foundation. Be sure to fix leaky gutters and draw water away from the home.
  • Interior Remodeling - large changes to your home's structure can put pressure on your foundation. Hire a professional contractor to ensure the foundation can handle the structural changes.

 

A foundations movement and cracking may result from a wide range of hidden factors, which may include:

Swelling or Shrinking of clays caused by changes in moisture content

Compression of the ground as a result of the applied foundation loads

Soil softening

Frost heave

Improper back filling of the foundation

Variation in groundwater levels

Erosion or undermining of the foundation

Vibration from nearby construction

Hydrostatic Pressure on the foundation

Inadequate design of basement walls, footings and slabs traditionally account for 75 to 85 percent of all problems in homes built upon expansive clay soils. These failures are generally divided between two broad classes of failure – lateral pressure and differential settlement. Both classes of failure generally have few primary causative factors.

Lateral pressures on basement walls have four likely sources:

Pressure from soil weights

Pressure from soil swelling

Hydrostatic pressure

Pressure from frost

It is not difficult to identify lateral pressure, but accurately quantifying the  source is very difficult and should only be handled by a qualified engineer. The inward bowing of a basement or retaining wall is the simplest indication of lateral pressure. The bowing generally occurs when the external forces exceed the wall strength. The maximum bowing will often occur near the center of the wall because the adjoining perpendicular walls provide support in the corners. If bowing becomes severe, these walls can collapse inward.
 
           

Cracking can occur when lateral pressure exceeds the strength of the concrete or block wall. The most common crack pattern begins in the corners and move up or down at 45 degree angles in concrete walls. For block walls, the cracks move along the mortar joints in a stair step pattern. Often these cracks end at a long horizontal fracture that parallels the basement floor.
 

Lateral pressures may affect the overall integrity of a house. Severe structural damage results in a visible opening between the top of the basement wall and the structure. Since water is one of the main causes of these cracks, water infiltration becomes significant in the largest of the cracks. Filling these cracks with epoxy, without solving the water problem, only moves the lateral pressure to another section of the wall.

The difference of the outside ground level and the basement floor creates a mass of soil that must be retained thus causing a lateral pressure. Picture a walk out basement or tall retaining wall. The pressure of soil weight is typically considered during the design of an engineered wall using theoretical earth pressures.

Soils with heavy clay content undergo a change in volume when the moisture content of the soil changes. When expansive clays are placed against basement walls, the swelling of these soils can induce lateral pressures not accounted for in the original design. Cyclic shrink/swell can also reduce the shear strength of the backfill and thus increase the lateral pressures. The solution to this problem can be as easy as replacing clay backfill with gravel or other non-swelling material. When used in conjunction with a footing drain, gravel will prevent increased lateral pressure.

Hydrostatic pressure is pressure exerted by a fluid due to its weight. Hydrostatic pressure against a basement wall develops when water fills voids or “ponds” within backfill immediately adjacent to the wall. This water buildup can cause dripping, seepage, dampness or efflorescence (salt residual). Leakage during heavy rains or poorly designed/maintained drainage increase hydrostatic pressure. Like soil swell, hydrostatic pressure is not typically considered during design and construction of basement walls.

Water that accumulates in backfill and then becomes frozen may cause a large amount of lateral pressure on basement walls. Severe damage can result from frost causing lateral pressures much greater than even hydrostatic pressure. The expansive natures of water crystals have been know to create catastrophic structural damage.

Backfill, that is heavily laden with clay, present long term lateral soil pressure problems. Their cohesive nature makes it practically impossible to re-compact them to a uniform moisture content and density. Clay backfills require significantly stronger basement walls to withstand the larger horizontal pressures. The obvious solution is to backfill with non-cohesive aggregate with proper drainage.

Structural settlement is characterized as either total and /or differential settlement. Total settlement is a complete structure downward movement. Differential settlement is the difference in vertical movement between various locations causing structure distortion. Generally, total settlement is not a critical factor as long as it is uniform. Utility connections are affected to the greatest degree by total settlement. Even relatively small differential settlements can cause cracks in floor slabs, brick walls and drywall.
 
           

Some amount of settlement can be tolerated in most homes provided it is within specified limits. Small amounts of settlements are anticipated in most design work. When homes experience excessive settlement special procedures must be employed to stop or limit the amount of settlement. These special procedures usually employ the use of steel piers or helical anchors. A underpinning procedures.




Most Popular Foundation Repair Products

clock January 7, 2012 20:50 by author blogadmin
A foundation repair contractor can determine the cause of foundation failure and provide foundation products to repair wall cracks.

Foundation Repair Causes

What causes foundation failure? There are many reasons why your foundation may be failing. Hot and dry weather conditions could cause soil to pull away from your foundation. This results to moisture imbalance causing cracks in the interior and exterior of the home. Your landscaping could also cause foundation failure. Trees and shrubs planted too close to the foundation causing transpiration. During transpiration, tree roots dehydrate the soil underneath the home leading to soil shrinkage and settlement of your home. Make sure all leaking pipes are repaired. Leaky plumbing can lead to foundation problems. As a homeowner, make sure you have the best waterproofing solution. Having proper drainage, can eliminate moisture build up that causes soil to expand. Clean all of your gutters and make sure you have the downspouts to redirect the flow of water away from your foundation. Poor building site preparation and ground preparation are also key factors leading to foundation issues. Knowing the causes of foundation failure will save every homeowner time and money in the long run. Repair these issues as soon as possible before it is too late.

Foundation Failure Signs

There are crucial signs to look out for when identifying foundation failure. These signs can be in the interior and exterior of your home as well as the garage. Walk around the perimeter of your home and look for cracks in the bricks, gaps around the window frames, a leaning chimney, concrete cracks, and garage column cracks. Look inside of your home for cracks in the drywall, sticking windows, concrete cracks, misaligned doors/windows, and sloped floors. Check your basement for cracked floors, water stains on floors and walls, and bowed walls. Don't forget to check your crawl space. It can be an area that many homeowners overlook. Inpsect this area for tilting or leaning walls, bowing walls, insect infestation, and cracks in the foundation. There may also be a musty odor due to high moisture and mildew.  Without foundation repairs, these conditons can get worse costing you time and money in the long run. Don't  jeopordize your family's health by exposing them to dangerous mold.

Foundation Repair Methods

When homeowners notice cracks in the foundation along with doors and windows sticking many realize that they know nothing about these structural defects nor do they even know what their options are. Just knowing your options can lead many people to a solution that fits their home, situation and budget. Knowledge is power when it comes to the structural foundation repairs.

The chart below provides which foundation repair underpinning and wall support products are used across the country. This data is a cross section of information gathered over the past decade.

foundation repair products

Contact your local foundation repair contractor or professional foundation engineer to find the best solution for your foundation problems. Your foundation repair contractor will inspect the situation and repair it.



Sump Pump Basics

clock September 21, 2011 19:44 by author blogadmin
A sealed sump pump system is a waterproofing solution that protects your home, including your basement, from flooding.

What Is A Sump Pump?

sump pumpsOne of the best options for homeowners to tackle the problem of a wet basement and water damage is by using a sump pump. A heavy duty sump pump in a sealed sump pit positioned in a home’s basement will sends water out to a more acceptable location, like a sloped lawn or a municipal storm drain. This type of high efficiency sump pump and sealed sump pit or sump liner is designed as a reservoir for excess groundwater and rainwater.

The principles at work are pretty simple: rather than keeping water out completely, a sump pump system controls how water gathers beneath your home, then pumps it out after it’s collected, while preventing moisture levels in the home to rise.

If you’ve explored other ways of keeping your basement dry – examining the grading around your home, injecting cracks and repairing any noticeable leaks or broken pipes – and are still having trouble, it might be time to consider a sump pump system.

Remember, sump pumps don’t prevent water from accumulating, but they can go a long way in controlling water in your basement. Either way, your possessions stay dry and your family’s health is not compromised, which is the point.

Many homes already have sump pits built right into the basement floor. The problem is most of them are inadequate and cause as many problems as they solve. If this is the case, you will need to have a basement waterproofing professional install a sealed sump pit, like the ECP Sealed Sump Basin. If your home is not equipped with a sump pit, a waterproofing contractor should be able to tell you if it’s possible to retrofit your basement.

Types of Sump Pumps

There are three types of pumps used in basements or crawl spaces:

Pedestal Sump Pump:Also referred to as a “column type” or “upright” sump pump, the pedestal sump pump has an open motor that is supported on top of a column attached to the pump casing. When installed, the motor sits outside the sump and above the basement floor. The motor is not designed to be submerged in water. This type of sump pump system cannot be sealed.

Submersible Primary Sump Pump: This pump uses a watertight motor designed to be immersed in water, and will typically kick into action when it senses that it’s become submerged. The motor is coupled directly to the sump pump casing and is designed to be completely hidden within a sealed sump pit.

Primary Sump Pump with Battery Backup: Submersible primary sump pumps with a DC battery backup pump provide the ultimate protection to homes. During heavy storms, when sump pumps are needed the most, electrical power can go out. In this case the sump pump becomes useless due to lack of power. When equipped with a battery backup, your sump pump system can continue to provide protection to your home.

A Working System

So what does a functioning high quality sump pump system look like? There are usually four key pieces:

• A Primary Pump

• An Emergency Backup Pump

• An Emergency Backup Pump Alarm

• A Sealed Sump Pit

Because homes sometimes lose power during thunderstorms – just when an operational sump pump is critical – a quality sump system employs a backup pump. Emergency battery backup pumps work when the power goes out, when the primary pump does not remove the water fast enough, or if the primary sump pump fails.

In this setup, primary pumps are powered with electricity, and backup pumps are battery powered. Using two pumps instead of one makes it unlikely that both pumps will malfunction at the same time. And with the alarm system, you’ll be able to tell when the primary pump has failed and the backup pump has to be used.

Is A Sump Pump Right For You?

Installing a new sump pump system – especially if your basement doesn’t already have a built-in sealed sump pit – is an extensive, complex job. Make sure you consult with a waterproofing expert.

To find out more about particular pumps for your basement, or to check if a certain pump is certified, consult the Sump & Sewage Pump Manufacturers Association.



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