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Radon and Your Home

clock March 31, 2009 19:53 by author blogadmin
Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Test your home for radon so you can stop this silent intruder from harming your family.

Radon is an inert gas that comes from below the earth’s surface.  To see the radon level in your area visit the EPA’s website. Radon gas is a by-product of uranium, and is found all over the world. It is the second greatest cause of lung cancer after smoking and causes more deaths per year than drunk drivers. This is not an article intended to scare, it is intended to inform. When it comes to radon, the general population falls into three categories: the informed, the uninformed and the misinformed.

  • The informed have tested and mitigated where warranted.
  • The uninformed don’t know anything about radon.
  • The misinformed believe that radon exists and is a problem only in certain locations, all far removed from them.

Radon is colorless, odorless and tasteless, and it creeps into our homes, offices and schools through cracks and other openings in the foundation of the building.  Once inside it decays into alpha particles that damage the DNA of lung tissue, a major cause of lung cancer. Once identified as a problem, radon mitigation can be implemented for a very reasonable cost.  Some states like Colorado already require radon-resistant design as part of new home construction. Testing for radon is easy and homeowners can do it themselves.

TheRadonLady.com has a link to one reliable source of radon test kits.  These are the same kits that are used by Radon Professionals for real estate transactions. There are many other sources on the web for passive test kits along with electronic units. Some people are afraid to test for radon because they think that mitigation will be costly, yet the cost is significantly less than what is added to a new vehicle for other safety features like airbags, seatbelts and crushable auto body parts.  The systems are fairly simple, yet very effective. When a house is sold, the radon system remains, a bonus to the buyer.

The Radon Lady (who is a licensed professional) recommends that everyone test their home themselves with both short term and long term testing.  Short term testing is for 48 hours and give a “snapshot” of the radon buildup over the two days.  Long term testing is 90+ days (6 months is recommended) and shows what the radon levels are like during “normal living conditions.”  “I suggest an initial short term test for approximately $16.  Depending on the radon levels mitigation might be warranted and that’s good to know.  Even if the radon levels are low, however, long term testing should always be implemented.  It costs only $25 and is really the decisive factor of how the home, office or classroom is affected . 

Test your home for radon today, you owe it to your family.



Foundation Repair for Basement or Slab Foundations

clock March 22, 2009 19:26 by author blogadmin
The solution to fixing a settling foundation, is to hire a professional engineer. An expert can provide foundation repair methods to make your home stable.

Does your basement or slab foundation need repaired?

Understanding the reasons for foundation repairs is the first step to deciding which method is best for your home. It is crucial for homeowners to not only understand the reasons for foundation repairs but also the limitations of said repairs. Homeowners must also know who to contact for these repairs. There are many different methods and solutions that must be waded through before making the correct decision for your home and family.

Foundation repair is defined as: the art of underpinning or stabilizing a structure that has moved from its originally constructed design.To underpin a home or structure one must extend the current foundation into a soil strata or layer that is deeper and more stable than the current soil that the foundation is resting upon. This is accomplished by providing additional support from the current footing or wall via piers or anchors. Methods of foundation repairs include push piers, plate anchors, helical anchors or drilled concrete piles.

The people responsible for designing and instituting these methods include foundation engineers and foundation repair contractors. A foundation engineer is responsible to evaluate the structure in question and then provide a proposal for his design. Generally the engineer will recommend a foundation repair contractor to carry out his proposed plan for repair and then sign off on this plan upon the completion of fixing your foundation problem. While it is not always legally necessary for an engineer to be involved it is highly recommended anytime structural repairs are executed.

Inadequate soil conditions are caused by several factors. With suitable building sites becoming more scarce many home builders have been building houses on less than ideal lots. These subpar lots have less than suitable soil conditions to support many structures. There are also homes built on expansive soils that shrink and swell as rainfall and moisture levels change. Due to these conditions foundation support products must be utilized to supply support from deeper layers that are not as affected by fluctuating moisture levels. This underpinning provides a way to lift the home to an acceptable level and prevent additional settlement.

Slab on grade or pier and beam foundations are the most susceptible to weak or expanding soils. Due to the nature of having a large surface area resting on the uppermost soil layers these foundations have a tendency to move as the soil moves. Most slab on grade homes are monolithically poured with the slab and beams cast together creating a rigid foundation. This rigid foundation becomes susceptible to differential settlement when moisture levels under the slab do not remain consistent. This can result from broken water lines, poor drainage or even inadequate guttering. Trees can also affect soils by their roots drying out areas under these slabs while the rest of the slab has normal moisture content.

Differential settlement causes slab on grade foundations to rise on the perimeter (dish) or fall around the perimeter (dome). Steel push piers and helical piers are generally an engineer’s recommended solution for these conditions. These piers penetrate through unstable soils down to a more consistent soil layer that has adequate strength to support the structure. These piering systems provide a deep foundation that can now be lifted off of to regain an adequate elevation.

In the case of homes with basements, expansive clay soils that have been over saturated with water can cause hydrostatic pressure on walls. This newly imposed pressure can cause wall bowing and concrete cracking. In extreme cases, catastrophic failure can occur from these wall stresses. When basement homes are originally designed it is with normal moisture content. Poor drainage often causes undue pressure to build behind basement walls exerting forces on the basement foundation. This is often the source of concrete cracking and water to infiltrate the space. Once again it is generally the differential movement that causes the foundation repair problem.

There are two common fixes to bowing basement walls. Plate Anchors (wall anchors) are an effective solution for many homes. These wall anchors are embedded into competent soils beyond a zone of influence surrounding the structure. Threaded rods are then connected to these anchors on one end with the opposite end being attached to a wall plate inside the basement. With this system total excavation is not required and because of this additional soil load, wall recovery is accomplished over time with continued tightening of the anchor rods.

Next, there are helical tiebacks. This system of basement or retaining wall anchoring involves the complete excavation of the affected area. Helical anchors are screwed into the soil hydraulically, and then attached with a wall plate situated inside the basement wall. With the full excavation the wall can be instantaneously pulled back to plumb. The helical anchor can resist very heavy loads due to their design and the fact of their installation force equates to their resisting force.

Whatever the solution to your concrete cracks knowing the cause of your foundation problem is the first step to fixing your foundation. Hiring a professional engineer is always the first step to making your home structurally sound. Now go out and check your foundation for a concrete crack or settlement.



Wet Basements and Spring Rains

clock March 12, 2009 14:02 by author blogadmin
Excess water in your basement can lead to foundation damage. Hire a foundation engineer so you can get quality service and permanently keep your home dry.

Spring Home Improvement - Part 2

 

Solving structural foundation problems can be accomplished with steel push piers, helical piers, plate anchors and helical tiebacks by foundation experts. The type and method of foundation repair should only be prescribed by a trained expert. High quality foundation repair methods can be installed very quickly with less inconvenience than other methods. Your foundation will be secured and the original elevation will be retrieved maintaining the original integrity of your home.

 

The next step is to make sure that rain water is not running down the outside of your foundation walls. The best approach is to start at the top and work your way down. At the top is your guttering and downspouts. Gutters need to be secured and cleaned so that rain runs toward downspouts freely. The downspouts then take the water down to ground level where they must be directed away from the foundation. This can be accomplished with splash blocks, extenders or an underground system that takes the water through a series of piping and out beyond the zone of influence.

 

Grading the soil downhill is the next step. This is a very important step in the process of eliminating water problems. Mulch and debris must be removed before adding a clayey soil slope out approximately ten feet from the structure. This gentle slope directs water away from the home and prevents water pooling and hydrostatic pressure on foundation walls. Any cracks or gaps between concrete driveways and slabs should be filled to prevent any water infiltration. These gaps are often overlooked by homeowners due to their small size and location. Water runs across the concrete and is funneled into these gaps causing large amounts of water causing erosion and undermining, which opens voids for water to rest. Preventing water from attacking your foundation is the first step to preventing the need for foundation repair solutions.

 

Upon completing these easy steps you will be able to enjoy your basement this spring and summer without worrying about unexpected flooding. If your home has a crawlspace, the area under your home will be dry and mold free without paying for an encapsulation system that traps large amounts of water and mold under a thin layer of plastic that only hides your real problem. Do not fall for the scare tactics and bad advertising, use these simple steps to permanently keep your home dry and structurally sound.

 

Always remember, hiring a foundation engineer is your best insurance to getting a high quality job done right and not being sold a very expensive band aid.

 



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