In a recent article by Christopher Solomon, Is that crack serious? Foundation problems 101, the seriousness of foundation cracks was addressed. This article spoke to the severe drought that began in Southwest Texas and slowly expanded to cover, Oklahoma City, Wichita and Kansas City. In its wake homes have settled, cracked and crumbled due to the soil drying out. The article went on to report - "The drought that some are comparing to the Dust Bowl has homes rockin' and rollin' as the parched ground beneath them cracks and settles. Homeowners are watering foundations - to keep their abode in place - and forgetting about their grass"
Being in the industry of foundation repair I have noticed the effects from this most recent drought. As the drought has grown the demand for foundation repair products has grown with it. Calls from foundation repair contractors have expanded in volume, frequency and territory. By watching the phone calls you could see how the drought slowly moved from San Antonio, San Angelo and Lubbock to Dallas, Fort Worth and Denton then slowly towards Oklahoma City and Muskogee followed by Wichita, Emporia and Kansas City. More and more homes have been affected by the drought causing them to settle and crack. The soil has been so devoid of moisture that it and anything set upon it has settled downward at an alarming rate. It has affected slab on grade homes, pier and beam homes and full basement homes with equal abandon.
Solomon goes on to explain "The reason: a black gunbo clay that was brought down during the last Ice Age". It also exists in the Atlanta area and in pockets elsewhere, including St. Louis and Denver. But even bedrock can move. The American Society of Civil Engineers has estimated that one-quarter of the nation's homes have suffered damage caused by expanding soil". With numbers like this it is easy to see what a serious problem we have throughout the Midwest and beyond. As with any major weather event homeowners are subjected to unscrouplous contractors and bad advice. Be very careful of contractors that are very aggressive or new to he industry. They do not care about your home like you do and will be off to swindle the next homeowner after they have collected your money. The best way to protect yourself and your home is to hire a professional foundation engineer to oversee any and all foundation repairs. Often this expense is not only something that gives you peace of mind but also can save you money by preventing bad contractors from doing more damage.
Foundation cracks are not something that goes away or fixes itself. The severity and cause of the cracks needs to be addressed by a professional foundation repair contractor or professional engineer. Then the right solution can be applied you your home to stabilize, lift or straighten your homes foundation. This is a highly specialized field to requires high quality products, professional training and a company that will stand behind what they do for years to come. This does not mean that the best solution is a written warranty that promises the moon in the large print and penalizes you in the fine print, but a written document provided by the foundation contractor that states he will stand behind his work and uphold his reputation. Dont fall prey to "lifetime warranties" that require arbitration and other tactics of poor contractors. If you have a future problem you need to know that the company will be around and willing to fix any unexpected problems willingly.
Later in the article Solomon goes on to say "Horizontal cracks across the foundation are often serious. Horizontal cracks are caused by hydrostatic pressure - basically, too much water behind the foundation. It pushes on the foundation". "Here's a tip: Look down the outside of your house. Does the home appear to be hanging over the foundation, especially in the middle, as if the home is too big for it's foundation? That's a tell-tale sign." On the other hand, a vertical crack often indicates a more serious problem. Vertical cracks often are indicators of settlement, like what comes during extreme droughts. Is the crack wider at the top than the bottom? If so this is a classic sign of settlement. As the foundation tries to settle the concrete foundation starts cracking and starts "tearing" the wall from the top down. First and second floor windows and doors will start sticking, windows will become harder to open and close and drywall cracks will start popping up. These classic signs are indicators that you need to find professional help immediately.
One of the advantages of using push piers (resistance piers) for foundation repair is that they use quiet vibration free hydraulic equipment to install the steel resistance piers. All of the installation equipment is highly portable and can be easily transported on the jobsite. After all of the steel push piers are installed and load tested, the structure can be immediately restored or lifted by transferring the load of the home to the piers. There's no time wasted, waiting for concrete to cure, and no soil to remove from the site. A measured factor of safety is verified, as the piers are 100% load tested to a force greater than the actual working load. This all means that you will get verified structural support for many years when you require steel push piers to be used on your home’s foundation.
Remember to always consult with an independent professional engineer before starting any structural foundation repairs and these repairs should only be performed by trained foundation repair contractors.
Below, the following steps the typical installation procedure for the largest selling Steel Push Piers:
1. Site survey: Pier placements are located around the structure and the location of underground utilities verified.
2. Excavation: Small excavations or the entire perimeter is dug for access at each placement location. The space required at the foundation is usually about 3 feet square.
3. Prep of the foundation: This includes notching the concrete footing to place the push pier bracket under the stem wall, preparing the bearing area under the footing to a smooth and level condition, and adjusting the face of the stem wall to vertical at the point of bracket attachment.
4. Bracket Attachment: The steel resistance pier bracket is secured to the footing using anchor bolts. Attachment of the drive stand and the hydraulic cylinder that is used to force the pier pipe into the soil is mounted on the drive stand.
5. Push Pier Pipe Installation: The steel pier pipe is advanced into the soil using the structure as the reaction force with a 10,000 psi hydraulic pump and cylinder combination. The piers may be installed from outside or inside the structure. Pier installation continues until rock or suitable bearing-strata is encountered below the unstable soil near the surface.
6. Load Test: Every resistance pier is load tested by increasing the force on the pier to insure the rock or bearing-strata will support a load greater than needed to guarantee a factor of safety. Typically an engineer will determine the load of the structure and the desired factor of safety before the load tests are performed.
7. Preps for Restoration: Once all push piers have been installed, load tested, and the installation data at each placement recorded; lifting head assemblies and hydraulic lifting rams are placed on the steel piers. The lifting cylinders are connected with one or more manifolds and operated using a hydraulic pump.
8. Restoration: Under careful supervision, the load is transferred from the existing failing strata under the foundation, to the load tested piers. The structure can be transferred gently and evenly lifted to as close to the original elevation or to the recommendation of the engineer. The nuts at the pier caps are secured at each placement and the lifting equipment is removed.
9. Clean Up: The soil that was excavated at each steel push pier placement is now replaced and compacted. The site is left clean and neat.
If you have noticed cracks in your drywall, brick or foundation you might need steel push piers to provide structural support foundation repairs. Whether your foundation is concrete block, poured concrete or composed of stone, steel push piers should be your first choice as a foundation repair solution. Foundation repair or structural underpinning projects, with steel push piers, are usually completed in just days, not weeks.