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Foundation Repair Guidelines For Homeowners

clock October 3, 2010 19:47 by author blogadmin

Reprinted from Ezine

By: Patrick Donlea  United Structural Systems


Foundation settlement happens slowly. Homeowners do not watch their house sink, but rather experience a "sinking feeling" that something, over time, is happening. Like most "sinking feelings" this one lies at the back of the mind. They know something is wrong, but they are not sure how it happened. And like many home repairs, foundation repair often gets put off until their windows no longer open, or doors will not fit correctly in their openings. Whatever the circumstances, homeowners are likely to become concerned with the implications related to foundation failure.

The implications can range from the ability to sale the home, to the safety of the structure itself. Uncertain how to proceed, often homeowners tend to ignore the problem and hope that fixes itself, or seek the advice of a contractors who are not thoroughly trained in the field of foundation repair. It is important to remember that a contractor with experience in fields related to residential foundations (concrete contractors, basement waterproofing contractors, and concrete raising contractors) does not necessarily indicate industry expertise. Foundation problems can be a stressful, potentially costly endeavor for homeowners, particularly, if not properly diagnosed and repaired by a suitably qualified contractor or foundation engineer.

Foundation repair requires specialized equipment and well-trained, experienced personnel. Foundation underpinning should be recommended only after a careful analysis by a qualified professional, well versed in multiple foundation repair designs.

Initial Site Inspection

The primary objective of the initial site visit is to ascertain the most likely cause of the damage to the reported area and determine if the damage is related to foundation settlement, heave (which is....), or a problem unrelated to the foundation. In order to properly diagnose and design the repair the investigator must gather all the relevant information related to the distressed foundation. Information acquired during the initial investigation includes, but is not limited to, structural and architectural drawings, grading plans, and plat of survey. It is not uncommon that homeowners are not in possession of the original construction plans for their home, therefore the initial site inspection requires a visual inspection of the damaged property to compile information on the locations of foundation cracks, the type of structure including foundation type and depth, signs of previous repairs to masonry or drywall, the pattern of building movement, and the general exterior surroundings including the locations of trees.

Elevation Survey

The purpose of the elevation survey is to estimate the amount of movement that has occurred to the foundation in relation to areas of the foundation that appear to be stabile. The elevation survey is not a complete property survey, and for the most part usually does not require that a permanent benchmark be established. It is of great importance to measure the deviation in the foundation. The foundation elevations can be plotted to measure the degree of movement or distress present in the foundation at the time of the investigation.

Visual signs of distress (cracks in interior drywall, foundation cracks, or exterior masonry joints) can often be deceiving, indicating foundation movement in areas unrelated to the foundation. In some cases the movement is within the wall itself due to physical changes such as humidity, over-stressing, vibration, and general wear and tear. Other significant measurements include the width of foundation and masonry cracks or ruptures, and the dimensions of the structure. An experienced site investigator can use the information obtained to determine not only the specific area of distress but also the underlying cause of the problem. After this information has been compiled and analyzed and only after this it has been analyzed, a plan of structural repair can be generated for your home. Your home is your most valued asset and you should treat is as such.

For more information at structural foundation repairs and waterproofing please visit Pat is not only a professional structural repair analysist but also a professional speaker that educates specialty contractors and homeowners about foundation problems and water drainage issues.

Foundation Repair Your Underpinning Options

clock September 28, 2010 18:11 by author blogadmin
Avoid foundation repair contractors that take short cuts to make foundation repairs. Choose one that provides quality jobs and master the foundation methods.



Understanding all foundation repair or underpinning methods will help with your decision when deciding upon a foundation repair contractor. Some unscrupulous foundation repair contractors advertise that they can put in every type of piering system. Professional contractors concentrate on just one or two piering methods and master them. The contractors that claim to be a “jack of all trades” usually are the master of none. They generally take short cuts and due to the fact that they are not thoroughly trained in each specific method. Professional foundation repair contractors that pick a system or two and stick with it generally can master the methods and provide a better quality job. They may not have the answer for every situation but they will generally provide better quality work on the jobs that they accept. They are also more likely to be recommended by professional engineers. If an engineer is putting his reputation on the line they generally will recommend professional underpinning contractors to perform the work they specify.

Knowing the positives and negatives of each foundation repair system is one more step in getting a job well done. All commonly accepted methods have their place or application where they shine. Some methods, like steel push piers and helical anchors, are more adaptable to unique situations, yet even they have their limitations. Using the correct method for your particular application is the difference between a job well done and a job that is less than satisfactory.

Steel push piers have an advantage over most systems in the fact that they are individually tested as they are installed. Professional underpinning contractors will monitor and record pressure readings and then compare them with structural weights to determine capacities. They will also use a manifold lifting system to perform any lifting required to make sure that the lift does not put any undue pressure on the structure. Professional engineers prefer manifold lifting systems especially high pressure (10,000psi) systems that can be controlled from a single place.

Helical pier systems are another very popular system recommended by many professional engineers. Helical piers are "screwed" in the soil using a helical gear motor or torque motor. Once again pressures and torque reading are monitored and recorded to establish capacities. Without carefully monitoring these reading a verifiable capacity cannot be assumed. Professional engineers generally want to review these readings to verify that the helical piers have reached soil layers that can support the structure. Manifold lifting systems are once again the preferred method of lifting.

Simply, homeowners need to ask questions of engineers and underpinning contractors before choosing a contractor. Stay away from the jack of all trades and also be wary of the contractor who does not use a manifold lifting system. Many of these contractors use simple bottle jacks in their attempt to lift structures. These are all simple clues that you need to keep looking for a professional contractor to work on your most valuable asset, your home. As always hiring an independent professional engineer is the best course of action before any foundation repairs are started.


French Drain

clock September 17, 2010 12:57 by author blogadmin
Keeping your foundation safe and dry is important. The invention of the french drain helps prevent ground water from entering your basement.

French drains, a form of subsurface drain, utilizes a buried perforated pipe installed in a gravel bed with a geo-textile fabric envelope lining the trench. Water from the surrounding soil enters the gravel bed, flows into the drain pipe and utilizes gravity to flow towards the discharge point.

The three most frequently used type of french drain pipe systems for residential and commercial applications are smooth sewer and drain pipe, corrugated plastic pipe and poly drain pipe. Smooth wall sewer and drain pipe is rigid and manufactured from PVC or Polyethylene. Due to its rigid nature it is easier to maintain a continuous slope in critical areas by spanning over uneven trenches. Corrugated pipe is manufactured from high density polyethylene and is available in 10' - 250' rolls. Since corrugated pipe is flexible, it can follow contours of the ground and wrap around corners without couplings or elbows. Poly drain pipe (EZ-Flow) is a self contained french drain system that combines corrugated pipe with a poly aggregate wrapped in geo-fabric. This system eliminates the need for gravel sepaate geo-textile cloth.

Each of the above mentioned drain pipe systems have perforations or slits to allow water in and directing this water down stream to a discharge point. Discharge points can be grates, drywells or popup emitters. French drains are the most common method for evacuating excess ground water which has infiltrated into the soil. If the gravel is run to the top of the trench you can also direct surface water down through the aggregate to the pipe system preventing water in unwanted areas such as near foundations or across patios and sidewalks.

A well designed and installed french drain system can prevent foundation repairs and basement flooding. By stopping surface and ground water from coming into contact with foundation components, basements will stay dry and foundations will remain more stable. Understanding water flow and pipe capacities are key components to a well designed french drain system. Many foundation repair and basement waterproofing contractors have been trained to diagnose and solve ground water issues, but it is always advisable to consult with a professional engineer when dealing with foundation issues.



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