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The Art of Foundation Repair

clock November 9, 2010 04:29 by author blogadmin
A professional foundation repair expert is trained to lift and stabilize shifting foundations by using quality ECP helical piers and helical anchors.

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, piles or anchors. Methods of foundation repairs include push piers, wall plate anchors, helical anchors or piers and concrete piles.

Those responsible for designing and instituting these methods include foundation engineers and professional foundation repair contractors. A foundation engineer is responsible to evaluate the structure in question and then provide a proposal for his design. Generally an 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 performed.

Poor soil conditions are the result of several primary 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. Underpinning provides a system to lift the home to an acceptable level and prevent additional settlement or movement.

Concrete slab on grade or pier and beam foundations are the most susceptible to weak or expanding clay 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 concrete 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 levels.

Differential soil or foundation settlement causes slab on grade foundations to rise on the perimeter or fall around the perimeter. 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 used to lift the foundation and to regain lost elevation levels.

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 methods of fixing bowed basement walls. Plate Anchors (wall anchors) are an effective solution for many homes. These wall anchors are imbedded 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.

The art of underpinning or stabilizing a structure that has moved from its originally constructed design must be performed by foundation repair expert under the guidance of professional engineers.

 



Foundation Repair Guidelines For Homeowners

clock October 3, 2010 19:47 by author blogadmin

Reprinted from Ezine Articles.com

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 http://www.unitedstructuralsystems.com. 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.

 



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