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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.




Crawlspace Problems and Solutions

clock October 28, 2013 11:19 by author
Crawlspaces are often overlooked and forgotten. Install a vapor barrier if your crawlspace is wet and damp to prevent water damage.

Crawlspace Problems

The crawlspace is a very important part of your home. It supports the entire structure. If a problem arises with your crawlspace, it could possibly lead to major issues in other areas of your home. Some common crawlspace problems are moisture issues - water damage or water stains, mold, etc., and structural issues - failing supports, sinking or settlement. Fortunately, a professional foundation repair contractor can supply you with the necessary skills and tools to fix all of your crawlspace problems.

One very common issue that many homeowners struggle with is moisture in your crawlspace. Excess moisture in your crawlspace can lead to a lot of annoying problems, such as decayed supports, water stains or damage, and mold. The formation of mold is an especially dangerous issue, as the mold can infect the air. This might not seem like such a big deal, as you probably don't spend a whole lot of time on your crawlspace. Much of the air you breathe throughout your home, however, comes from your crawlspace or basement. This means that you and your family could breathe in the mold-infected air from your crawlspace! Some signs that your crawlspace may have a moisture problem are:

  • Mold or mildew in crawlspace
  • Musty odors in living area
  • Condensation on duct work, insulation, or water pipes
  • Rotting wooden framing
  • Pests or insects in crawlspace
  • Rusty metal surfaces in crawlspace
  • High humidity in living area
  • Buckled hardwood floor

If you notice any of these symptoms, chances are that your crawlspace has a moisture problem. Contact a specialist immediately to have your crawlspace repaired.

Another problem that can arise in a crawlspace is structural failing. This happen when your crawlspace starts to shift or settle, leading to cracks and other problems. If your crawlspace has structural issues, it is a serious danger to the rest of your home, as the entire structure rests on the crawlspace and relies on it for support.

Crawlspace Solutions

Crawlspace Problems, Crawlspace Solutions

The best way to prevent moisture from entering your crawlspace is to install a vapor barrier. Vapor barriers are moisture resistant materials such as plastic or foil sheeting that are installed over the entire area of your crawlspace to seal out moisture. This process is called crawlspace encapsulation. Not only will a vapor barrier protect your crawlspace from moisture problems, but it will also make your crawlspace look cleaner and more finished. If the water problem in your crawlspace is severe enough, you may also need to invest in a new or improved basement waterproofing system. This includes your sump pump system and your interior drainage system.

For structural crawlspace problems, you may need to invest in crawlspace support piers. Products such as a helical pier or steel push pier work well to support a failing crawlspace. Push piers and helical piers both work by driving into the ground, deep into stable soil beneath the void or shifting soil that is causing the problem. The difference is that helical piers, instead of merely being driven into the ground, are screwed into the ground to provide more support. Once the pier has been driven into stable soil, the weight of the structure is transferred onto it and it is raised to it's original position.

If you notice any of these crawlspace problems developing in your home, it is time to find a professional foundation repair expert. My Foundation Repairs can help you get in contact with an experienced foundation repair contractor to provide you with a variety of crawlspace solutions for your home.

 



Different Types of Home Foundations

clock October 28, 2013 10:13 by author
There are different types of foundations, so choose the right foundation to avoid settlement and slab cracks.

Home Foundations

Home FoundationsThough most home foundation are made of concrete, there are a few key differences in the many variations. Some factors that affect what type of foundation you should choose for your home include the soil type in the area, the climate, and the size and design of your home itself. Some soils require a home to have a very deep rooted foundation, while other soils are better at supporting the structure. Also, some types of foundation are not able to withstand cold weather or flood conditions as well as other types. Choose the right foundation to avoid foundation problems such as a sinking or settling foundation, or slab cracks.

The most common type of home foundation is a poured concrete foundation. There are many types of concrete foundations, including the slab foundation, and the basement foundation. In a slab foundation, a concrete slab that makes the foundation is poured onto a bed of crushed gravel. This improves drainage and makes the foundation ideal for areas where the ground does not freeze in the wintertime. A basement foundation is a bit different. This concrete foundation rests in a hole in the ground and is supported by concrete footings, which are poured pads that serve as a base for the walls. These footings are both wider and longer than the walls and work much like feet in distributing the weight of the wall and the above structure. They are often used in places that have cold winters.

The next type of home foundation is the crawlspace. This space is located between the bottom of your home and the soil, and is usually just tall enough for your to crawl into. This type of foundation is great for areas with lots of clay in the soil. They are also one of the most affordable types of foundation. A crawlspace does, however, need to be insulated to prevent water damage from occurring.

Home Foundation Options for Every Situation

For use in areas where the winters are very cold, a frost-protected foundation is the suitable choice. These foundations are usually T-shaped and the footings extend deep below the frost line to provide extra support for the slab. Frost-protected foundations can, however, be installed without digging below the frost line. These are called frost-protected shallow foundations (FPSF), and use insulated concrete to protect the foundation from the cold.

In areas that are prone to flooding, a raised foundation is best. There are two types of raised foundations: pier-and-beam and stem wall. Both require lots of care and planning, as they must protect against water as well as support the weight of the structure. A pier-and-beam foundation works by using concrete or brick blocks reinforced with footings. These blocks are placed about 8-12 inches apart to raise the home above the flood line. Stem wall foundations are similar, but instead of having spaced footings, they have continuous footings.

Permanent wood foundations are another type of foundation. They are recommended by many manufacturers as an alternative to crawlspace, basement, and stem wall foundations. This type of foundation is made of lightweight, preservative-treated, decay-resistant wood. Because they do not require concrete pouring or casting, permanent wood foundations are convenient and easy to install. They are also moisture resistant and easier to insulate than other types of home foundations.

To decide what type of foundation is best for you and your home, talk to a professional structural engineer. My Foundation Repair can connect you with some of the best in the business. Let us help you out today!

 



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