The one thing that nobody tells you about homeownership is the major problems that can happen. There are appliances that quit working, roofs that leak, and basement walls that crack or settle. Foundation settling or shifting can be caused by many things. Before any foundation repairs can be made, these items have to be identified and accepted. In the medical world the old adage is “cure the disease, and then treat the symptoms”. This is applicable to foundation repair also, we need to find out what is causing the issue, why is it causing a problem, and then finding a solution to the problem.
The most common reason for foundation problems is water. Often it’s a lack of moisture and sometimes it is too much water. Issues with gutters, downspouts or drain tile are common. Drainage blocks are mostly due to leaves, debris, or failure. In a few cases, the blockage causes the sump pump to reuse water that erodes and saturates soils along the basement. Rainwater should be diverted away from the foundation to stop hydrostatic pressure on the foundation and floors. In times of drought, water might need to be applied near the foundation to maintain more consistent soil moisture content.
Many times foundation problems, followed by foundation repairs, manifest themselves in the form of serious cracking of slabs or basement floors. Basement floor slab cracking can happen for several reasons. They can be significantly thinner than the plan requested or the sub base of stone may be significantly thinner than originally called for. Heaving often ends cracking as well.
Most drywall cracks appear in the corner of doorframes or windows and result from differential movement between framing and the drywall. Some wood frame movement can be due to standard processes such as shrinkage or temperature expansion.
Homes with a crawl space sometimes show recurring damage patterns. Often a few vertical cracks in the crawl space open and close seasonally. Due to their shallow foundation nature, these cracks grow noticeably during intense times of drought or rain. Among several potential factors, these shallow footings may rest on expansive soil that experiences more acute cycles of shrink and swell, which is often aggravated by landscaping.
Repairing damaged foundations represents the greatest engineering challenge for a known problem. Wrongly supported pilasters, concrete piers, random crack filling, misapplication of carbon fiber strips and the engineering conviction that wider footings stop settlement are examples of potential ill-conceived foundation repair methods.
The foundation fix starts with a total foundation inquiry by a competent foundation engineer. This engineer will visit the symptoms and measure the settlement of the structure while reading the appearances of damaged foundations. Upon completing his inquiry, the engineer will then give a written outline of the problems with suggestions for a cure.
Possible cures can be steel resistance piers, helical anchors, micropiles, tiebacks, plate anchors or waterproofing. With correct drainage, when these underpinning products are installed, per manufacturer’s specifications and under the guidance of the foundation engineer you can be warranted that your problem will be solved.
So, if you are having foundation problems, don’t panic. There are solutions to help, there are qualified engineers to help you and there are competent foundation repair contractors available to enact these solutions.