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 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.
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.
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.
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 stable. The elevation survey is not a complete property survey, and for the most part usually does not require that a permanent benchmark is 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 it as such.
For more information at structural foundation repairs and waterproofing please visit unitedstructuralsystems.com. Pat is not only a professional structural repair analyst but also a professional speaker that educates specialty contractors and homeowners about foundation problems and water drainage issues.