Have a broken foundation and need foundation repairs?

Don’t panic. 

 

Below I will walk you through the process you should follow. 

Did you discover an issue or need your foundation repaired after a recent home inspection report? 

Again, you have come to the right place. I am a licensed Civil Engineer who has over 20 years of construction experience starting with my Fathers construction company and extending to my engineering practice. I have provided the general information you need to know below. 

 

This is a fairly common issue. There is an entire industry built up that can make the needed repairs very efficiently. 

 

Foundation Failure Causes and Solutions

 

 

Shallow Foundations or footings or footers as they are called depending on which side of the tracks you grew up on fail for many reasons, and below I have included just a few:

 

 

  • Soil Erosion beneath the foundation due to wind or water or other environmental causes such as plumbing leaks

  • Equipment or Vehicles impact during or post construction

  • Undrained Water Pressure increasing the loading on the wall beyond what it was designed for

  • Frozen Ground causing Frost Heave 

  • Building on loose fill instead of density controlled fill

  • Undersigned or backfill placed too early against fresh concrete

  • Area disturbances from blasting or pile driving

  • Improper footing design size or depth or materials

  • Or the large urban area attack from Godzilla like the movie I saw a couple of summers back

  • Tree Roots taking water from the soil pores, known as transpiration, causing shrinkage and thus settlement 

  • Highly expansive soil or consolidating soil under different parts of the foundation causing extreme swelling or shrinking which is typical among high plastic index clays and extreme weather patterns of drought and rain

  • Highly organic decomposing soils such as building over a unknown peat bog several feet beneath the surface 

 

It is important to identify why your foundation failed by a site inspection to mitigate any further damage (except from the case that is Godzilla, if this is you run like the wind and schedule a site visit when it is all clear). Often the repairs are less expensive if caught earlier. Left unattended the damage may become worse as more loading transfers to the damaged area and it settles more exasperating the original problem. 

 

The following are a few suggested solutions to the above problems

  • Improve positive drainage to lower the water table behind basement walls. This can be accomplished in part by running new perimeter drains, installing an additional sump

  • Ensure through test beams or other curing methods new construction has properly cured before placing unbalanced backfill against a wall

  • Avoid placing a building at the low point on a property that collects water. If the home is already in this situation cutting swells away from the home to intercept water may be a solution

  • Frost heave is due to soil or base containing pockets of water that expand when temperature dip below freezing long enough to cool the soil. To avoid this ensure the backfill soils is free draining and do not use find grain soils that would cause a capillary rise. Capillary rise occurs when water is actually wicked up to the surface beneath the concrete 

  • Ensure the footing is at least below the frost line in your area and compliant with your local building code 

  • Ensure landscape plants are size appropiate and sufficently away from the home so the root system will not compromise your structure

  • Use of micro piles or helical piers professionally installed to support your foundation

 

 

Now that you know a few causes of failure and ways to avoid problems on your next project what can you do to correct your current problem? 

 

If you home has begun to experience differential settlement you need to call an expert. There are simply too many options to discuss that are beyond the scope of this article. Ask for referrals from contractors you may have used on other projects on your home or from locally owned equipment rental houses for referrals.

 

A good contractor can give you an estimated range of prices they have seen in the past right over the phone from what they might expect in your addition  and similar projects. Ultimately a site visit will need to be performed to provide an actual estimate. Todays equipment will allow some repairs to be accomplished in about one work day which will speed your resolution and lower your costs. 

 

I hope this article wasn’t as dull as you expected, or made you smile and gave you a little more information about foundation repair. If this article didn’t address a specific concern of your please feel free to contact me on my contact page. I will try to respond within 24 hours every day of the week. 

 

Fun Fact. Modern Geotechnical Engineering study can trace its roots back to a single Harvard Professor named Karl Terzaghi (1883-1963). Karl gave future engineers the tools needed to predict the behavior of soils. Soil mechanics when combined with structural design for footings will properly transfer the structures load through the footing and into the soil at or below its capacity.  Today most footing residential footing failures are from non engineered footings. With a quick Professional Engineer’s analysis and Contractors repair your building will be back on solid ground (pun intended).  

 

Copyright © 2016 by Richard W Clayborn, P.E.  Civil Engineering for Residential and Commercial Buildings. All rights reserved. Terms of Use

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