Foundation issues can be one of a homeowner’s worst nightmares. Because your house sits on its foundation, any sinking, cracking or shifting can create a devastating domino effect through the entire structure. Walls can separate, windows can move out of alignment and doors can become stuck.
If any telltale signs of damage have appeared in your basement or slab recently, it may be time to look for professional help. These signs include cracks, gaps between bricks in your facade and creaking floors. When you notice these, your first instinct will be to get them taken care of as fast as possible.
However, in these situations, caution is just as important as speed. Whether the basement walls are cracking or the slab is sinking, choosing the proper type of repairs for the problem is critical.
Professionals and DIYers use many different foundation repair methods. Each one addresses a specific type of issue and may not be appropriate in every case. This is why hiring a contractor makes such a difference. With the expertise of pros who know these techniques inside and out, you can be confident that you will get the service that is right for your home’s particular situation.
Here is a quick breakdown of the most common varieties of foundation repair, when they should be used and the pluses and minuses they bring to the job.
Foundation Repair – Patches and Sealant
One of the most frequently encountered foundation problems is the appearance of cracks in basement walls. If your foundation is relatively new and the cracks appear to be small, this is most likely a sign of shrinkage in the concrete.
Although these cracks are probably not an indication of something serious such as settling or shifting, they do need to be sealed before water can infiltrate them and cause more damage during freeze-thaw cycles. Caulk, hydraulic cement or epoxy can seal cracks and prevent moisture from getting into the structure.
This type of repair is simple enough that many homeowners will be able to do it on their own. However, fixing cracks does nothing to alleviate any hidden structural issues that may be lurking and require expert eyes to identify. If you choose the sealant method, be certain that cracking is the only problem you have.
Foundation Repair – Steel Piers
When a foundation begins to settle into softer earth, a host of concerns can arise. Foundation settling typically happens when builders do not take the soil conditions into consideration before construction or when a property has drainage issues.
In order to address this problem, a repair contractor may decide to use steel piers. The contractor will drive these into the foundation to help stabilize it and prevent it from sinking further into the ground. Push piers are driven with a hydraulic ram, while helical piers are screwed into the soil. Both feature plates that attach to the foundation to hold it in place. Installing steel piers also requires hydraulic jacks to lift the foundation before each pier is installed to restore it to its original condition.
The steel pier process is certainly more complex and involved than many other approaches, but it can be extremely effective in stabilizing a sinking house.
Foundation Repair – Slabjacking
In some cases, foundations don’t sink evenly, causing the structure to shift. If that happens, contractors may remedy the problem with slabjacking. This process involves drilling holes in strategic locations around the slab. A slurry of concrete, fly ash and other additives is pumped into the holes. The mixture expands as it dries, pushing upward and helping to steady the foundation against further movement.
Although slabjacking can be very useful for taking care of an unevenly sinking foundation, this method requires expertise and specialized equipment. It is well outside the capabilities of the average homeowner and should only be attempted by those who have the proper level of experience.
Foundation Repair – Tieback Anchors
When basement walls begin to bow or lean due to slab issues, tieback anchors may be necessary in conjunction with a remedy for the foundation. Much like helical piers, tieback anchors are screwed into the earth behind the walls and attached with a metal plate. This holds the wall in place and prevents it from bowing again.
The level of complexity associated with this method means that it should be handled by professionals. Once the anchors are installed, however, the wall issue is resolved in the majority of cases. No matter what type of foundation problem you may have, there is a method that can address it.
According to Brandon Cartee, owner of Foundation Repair Services in North and South Carolina, understanding the differences between the various types of solutions is important for homeowners who may be worried about their properties.
However, the best way to ensure that the job is done right is to turn to professional contractors who have the experience and equipment for the task.