You’ve noticed cracks in your walls, and some of your doors and windows won’t close anymore. After researching online, you call a foundation repair contractor you think is a good fit based on their website and reviews. After all, foundation repair can be expensive, and if you’re going to spend the money, you want to use the right company.
You schedule an inspection so the contractor can hopefully discover the source of your problems. It turns out your foundation is settling, so much so that it merits hiring a professional to fix the problem. But now you have a million questions, like “What’s the best method to stabilize my sinking foundation?” We’ll list four common repair methods and what to consider when choosing one below.
The first and oldest repair method involves removing and replacing the damaged or settled area. This involves cutting and removing the floor and footing beneath your home. This is the most invasive and usually the costliest form of repair. Luckily, it’s the least common method and is only used for extreme cases, such as after seismic events.
Another method professionals rarely use today is mud jacking, where they pump a mixture of clay and cement under your foundation to hydraulically lift your footing back to level. Unfortunately, if the soil beneath your home is the cause of settlement, the problem will return in a few years, if not sooner. This method isn’t the best solution, but you’ll still see some contractors offering it.
Polyurethane foam raising is a relatively new process similar to mud jacking. It offers a quicker, cleaner alternative to the messy mud. It is often quick, minimally invasive, and easy to do, but the cost can be on the higher side. Polyurethane foam is mostly used for localized concrete slab foundation stabilization and raising and is quite effective. The drawback to poly is the same as mud jacking. If the soil remains unstable, your home will continue to settle.
The term “piers” can refer to many different foundation stabilization methods. Most types of piers accomplish the same thing when it comes to foundation repairs; they support your foundation. Some are drilled into the soil, and some are pushed, while others are cast with concrete and steel.
Piers are the most common method for residential foundation stabilization. Regardless of the type of pile—helical, push, caisson, or micro-pile—they provide the best solution for stabilizing your home’s foundation, so long as the movement or settlement is vertical only. As one foundation contractor once told me, “I can push rocks into the soil below a house to support it”.
Lateral or downhill creep requires additional bracing against future movement, so the repair cost can climb rapidly based on the nature of the movement. Homeowners experiencing soil creep or downhill creep are the most susceptible to foundation problems. These take a highly trained repair professional, along with a soil engineer and a structural engineer, to design a repair procedure that will stabilize both the home and the failing slope. If you live on a hillside and are experiencing symptoms that may require foundation repair, delaying hiring a foundation repair professional to remedy the problems may be a costly mistake.
The soil your home is constructed on is a major factor you must consider when selecting a repair method to stabilize and possibly lift your foundation back to where it belongs. The type of foundation construction (raised versus slab on grade), the location, slope conditions, and the design of the foundation itself, are all factors that go into foundation repair.
Finally, it’s always important to consider the quality of the repair when making the decision to hire a professional to repair your home. How long do you want the repair to last? Do you want a temporary fix, or do you want something permanent?
It’s decision time. You have several foundation repair proposals in hand. The prices are similar, but each proposal suggests drastically different methods of repair. What should you do? Which company will do the best job? Now you need to determine who’s right and who’s wrong and which of the four methods will best stabilize your sinking foundation.
Will the contractor install piers, inject foam, apply caissons, or a combination to stabilize and lift your foundation back to level? Is your hillside moving? How many piers does your foundation need, and how far apart will they be installed? Are they only on the perimeter of your home or installed underneath? That concrete seems quite rigid until you lift it from the edge.
What if there are cracks under your flooring? Will that cause a problem? Do you tear out the old concrete and install new concrete, or do you just glue the cracks closed and call it a day? Do you even want your house lifted? How long will the repair last? And the most important question people ask us during every inspection: “How long will it take, and do I need to move out of my house while the work is being done?”
Lots of information. Lots of questions. And you can’t simply research or find the answer to them on the internet or over the phone. That would be like searching for the perfect pill for your stomach ache on Google or asking the doctor to diagnose the cause of the pain in your shoulder without getting an examination.
A professional inspector can answer all of these questions after they spend enough time at your home to determine the problem and formulate a repair solution you’re happy with. There are many variables to consider, and any professional foundation repair contractor would want to get the repair diagnosis correct.
That’s why it’s so important to do your research and hire someone who specializes in house foundation repair. They’re the professionals. Let them examine the symptoms and determine a repair solution. It’s your home. It’s your money. Spend it wisely and take care of your biggest asset. You wouldn’t have the gardener cut your hair, no matter how good he is with those clippers. If you think you have foundation problems, call a professional. You’ll be glad you did.