Fixing Your Foundation Problems the “Right Way”

So you finally decided to investigate your homes foundation problem. That crack in the wall has finally managed to get past your pain threshold for acceptance and it’s time to call someone in to fix it. Oddly, you didn’t even realize you had a foundation problem, until you began researching online. It appears that crack may be more of a problem than you bargained for. A quick search on Google brings up a dozen contractors eager to offer up their expertise and services, and your colleague at work has a friend who fixed his sloping floors in a day. The big-box store in town has all kinds of solutions and repair clinics to further your confusion.

So what do you do next? Have you ever heard that stupid old saying; “what you can’t see won’t hurt you”? In the foundation repair business it’s the bugle call to action for almost 90% of every, air quotes here- licensed contractor- in the business who offers his expertise to repair your homes foundation woes. We call him- Quick-fix Charlie. Hand written contract on store bought forms with fifteen minutes of investigation and thirty minutes of hard-selling, and you’re sure to get a bargain. He does have a point though; when he’s finished, if you don’t see any problem… and if you don’t feel any problem when you walk across your living room floor, is there really a problem with your foundation after quick-fix Charlie makes a few adjustments below the floor and collects a check?

Well, if you’re a firm believer in the statement above then I guess not, but…if you are of the belief that a house built on a firm foundation is meant to last, then you may have a bit of problem with what you can’t see under your floors after he’s gone. Unfortunately foundation problems don’t just go away. Left unchecked, (repaired the correct way), they will get worse, and like a cancer in your house, will eventually cause your home to die, (in extreme cases, collapse). In actuality, what you can’t see here, can and will, hurt your foundation and your pocketbook.

What is the right way to fix any foundation?

The truth is, we don’t know, until we actually come out and perform a thorough physical examination of the symptoms, take lots of measurements, and complete multiple tests, do some research, then finally devise a plan to get your foundation back to health. Sounds like your doctor, doesn’t it? There is more similarities than you imagine. Would your doctor only put a Band-Aid on a broken arm? Not if he’s an actual physician. The same thing is true when your foundation is broken. After a thorough investigation of the underlying causes of your foundations failures or problems, a true foundation repair expert with the assistance of a qualified structural engineer will propose a repair that will offer you a permanent solution that will last the lifetime of your home.

Are your floors sinking or uneven? Are your doors and windows becoming harder to open or stuck shut/open? Are there cracks in the walls that seem to get a bit larger every year? Do you feel like you’re walking on a cruise ship every time you walk down the hall? leaning to the left or to the right. These are all signs that you may have some sort of foundation failure, but what type and what is the cause should be your number one concern BEFORE you start writing a check for services. Just paying someone to pour cement or put a few wood posts and garden steps under your crawl space may seem like the easy thing to do, but you’re only masking the problem. It will continue to have problems and sometimes with a higher level of failure.

Signs of Foundation Damage

My company inspects and repairs foundations in the Los Angeles area. Depending on your symptoms, we might determine that a system of piers, (pushed or screwed into the ground), and support brackets connected to your foundation, be utilized to support and raise the sinking portions of your foundation. Through extensive investigation we might determine your foundations need soil stabilization and micro-piles to support the load. Interestingly, I inspect and investigate many foundations that don’t need our services at all. It seems those cracks in the walls and exterior stucco were caused by a minor issue with the framing. When we do find foundation issues that are causing you to be concerned, generally these issues are associated with settlement due to the ground you home is built upon. Settlement or sinking foundation issues are most often attributed to the type of soil under your home, especially in the case of clay or caliche type soils , or maybe not.

The Root Cause- No Pun intended

Settlement happens most often when the soil beneath your foundation dries out and begins to shrink away from the footing. Clay and Caliche can also cause serious foundation damage when they swell from moisture. this can cause just as much damage as settlement issues. In California many homes are built on residential fill lots, (where the soil below has been imported to fill in a low spot or valley). Although very stringent guidelines and inspections by geo-technical and civil engineers are followed to ensure fill lots are stable, they do quite often fail or settle over time. If your home is built here, this may be the cause of your foundation woes.

Foundation problems can also be caused by a tree root that has lifted the edge of your house and caused your walls to crack or your floors to become uneven, or a collapsed sewer pipe that is leaking under your floors. Foundation failure can even be caused from your sprinkler system, or your neighbors, eroding the soil beneath the corner of your house. In the case of raised foundations with crawlspaces, failure or settlement can occur for the simple fact that the wood beams supporting your floors have dried out and shrunken over time. The posts that support those beams can shrink and settle too. They too as just sitting on soil that may be clay or Caliche and susceptible to settlement issues.

The bottom line; a quick fix may look and sound like a good idea, and the repair by Quick-fix Charlie may indeed seem like a good deal. In reality when you finally see the symptoms return, usually within a few months, Quick-fix Charlie will be long gone and you will have a much bigger problem than you originally started with.

Caveat Emptor my friends.