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Professionals Recommend Three Ways of Foundation Repair

repair old urban house foundation

When we have work to be done around the home, it typically falls into one of two categories. In some cases, you may be able to do it as a DIY project, but in others, a professional should be contacted.

Foundation repair is one project that should be handled by a qualified contractor. The damage and repairs are often beyond the abilities of most homeowners and typically require specific methods and tools to be applied.

You also need to consider the scope of the project. Unlike small DIY projects that can be done over a weekend, foundation repair will demand a significant amount of time and effort.

And that isn’t even to mention the fact that if it isn’t done properly, it will likely need to be done again shortly in the future. Most homeowners will approach this process as a DIY project by only covering the symptoms and not actually treating the issue behind the scenes.

In this article, we will discuss the need to have a professional on the job for this process. We will also look into the specific methods that are necessary for the project, as well as some of the signs that may indicate the project needs to be done in the first place.

Common Signs of Foundation Problems 

When foundation problems occur, the issue can be significant. Your entire home is resting on the foundation, so any specific problems with the foundation will also cause problems with the rest of the home.

Many homeowners will find themselves wondering whether they actually need foundation repair or if it is just a matter of fixing the issues as they arise. This is important to know because you wouldn’t want to spend money unnecessarily. At the same time, you would also run the risk of allowing additional damage by procrastinating on this process.

The first step in any foundation repair job is to determine whether the job needs to be done in the first place. This is often accomplished by means of a foundation inspection, but it’s also important to recognize the signs of foundation problems as they occur.

Often, you will not see the issue directly–but rather, you will see it as various parts of the home are put under pressure due to the failing foundation and problems begin to occur. Here are a few issues to watch out for:

Sticking doors and windows: The most common way people recognize a foundation problem is when the doors and windows start sticking. They can stick when you open and close them, or you may notice that a door isn’t staying closed when it has been pushed shut.

This problem occurs when the foundation shifts and puts pressure on the rest of the home’s frame. The torque placed on the frame is significant and can impact the door and window frames, causing them to be out of square.

Cracks near the windows and doors: Aside from sticking windows and doors, you may also notice that there are cracks forming in the wall near the windows and doors. These cracks extend out into the wall (and even onto the ceiling), but they tend to originate near the door and window frames.

Sloping floors: As the foundation sinks, it often does so at different rates, which is known as “differential settlement.” This issue can result in sloping floors–as can other problems, such as wood rot under the floor.

You may not be able to visually see the fact that the floor is sloping, but you may feel as if you have vertigo while walking across the room. If you drop a pen or other round objects, it may also roll across the floor instead of staying where it lands.

Loose floors: Do you hear the furniture rattling as you walk across the room? Do the floorboards or tiles feel loose under your feet? This is also a common sign of foundation problems.

Cracked or leaning chimneys: The chimney is a heavy part of the home that often sits on a portion of the foundation that is not well supported. As a result, the chimney may be one of the first parts of the home to experience problems when the foundation is failing.

The chimney may be leaning, or may even separate from the rest of the home. Cracks in the chimney break or block may also be evident when this problem occurs.

Moisture and mold: Water is often associated with a failing foundation, as it can build up in the soil and put pressure on the wall due to expansive soil. If you have mold and mildew in the basement or crawl space, it is a possible sign of foundation failure.

You may not be able to visibly see the mold and mildew, but someone may tell you that you have an “old house smell.” That smell comes from the decay of mold and bacteria, and is a common sign of foundation problems.

Higher energy bills: Due to higher humidity levels, it may take more energy to heat and cool the home. One of the biggest complaints that many contractors hear (and can lead to determining the foundation is failing) involves higher energy costs.

This issue appears due to the stack effect. Hot air rises, so the warmer air accumulates near the ceiling and eventually enters the attic, where it exits through the roof. The vacuum that is left behind is filled by pulling air from the crawl space or basement.

It is estimated that up to 50% of the air in the home originates in the crawl space or basement.

Respiratory problems: The unhealthy air in the crawl space or basement can also enter the living space and affect those who have respiratory issues, such as asthma or COPD. You may also notice that your family is experiencing more colds and other illnesses.

Structural cracks: Not all cracks in the foundation walls are a problem, but if they are horizontal, stairstep, or expanding, they should be watched carefully for additional issues.

A Professional Foundation Inspection Comes First 

There are many common methods of foundation repair, but one thing that is common among all jobs is the need to have a foundation inspection. This is the first step in the process that will determine what needs to be done to fix the issue.

Many contractors will offer a free foundation inspection and provide an estimate for any necessary services. The inspection is often performed without an obligation to have the repairs done.

A foundation inspection can provide you with peace of mind, letting you know what is happening and what needs to be done to have it fixed. It can also alert you to serious issues that must be addressed immediately.

Foundation Repair Method #1: Underpinning 

Underpinning is one of the most common methods of foundation repair. It can be done both before the home is built and retroactively, helping to support the structure when the soil is unable to do so.

Push piers and helical piers are the most common forms of underpinning. Push piers are steel pipes that are driven into the ground until they reach stable soil or bedrock. Helical piers are similar to a screw that is inserted into the ground until it reaches stable soil. The type of pier used depends on the weight of the structure and various other factors.

Once these piers are in place, they can be attached to the foundation walls, stabilizing the structure and keeping it from sinking. They can also be used to lift the home hydraulically, if necessary.

Foundation Repair Method #2: Carbon Fiber Straps and Epoxy Injections 

Any cracks that appear in the foundation walls or throughout the home can be a cause for concern. Structural cracks, however, are more of an issue because they can affect the strength of the foundation.

Most structural cracks can be repaired, but they must be repaired professionally. This is often a multi-step process that involves using carbon fiber straps and epoxy.

Carbon fiber straps can be put in place to strengthen the wall where the crack occurred. They can also keep the crack from expanding, as carbon fiber is extremely strong.

Epoxy can be injected into the crack once it is stabilized to fill the crack and seal it permanently. This also helps to keep the crack from expanding and prevent any water from seeping in.

Foundation Repair Method #3: Wall Plate Anchors 

The basement walls can be under extreme pressure, especially in the case of poor drainage, which could lead to hydrostatic pressure. In addition, frost-heaving or lateral pressure from a heavy nearby object could lead to foundation wall bowing.

Basement walls may begin to bow inward, and as the issue gets worse, the center of the wall may also experience a long, horizontal crack. Stair Step cracks may be evident in concrete block walls.

This is an issue that could easily put the family and the home at risk, but there are methods that can fix this problem.

One common method used for repairing a bowing foundation wall is the use of wall anchor plates. A wall plate is attached to the inside of the affected wall at 5-foot intervals. An anchor is then installed in the dirt outside of the foundation.

A rod is inserted that attaches the plate and the anchor and pulls the bowing wall outward. This straightens the wall and keeps it from bowing in again.

Wall plate anchors can be installed relatively easily in most cases. They are an economical solution that is not likely to cause additional damage to the home.

When one or more of these foundation repair methods is applied, it can fix almost any foundation. Others may be necessary–including the possibility for foundation replacement–but when the job is in the hands of the professionals, they can take care of whatever your home needs.


Timothy Roberts

I spent 20+ years working in construction and maintenance before retiring to the keyboard to do writing full-time. When I’m not writing construction articles, I enjoy spending time with my grandkids and traveling.

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