When there is structural damage to a home’s foundation it’s a pretty big deal. Depending on the nature and extent of the damage, the potential for further harm to the home can be devastating and very few homeowners allow the problem to continue without repairing it.
When the problem involves a settled or dropped foundation, it can only be permanently repaired by a process called underpinning, where the foundation (and the structure it supports) is raised back to level and supported from underneath by a system of piers. These piers have taken several forms as the process has evolved and, even though some foundation repair contractors still use concrete piers, the state-of-the-art in foundation stabilization is to use hydraulic push piers.
Of course, every contractor offers a warranty on this often costly work and it is important that the homeowner fully understands the warranty and pays close attention, not just to the number of years, but to what exactly is being covered.
To underpin a foundation using hydraulic push piers, the first step should be an engineering study of the damage and the support needed to raise the home back to level and stabilize it there. This study will determine the number and placement of piers. Some contractors who have been in the foundation repair business for a while will rely on “educated guesses” to make this determination – a bad idea that will ultimately affect the warranty.
The process begins by digging a hole down to the foundation footings at the site of each pier. A steel bracket is permanently attached the foundation and the steel pier is driven, section by section, through the bracket into the earth until it reaches a load-bearing stratum that will support the structure. Once all piers are in place, hydraulic lifters and pumps are attached and the foundation is slowly raised back to level. Once the structure is level, the piers are permanently affixed to the brackets, the excavations are backfilled and the home is now stabilized.
The warranties offered on this and other types of underpinning may vary somewhat in length, with 30 years being the most common term. Regardless of the length, the real focus of the warranty, and the homeowner to whom it is given, should be on what is being warranted.
Many contractors will warranty only the piers he has put in place under the home and not the foundation in between. This means that, should something fail and the foundation drops again, this contractor will look only at the performance and position of each individual pier to determine if a warranty issue exists. If the contractor has “guess-timated” the number of piers and offers this type of warranty the homeowner may be in for a doubly rude awakening.
Other contractors, perhaps those with more confidence in their processes and materials and who use engineering data to determine number and placement of piers, will offer a different warranty. For them, if a customer suffers additional vertical movement of the foundation, they will look not only at the piers but the foundation in between piers in the repaired area to ascertain a warranty matter.
It doesn’t take a Magic 8-Ball to figure out which warranty is better for the homeowner.
Before signing on the dotted line for structural foundation repairs, the savvy homeowner will carefully read the warranty and ask questions about what it covers and what it doesn’t. If the answers aren’t satisfactory, he or she should find another contractor that offers a warranty that has peace of mind as its ultimate goal.
At U.S. Waterproofing, our foundation repair estimates are always based on engineering data, not guesswork, and our 30-year warranty on underpinning takes into account any further vertical movement in the repaired area of the foundation. We believe this is the right way to treat our customers. Why not ask for a free consultation on your structural foundation problem.
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