There are lots (and lots) of home repair, home construction and do-it-yourself TV shows on these days – almost as many as there are featuring colorful characters in pawn shops. These programs are a bit of a double-edged sword in that they provide an educational opportunity for homeowners regarding how homes are built, remodeled and repaired but, on the other hand, they present these processes in such a light as to make them appear easily doable by anyone with a few spare hours and a handful of tools.
For the professional in the construction, remodeling or repair fields such programming is also a mixed blessing. Regular viewers will have a better understanding of the work to be done but may also think it so simple that they balk at hiring a contractor for something that “seems so easy.”
The articles in this Learning Center aren’t television (although we do have some great sump pump videos) but they do let homeowners in on some of the “secrets” of our business. We’re about to spill a few more secrets so it’s important that homeowners understand two things about structural foundation repair: 1) it’s too important to be taken lightly, and; 2) it’s by no means ever a DIY job!
Structural Foundation Repair Secrets
To do “structural” foundation repair means to fix damage to a foundation, such as major cracking, bowing or tipping walls or extreme settlement, that endangers the structural integrity of the foundation and the home it supports. This differs from waterproofing, which is foundation repair to prevent seepage in that the damage is enough to admit water but not enough to threaten the structure.
Secret #1: Pay a Little Now or a Lot Later – Structural foundation damage is rarely a calamitous event; it typically starts small and gets worse over time. For example, when lateral pressure from over-saturated soil begins to cause damage, the bulge or bow in a masonry wall or the tipping of a poured concrete wall begins with small cracks and escalates to a severely out-of-plumb wall that separates from the framing above. If this damage is repaired before the wall has moved two inches, it can be repaired permanently with carbon fiber strips; if more movement has occurred, channel steel beams will be needed. Carbon fiber is not only less obtrusive than steel, it costs substantially less.
Secret #2: There’s No “Normal Settling” – It’s pretty common for homeowners to dismiss cracks in drywall above doors and sticking windows as “just settling.” In a newly built home, sure, there will be some expected settling due to what is probably fill soil under the home experiencing its final compaction from the weight of the building. However, if a home is more than a few years old, those cracks and balky windows are probably an early sign of foundation trouble. Does that require attention? See #1.
Secret # 3: Manage Outside Water to Prevent Foundation Damage – It may seem that foundation damage is beyond the control of the homeowner and, frankly, it may be in some cases, perhaps due to events during construction. Homeowners can prevent foundation damage by taking steps to keep water away from the foundation. These can be as simple as cleaning gutters or extending downspouts to prevent over-saturated soil. Or, it may take eliminating negative grade or installing drainage in the yard to ensure that water is directed away from the house – a little more complicated but better than dealing with a damaged foundation.
Of course, the biggest secret of structural foundation repair is finding the right contractor to repair the damage, regardless of its extent. At U.S. Waterproofing, our foundation experts advise and assist homeowners all over the Chicago area, making use of engineering data and state-of-the-art techniques to ensure permanent, cost-effective repairs at a minimum of inconvenience. Please ask for a free consultation if you think your foundation may be in trouble.