We recently met a homeowner who had suffered some serious foundation damage to his home. His foundation was dropping significantly and had apparently been doing so for a number of years. He had declined to have the foundation repaired after an inspection by another company a few years ago and called us out recently to take another look.
Our advisor immediately spotted major cracks in brickwork on the outside of the house, a sure sign that the foundation was in bad shape. Inside the house, the situation was worse, with large cracks in drywall ceilings and walls and doors that either stuck shut or wouldn’t close. In the basement, as expected, the walls were badly cracked and far out of plumb; even parts of the floor were out of level.
It was apparent to our advisor that the foundation needed major underpinning to raise the house back to level and stabilize the foundation against further movement. When he gave the homeowner the news, there was a significant price tag attached and the homeowner again declined and said “Can’t you just fix the cracks on the outside so water won’t come in?” This is, believe it or not, a common myth about foundation repair.
The answer, of course, was no. A repair like that would be a Band-aid at best and wouldn’t last long because further dropping of the foundation would cause it to crack again. Serious foundation damage requires serious repair and anything short of that just wastes the homeowner’s money.
Why You Can’t Just Repair Cracks Caused by a Dropped or Settled Foundation
The most common cause of a foundation dropping or “settling” is that the soil that has been supporting it has shrunken or become compacted, usually because the moisture that had been contained in that soil has been drawn off by drought or other causes. When the foundation drops, it causes the house on top of it to drop with it and the stress on the structure causes cracks in both the interior and exterior surfaces of the house.
If the downward movement of a foundation were only a single event, it might be possible in cases of light damage to repair only the cracks and ignore the rest. However, once a foundation drops and becomes unstable, the process is likely to continue and the cracks will only get worse. In the case of the homeowner discussed above, he first noticed the damage to his home a few years ago and could have repaired it then and saved himself a lot of aggravation and money. Not doing so made the problem considerably worse as the foundation continued to drop and the cracks widened.
The way to repair a dropped foundation is to raise it back to level by a process called underpinning that will also permanently stabilize the foundation and house and prevent any further movement. An up-to-date foundation repair company will use a product called a hydraulic push pier to accomplish this because it has been proven superior to other methods such as concrete piers or pilings.
A hydraulic push pier is a steel column that is driven by a hydraulic pump into the earth until it hits a load-bearing stratum. A number of these piers are required to support the affected part of a typical home. The hydraulic pump raises the structure all at once to its original level and brackets that had been attached to the foundation are secured to the steel columns. The house and foundation are now stabilized and will no longer crack.
Foundation damage is serious business and, when the signs are there, a homeowner shouldn’t hesitate to have the problem inspected by a qualified professional. Like anything else, time won’t heal a foundation; it will only make things worse. At U.S. Waterproofing, our specially trained team of advisors and installers know how to diagnose a problem and design and install a permanent, maintenance-free repair at a reasonable price. Why not ask for a free consultation if your foundation is worrying you.