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Can I Repair my Sinking Foundation in Chicago?

Mar 22, 2013 • By Matthew Stock with Barry Schilling.

Foundation Repairs: Hydraulic Push Piers vs. Pressed Concrete Pilings


The past few years have featured a broad offering of weather in Chicago.  Cold spring, warm spring.  Wet summer, dry summer.  Lots of snow in the winter, no snow in the winter.  Interesting to Tom Skilling, no doubt, but mystifying and occasionally frustrating to Chicagoans in general.

For Chicago homeowners, though, the wildly varying weather of recent years may have spelled disaster for their basements and foundations.  The ongoing drought, following some very wet seasons, may be causing significant damage to foundations, not to mention a lot of wet basements – a topic for another day.  When Chicago homeowners discover that climatic conditions have caused their foundation to drop, the first question on their mind is: “Can I Repair my Sinking Foundation in Chicago?”

How to Repair a Sinking Foundation in Chicago

The word “sinking” sounds a lot worse than “settling” but the two are virtually interchangeable.  A new house may settle slightly after construction as the soil under the excavation compresses a little.  Any further movement is cause for concern because a foundation that drops out of level causes damage throughout the home.  Typically, this happens when soil surrounding the foundation expands from being over-saturated, common in the clay soil found throughout much of Chicagoland.  Then, when a dry period like the current one comes along, the moisture is withdrawn from the soil and it shrinks, causing the foundation to drop.

When this occurs, cracks appear in aboveground walls and in exterior walls, especially in brick or stone facings.  In severe cases, foundation walls detach from the structure above and begin to crack and rotate out of plumb.

This may sound disastrous, and it is indeed a serious problem, but it can be repaired.

Basically, a sinking foundation is repaired by raising it back to level and stabilizing it so it remains there.  Of course, any foundation wall damage must be fixed, as must aboveground damage, but raising the foundation is the first and most important step.

A sinking foundation is repaired by a process called underpinning in which mechanical devices are placed underneath the foundation that raise it and hold it in place.  There are several methods of underpinning but the most effective and least disruptive is the installation of steel hydraulic push piers.

The process begins with gathering engineering data about the home, its foundation and soil conditions; this is used to determine the number and placement of piers.  

Installation starts with small holes being dug next to the foundation at the site of each pier; the holes extend to the foundation footings.  The installer notches the footing and installs a steel bracket.  Sections of steel column are then driven hydraulically down through the bracket until the column reaches a load-bearing stratum that will support the house.

Once all columns are in place, hydraulic lifts are attached and the foundation (and the house above) is slowly raised back to level.  Once the desired position is reached, the brackets are attached permanently to the columns and the affected part of the house is now supported by them, keeping it permanently level and stabilized.

Once the installation is complete, the holes are back-filled and the entire repair is now invisible and maintenance-free.

This sounds like a big deal and it is.  The Chicago homeowner who is faced with a sinking foundation needs to find a foundation repair company that really knows its business and that is familiar with working on Chicago homes.  At U.S. Waterproofing, our business is basements and foundations and we have been helping Chicago homeowners ensure their safety and stability for more than 55 years.  Our specially trained team of foundation repair advisors and installers have saved foundations all over Chicagoland so why not ask for our free advice?

Tags: house foundation repair, home foundation repair, structural foundation repair, hydraulic push piers, sinking foundation chicago, sinking foundation repair chicago

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