The summer of 2012 in Chicago had been a long, hot and dry one. Lawns turned brown, plants withered and died and Chicagoans flocked to beaches, fountains and fire hydrants – anywhere wet and cool.
Along with the visible effects, the drought had some effects that weren’t so immediately apparent, especially to homeowners like Carol, a single mom who lived in a small brick and frame house in the Rogers Park neighborhood. One day in August, after months of baking heat, Carol was inspecting the trees and large shrubs that grew around her house and noticed a crack in the brickwork below her kitchen windows. The crack, she found to her horror, stair-stepped its way across the 4-foot strip of masonry and was nearly an inch wide at its end.
A call to her neighbor Al, a general contractor, brought him over with a flashlight and a level. After crawling around the outside of the house and inspecting the basement, Al dropped the bomb – “It looks like your foundation has sunk. I can’t tell exactly how much but it’s bad.”
What to Do When You Discover Foundation Damage
On Al’s recommendation, Carol called in a foundation repair contractor. Their advisor conducted an even more thorough inspection, making use of a laser level both inside and outside Carol’s house to determine the extent of the damage. He confirmed the diagnosis and said that his preliminary estimate was that the foundation had dropped six inches.
He explained to Carol that the ongoing drought had caused the trees and shrubs around her house to send their roots deeper and wider in search of water and that the greenery had pulled so much moisture from the soil under her foundation that the soil had dried out and become compacted. The soil no longer supported the foundation like it had when it was fully hydrated and the foundation dropped due to this lack of support.
After consulting with a structural engineer, the advisor presented an estimate to Carol. He explained that the only way to ensure that her home suffered no further damage and would remain stable on its foundation for the future was to underpin the foundation – create a system of supports that would raise the foundation back to level and keep it there. He explained the process and laid out a timeline, which surprised Carol by being relatively short. The cost, while not unreasonable, was substantial and would not be covered by insurance but she knew that the safety of her home was at stake, so she agreed.
Fixing a Settled Foundation
Several weeks later, the contractor’s trucks arrived and Carol watched with fascination as the crews began to measure very specific spots around the foundation and start digging very deep holes at each point. Later in the day, she returned to watch them attaching large steel brackets to the foundation footings at the bottom of each hole.
When they returned the next morning, the installers set up a large hydraulic system and used it to begin driving sections of steel pipe through each bracket. The advisor stopped by and explained to Carol that the sections of pipe would be connected as they were driven deeper and would stop when they reached a load-bearing stratum in the earth – a layer that was solid enough to support the house.
Once all the pipe was driven in each spot, the hydraulic machinery was reconnected in a different format and Carol watched in amazement as the powerful hydraulics actually raised her house, slowly, back to its original level. Once that level had been reached, each bracket was bolted solidly to the steel column it contained, the hydraulic machinery was removed and the house stood stable and level once again. That telltale crack in the brickwork had disappeared.
After the crew had backfilled the holes and replaced the sod, it was difficult to tell that such a major repair had taken place.
Of course, the reason we can relate this story is that Carol chose U.S. Waterproofing to repair and stabilize her foundation, on the recommendation of her neighbor the contractor. Our foundation repair experts not only conduct thorough inspections on homes like Carol’s but they rely on engineering data and advice to develop a plan of repair, ensuring that homeowners will get exactly the work they need — no more, no less. If you spot a crack, or any other sign of foundation damage, why not ask for our free advice?