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What is foundation repair? (Definition, Type, Repairs & Prevention)

Do you need your foundation repaired but are worried about the process? No need to fear. Most of the stress and panic of foundation repair comes from not understanding the process. 

Foundation repair gets a bad reputation for being a huge mess, massive inconvenience and worst of all, expensive. However, foundation repair can be a simple process for a new or experienced homeowner. 

The Anchor Foundation Repair team has been fixing foundations and homes around the Bryan/College Station area for more than 30 years. We know the most cost-effective and the best repair methods for any situation.  

At Anchor Foundation Repair, we want to give you the best education in foundation repair possible. Having a customer that is educated on the process of foundation repair helps relieve some of the stress involved. 

Depending on the age and condition of the home, either stabilization or re-leveling, can be considered to repair the foundation. Budget, foundation type, timing of the repairs and the long term goal of the homeowner are all factors in deciding which repair method to use.  

Understanding why a foundation settles, different prevention methods used to slow foundation settlement and knowing what types of repairs are available to a homeowner are all important to the process. This article will cover those topics and some others to help you with your foundation repair journey. 

What is Foundation Settlement & Why Does it Occur?

Commonly, foundation settlement occurs naturally over time. The number one reason for foundation settlement in Central Texas is due to the environment, specifically, expansive clay soil found in the area.

Expansive clay soil is plentiful in the area and causes more frequent movement compared to other soil types. The term “expansive” can apply to different soil types with the same characteristics. Any soil that absorbs water and swells then shrinks in size without water can be classified as expansive.

Another reason a foundation settles is due to gravity. Yes, gravity. When a foundation is built, every intention of the foundation is for it to be perfectly level. However, human error makes it hard to make sure a foundation is entirely level. 

Even a slight unlevelment in the foundation will start to be pulled by gravity. Over time, the effect of gravity causes the foundation to shift, causing damage around the home. There are some methods, such as underpinning, used to prevent natural shifting but are an expensive fix.

Expansive soil, poor construction and gravity are all factors in the settling of a foundation. Heavy rainfall and drought can also speed up the process of a foundation moving. With the main reason a foundation shifting being the soil, there are some different prevention methods used to alleviate some movement of the foundation. 

What can be done to prevent foundation settlement?

Preventing foundation settlement is a tough task in some areas and can be more accessible in others. The best time to prevent foundation settlement is during construction. If a new home is built with different prevention techniques installed ahead of time, the settlement of a home is minimized. 

Only a few prevention methods exist for pre-existing foundations. Unfortunately, stopping a settling foundation is very hard to do. Using techniques such as underpinning settlement can be stopped, but merely watering the foundation is the primary prevention method used for several reasons. 

Watering the Foundation

Watering a foundation during dry summer months can help reduce a gap that will appear in the mulch or soil. These gaps will appear around the soil surrounding the foundation of the home. Gaps during prolonged periods without water can be over half an inch, depending on the situation. 

The amount of water needed for each foundation will vary. Small gaps along the foundation are acceptable, but the goal should be to have no gap from the surrounding soil. The best practice is to water landscaping around the home, and the foundation will benefit.

Underpinning

Underpinning is another method that could be used to prevent foundation settlement. Properly installed drilled piers, pressed piles, even polyurethane foam, and mud slurry prevents additional settlement. However, using underpinning is much more expensive than watering the foundation. 

Repairing a foundation before there is excessive settlement can minimize the overall cost of the structural and cosmetic repairs. Checking around the house for common symptoms of foundation settlement can help prevent more expensive repairs in the future.

It is important to remember that settlement in a foundation is natural, and many homes experience movement. Different damage and movement need different repair. Repair methods can vary based on foundation type and the different signs of movement around the house. 

What is a Foundation & What Type Do I Have?

A foundation is the base of a home and what the home is constructed on. Foundations allow the walls, doors, windows and trim to be built on the house. Without a foundation, a home would have no support causing damages to the home.

Foundations, over time, have adapted to become more cost-efficient. Today in most modern homes, only one type of foundation is used. However, there are two main types of foundations: concrete slab on grade and pier and beam foundations. 

Concrete Slab on Grade Foundation

Most homes constructed since the mid-1950s have a conventional slab on grade foundation. Installation of concrete slab on grade foundations is a quick and cost-effective method for building a home’s foundation.

A foundation is established when a home begins construction, and a perimeter is set. In more recent homes, interior beams run 24 inches deep while exterior beams run 30 inches deep. Interior beams criss-cross through the foundation. 

Between the beams, there is a nominal four-inch floor. Rebar mats inside the floor provide more strength for the foundation, but the real strength of your foundation comes from the concrete beam. Once the concrete has had ample time to cure, the foundation is complete, and the construction of the home will continue.  

Pier and Beam Foundation

The popularity of pier and beam foundations over the years has decreased in new home construction. Over time, construction companies realized that a slab on grade homes could be built more efficiently and for a fraction of the cost.

Pier and beam foundation installation requires many man-hours, proper soil structure and a firm pad site. However, the initial cost of man-hours and materials is often too great to overcome when looking at a slab on grade foundation. Identifying a pier and beam home, however, is a simple process. 

Pier and beam foundations will have a crawl space under the house. Another sign of a pier and beam foundation is that the house generally sits higher above the ground. This area from the soil to the floor allows for more solid feeling floors and sometimes less movement. Pier and beam, like a slab on grade, has many different repair methods.

Repair methods between the two types of foundation are similar. No matter the repair method used, the goal of re-leveling or stabilization is the same, depending on the damage. Some repair methods will fix problems for years to come and others more of a quick fix. 

What type of repair do I need?

Repairing a foundation is the process of restoring the foundation to an intended height. To achieve this, the foundation of a home is either stabilized or lifted depending on the situation. All situations are different and require a professional to determine. 

There are many different factors in determining what repair a foundation needs. Luckily, there are a few different types of repair for different budget ranges. Some options are great for long term solutions, while others may be a quick fix to a small problem. 

Drilled Bell Bottom Pier Repair

Drilled bell bottom pier repair is one of the best repairs for a home for longevity. Bell bottom piers have many key factors in creating a long term solution to any problems found. For starters, bell bottom piers are independent and do not rely on outside factors. 

Bell bottom piers do not have to rely on external forces such as soil type or moisture level. When piers are installed, they are installed at a predetermined depth. Reaching this depth will ensure the house is stabilized or lifted to the intended height. 

On average, 10-12 feet deep is the recommended depth for each pier installed. At this depth, drilled bell bottom piers eliminate factors such as house weight, moisture, and soil type. 

With proper installation and engineering, some repairs are possible at deeper depths. The drawback to bell-bottom piers is the cost and time of installation. Bell Bottom Piers are more expensive upfront but lead to longer and healthier foundations over time. 

Infographic: Bell Bottom Pier vs Pressed Pile Foundation method

Pressed Piles

Pressed Piles are another standard repair method. The advantage of pressed piles is it usually takes less time and therefore is more cost-effective. For repair and installation, it will take only about half the time a bell-bottom pier would. The reason the process is so much quicker is that it takes less time than to drill and bell a pier, and there is no cure time once the concrete is poured. 

Less material and a much quicker installation process is the reason why oftentimes pressed piles are a more affordable option. However, The pressed pile is not as durable as a series of adequately installed drilled bell bottom piers. 

For example, if 12 piles are installed for a foundation repair in one day. The installation team could come out the next day and level off the foundation. With bell bottom piers, it would take a week or ten days, and then the house can be leveled.

Using pressed piles to repair a home’s foundation will not have the longevity of bell bottom piers, but the speed at which they can be installed and cheap cost making this an excellent repair method when time and cost are the most critical factors.

Depending on the budget and how long a homeowner plans to live in the same house is also a factor in choosing a repair method. For homeowners who plan to live at the same property for five years or more or just want to ensure the integrity of their home for the future will value much off of bell-bottom piers. For a quick fix, budget-friendly option pressed piles could be the preferred choice. 

Ready to Learn Common Signs of Foundation Repair?

Foundation repair can be confusing and depends on many variables. Most, out of control of the homeowner, but watering the landscape around the foundation will help prevent some settlement. 

Remembering that damage to a foundation or movement in a foundation is natural. Different repair methods such as drilled bell bottom piers will work longer than a method such as pressed piles. However, the more budget-friendly of the two is a pressed pile. 

Now that you understand the different foundation types and repair methods, a quick check around the house for typical damage is recommended.  Learning about common signs of foundation damage is a great starting point for any homeowner.

If the damage is found around the house, reach out to a local professional for an inspection so a plan can be formed to address the damage. From our specialty drilled bell bottom piers, Anchor Foundation Repair has been repairing foundations in the Brazos Valley area for over 30 years. 

For more information about different foundation repair techniques, cost comparisons and more, check out our blog page. If you are in need of a foundation, repair fill out the contact information below.

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