Why do commercial buildings have fewer problems with foundation issues? These structures are built on the same soil, so why do homes have foundation problems and other buildings don’t seem to have nearly as many issues? What’s the deal?? This doesn’t seem fair . . .
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we’ve worked on thousands of residential homes after 35+ years in business . . . but only a handful of commercial slabs. We understand the construction industry and can fill you in on why homes are more susceptible to foundation settlement compared to commercial properties.
This article explains the differences between home vs. commercial foundation types and why residential slabs more frequently have foundation issues than commercial properties.
The Main Cause of Foundation Settlement and Problems
Maybe this is news to you, or maybe not, but the vast majority of foundation issues are caused by our dirt. Expansive clay soils dominate the landscape of Central Texas (and a lot of other areas and states too). Expansive soil is particularly reactive to moisture.
Our Texas weather conditions fluctuate between very dry and very rainy seasons. Clay soil molecules can expand up to 10% when wet, and can shrink even more when drought conditions prevail. This repeated expansion and contraction of the soil puts heavy stress on slab foundations, often causing them to sink, settle unevenly, or crack.
Even though it takes years and years of subtle soil pressure to cause foundation damage, expansive clay is shockingly powerful. Homes might seem big and strong to us, but compared to the strength of expansive soil, homes can be overpowered.
Foundation settlement damages homes by cracking drywall, creating separations between walls and trim, causing door closure issues, and other visual and functional concerns with your home. There are other less common causes of foundation settlement, but most of the time, foundation problems can be blamed on the soil.
Why Do Residential Slabs Have More Problems?
You would think that since all homes and commercial buildings are resting on this same expansive soil there would be comparable numbers of problems with both types of buildings. But there’s a notable difference in the frequency of foundation issues that appear in residential vs. commercial structures.
Unfortunately, homes have more foundation problems because of:
- Less preparation,
- Less planning, and
- Less preventative measures taken during construction.
This is not to say that your home is crappy. It’s just that if homes were built the way that commercial buildings were built, no one would be able to afford them.
Home builders have to make something that people can buy. If builders did everything that was done to prepare and build a home the way a commercial building was done, it would be overkill and likely unaffordable for many.
Also, homes are much smaller and lighter than most commercial buildings. Less weight makes them more vulnerable to soil movement too. You can’t just make a home somehow weigh more.
Comparison of Residential vs. Commercial Foundations
Let’s put these two foundation types in a head-to-head (or should I say slab-to-slab?) comparison. The ultimate goals for homes and commercial properties are different and their features reflect that.
Residential Foundation Features:
- Require quicker build time to increase affordability
- Less pad site preparation
- Shallower foundation depth
- Usually no soil analysis is completed
- Less soil compaction during pad site development
- Built for shorter-term use, not made to last forever and ever
- Not typically engineered, only codes and standard practices followed for construction
A residential home’s main goal is to be affordable, so choices are made to keep expenses to a minimum, and construction time faster. Less is done in the planning and preparation phases of construction. This is not to say that builders are trying to be cheap and not do a good job building your home, it’s just what is done to get people into good homes they can actually buy. Most of the time, it works just fine.
Commercial Foundation Features:
- Construction timelines can be longer
- More time and cost with soil analysis and planning
- More time and cost with soil compaction and site preparation
- Industrially engineered slabs designed to last longer
- Foundation footings set deeper in less reactive soil
- Often drilled piers or similar footings are installed BEFORE construction
- Investors are willing to pay more for preparations so that the building can be in continuous use later without problems
A commercial building aims to be profitable over the long term. Spending more upfront is not a stumbling block for commercial developers the way it could be for a home buyer. Investors can spend big money at the beginning to get the commercial property well-built and profitable for the long term.
They don’t want to lose revenue with major repair projects – you can’t run a store if it’s under repair construction and people can’t enter. You can’t rent out office space if it needs to be vacant to do interior foundation repairs. They build them better to begin with because they can pay for all the extra planning and preparations, so they don’t ever have to mess with these kinds of issues.
How Can My Home Have a Better Foundation?
It’s possible to have a better foundation constructed. Now you’re wondering how you can get that for your home . . . Well, if you’re in a position to build a new home, you could have builder’s piers installed during construction.
Builder’s piers are drilled piers similar to what we do in our foundation repairs. These piers are pre-installed at build time rather than being used after a foundation problem occurs to raise a settled slab. Even if you can’t do this right now, whenever you build your next home, keep builder’s piers in mind.
If you are already experiencing foundation settlement, get your foundation repaired with drilled bell-bottom piers. Drilled piers will lower the base of your foundation to a recognized depth of less reactive soil. Bell-bottom piers are the only slab foundation repair method that closely resembles the types of footings used in large commercial properties. It’s like upgrading to an industrial-strength foundation for your home.
“Bell-bottom piers are the only slab foundation repair method that closely resembles the types of footings used in large commercial properties.“Wanted to repeat this because it’s important!
Want to Know More About Drilled Piers?
Drilled piers work on the principle of creating a strong and stable base that resists uplift and lateral movement to support your foundation for the long term.
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have only used drilled piers for all our slab foundation repairs for 35+ years in the Brazos Valley. Drilled bell-bottom piers are the top choice for concerned homeowners who care about their forever homes and want the best quality repair options.
For more detailed *dirt* on our drilled concrete piers, check out, “What Are the Pros and Cons of Drilled Pier Foundation Repair?” to decide if bell-bottom piers will work for you.