What actually IS foundation repair, you ask? Does it mean that your cracked slab won’t be cracked anymore? Does it mean that you will get a new section of the slab put in place?
Well, no . . . it doesn’t mean either of those things but “foundation repair” is admittedly kind of a confusing term and not everyone automatically knows what it means.
Anchor Foundation Repair to the rescue! We have been repairing foundations in Bryan, College Station, and other Brazos Valley communities like Madisonville and Brenham for 35+ years. So we can explain the basic concept of foundation repair to you because we do it every day (but we do take the weekends off).
This article will generally define foundation repair and how it gets accomplished at your home in 3 simple steps. Let’s get to the basics!
What Does Foundation Repair Mean?
What does foundation repair mean exactly? In simple terms, a planned repair includes installing supports under the home and then raising the foundation back to its original position and securing it there. Also known as, foundation raising and stabilization.
To put in even simpler terms that some genius came up with (i.e. me) here’s what I like to say: Ya put something under your house to support it in the right spots, then you jack it up and hold it in place by stuffing some extra stuff under there.
This is kinda what you do when you prop pillows under yourself while laying down on the couch. So maybe you binge-watchers can relate to that. *winkie face*
Sometimes, this process is also called “house leveling” or “foundation leveling” even, but really your home might not be *technically level* when the process is complete. It’s more about performance, restoring the proper functionality to the foundation, and bringing it back to its originally built elevation (which may or may not have been level in the first place).
*Side Note* Some foundation repair companies promote masonry patches, sealants, waterproofing, and epoxy resins as “foundation repair”. But since none of these repair types involve raising the foundation back into position, we won’t be considering them here.
*Second Side Note* We are also talking about slab-on-grade foundations and crawlspace types of foundations, but not basement foundations in this article. Basement foundations have some different needs that are not applicable to our area of Central Texas because well . . . we don’t really have basements in homes around here.
How Does Foundation Repair Work?
There are a few steps to the process of foundation repair: plan development, support installation, and home raising and/or stabilization.
The first part of foundation repair is having a plan. When a foundation repair contractor comes to your home for an inspection, they will typically develop a basic plan for where your home needs extra support to hold it up and back in its original position.
The repair plan will identify the points where the support will be placed and how many support locations are needed. Most of the time, the supports are along a part of the perimeter of the home. So it’s usually not the whole home, just the part that has experienced foundation settlement and sunken down.
Support locations are usually about 7 feet apart depending on the method of foundation repair and follow along the perimeter of the home. You might need supports under the middle area of the house as well, this is in about 10% of cases so it’s not the majority of homes. Most homes only need perimeter support.
For more detailed information about this planning phase that happens during an on-site inspection, check out our article “Home Foundation Inspections: (Definition, Cost, Process).”
Support Installation (Two Types)
There are two main support system types that we talk about in this section because they are the main ones available in our Central Texas area. There are a few other slab foundation repair methods around, but they are not widely used around here.
In engineering terms, the supports under your home are generally called “underpinning.” But depending on the method that is used for your foundation repair, you will more commonly hear them called “piers” or “pilings.”
These piers or pilings (or piles for short) basically look like columns on a fancy plantation-style home’s front porch, tall and cylindrical. Imagine stilts under your home holding it up, only the stilts are buried underground.
The supports are installed underground through digging and drilling, then pouring concrete in the case of piers, also known as bell-bottom piers. Or pre-formed concrete pieces are driven into the ground by hydraulic pressure if using pilings, also called pressed piles.
After installing the supports in the ground, next the foundation repair contractor will raise the sunken portions of the home and verify that the foundation has returned to its original elevation.
For the pressed pile method, the home is raised by the tension of the pile in the ground pushing up on the home. This is a little bit like when you put a battery into a device and it is held in place by a spring. The spring is the ground and the pressed pile is the battery.
The home is raised with the help of jacks, held in place by this spring-like tension, and shimmed to secure the proper elevation.
For the bell bottom pier method, the support pier serves as a starting point for raising the home. Hydraulic jacks are placed on the top of the pier and the home is lifted into the appropriate position using the jacks. Then shims are hammered in to secure the elevated position of the home.
Sometimes there’s no raising, just stabilization . . .
There are a few scenarios where the home is not raised back to its original position but only held with support in its current position. Stabilizing a home can prevent further movement, sinking, and damage but will not lift the home back up in place. Why in the world would this need to be done?
Well . . . it’s not an ideal situation, but the top reason for stabilization over raising is when a home has already been remodeled with nice finishes that a homeowner wouldn’t want to damage. In the case of a remodeled home, the raising process would actually cause damage to the freshly redone walls, trim, cabinetry or built-ins, or countertops and backsplash areas.
This is because everything was put in when the home was not in the right position. So moving the house into position will then move all the finish-work and cause more problems/repairs for the homeowner.
In general, we would always recommend that a homeowner get any needed foundation repair done first before moving on to other remodeling projects. For more information on this subject, we have this article for you to reference, “Home Foundation Stabilization vs. Leveling: The Pros and Cons.”
The Pros and Cons of Foundation Repair Methods
Speaking of pros and cons, and speaking on foundation repair, you might be interested in hearing more about the methods of repair and how they are different. What’s better to make comparisons than a nice pros and cons list?
Nothing, I tell you . . . nothing is better than a pros and cons list . . .
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we work hard to provide Brazos Valley homeowners with 100% honest and transparent information about foundation repair. We’re not afraid to tell you about other methods of foundation repair compared to the one we use because we’re interested in what’s best for you. Sometimes that’s not always us and that’s okay!
Want proof? Check out, “Bell-Bottom vs. Pressed Pile Foundation Repair Methods: What’s the Difference?” and see how objective we can be.