You got this flyer in the mail that says putting a special jack in your crawl space will solve your pier and beam foundation problems *permanently*. Sounds like a great idea at first glance. Is this new technology a viable foundation solution that will truly handle your home settlement issues forever?
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we are certainly open to improved efficiencies when they come around. We’ve researched and considered many concepts over our 35+ years in business. We’ve weighed new options and evaluated machinery, technology, or modern techniques that could revolutionize antiquated foundation repair methods. We can offer our experience and expertise as you consider this idea for your pier and beam repairs.
This article explores the principles behind using a permanent jack under your pier and beam foundation. We discuss whether this proposed solution offers any significant advantages over more low-tech crawl space repair approaches.
*Full Disclosure* – We don’t use this technology, but we have seen another company promoting it in our area. We thought this would be a good opportunity to weigh in with our thoughts on this methodology by fairly discussing both its advantages and drawbacks from a theoretical perspective.
Is There a Permanent Repair For Pier and Beam Foundations?
More than slab foundations, pier and beam homes are subject to additional challenges to permanent stability. Crawl space foundations can be compromised by:
- The settlement of expansive clay soil,
- Gravity and weight,
- Poor drainage conditions,
- Drought and other weather extremes,
- Termites and other wood destroying insects, and
- Deterioration of material.
Selling something like pier and beam foundation repair (aka house leveling) as “permanent” is misleading at best. The type of support pier used to support a home only addresses one or two of the compromising situations above. So no, we don’t believe there is a permanent solution for crawl space foundation repairs.
To be realistic, nothing man-made is infinitely permanent. We can make things that last, and we can make things intended to last for as long as possible. But eventually, all things will degrade, change, or develop faults at some point.
Permanent Jacks vs. Traditional Crawl Space Repairs
Everyone wants to build a better mousetrap, and few want to admit that the simplest method is often the most economical and effective. Let’s compare these repair concepts a little and see what we find.
Permanent or “Intelligent” Jacks
Setting a permanent jack that is attached to the home does seem to allow for easy adjustments in the future if soil settlement or gravity were the root cause of the change in your home. Most of the time, jacks are used to temporarily lift heavy objects and are not meant for permanent use.
Think of when a jack is used to lift a car but it’s not safe or stable long term.
A permanent jack will not help you if you have drainage issues or wood rot. Other work would still need to be done to handle those issues. A permanent jack would also sink the same way any “less fancy” pier would sink if extreme drought settlement or frequent flooding occurs.
This “intelligent” device sounds like a way to guarantee that you will need the foundation repair company again more often. This is proprietary equipment that only they can adjust with their tools or know-how so you will always need them to return.
Since we know that an inanimate object cannot offer true intelligence, the smartness of this thing might be in the fact that they’ve developed a way to make sure the repair company is needed in the future.
What happens when they go out of business or decide to stop serving this area? (This company does appear to be coming from out of town.) What happens if a jack breaks and they are not around to repair or replace it? How much do these things cost compared to standard materials? If they leave a specialized tool under your house, that’s got to cost more than some standard stuff.
Traditional Crawl Space Repairs
More traditional crawl space repairs use piers made from simple and widely available materials that are fairly inexpensive. Block and base piers are made from standard-sized concrete blocks and cedar shims that are easy to find. These piers are also easy to move around and widely adjustable due to being buildable/stackable and of varying sizes.
Traditional piers handle the same settlement and gravity issues as the “intelligent” pier but the materials are not specialized and proprietary. Block and base piers don’t solve wood rot or drainage issues either, but we also aren’t running around claiming that anything lasts forever.
We don’t imply that crawl space repairs are ever permanent even with our warranty agreement. Pier and beam house leveling repairs can only last for so long and our warranty covers you for 3 years. After that, we recommend regular care to keep any problematic developing issues from getting out of hand.
Instead of making homeowners believe we offer a permanent fix, we try to be straightforward so that you understand your crawl space foundation will need health check-ups to ensure your home stays in good shape. We recommend routine maintenance and reshimming every 3 to 5 years to keep your pier and beam in the most stable condition.
We’ve been here in the local community since 1985 and don’t plan on going anywhere. But if we were to disappear for some reason, the materials that we used under your home would be easy to get again and easy to make adjustments to even if we weren’t the company doing the work.
Honest Feedback on a Permanent Jack Solution For Your Home
Honestly, the biggest problem I see with the intelligent and permanent jack idea is the isolated pinpoint surface area of support that it provides. The top of the jack is a small surface (looks to be maybe 3 or 4 square inches) and the weight it supports is not widely distributed across a larger surface.
This device would likely create intense pressure on the wood at those connection points and you might develop little humps and bumps in your floor surface. This is the reason we don’t use steel shims and prefer cedar shims in our house leveling process.
Using the wider block and base pier with graduated wood shims better distributes the pressure created by gravity and any uplift from the jack. It’s one of the big reasons why we like and continue to use this simple block-and-base system.
No matter what system you choose, recurring maintenance is likely to be needed. So why spend extra money on a fancy device when less expensive and non-proprietary materials will work just as well?
The other issue is the height of the device. It looks to be somewhere around 12 to 18 inches tall. But what happens if your crawl space clearance is only 8 to 10 inches off the ground? What happens if your crawl space is huge and there’s 3 to 4 feet of clearance in your crawl space? We’ve worked on many older Victorian-style homes that are quite high off the ground.
What do they use when the clearance is too low for the jack to fit in? What do they use when the crawl space is very tall? It just seems like there are going to be limits to the homes that this device will work well in. Anything too low or too high will likely require the use of more traditional concept repairs in some way.
How Does Anchor Approach Pier and Beam Repairs?
The *not-so-secret* approach to crawl space foundation repairs is keeping it simple plus a lot of hard work that Anchor is more than willing to do for you. We also sprinkle in education to help homeowners understand the realities of life on a pier and beam home on the expansive clay soil we have here in Central Texas.
Serving the Brazos Valley community since 1985, we know that homeowners worry when they have foundation problems. You don’t know what to do or who to trust. Not only are you concerned about your home’s safety and stability, but you’re also worried about choosing the right contractor or the right method and technology to take care of your largest investment.
Speaking of approaches, is there really more than one way to repair a failing crawl space foundation? Check out Pier and Beam Foundation Repair: Are There Different Methods?