You are expecting a big event . . . congratulations! It’s a bundle of foundation repair joy at your home and a team from Anchor Foundation Repair is coming to celebrate with you! What color balloons should we bring? We were thinking blue and yellow for some reason . . .
Kidding aside, you’re not having a baby, you’re having slab foundation repair. But you might not actually know what to expect out of this major life event coming up in the next few weeks. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone wrote a book on that? Ok, how about just an article then?
We understand that many homeowners haven’t seen, experienced, and lived up close to a foundation repair job before. Or you may have experienced it from a distance and all you’ve heard are bad stories about jobs gone wrong.
We want you to have the best possible experience from start to finish on your foundation repair job with Anchor – and things go right 99.5% of the time (a completely non-scientific number). As a foundation repair company, we make a commitment to kick off the project right, keep you informed throughout the process, and put everything back where it is supposed to be – including your home!
“Our number one priority, and something we take very seriously, is to treat your home as if it were ours. It’s more than just a job to us, it’s your home and we want to protect it and you every step of the way.”Craig Tripp – Anchor Foundation Repair President, CEO, Owner, and Foundation Repair Extraordinaire
We put together this step-by-step guide to let you know when team members or trucks will be at your home and what exactly they will be doing. We want to take all the worry, uncertainty, and stress out of this process for you and present you with the following steps. Geez, maybe this should be a book* . . .
- Pre-Job Appearances and Happenings
- Job Kickoff
- Work Phase 1: Dig – Drill – Pour
- Down Time aka The Curing
- Work Phase 2: Fun-Raising Time
- Tunneling and Plumbing Repair (if applicable)
- Work Phase 3: Mud-pumping and Return to Normalcy
After 35+ years and thousands of repair jobs, we have developed systems, processes, and checklists to ensure that we meet the intent of the repair and exceed your expectations in our performance. Let’s get started!
*We admit that this is a very detailed description. Are you one of those carefree individuals who have complete and total trust in contractors coming to your home and just “doing their thing”? If you don’t have any need or interest in knowing what is going to happen, then this article is probably not for you, so you should slowly back away now.
You could even take it step-by-step in small doses and just read up about each phase as it is happening.
1. Pre-Job Appearances and Happenings (the week before)
We make sure that a couple of things happen before a foundation repair job starts at your home, especially if you live in town as some of these are required in city municipalities.
Call 811 for a Dig Test
When anyone plans to dig around your home, they are required to call 811 for a “dig test” to keep all your underground utility lines safe. One or more crews or people will come out and mark the various types of underground lines with little brightly colored flags in the yard and spray paint lines to show us where those lines go. If you have natural gas on the property, Atmos Energy will usually send their own people to do just the gas line-markings.
Anchor Foundation Repair takes care of making this call in advance. You don’t have to do anything and you don’t have to be home when these people come. They work only outside the home and are very independent.
Pull a Work Permit with the City
In Bryan and College Station, work permits are required for foundation repair. Anchor takes care of getting permits requested. In some cities, a paper permit will be affixed to a window of your home during the work process while other cities have electronic permit records.
Again you don’t have to do anything, but know that this will be done in any city required. You may or may not see a permit displayed at your home, but don’t worry if you don’t see one, it’s either not required or electronic. If you live outside city limits or in a smaller city than Bryan or College Station, permitting is not a requirement at the moment.
2. Job Kickoff (beginning of day 1)
What an exciting day! You might be wondering when the crew will arrive so that you can be ready for them (i.e. actually dressed). You might wonder what they will be doing right away and if anyone is going to come to talk to you. Here’s a quick rundown for you.
Start Date and Work Time
The Anchor Office will be in periodic contact with you regarding your job start date and will confirm as the time nears. The team will never arrive at your home before 8 am – unless you live right next door to our shop, and you don’t live right next to our shop. They will usually work until 4 pm or a little later each day unless they are trying to finish something and get to a good stopping point.
The crew will immediately begin working through several pre-start activities within the first 20 to 30 minutes of arrival. These tasks include:
- Checking for and testing working order of your irrigation/sprinkler system if present
- Taking pictures and/or video of landscaping items to document placement
- Carefully moving landscaping items to a designated-by-you temporary location
- Identifying other items that need to be moved and replaced, like termite traps or firepits
- Identifying a location for temporary dirt storage with you – we need a partial driveway spot to place removed dirt while we are digging holes. It will be there for a while but will be removed. You do not want this dirt back (it’s bad dirt that will dry out and become hard and brittle), so we’ll take it away for you later when we are done digging.
- Identifying the location of your home’s water shut-off valve and electrical panel (this is just in case there is a problem and we need to quickly shut off water or flip a breaker back on). We do not plan to shut off your water but would need to if something breaks unexpectedly.
- Meet and greet with the job foreman so that you know who you can talk to should you have any questions during the work.
- Time to get started digging some holes!
3. Work Phase 1: Dig – Drill – Pour (3 to 5 days)
Our team of foundation repair experts jump right in and start working hard as soon as the pre-start checklist is complete. There’s digging, there’s drilling, there’s pouring! Here’s what all that Phase 1 work entails.
Digging Holes at Each Pier Location
There’s a lot of activity during this phase. Team members each choose a spot around your home with their own special wheelbarrow and personal shovel and dig a 2-foot by 2-foot hole at each spot where support is needed. These holes are very square and neatly done as seen in the photos.
Don’t worry, since this is all done by hand, it’s not a loud process at this point because there is no heavy equipment being used to dig these holes. The crew is careful to watch for unexpected obstructions.
If any sidewalks or porches need to be broken up to create pier access, jackhammering will be coordinated with you to ensure it does not interfere with a child’s naptime or your latest Zoom meeting for your job. Jackhammering usually doesn’t start right away, we will dig the easy holes first before starting on the others.
At the end of each day, the holes will be covered with plywood for your safety. But you probably shouldn’t jump up and down on them . . . okay?
Drilling Down to 12 Feet and Making Bell Bottoms
Using a 2-man motorized auger (it’s a big long drill that bores an 8-inch shaft down into the earth), a shaft is bored down 10-12 feet deep at each pier location. They drill down to this depth because they need to reach a level where the bottom of the pier can rest undisturbed in more stable soil.
Then a “beller” is inserted into the hole to create the bell shape at the bottom of the shaft. This spinning tool slowly cuts the soil out at the bottom of the hole into a bell shape as it spins. The final result at the bottom of the shaft is a wider part that flares out.
The pier flares out at the bottom to maximize stability and resist uplifting, like a heavy anchor (pun intended) pulling down, keeping everything still and straight. This is the signature of the bell-bottom pier method that makes for the longest-lasting, highest quality slab foundation repair solution.
When the concrete is poured into the shaft in the next step, it fills up all the open space and the pier has a bell-shaped bottom on the end. It really is just like bell-bottom pants, the legs are skinnier, and then it flares out in a circle at the bottom.
Pouring Concrete by Hand
Concrete is mixed in the concrete truck, brought by wheelbarrow, and poured by hand at each pier location. This keeps large concrete mixing trucks off your driveway and on the street where the heavy truck won’t damage any of your property.
Concrete trucks can be a little noisy, but they will be on the street and not right by your home. Once all the pouring is done, then it’s time to wait.
4. Downtime aka The Curing (7 to 10 days)
Concrete needs time to cure without pressure on it, this is what makes it the strongest for your home’s piers. The heavier your home is, the more time it should take to cure the concrete. So work will stop at your home for this curing period but we will do a little cleanup too.
Dirt Haul Off
Remember that pile of dirt in your driveway? (really, it’s hard to forget about) After Work Phase 1 is complete, the dirt can be hauled away. We get someone else to do this part for us. An independent trucking contractor that we hire out will come on the Saturday or Sunday after Phase 1 and take the dirt away. Yay!
But wait, all that dirt left your driveway, well . . . dirty? We know. That’s why we will come by ASAP after the dirt is gone to pressure wash your driveway for you. Nice, huh?
5. Work Phase 2: Fun-Raising Time (2 to 3 days)
After the concrete curing is complete, it’s time for the team to return for the fun part. Ok, it’s fun for them, not sure if you will really have *fun* or not but here’s what happens during this time.
The team will place hydraulic bottle jacks on top of all the pier caps at a time and begin the process of raising and leveling your home. See the picture showing a bottle jack in position raising a home. That little thing is strong and can support up to 20 tons!
Until now, the crew has stayed on the outside of your home. Now they will need inside access throughout the time as they are carefully checking and monitoring the lifting progress. This is typically just one person doing the monitoring on the inside. Don’t worry, anyone entering your home will take off their work boots and in COVID-19 times will follow any city or state guidelines in place at the time.
Although the hydraulic jacks are not loud, you may hear noises coming from your home at this point. Creaking, popping, and groaning noises will be heard as your home is being slowly lifted to level. Sometimes people ask if it is safe to be inside your home during this time, and it is more than safe. Never in our history has a homeowner been injured while sitting in their home during the leveling process.
Now, you might not *enjoy* listening to your home making these noises but it’s safe. Or this might be a fun time to go do some shopping or take in a movie at the theater or go have lunch with a friend if you want. But do remember that someone will be going in and out to monitor so some homeowners like to stick around.
Once the home is in the right position, the team will hammer steel shims to hold the house just right. These steel shims are small index card-sized rectangles of metal of different thicknesses that are hammered in between the top of the pier and your home to keep it in place.
The team will first raise the whole house with the jacks, monitoring for level, and then shim the home securely into place. Then *BOOM* your house is level again.
Plumbing Pressure Testing
Once all shimming is complete and the home is level, we will conduct a plumbing pressure test on the home at this time. This is to ensure that a.) your plumbing is in working order, and b.) to prepare for mud-pumping later on.
6. Tunneling and Plumbing Repair (if applicable)
Some homeowners already know they have plumbing issues to address, which is probably why the foundation repair is happening in the first place. If an unexpected plumbing problem surfaces, tunneling and additional repair will be necessary.
Honestly, 25 to 30% of foundation repair jobs identify new or existing plumbing issues so be prepared for the possibility of additional time and expenses.
We wish there was a way to know about these things sooner, but they haven’t invented a “magic crystal plumbing problem ball” yet. When they do, we will be the first to order one.
Now tunneling is a whole other project that won’t be detailed here, but if you need it, this is when it happens. As the name suggests, we are digging a tunnel under your home to get to the plumbing problem so that a plumber can make the repair.
It’s possible that further plumbing pressure testing will take place to make extra sure that there are no further plumbing issues before moving forward.
7. Work Phase 3: Mud-pumping and Return to Normalcy (1 to 2 days)
The home is level, the plumbing is all good. Now we will begin the final phase of work on the home and get you back to normal home life without a team hanging around in your yard. You will know this is about to happen when a big pretty dirt pile gets delivered. Yay! Dirt!
Hole Filling and Patching
Now it’s time to fill in those holes. We won’t fill them back in with the bad dirt that we took out. Instead, a load of topsoil or sandy loam will be brought in from All American Stone & Turf and we will fill the holes with that.
Mud-pumping after Foundation Repair
Your home has been lifted up and now there is space under your home that wasn’t there before. We fill in these new gaps using a technique called “mud-pumping.” We use a flowing mix of Portland Cement, topsoil, and water called “slurry” to firmly support the interior of your home as much as possible, but there are a few other reasons too.
- To prevent drainage and erosion problems around and under the home that can “undo” all the work that was just done
- To support the interior floor so it doesn’t sound hollow when you walk on it
- To keep critters from deciding it’s a great place to live
We could write a whole other article on mud-pumping (we will do that real soon!), but we won’t go into too much detail here. Basically, there will be a small machine that looks like a motorized wheelbarrow pumping the cement and dirt mix under your home through a hose. It’s not too noisy, kind of like a lawnmower in the background maybe, but it means we are almost done.
We will also patch up holes that were made in sidewalks or porches at this time.
Clean-Up and Recheck the Pre-Start Checklist
Just as we went through steps at the job start, we go back through them to make sure everything gets put back right and in its previous state. Including:
- Checking for and testing working order of your irrigation/sprinkler system if present
- Carefully replacing landscaping items to the original location by referencing pictures
- Returning other items to the original location, like termite traps or firepits
- Clearing away or spreading any remaining topsoil
We will communicate with you throughout the entire foundation repair process . . .
We have a tool that you were introduced to upon the acceptance of the work proposal, and it’s called Buildertrend. This online communication system allows us to keep you updated on the work being done on your property. The team will take pictures and video during work progress and the office will post it to your Buildertrend portal along with updates so you can see what is going on every step of the way.
We do this to help lower the worry level and uncertainty that you may feel with any large home project. It may also generate additional questions and we value that too and have an easy way to communicate about it using this tool. If you haven’t checked out your Buildertrend account yet, we encourage you to do so now. You can also see invoices and make payments conveniently on this online system. Please contact [email protected] if you need help getting started.