What Does Foundation Repair Mean and How Does It Work? Clueless Homeowners’ Guide

You’re a little lost on what foundation repair actually is and how it’s supposed to help your home. Why should you know what foundation repair is anyway if you haven’t ever needed it? I agree with you, there’s no reason you should already know this. 

This is not an intelligence thing and you are not clueless in a bad way, you’re fearlessly admitting that you don’t know about this topic and need help. Bravo to you!

Anchor Foundation Repair

Anchor Foundation Repair has been inspecting and repairing foundations in Bryan, College Station, and other surrounding cities like Caldwell and Madisonville since 1985. We know all about foundation repair so you don’t have to be an expert, but we want you empowered with knowledge about it anyway. 

We are more than happy to explain foundation repair in easy-to-understand terms that make sense to a regular homeowner just like you. We will cover the basic concept of foundation repair and how it works for your home. Let the empowerment begin . . . 

What Does Foundation Repair Even Mean?

What does foundation repair mean exactly? Good question. In simple terms, a planned repair includes installing vertical supports under the home because it has sunk. Your home has experienced foundation settlement. Once the supports are installed, then the foundation is raised back to its original position and secured there so that it stays there. 

house leveling

In other words, foundation raising and stabilization. This process is also called “house leveling” or “foundation leveling” even, but really your home might not be level when the process is complete. 

Foundation repair is about performance and making your home work as it should. Repairs restore the proper functionality to the home and foundation and bring it back to its originally built elevation. (Which may or may not have been completely level in the first place.)

Restoring Functionality

foundation issues

Many homes in our area of Central Texas experience foundation settlement, aka foundation movement, aka a sinking foundation. Sometimes foundation movement is minimal and does not mess with the way things work in your home. 

An example of minimal settlement would be some small wall cracks that don’t concern you and are cosmetic in nature. The crack is just sitting there, minding its own business, not really bothering anyone.

When foundation settlement affects the functionality of your home, then you need foundation repair to restore it to working order. An example of foundation settlement that needs foundation repair would be when a door of your home is not working right. 

Like your front door doesn’t latch or lock, or your garage door doesn’t close because everything is out of alignment. Or a crack in the exterior brick is large enough and lets in moisture or pests. Or a wall crack is so large and noticeable inside your home that you feel embarrassed about it and unhappy.

These symptoms of foundation problems make your home not *work right* for you. The functionality may be in keeping you safe with locking doors, or keeping you dry and bug-free, or keeping you happy. Homes are supposed to do all those things for you, and if they don’t, then the functionality is in question, and repairs are needed.

Original Elevation

Bringing your home back to its original elevation is another purpose of foundation repair along with restoring functionality. The home was meant to sit in a certain position, and everything was built around it and continues to work right if it stays that way. 

When the home has moved, it should be put back in place. Or else it can continue to affect and possibly damage other systems of your home, like the plumbing under your house.

plumbing under your foundation

The more a home sinks, the more it can damage things as they get off-kilter. The best way to stop more damage and get things aligned and working right is by restoring the original elevation that the home was built at. This will close up the cracks, re-align the doors, and allow for trim to be reattached when everything is returned to its originally intended spot.

Homes are interconnected in so many ways as layers are placed on top of layers during construction. All those layers work best together when they stay where they were first built. Foundation repair restores the home to its original elevation so that it can work its best.

How Does Foundation Repair Actually Work?

There are a few steps to the process of foundation repair: plan development, support installation, and home raising and/or stabilization.

Plan Development

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 vertical supports will be placed and how many support locations are needed. Most of the time, the supports are along part of the perimeter of the home (not usually the whole home). The repair plan will also give you the cost of foundation repair.

Foundation Repair Plan

Typically, support locations are 7 feet apart depending on the method of foundation repair and follow along the perimeter of the home. This is a pretty average foundation repair job. You might need supports under the middle area of the house as well, this is in about 10% of cases.

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 methods around, but they are not as widely used around here.

In engineering terms, the supports under your home are generally called “underpinning.” But depending on the specific 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 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. 

Home Raising

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.

home raising in foundation repair

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 . . . 

remodel before foundation repair

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 put the home back in place. Why in the world would this need to be done?

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 a 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.”

Tell Me More About the Methods of Foundation Repair

supports for foundation repair

You are no longer clueless and know what foundation repair is and how it works to improve your home. Now you want to know more about the different methods we touched on in this article in more detail. Many people don’t even know that there are different types of foundation repairs. 

Again, why would you need to know these things if you have never needed foundation repair before? This is not a shortcoming on your part, it’s not expected that all humans know about this by the time they are a homeowner.

At Anchor Foundation Repair, we make it a point to educate and inform homeowners about *all things foundation-related* so that you are not at anyone’s mercy by not knowing what is up with your foundation and home. We WANT you to know stuff because we find that in 35+ years in service to the community, it’s the best way to earn your trust and your business.

Check out this article that breaks down the features and pros and cons of the two main foundation repair methods available in our local area of BCS, Brenham, Navasota, and more.