what is foundation repair?

What Even Is Foundation Repair and How Is it Done?

Let’s say you’re new to the area and perhaps also new to home ownership. First off, welcome and congratulations! 

Anchor Foundation Repair Bryan College Station

You’ve heard that you might need foundation repair, but you don’t even know what that is exactly or how it’s done. Second off, so sorry you’re having foundation problems and we can help explain this.

At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have been repairing Brazos Valley foundations since 1985. We can help you understand what foundation repair is because we *literally* do it every day (okay, not usually on the weekends) and know exactly what goes into it.

This article will explain why foundation problems and foundation repair are common in this area. Then we discuss what foundation repair actually means in simple terms and how it is generally done so that you understand what your home needs.

Please note: For the purposes of this article, we are talking about slab-on-grade foundations and the specific repairs needed for this type of foundation.

Why Is Foundation Repair Needed and Is it Common?

Foundation repair is needed when a home (or portion of a home) moves from its original elevation. The movement is most typically a downward or sinking action and might result in floors feeling unlevel. But more likely, your home starts to show the other more telltale signs of foundation problems like:

  • Diagonal Wall Cracks,
  • Stair-Step Brick Cracks,
  • Doors That Don’t Close, Latch, or Lock Properly,
  • Gaps Around Windows, Door Frames, or Exterior Trim, and/or
  • Cabinetry, Built-in Fixtures, or Trim Separating from Walls

top signs of foundation problems

Foundation settlement and problems happen a lot in areas where expansive clay soil dominates the landscape like it does here in Central Texas. But it’s not just the soil that causes the problem. It’s the combination of soil plus weather conditions that range from very wet to very dry every year. 

Not every area of the US experiences this issue as much as we do. Some people have never heard of such things as foundation repair until moving here. Foundation settlement is really common around these parts because we’ve got that *super special combination* of dirt and climate fluctuations. 

There are other causes of foundation problems too, but the soil/moisture levels are the top contributing culprit.

Foundation repair will raise your foundation back up from below and return it to its original position at the time it was built. The goal of foundation repair is to correct the unsightly visual and problematic functional problems that result from a home that has shifted.

How Is a Slab Foundation Repaired?

For slab foundations – the most common home foundation type we have here – support piers or pilings are added underneath the home to repair the settlement issues. The piers or pilings (sometimes generally called by the industry term: underpinning) are a remedy to do a few things for your foundation:

  • Lower the base of your foundation to non-reactive soil levels for more stability,
  • Support and lift the sunken foundation areas back to the appropriate position,
  • Secure and hold the foundation at the corrected level, and
  • Correct the visual and functional problems – aka *the signs* of foundation settlement

There are a few methods of slab foundation repair. Not all foundation repair methods are available everywhere and some are more appropriate in different soil situations. The two most common foundation repair methods available here in Central Texas are:

  • Pressed Pilings (Concrete, Steel, Cabled, or Hybrid Variations Available)
  • Drilled Bell-Bottom Piers
comparing methods of foundation repair

Both concepts of foundation repair involve raising and securing a home’s foundation in order to both stabilize and correct settlement issues. In a nutshell, you’re stuffing extra stuff under your home to lift and support it where it needs to stay to function best. Each method goes about things a little differently and works on different principles.

It’s too much to compare and contrast the methods here in this one article. We’ve got another one that explains how the two common foundation repair methods work and the pros and cons of each.

What Is the Foundation Repair Process?

the foundation repair process

The foundation repair process runs differently depending on the method, but both will involve digging holes around the perimeter of your foundation every so often. The holes are the start of the locations where the piers or pilings will be placed.

Some foundation repair jobs will require pilings or piers under the center of the home too, but that is less common. Adding underpinning under the middle of your home can be installed by either tunneling under the house or breaking through the slab from the inside. Each contractor will have their own usual way of handling interior foundation work.

Pressed Piling Foundation Repair Process

The holes around the foundation will be dug to reach beyond your home’s perimeter concrete beam. Once the desired hole depth is reached, cylindrical sections of precast concrete or steel are hydraulically pressed into the ground. 

  • For concrete pilings, the foundation repair contractor will continue to press the sections into the ground one on top of the other until no more will go in.
concrete pressed pilings
Concrete pressed piling supplies
  • For steel pressed pilings, they will either push the sections in until no more can be inserted or some will say they go until they “hit bedrock”.
  • For all pressed piles, they then raise the home from the top of the stack of piling sections and secure it into place using steel shims. The tension created between the soil and the piling creates the stability needed to lift the home and raise it into position.

Once the pilings are inserted and shimmed up, the foundation repair contractor will fill in the holes with dirt and then they are done and it’s time to clean up.

Drilled Bell-Bottom Pier Repair Process

Just like for pressed pilings, the holes around the foundation will be dug for drilled piers to reach beyond your home’s perimeter concrete beam. The spacing of the holes is every 7 feet (on center).

drilled pier foundation repair
  • After digging the initial hole, a 10 to 12-foot shaft is drilled out. Then, the bottom of the shaft is flared out to create a bell-shaped base.
  • Each drilled shaft is then filled with rebar and concrete to create a one-piece bell-bottom pier at each hole location. The new concrete is left to cure for 10 to 14 days.
  • Concrete blocks and a jack are inserted to raise the home from the top of the cured pier. Once the home is raised to the appropriate level, steel shims secure it in place.
  • Some contractors will then perform a hydrostatic drain line test to check your under-slab plumbing for leaks. Any leaks need to be repaired by a plumber before moving forward.

After mud-pumping is the usual clean-up. The drilled pier process has more steps and takes longer to complete than any type of pressed pilings due to the use of fresh concrete that needs to be poured and cured vs. precast concrete.

How Long Does Home Foundation Repair Take to Complete?

what is foundation repair?

Okay, so drilled piers take longer, but how much? Well in general, a pressed piling job might take 3 to 4 days whereas a drilled pier project could take 3 to 4 weeks. 

At Anchor Foundation Repair, we repair around 200+ homes per year and have been doing that since 1985. We know that Brazos Valley homeowners have questions about foundation repairs and we’ve got time to give you the answers you’re looking for.

There’s no denying the big time difference between the two methods, but there is an explanation. If you want more details about why there’s such a difference in work times, check out How Long Does Foundation Repair Take? Pressed Piles vs. Drilled Piers.