Tuesday, February 16, 2016

How to know if you have a "cracked slab".

The answer is, if you have a slab, it is cracked.  But don't mistake those cracks in your slab to a non-functioning slab.  I severely dislike the term cracked slab.  It makes my skin crawl.  Every slab foundation that has ever been built without a doubt has at least one crack in it.  But, those cracks do not necessarily make it NONFUNCTIONAL. 

Cracks associated with foundation distress don't only appear in the slab, but they will also be present  in the drywall, flooring, brick, mortar, frieze boards, window trim, and door trip.  Non-functioning slabs will have angles in them.  And those angles will appear in what is built on top of them.  Doors will stick, doors will close on their own.  Windows won't fit in the brick veneer correctly anymore, with visible gaps on the side of the window. Windows won't open properly.  Cracks will appear in diagonals, straight lines, and vertically.  Each one of these types of distress will tell you a story as to how the foundation is moving.  As we've discussed before, reading these signs is key to diagnosing what is going on with the foundation.

"Why does my foundation crack, if it's doing what it's supposed to?"

There are many answers to this question.
  1. Concrete can crack from the process of drying. 
  2. Concrete can crack due to age.  
  3. Your foundation can crack because of constant, minor foundation movement from season to season.  These little movements can cause little cracks on your foundation along the "hinge points" which are interior areas that area stable or static (not moving).
  4. Corner Cracks will pop up in your foundation from moisture absorption and or thermal expansion. 
  5. Your foundation can crack from differential movement, putting the foundation under stress.
  6. Your foundation can crack because of massive temperature changes in a short time period.
  7. Your foundation from tensed tension cables.

Sometimes, these cracks can show through your foundation and into your flooring.  If you have tile/wood flooring that is glued down to the foundation, it can crack or separate as these cracks appear.  It will mimic what the foundation is doing, as it is bonded to it.  Carpet can show the cracks as well. In carpet, you can see wrinkles in the floor, or depressions in severe cases.

The problem I have with the term cracked slab is that, while it might mean you have a foundation problem, it doesn't ALWAYS mean you have a foundation problem.

"What do those foundation cracks look like/mean?"
I don't even know how to describe this crack!
Displacement Crack

Image result for foundation crack]
Hinge Crack
Drying or curing Crack
Image result for foundation crack]
This is a joint between two separately poured foundations.

Image result for foundation crack]
Corner Crack
Image result for foundation crack]
Exterior Gradebeam Crack
Stressed cap from post tension cable.

You can see from the pictures above, obviously there are varying degrees of cracks in a foundation, just like there are varying degrees of breaks in a bone.  Some of these are obvious foundation issues.  Some of them aren't necessarily.  Drying cracks are commonly seen in all forms of concrete, especially in driveways, sidewalks, and garage floors.  Flooring covers most of the surface cracks in your foundation, and if it's not removed most people don't even know they have cracks.  Before you let anyone tell you that your cracks in your slab mean you have major foundation problems, look at the rest of your house, and get a reputable, qualified foundation repair contractor or a structural engineer that can analyze and explain those cracks.  

Let me know if you have any questions, and thanks again for reading.

Perma Pier Foundation Repair

You can call us here: 877-554-6259

You can email us here evals@permapier.com
or you can click here to sign up for a free evaluation.
Or you can email me directly with any questions at: brian.gilchriest@permapier.com

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Were you in the flood plane and need your house lifted? Read this first.

We are getting a lot of calls right now from the Meyerland area of Houston, with people that have questions over the process of lifting their house out of the flood plane.  The average range of lift is 4 feet higher than current elevation.  I would like to write this to help with some of you considering this process, so you can understand all that goes into it.

The first piece of advice I can give is the first call you should make is to a General Contractor.  Why?  Because this is not a project of simply lifting the house 4 feet in the air.  There are many parts to these projects.  The lifting part is for a foundation repair or foundation lifting company, the rest of the parts are putting everything back together after it is lifted 4 feet. 

Lifting a house 4 feet is a lengthy, time taking process.  It involves install piers inside and outside the home, manually lifting it, and setting the piers when it's done.  There are other parts to this process to consider however.  Do you want your floors broken through, or do you want it tunneled? Is your garage attached or detached, does it need to be lifted as well?  Does your house have interior beams, will there need to be steel added underneath in order to lift it?  Those are some of the things to consider in the lifting process.

The things that are not under the scope of work for foundation repair/lifting companies, that you need to know about are many, but here are a few.

1) Gas, Electric, Plumbing, and every other utility line to the house will need to be completely re-done.  Lifting a house 4 feet means that all these lines which where put on to a house that was on the ground, will now need to be disconnect prior to lifting, and re-connected after the lift is completed. 

2) Your sewer lines will be completely destroyed by this process.  Once the house is lifted, all of your sewer lines will be broken.  You will need to run new sewer lines accross the entire house.

3) There will now be a 4 foot void under the house.  What are you going to build around the house to hide it? Most of the mandates that I've seen require these voids to be "open air" voids, meaning that you can not refill them with soil.  That means that you can not regrade with soil to the foundation either, and most lots in Meyerland aren't big enough to properly grade a house four feet higher from where it currently sits.  The option is building a decorative wall around the house in order to hide the void, and the piers.  This will also protect the piers in the future.  It also helps it look much nicer :)

4) After the house is lifted, you will need drains installed afterwards.  The area where the house sat will be lower than the rest of the lot, meaning water will always intrude when it rains.  In order to protect the piers that where just installed, drains will need to be put in.

5) Your house will need steps.  Every point of entry or exit around your house will now be 4 feet high off the ground.  Foundation repair companies don't build steps. 

6) If your garage is lifted, you will need a new driveway.

7) If you have pool decking, patios, or driveways that but up to the house, it will need to be removed so the house can be lifted.  That concrete will grab on to the foundation, and make it impossible to lift.  It will also break when the house is lifted.

8) There will be a ton of cosmetic damage to your house when lifted.  Lifting a house 4 feet is not an easy process, and your house is not designed to be lifted 4 feet in the air.  Your house is designed to sit as it currently sits.  It will crack.  There will be cracks in the brick, there will be cracks in tile flooring, there will be cracks in sheetrock and ceilings.

9) There may be roof damage, or other structural damage (i.e. wall studs, roof rafters, etc.) when the house is lifted.  Same reasons as above.

10) You will no longer have a slab, you will have a suspended slab which is entirely different.  Your floors will sound hollow when it's completed.

11) Cost.  Average cost just for the lifting for most houses is around $85,000.00.  Before you decide to go ahead with that, you really need to look at all the other costs involved.  That's why hiring a General contractor to aid you through the process is extremely important.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to call us.  We'll be happy to answer any questions that you have, and assist you in any way we can!

Thanks for reading,

You can call us here: 888.434.8232  
You can email us here evals@permapier.com
or you can click here to sign up for a free evaluation.
Or you can email me directly with any questions at: brian.gilchriest@permapier.com

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Ask the foundation guy!

Have a question over foundations, drainage, or maintenance? Ask below in the comments!

Thanks for reading,

You can call us here: 888.434.8232  
You can email us here evals@permapier.com
or you can click here to sign up for a free evaluation.
Or you can email me directly with any questions at: brian.gilchriest@permapier.com

Friday, December 19, 2014

Heave vs. Settlement : Up vs. Down, know your symptoms.

If you are experiencing foundation problems, it is very important that both you and your contractor know what is going on with your house, and the proper technique to fix it.  Misdiagnosing leads to improper repair plans, improper repair techniques, and the headache of that foundation movement will continue.

1) Signs of Upheaval

What is Upheaval?

Upheaval is the upward movement of a structure or foundation caused by expansive soil or (in other parts of the country) frost. Frost heave occurs when water forms ice layers in the soil. Expansive soil or rock heave occurs when there is an increase in water content in the soil. When the soil has an increase in moisture content, it will swell pushing the house up.

What does Upheaval Look Like?

The biggest key to diagnosing upheaval is compression.  When things move up, they will compress.  The trickiest part of diagnosing upheaval, is that you will usually see compression and separation.  Things will compress in the area of the upheaval, and separated from the stable portion of your house.  While parts of your house might appear to be dropping, it is actually because of the uplifted area of your home.


Broken Foundation from uplift (plumbing leak)
Drywall compression from Upheaval
Drywall compression from Upheaval

What causes Upheaval?
As we said above, an increase in moisture or frost.  The increase in moisture usually comes from one of three areas.  1) Poor Drainage  2) Plumbing Leaks   3) Tree Removal.  Tree removal can cause heave as the water that the tree was absorbing is no longer being absorbed, and therefore saturates the soil. 

How is Upheaval fixed?
There are few ways of fixing upheaval, and many of these are experimental.  If you are experiencing upheaval due to plumbing leaks, it all starts with fixing your plumbing.  If poor drainage is key, then improving your drainage or installing a drain system can fix it.  Soil injections using a product such as Condor S.S. have proven to be effective under certain circumstances.  However, the only guaranteed way to truly fix this issue is to underpin the entire foundation, and lift it higher than the soil can possibly swell.  This will suspend your slab higher than the soil can go, and not allow it to cause any further issues.  It is by far the most expensive form of foundation repair, but also the most effective.

2) Signs of Settlement

What is Settlement?
The downward movement of a building structure due to consolidation of soil beneath the foundation.
What does Settlement Look Like?
These are the classic signs everyone looks for.  Stair stepping fractures etc.  But the big key is shearing and separation.  The biggest difference between settlement and upheaval is the fact that upheaval "smashes" and settlement separates.

What causes Settlement?
This is the opposite of upheaval, so usually it occurs due to a lack of moisture in the soil.  I can also come from: erosion of the soil around the home, improper compacted fill under the home, an excess in moisture where the soil has become too soft to support the home, loose tension cables,and soil compaction due to the weight of the home.

How is Settlement fixed? 
There is only one true fix to settlement, which is underpinning.  In some cases, if you are experiencing settlement due to moisture loss, increasing your watering in that area, installing a drip irrigation system, installing root barriers, or removing the vegetation from that side can help, but it's not a guarantee.  If you are experiencing settlement due to any other factor, underpinning is the only cure.  

Thanks for reading! Stay informed!

You can call us here: 888.434.8232  
You can email us here evals@permapier.com
or you can click here to sign up for a free evaluation.
Or you can email me directly with any questions at: brian.gilchriest@permapier.com