Foundation settlement can lead to serious damage to a foundation, including cracking walls, jamming doors, tilting chimneys, sticking windows, and, most significantly, the possible complete failure of the foundation. This is a serious problem and should be addressed right away, as the problem will only get worse over time.
There are a variety of methods to support a settling foundation that have been applied over the years, ranging from replacing the entire foundation to bracing and restoring the wall's structure. These methods will not help your foundation restore bowing, fatigued walls. If bowing foundation walls are your concern, check out our information about foundation anchors.
Settling foundations will only continue to become more and more structurally compromised, and if they're not repaired or replaced, they must fail completely, with potentially disastrous results. While replacing the foundation is the most invasive, expensive, and disruptive process, with advanced damage to the foundation this is sometimes the only way to address the problem.
Removing and replacing a home's foundation is a work-intensive process. Before the work begins, the yard around your foundation and all landscaping in the area must be removed. Gardens, steps, walkways, trees, shrubberies, and anything else in the area will have to be removed. As the foundation is excavated, mounds of soil will be dumped around the house, and temporary supports will be set in place. The wall will be rebuilt, the supports removed, and, finally, the mounds of dirt and landscaping can be returned as well as possible. In a year or so, the foundation soil will experience settlement and will need to be regraded.
Bear in mind that the foundation that is rebuilt will be the same as the one you removed. Nothing has been done to address what caused the foundation failure in the first place, and there is a likelihood that the new foundation will fail as the previous one did.
Concrete Cylinder and Shim Reinforcement
This installation process attempts to add support to the foundation by installing concrete cylinders underneath the footing to add stability to the structure. The foundation is dug out, and the concrete cylinders are driven into the soil. Shims are placed between the house and the top of the piers, and the soil is backfilled.
These large, blunt concrete cylinders are unable to penetrate the soil to sufficient depts. To reach the dense, strong supporting soils underneath the foundation that are needed to support the weight of the house. They're driven underneath the soil, with nothing guiding them, and they can be crooked and uneven as several cylinders are piled one atop the other. As the pressure builds, the concrete can crack and break, weakening the support. And most importantly, these cylinders can only brace the damage- they offer no way to restore the foundation's structure to its original position.
Foundation piering is designed with a rugged steel pier and bracket that is designed to connect the pier to the foundation footing. They're designed specifically to add support to a home with sinking walls or a foundation that is experiencing vertical movement. They can perform their job in most soil conditions, lasting for more than a hundred years. These piers are available as push piers and helical piers, with each option offering its own strengths and weaknesses.
Foundation helical piers offer an effective way to add structural support to smaller, lighter structures such as sun rooms, patios, steps, porches, and other similar installations. However, when they're used to support the heavy weight of a house, they can prove much less effective.
Helical piers are designed with a steel shaft that includes a corkscrew design at the end. To install them, a section of the foundation must be excavated. The shaft is drilled underneath the home, and the installation is attached to the structure by a steel bracket. Helical piers install easily on older or weaker structures and can be used for pre-construction or new construction bearing systems in poor soils.
Helical piers are able to provide the opportunity to attempt to lift the structure, returning to a flatter, more level position. By doing so, cracks in the structure can close or shrink, and leaning chimneys may be straightened. However, helical piers will not guarantee perfectly flat or level conditions, and they're unable to improve the water tightness or lower the moisture level of a basement.
Foundation push piers offer the maximum in foundation support, making them most appropriate for large jobs and heavier loads. They're designed to drive deep into the earth to bedrock or solid supporting strata below the foundation. Because they install with minimal skin friction, they offer the deepest penetration of any type of foundation support without bending in the strata. Additionally, push piers are able to be used in low-impact interior installations.
Push piers can allow for the likelihood of the stricture being raised to a flatter, more level condition. With careful application, they can close and shrink existing cracks in stucco, drywall, brick, and other exterior finishes, and other problems suck as sticking doors, jamming, windows, and leaning chimneys may be improved with a push pier application as well. However, like helical piers, push piers will not ensure perfectly level or flat conditions, or a water or moisture-tight condition. Additionally, they will not be effective as a repair for bowing or fatigued foundation walls. To repair bowing walls, foundation wall anchors are the best option.