Foundation Piering – How to repair a sinking foundation using piering?

It all starts when you’re looking around at your home. You notice bricks cracking, or maybe your door won’t shut like it used to, or you have to strain to open your windows. You look around and find out that your foundation is settled, and then you find out about foundation repair and all of the different options you have to fix your foundation.

What is foundation Piering?

Shifting, sinking, and leaking foundations are almost always connected to a soil issue. Foundation piering is a specific foundation repair process used to strengthen the foundation of your home using structural steel piers. There are many piering methods available to prevent continued settling. The most common is steel pier technology.

Foundation Piering - How to repair a sinking foundation using piering?

Steel pier technology for piering

Steel piers use the resistance of a stable surface, such as bedrock, to lift and stabilize your home. Because the steel is driven to bedrock and not supported by friction against the existing soil (which caused the settlement in the first place), steel piers provide consistent and reliable results. The piers are installed and load-tested individually using the weight of your home as a reciprocal force.

  • To install a steel pier, we expose the foundation, prepare the footing to receive a steel bracket, set the bracket with anchors to cradle the foundation.
  • We then attach a drive stand and drive pier sections until it reaches a stable surface such as bedrock. The structure is set up to lift and then stabilize.
  • Once the pier is installed, restoration is complete.

How do I know that I need Foundation Piering?

  • The first thing that you’re going to see when you are in need of Foundation Piers is doors and windows sticking. These will be hard to open, and they won’t latch properly. If you have a door in your house that just randomly swings open, it’s not a ghost, it’s very likely that your foundation is settling, throwing the squareness of that door off, which allows it then to move on its own.
  • Additionally, you could have drywall cracking, especially at the corners of doors and windows or in the corners of the wall.
  • This is a big sign that your foundation is starting to move, and drywall is pretty weak when it comes to that and it’ll start pulling apart and cracking.
  • Another big sign that you will see is the stair-step cracking of brick masonry on the outside of the home or on a cinder block foundation in the basement. This cracking happens because as the foundation moves, the structure above it moves down with it, causing these cracks along the weakest points, which are the mortar joints in between those bricks and cinder blocks.

If you see any of these signs or symptoms, be sure to call a professional to come out and give you an evaluation right away.

Why does foundation settlement happen?

Every home is going to settle in what we call uniform settlement within the first seven years of it being built. But after that, barring any external forces, the home wouldn’t settle for another 250 years.

  • The biggest reason that we see foundation settlement is because of improper water management. Water, especially from the roof, can produce 900 gallons of water from a single inch of rain, which washes out underneath the soil of your foundation.
  • Also, there could be underlying poor soil conditions where you’re just in an area of bad soil that allows pockets of soil underneath the home to either be weak, get compressed, and allow the foundation above to settle.
  • Poor construction can be another factor. When they dig out the foundation to your home, they’re supposed to compact the soil before they pour the foundation, and that is not always done correctly or even at all.
  • And if it’s not, it can allow the soil underneath your foundation, when the weight is added, to settle. It could be an external force like a big cement truck.
  • If you have construction going on near the home and you have big cement trucks or construction trucks that are driving next to the foundation, this could put a lateral force on that foundation and it could cause you some foundation problems.

What kind of piers are there and how are they installed?

  • The first is called a Helical Pier. They are screwed helically into the ground by a hydraulic drive head. These screw into the ground and then the thickness of the pier, as well as the plate, provides support once we get to depth in order to support the structure.
  • Also, we have what are called Push Piers. These are piers that are driven into the ground via a hydraulic press and they are sectioned into each other so that you can build them up and drive them down.

Both piers are typically driven at least 30 feet into the ground, on average more to 40 or 50 feet.

When installing Piers, do you need to fill them with grout?

Now, it’s very important that Piers are filled with grout for two main reasons. One, it waterproofs the Piers. As you can see, the Piers are hollow and so water can actually get into them through the seams and the joints of the Piers, and it can get down to the bottom of that pier and weaken the soil in which the pier is driven to.

If that soil gets weakened, it could actually cause a failure of that pier.

The second reason you would want grout in your Piers is lateral support because, as we mentioned before, those piers are going to be 40-50 feet down into the ground, and that lateral support will help give them better support for your structure to ensure that the foundation doesn’t move.

Why do I need so many?

The reason for this is your home doesn’t just sink or settle in one small spot. It usually does it around a corner and for a section of your home. It’s rare that an entire house needs Piers, but it does happen. You are going to be looking at at least four Piers, but on average six to eight Piers whenever you have a Foundation Piering job happen at your home or place of business.

What happens if I don’t have the Piering work done and I allow these issues to continue?

Like anything else, it’s going to get worse and worse over time. The more that the foundation settles, the worse the damage is going to be above it in the finishings in the home, the siding of the home, and it can even start pulling other parts of the foundation down. You’re going to need more Piers later on down the road rather than if you catch it early with a fewer amount of Piers. It’s always cheaper and easier to deal with if you attack the issue right away.

Will my drywall continue to crack after the Piers are installed?

Once you have Foundation Piering at your home, that drywall cracking should stop. Drywall cracks are the result of the foundation settling and pulling the walls down with it.

So once that wall is supported, the drywall cracking should stop as well. You may have already had someone out and ask yourself, “Why are they only stabilizing the foundation and not lifting it back up?”

Because renovations have been done after the settlement has occurred. If we were to lift that foundation back up, we’ll actually cause more damage to all the finishings. You are looking for stabilization or a lift.

Will Push or Helical Piers lift my foundation back up perfectly level?

When we are installing Piers and lifting a foundation, it’s not always to get that foundation back to perfectly level. We’re there to solve issues, mainly being that the foundation is not supported well enough and causing damage and issues above and could cause major structural failure down the road.

We are looking to even out the floors, close up the cracks, make the doors and windows work again, and to ensure that the foundation doesn’t settle any further. We lift up to what is called Maximum Practical Level.

And that is the maximum practical level in which we can get that foundation before other issues start occurring. Just because the foundation went down two and three-quarters inches does not mean it’s going to come up that full two and three-quarters inches.

Due to how the foundation and the finishings above settled, they may not go back perfectly into place. Bent nails and twisted wood doesn’t always go back to its full uniform shape that it was before the settlement began to happen.

So we find the best maximum practical level to ensure we’ve solved all the issues and have supported that structure.

When we do the Foundation Piers, are they going to close up all of the cracks in my brick and cinder block when we lift the foundation?

Many, many times, we can close up the cracks and make them look really, really nice. It is still highly recommended that you have a good mason or tuck pointer out to redo those joints because they don’t actually seam and fuse back together, and can still allow water through those cracks.

So once we complete our work and close up the cracks, you want to be sure to get those repaired. However, they don’t always get closed up perfectly.

Let’s say the mortar has fallen and cracked in there and has now created a shim, basically, that doesn’t allow that crack to be closed all the way.

This could cause an issue when you’re trying to close the cracks, but again you could have the tuck pointer come out once the foundation is supported and clean all of that up and make it look like it never even happened.

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