What is foundation piering?
Foundation piers are props that are designed to hold up a foundation of a home. They are most commonly used as a ‘rescue’ option to fix a concrete slab that has started to sink into the ground below. Foundation piers are an effective way to raise up a sinking foundation, extending far below the ground (sometimes by as much as 75 feet) to press against solid soil or bedrock below. Once they are attached, the foundation is supported by piers, and any sinking problem is fixed instantly.
If you need to get foundation piering, it can be a daunting process. However, it doesn’t need to be as complex or as invasive as you may think. This guide will walk you through the options involved, explain how the process works, and generally let you know what to expect when you’re having foundation piers installed in your home.
HOW ARE FOUNDATION PIERS INSTALLED?
Foundations have to be installed precisely so as to ensure that they are able to form a solid connection with the foundation. Therefore, installation should be left to a qualified professional. The steps for installation are the following:
Once this is all done, your foundation will be back to normal with a solution that will last – all being well – for the long term.
SIGNS OF FOUNDATIONS CRACKING
Of course, getting your foundation piered, rather than totally replaced, is contingent upon you noticing the problem quickly. You should always be on the lookout for problems with your foundation if you own a home. A foundation piering will only work if spotted before there is too much damage to the overall structure of the house. This is especially true if you live in an area with expansive soil or a particularly waterlogged area.
The following are the most common signs of foundation problems:
Cracks in your wall
This is usually a sign that the structure of the building is moving and that the weight of the house is causing the structure to damage. If you notice any crack getting larger, then it’s definitely time to act.
If water is starting to seep into your home when it never has previously, it could be caused by gaps emerging in the home’s structure. You should be particularly vigilant when it comes to water seepage in your basement or water running down the walls of your basement, as this is where foundation problems are most likely to occur.
Changes in the shape of your wall
Known as bowing or sagging, if your walls start to bend, it can indicate that the loads they are bearing are starting to shift. While you shouldn’t panic – it’s unlikely that they’ll give way without a significant amount of warning, you should definitely have a professional look at them.
As with cracks or water seepage, any gap in your home’s structure is an indication that the house is starting to shift. You should be particularly vigilant when it comes to gaps around windows and doors. Similarly, if doors and windows become difficult to open, the frames have likely moved because of foundation issues.
WHY DO I NEED FOUNDATION PIERS?
If you do notice that your foundations are starting to subside, it may be that there are underlying factors causing the structure of your home to sink. These are surprisingly common, particularly in certain areas of the United States. If any of the below is true, then it may be the cause of your foundation problems. The good news? Foundation piers can solve the problem.
The conditions in the ground under your home are the number one cause of foundation problems. Ground conditions can be extremely unpredictable, and it requires only one thing to be wrong, and your home can start to sink. These include soil that is too waterlogged, soil that is too dry, soil that has eroded, soil that is on a slope, and many more. In the Great Lake region, for example, the soil is sandy, meaning that it doesn’t always provide the right support for homes. Foundation piers are able to reach the solid soil underneath, providing the right level of stability.
The weight of your structure
In tandem with any ground problems, there is also the problem of the weight of your structure. Depending on what you are building, the weight may not be distributed evenly. This is a major problem when it comes to building wind turbines, which focus a great deal of weight on a small area of ground. If you have added additional sections to your building, it may upset the balance between the force pushing down and the force pushing up.
One additional reason why you may need to get foundation piers is a little more straightforward; some insurance companies may insist on foundation piers. In some cases, you may not be able to get permission to build without the use of foundation piers.
CONCRETE PUSH PIERS
The most common types of foundation piers are concrete push piers. These are the types of piers that are ‘pushed’ into the ground with a hydraulic ram. You can think of this part of the process as being like hammering a giant nail into the ground. The piers come in sections, which are added as the previous section is hammered into the ground.
Eventually, the pier will reach the required depth – which will have been surveyed in advance – and the process is stopped. Each pier will be individually load tested to ensure that it has reached a stable level of the soil. In some cases, this is as simple as when the hydraulic ram can no longer push the piers in any further.
Concrete push piers are good options in soils of (almost) any quality, and they can also provide some level of support when it comes to seismic protection. One of the benefits of concrete piers is that they are able to be installed even in very tight situations (this is because they are sectional and so the sections can be added piece by piece – you’re not forced to use one single 75-foot pole).
If concrete push piers are like giant nails being rammed into the ground, helical piers are like giant screws. They are less common in usage for foundation piering because they tend to be more difficult to place in than concrete push piers. However, where they are used, they provide an extremely strong foundation, ‘screwing’ the structure to the ground and vice versa.
They work by attaching helix plates to a central cylinder. The entire pier is then screwed into the ground using a hydraulic torque motor. Once it’s screwed a certain distance into the ground, more sections are added. To ensure the right depth is reached, the torque motor is constantly reading the level of torque, and a determination is made based upon the ability to screw it any further into the ground.
Helical piers are used across soil types and can also provide some level of seismic protection. They are particularly good at supporting structures built onto very soft surfaces, including sand. In addition, they provide good anchoring since they are as hard to lift as they are to compress.
Foundation piering is an extremely simple process, albeit one with major ramifications for your home. Perhaps the biggest threat to the structure of your home is a collapsed foundation, and there are several different potential causes. In (almost) any one of these, a foundation pier can provide the support required to get your foundation slab back in place.