Your home is showing signs of damage related to foundation settlement. Foundation settlement and sinking occur when soil changes begin below the structure. This is one of the most common foundation issues for homeowners across the country, which is why it’s crucial to be able to identify the symptoms and get them repaired by a professional before it’s too late.
What Causes Foundation Settlement and Foundation Cracks?
Your foundation will begin to settle when the soil underneath it can no longer adequately support the weight of your home and its foundation. This happens for three common reasons:
1. Drying & Shrinking of the Soil
Poor weather conditions, such as a drought, can drain the soil of all of its moisture and cause it to shrink. This causes a decrease in the size of the soil around your foundation, which creates an empty space where your home can settle. Large trees around your property can also cause foundation settlement issues when the roots suck up all the moisture in the soil surrounding your home.
2. Soil Saturation
Heavy rainfalls and flood conditions can saturate the soil around your foundation. A large increase in the moisture level of the soil leads to very soft, mud-like soil, causing the home to sink downward and cause foundation cracks.
3. Poorly Compacted Soil
Poorly compacted soil happens when the builder lays the foundation, digs a large hole in the ground, pours the concrete, and then backfills the same soil. This newly moved soil has been distributed and is now loosely compacted. When the builders do not properly compact the soil before building the house on top of it, it can compress under the weight of the home, causing the foundation to settle.
Identifying Foundation Settlement Issues:
Signs of a settling foundation can be very subtle at first—many homeowners go months or even years before noticing a crack in their foundation. However, the long-term damage from foundation settlement is ongoing and can lead to more severe foundation problems.
As foundation walls settle, many telltale signs will become evident. What follows are some of the most common ways that foundation settlement can become visible to the homeowner.
Visible Symptoms of Foundation Settlement:
- Stair-step cracks in brick/concrete foundation walls
- Leaning, tilting chimneys
- Cracks around doors and windows
- Jamming, sticking doors and windows
- Cracks in a concrete slab floor
- Cracks in drywall
Foundation Settlement Repair Solutions
The first thing you are going to want to do when symptoms of foundation settlement become visible is to contact a foundation repair specialist. At AquaGuard Foundation Solutions, we provide a thorough, comprehensive inspection and estimate for all your foundation repair needs.
We fix foundation settlement issues by installing steel foundation piers. These piers are bracketed to the footing of your house and hydraulically-driven beneath the foundation, deep into the soil, until load-bearing soils that can permanently stabilize your structure are reached.
Some types of soil are stronger than others. There are usually a number of different soil layers underneath a house. Foundation settlement can occur when one of these soil layers can’t support the weight of the home.
Stair-step cracking is one of the surest signs of foundation settlement and is very common in brick, stone, stucco, or concrete walls. As the settlement continues, vertical cracks may widen or become uneven as wall sections tilt away from each other, indicating more severe displacement.
Keep an eye out for cracks that are wider at the top than at the bottom, as this is a sign of advancing settlement.
Tilting chimneys that are separating from the home are one of the most intimidating and dramatic signs of a settling foundation.
Sometimes a chimney is built on a footing that is not connected to the house foundation, making it even more at risk of settlement. More information about tilting, leaning chimney repair.
Damaged Doors & Windows
An opening cut in any wall is a weak point, so signs of foundation settlement often show up around door and window openings located above settlement areas.
Doors and windows frames may be racked out of square. Cracks may extend from the corners above doors and windows. Doors may separate from the framing or exterior finish. Other signs of foundation settlement include sticking, jamming doors and windows and locks that stop working.
Slab Floor Cracking
Cracks in your concrete floor slab can be a sign of foundation settlement, but they may also be a sign that the slab floor alone has settled.
There are times when your slab floor may sink or lift independently of the foundation walls, damaging the floors but not necessarily the walls.
Cracks in drywall throughout the house are reliable indicators of foundation settlement. Cracks will often be larger and more obvious in the home’s upper levels, as the stress put on those levels is greater than below.
Typical drywall cracks during foundation settlement are commonly located at the corners of doors, windows, and along drywall seams. Drywall tape can also be a good indicator, especially if it’s ripping or coming loose. Lastly, drywall cracks can also be a sign of sinking crawl space supports, sinking floors, and heaving floors.
Repairing Foundation Settlement
At AquaGuard Foundation Solutions, we recommend installing foundation piers to stabilize, repair, and restore a foundation that’s been damaged by issues related to foundation settlement and poor supporting soils.
There are several different types of foundation piers; each one is designed to address a different kind of foundation problem. We install three different patented foundation piering solutions: push piers, helical piers, and slab piers. Each of our piers are engineer-tested to provide permanent stabilization and potential lift for your home’s settling walls or slab floors.
Foundation Push Piers
Foundation push piers are straight, steel piers that attach to your foundation and extend far below the structure to strong supporting soils.
During installation, a section of the foundation footing is exposed and cut to attach to each pier’s bracket. Piers are then hydraulically-driven until bedrock is reached below, on average about 20-25 feet below your foundation, though it can be much, much deeper. Push piers can be installed from either the inside or outside of your foundation.
Foundation brackets are secured to the footing, and tubular pier sections are hydraulically driven through each bracket. Pier sections continue to be driven downwards until the piers meet competent strata, which is typically gauged at 4,000 PSI (Pressure per Square Inch). Our patented push piers are engineer-tested for load and also utilize a friction-resistance color at the base of each pier to ensure piers are driven straight and accurately, each and every time.
When all push piers have been installed, they will work in unison to transfer the weight of the structure to the strong soils or bedrock below. If possible, the home is also lifted back to its original, level position.
Foundation Helical Piers
Foundation helical piers are straight, steel piers that have helical blades welded to each shaft. This installation is completed from the exterior of your foundation.
These piers are driven into the soils underneath your foundation, then each pier is connected to the structure’s foundation via a steel bracket.
During the installation, a section of the footing is exposed and cut for each bracket. Next, round-shaft helical piers are mechanically advanced into the soil, until load-bearing strata, or bedrock, is reached. Once the helical pier has been advanced into the soil, a foundation bracket is secured to the footing.
When all helical piers have been installed, they will work in unison to transfer the weight of the structure to competent soil, permanently stabilizing and essentially providing legs for your home. If possible, the structure is also lifted back to a level position.
Slab Pier Systems
Foundation slab piers are straight steel piers that extend from stable soils deep below the structure to support brackets directly in contact with the underside of the slab.
These piers are meant to support a settling concrete floor and are not appropriate for foundation wall stabilization. Slab piers are also inappropriate for repairing heaving foundations.
During installation, a small hole is cored through the concrete floor. A slab bracket is assembled beneath the concrete slab, and steel tubes are hydraulically driven down through this bracket.
When the slab piers have reached competent soils, the weight of the slab is transferred through the piers to load-bearing soils below. If possible, the slab is lifted back to level position.
At the end of the installation, PolyLevel is pumped under the slab to fill any voids, and all cored holes in the slab are restored with new concrete for a clean, professional look.
What Not To Do
Like all home improvements and repairs, some methods work much better than others. Unfortunately, many methods hardly work at all outside of certain applications. Several contractors try to approach foundation repair with a “one size fits all” technique, and that can lead to additional damage. In fact, at AquaGuard Foundation Solutions, we find that many of our foundation repair jobs are actually fixing previously-unsuccessful repairs of other contractors.
Based on our experiences throughout Georgia, here are three fixes that we do not recommend:
Total Foundation Replacement
To completely replace your home’s foundation, the soil will have to be removed from around your home and your home will be jacked up and placed on temporary supports.
Next, your foundation walls are completely removed, and a new set of walls are constructed.
This is expensive, time-consuming, and extremely disruptive for the homeowner. To make matters worse, this process doesn’t even address the real problem—the soils around your foundation.
Many homeowners remove and replace their foundation without addressing the problem that caused the foundation issue in the first place. When this happens, they often find that after several years, they’re facing the same problem all over again.
At AquaGuard Foundation Solutions, we address the problem with warrantied solutions that will fix your problem once and for all.
To install concrete underpinning, the soils must be excavated from around the foundation. Larger concrete footings are poured beneath the existing footings. Once the concrete has cured, the soil is backfilled.
When it comes to foundation footings, bigger is not necessarily better. Most of the time, the underpinning will not extend beyond the problem soils under your home. If this is true, the larger footings you just paid for will continue to move and cause damage.
Concrete shrinks as it cures, and small gaps can form between the new and old footings. Open gaps beneath a home are never a good thing!
When concrete underpinning is installed and fails to solve the problem, it is much more expensive to repair. Before installing a new foundation system, all that added concrete will need to be removed.
To install concrete piers under a home, the soil will first need to be excavated from around your foundation. Short, 6″-8″wide concrete cylinders are then pushed into the soil on top of one another, strung together by a wire. Shims are then placed between the top of the concrete pier and the footing, then the soil is back-filled.
Blunt, wide concrete cylinders are difficult to push deep into the ground, making it very difficult to extend them past the poor supporting soils under your home.
Concrete can crack and break when under pressure, and even in response to temperature changes, making concrete piers a flimsy repair method.
Additionally, there is nothing to guide the direction for the pier, which means they might not be installed straight. So how will they support your home?
Because of these and other reasons, very few companies will recommend this kind of approach.
We Repair Settling Foundations in GA!
At AquaGuard Foundation Solutions, we can identify and repair any issue you may be having with settling, sinking foundations. We have a wide variety of solutions for foundation repair that have been engineer-tested and proven effective via our manufacturing network, Supportworks, Inc., throughout the United States and Canada. Supportworks is the largest residential foundation and concrete repair network in North America, and AquaGuard proudly serves as the exclusive, authorized Supportworks dealer for all of Metro Atlanta and North Georgia, including Athens, Peachtree City, Carrollton, and Rome.
Each of our solutions starts with a personal consultation with one of our certified foundation repair specialists, a thorough evaluation of your home, a customized proposal showing exactly what needs to be installed to permanently repair your home’s specific issues. To schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, call or e-mail us today!
We proudly serve Marietta, Atlanta, Decatur, Lawrenceville, Sandy Springs, Norcross, Alpharetta, Athens, Gainesville, Blue Ridge, Cartersville, Rome, Carrollton, Fayetteville, and surrounding areas.