What is Foundation Repair?

Cracked Foundation. Sloping Floors. Separated Drywall.

These are the last words a homeowner wants to hear about their property. Noticeable foundation issues are often visible to the naked eye – however, not all foundation repairs are as a detectable as something like a wall or ceiling crack.

If you are a homeowner and are seeing the telltale signs of foundation problems, such as a cracked foundation within your structure, or if you’re concerned that your home may require other foundation repairs, it is important to call a licensed engineer or a certified foundation specialist to diagnose the issue. The following are a few examples of common issues that may be damaging your property.

Symptoms of Foundation Damage

  • Cracked foundation
  • Sticking doors and windows
  • Sloping floors
  • Ceiling and wall cracks
  • Cracked tile
  • Sagging beams
  • Separated drywall
  • Sloping exterior facade grout lines
  • Cracked brick

If you observe any of these foundation damage symptoms, the first call you should make is to a licensed structural engineer, who has the background and experience to perform a foundation inspection and issue a forensic engineering report.

Why a Forensic Engineering Report is Important

The forensic engineering report will identify the cause of the observed damage by identifying anomalies in the floor elevations and by finding traceable correlations between the damage, the site characteristics and the observed anomalies.

How a Licensed Engineer Works

The professional engineer will start by performing a relative floor elevation survey to find any differences in elevation within the floors. If the relative floor elevations are not in compliance with what is expected in a floor slab of that age (i.e. the floor slab is not in general conformance with construction and design codes), then there may be an issue with the foundation. The following are common examples of what a licensed engineer may find in an elevation survey:

  • No problems! The evaluation finds that the crack is due to old age or thermal differentials
  • Partial settlement of the foundation, which can cause a cracked foundation
  • Partial heave of the foundation – another potential cause for the cracked foundation
  • A combination of settlement and heave of the foundation
  • Differential settlement of the foundation settlement in multiple areas
  • Poorly designed and/or constructed foundation
  • Aging structural foundation system (i.e. rotted wood)

After the engineer’s foundation inspection is complete and once the floor elevations are recorded, the engineer will then observe the damage and the site features at the residence to see if any correlations or patterns are noticed. Based on these observations, the engineer will provide recommendations on how to proceed with the foundation repair.

A Foundation Repair Example

Say, for example, that you have an oversized tree in your yard. What if this large tree is located near a foundation corner and that foundation corner is observed to be lower than the rest of the home and there is correlating damage? One potential conclusion is that the tree has absorbed the moisture from the active soils beneath the home, which has caused the home to settle in that area. In this case, this is a “partial settlement” of the foundation and can be remedied by a simple partial pier plan.

Given this scenario, the next step for the engineer is to determine what type of pier should be used to repair the foundation and stabilize the structure. This decision is based on available data and the engineer’s expertise, soil tests, professional experience, and even regional experience (a particular expertise in a centralized neighborhood). These factors will enable a licensed engineer to provide a thorough and reliable recommendation for your foundation repair needs.

A Smart Investment

Foundation repair can be a very complicated task. While some necessary foundation repairs are easy to spot, many foundation issues are not as obvious. A foundation inspection, conducted by a licensed engineer (as opposed to a contractor who may not be licensed), can help you identify your foundation damage, determine which foundation repairs are required, and potentially save you the headache, time and money of dealing with a larger foundation repair problem in the future.

Learn more about Crosstown Engineering’s foundation repair services.

Photo credit: cracked