Home foundation repairs



The foundation of a house is the basic backbone of the entire property. If the foundation is shot, there is no recourse but to get a home repair (they are not cheap). First time home buyers and investors need to check out all the variable property data before buying a house. If a property needs extensive roof repairs or foundation, structural rehabilitation the prospective house might not be a good buy.


Have you ever been sitting at home and heard a creaking sound and wondered where is that was coming from? Have you ever wondered what was going on to make that creaking sound? Well, a homeowner in Nashville recently could hear creaking sounds and just found out that the house was moving. What caused this? Subsidence.


Approximately two years ago a severe drought dried and contracted the soil beneath the Nashville homes foundation which caused it to sink and crack ultimately pulling the house down with it. Then last year the area was inundated with heavy rains which flooded the property and in turn pushed the already compromised foundation and house back upward. This is what is known as shifting soil. Sadly, the homeowner had to spend more than $10,000 to install subterranean piers to stabilize the homes foundation. This is not an isolated incident. This happens all over the country.


One cause of shifting soil is extreme weather which may be linked to climate change. Another reason could be home construction on less stable ground. Either way these and other factors have created unprecedented foundation failures in houses throughout the nation. Home repair companies that perform foundation repairs have reported that their business has doubled and even tripled in some areas over the last 20 years and there seems to be no end in sight.


Dan Jaggers, Vice President of technical services at Olshan Foundation Repair said "We've seen a tremendous influx of pretty severe cases due to either drought or too much rain. People call panicked because they've got gaping cracks in their walls, tile breaking, grout popping and they don't know what to do."


There are other signs to look for that could prove that soil shifting and foundation failure may be happening and those include windows and doors not closing, creaking wood floors or chimneys and porches exhibiting gaps between them and the house.


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association reported data recently that shows since the 1990s there has been an accelerating trend throughout the nation that we are experiencing longer dry periods followed by very wet periods. Whether it's caused by random climate patterns or global warming, these swings between hot, dry weather to severe rain or snow have substantially affected the soil underneath homes and buildings.


Clay soils tend to shrink during droughts and swell during floods creating the effect of a house bobbing up and down like on a lake but very slowly.


Structures in areas where there is a sandier soil the soil loses its adhesive properties in dry conditions which can also affect a homes foundation. Then when heavy rains come the water can make the soil shift or just collapse beneath the structures.


This sinking is called subsidence and usually happens very slowly over a long period of time. With the back and forth effect from very wet conditions to extremely dry conditions, like here with California properties, these can accelerate this effect on homes.


Subsidence is not covered by most homeowners' insurance policies which makes it even more important to know if a home you plan on purchasing could be in an area of shifting soils that creates this subsidence. Also, during the recent housing boom several years ago many homes were built on soil that is particularly prone to shift. These are just some of the reasons why California requires a natural hazard disclosure report on all property transactions.


Fixing a failed foundation usually involves the installation of cement or steel piers around the perimeter of the house's slab or near its existing piers if it is a pier and beam foundation and can cost, depending on the severity of the problem, anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 per pier, and usually includes a lifetime transferable warranty.


Another cause that has been linked to shifting soil is when you cut down or tear out a tree which interrupts the moisture composition of the property and its structural balance. Planting trees too close to the house can also be harmful to the foundation.


As a rule, landscaping should be installed so that the water drains away from the house while gutters should discharge the drained water at least five feet from the house to avoid over saturating the soil around the property. During very long dry periods soaker hoses should be used to maintain the moisture level in the soil as well.


Tom Witherspoon, a foundation engineer in Dallas says "The idea is to maintain a constant amount of moisture in the soil, and if you can do that, your house will never move."


If someone is considering buying a house they should look for patched-over cracks in brick or drywall and doors that have been planed. They should also look for cracks in sidewalks and streets in the neighborhood.


There are several problematic areas that have this problem which include and are not limited to the Southwest and other coastal states.

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