Ever had your foundation repaired?

belisariusJanuary 19, 2006

We have a 30-year-old house, slab-on-grade, and the foundation is cracked. Based on sticky doors, one big crack in a wall that expands and contracts with the dryness of the soil, and some cracks in the floor--I'm fairly certain the foundation needs to be underpinned. Before I pop for a structural engineer, I was hoping to get some ballpark figures.

Has anyone here ever had to repair a slab foundation? If so,

1. How much was the engineer's inspection?

2. How much did the repair cost and how big was the slab?

3. What kind of repair did you have done? Cable? pre-stressed concrete pilings? steel pipe?

4. How long did it take?

5. How disruptive was the repair work?

6. How much (if any) repair work (new cracks, broken windows, cracked door jambs, broken tile) was made necessary by the underpinning?

Thanks.

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mave

It maybe a lot cheaper to hire a house inspector to check your foundation and framing.
He/she will tell for sure what is damaged and may recommend who to bring in to repair your problem.
If your lucky it may turn out to be just water damge to your framing and not the fooundation.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2006 at 12:32PM
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edwardo

We haven't had ours repaired, but I did have a home inspector who is also a structural engineer come out to take a look at a similar problem. He took some pictures, made some measurements, and produced a pretty thorough report on the problem. He also listed some foundation repair companies in the area (I would hope that he didn't put any in there that weren't reliable). He listed two companies, one that used drilled concrete piers and one that used helical piers, but he didn't really express a preference between the two. I don't remember exactly what I paid but it was probably around $300-400. He specifically asked me if this was for a lawsuit or for a repair. By the time that I had him out, we had been in the house for a couple of years, so I wasn't thinking seriously about a lawsuit. I would be interested in seeing the difference between a "lawsuit-supporting report" vs a "repair-supporting report".

Since then, I have had a foundation repair company out to look at our foundation. This particular company used drilled piers, supposedly down at least 12 feet or until rock, whichever comes first. Depending on the situation, they will go deeper as he was describing a house that he had done recently where they had gone down 18 feet or more ( that house was on a slope ). The cost per pier is $800. There is some extra tacked on if concrete must be cut (such as a sidewalk or driveway) to gain access to the foundation. There is an extra fee if it is necessary to dig down more than 5 feet to get to the foundation itself.

The company offers a lifetime warranty. I don't know exactly what is covered, but I think that it is mainly for adjustments. The specifically state in the contract that complete closure of cracks is not guaranteed and they do not guarantee that there might be some cracking inside. The guarantee is against future movement of the foundation.

I live in northern Alabama and we have a good deal of expansive soils around here.

For one crack you probably don't need a lot of piers so your total cost would probably be less than our estimate of around $15000 for less than 20 piers. I don't remember the exact number of piers PLUS there was some extra cost for cutting into driveway. Generally, the piers are 8-10 feet apart.

Based on my estimate and the way that it was explained to me, if you have one crack, you can probably get away with 5 or 6 piers or less. However, it really depends on what they find.

Other companies in my area use helical piers and cable (Olshan). I don't know their prices.

Our toughest decision is whether or not to do the work. We actually have some very noticeable cracks that open every summer and close (mostly) in the winter. I feel like I was duped by the previous owner because apparently those cracks had been there forever, but he cosmetically fixed them before putting the house on the market. A year later, after a dry summer, two of them opened back up. My neighbor told me that the cracks had been there forever. Since then, two more cracks have appeared. The house is 30 years old, so I think that this has been going on for a long time, as opposed to some settling of a newly built house.

I think that we probably will do the work at some point, mainly because it can be an eyesore on the outside, as well as on the inside due to cracked drywall, stuck windows, stuck doors, etc. I would feel pretty bad trying to stick it to the next buyer by hiding the damage. I also think that the house would be harder to sell without the repair, if for no other reason, than I would not have bought had I noticed the cracks as the height of "cracking season".

A guy around the block had 25+ piers installed (20,000+). His house is in a rocky area, so the piers did not go down very far before hitting rock. It seemed like it took sort of a long time (6-8 weeks), at least partially because most of the digging had to be done by hand. Ordinarily, then can bring in some machinery to drill the hole.

This company advertises to a certain extent that the repair work is minimally disruptive (any foundation plantings are dug up and replanted when the work is finished. Not sure if there is a guarantee that the planting will live ). Other companies make a big deal about how then can be in and out in a short period of time and they specifically state that the work is not disruptive.

As far as damage due to the underpinning, I don't have much information. My impression is that they try to jack up enough to close up any exterior cracks. The other guy that had it done said it seemed like they did it to a certain extent by feel. He didn't mention anything about having any damage, but I don't think that it was jacked up a lot. The main idea is to stop the movement of the foundation. It seems to me like if a window breaks or a door jamb cracks that something has very unexpectedly gone awry. I would not think that kind of damage would be the norm, although I guess that it could happen.

If/when we have our foundation underpinned, I will probably wait at least two years ( two full crack/uncrack cycles ) before fixing any of our cracked brickwork. I would hate to fix it just to have it crack again. From what I understand, it is possible for the foundation repair company to come back later and do adjustments.

I have read that it is possible to minimize the movement of your foundation, if it is due to expansive soils, by watering around the foundation. Maybe this works, but it seems pretty iffy to me. How much do you water? How often? It probably wouldn't work well for us anyway as the sides of our hose where most of our cracks are located are bound by a concrete driveway.

I hope that some of that helped.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2006 at 4:42PM
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randallgober

How can i Get in Touch with edwardo, or whoever sales these helical piers for 800.00 I,m getting quotes for 1200.00 ea in Gadsden i need about 15....randall

    Bookmark   July 9, 2006 at 12:33AM
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ericwi

It is common for foundations to crack when the soil dries out, leaving portions of the slab unsupported. If the cracks are small, and stable, homeowners generally decide to leave well enough alone, and simply learn to live with the problem. I can't help but wonder if you might be able to manage the problem by watering your yard, when it gets dry, and keeping the soil under your house somewhat hydrated.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2007 at 1:17PM
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licwaterproofer

Many--not all... basement walls can crack, leak, bow inward due to Outside SOIL pressure and tree roots

Doing any kind of piering,wall anchoring,beams etc and NOT excavating the basement wall(s), Not waterproofing it and Not backfilling it with all gravel is/will be a big mistake for many homeowners.

read --Basement Walls, most successful REPAIR Mehtod, see what they tell you

http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpwes/publications/marineclay.htm#2

read --DIAGNOSING The PROBLEM

http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpwes/publications/marineclay.htm#4

read 6th Paragraph here....
http://www.yodergroup.com/concrete.asp

here`s some more.... what Many INSIDE water-diverting companies don`t know or want YOU to know, talking about those who Only-Rather do Inside perimeter drain tile & Baseboard systems...Watch out!!!

Nobody on this planet can stop/relieve/lessen Outside-soil-pressure with any inside system, you have to go Outside and get rid of the.. CAUSE(s)!!! Carbon straps,beams,piering,anchoring etc....while a couple of these 'may' help hold a PART of wall in-place (or support from underneath) they do NOT relieve expanding and contracting Soil pressure or roots! Exterior is BEST choice for MOST!

http://www.askthebuilder.com/015_Exterior_Foundation_Wall_Waterproofing.shtml

http://www.askthebuilder.com/NH058_-_Waterproofing_Foundations.shtml

--WET Basements, Q 1 and 5 esp... what do THEY tell you about what is PREFERRED Method for dealing with damp-leaky basements? Yeaah, its NOT from the Inside

http://www.shakeronline.com/dept/building/FAQ.asp

read this article, see what SOILS are Best, see COMPACTION, and check out..Careful on the construction Site

http://www.bobvila.com/HowTo_Library/Why_Foundations_Fail-Foundation-A2095.html

http://www.ottawastructural.com/treesfoundations.htm

    Bookmark   February 8, 2007 at 6:47AM
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happilybaked_hotmail_com

Olshan uses cable lock which is cylinder concrete spiraled cones with a braided industrial cable that runs thru the center of the concrete piers which is then hydrallicly forced down to the first layer of bedrock which then the employees use wedges to stabilize and bring your home back to true settings as they run thru your house checking your doors to align and verify that your house is once again in an accurate posistion. Helical spheres can work but dont reach the bed rock. Olshan uses the helicals as well but they cost more and keep sinking(as your house as well) and over time the helicals will rust away. Go with cable lock by olshan if you want the job done right. Scott. Former employ of olshan in Parker, colorado.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2011 at 5:18PM
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jaygold53

for those of you that have had foundation work, what interior damage was there? Plumbing, etc...

    Bookmark   November 13, 2011 at 12:57PM
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krissie55

There are so many "house inspectors" out there with little knowledge regarding foundations. How many people do you know that had a house inspector when they bought a house only to find many things wrong the inspector should have noticed?

I would bite the bullet and hire a good "structural engineer" to find out if it is really a foundation problem or it is shifting clay soil that would only require watering to correct.

We had this problem with an older home, it is the shifting clay soil causing the problem and not the foundation. The drought this past summer did not help. It was well worth the $300 for a 1560 sq. ft. brick home on concrete foundation.

A structural engineer will not be biased like a leveling company would be anticipating a job whether it is needed or not. Something to think about.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2011 at 4:06PM
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edwardo

We finally had our foundation work done one year ago, December 2010. �We got the grilled piers (concrete with rebar). AFAIK, most piers did not go down to rock, so they were drilled to about to 12' and belled out at the bottom. Cost, after a few years delay from my initial posting above, was about $1000 per pier. Total time required was about 7 working days.�

First, holes (boxes) dug down to footings.�
Next, piers drilled. Due to wet conditions (and not wanting to destroy yard) some piers drilled with bobcat where it could stay on hard surface. Other piers drilled with a portable device.�
Next, cement placed in each hole, along with rebar. This was left for weekend.�
Next, jacking. Jacking was done using simple bottle jacks. �Measured using a transit and 4' level (on floor inside).�
Next, pipe inserted between pier and footing to temporarily support house while jacks removed.�
Next, cement placed to connect top of pier and footing.�

Finally, holes filled back in. French drains repaired. Foundation plantings put back. (Some lived, some didn't).�

All in all, I was surprised it wasn't more disruptive. I was also surprised how relatively low tech it was. Lots of manual labor.�

After a year, I think I am satisfied with how it turned out. Main crack did not reopen over the summer.�

Would I recommend it? �If you can afford it, yes. The way I looked at, I felt that we were duped at the purchase (our home inspector probably should have found the issue) by the intentional camouflage of damage by prior owner. I felt that our choices, when we eventually sell, would be:

1. Sell as is, with cracks apparent and possibly take a hit on price.�
2. Cover up again and stick it to the next guy.�
3. Fix now and maybe/maybe not get that money back when we sell. I don't have any illusion that our $20,000+ will come back to us. I do think the piers should be a selling point.�

If there are any more questions regarding our job, post them here and I will try to answer.�

    Bookmark   January 1, 2012 at 7:16PM
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Anthony88

Who did you end up using for your repairs? Why did you decided to go with the concrete piers and not helical? Do you feel as though the repairs are permanent, or may come back? did you end up using an engineer?

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 3:15PM
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jaygold53

Eduardo- what interior damage was created by your work? plumbing/pipes/leaks? Door jams or windows crack?...thanks

    Bookmark   June 21, 2012 at 5:24PM
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edwardo

Anthony88 -
Cost - about $1000 per pier.
Concrete vs Helical - We didn't really consider helical. We liked the guy that does concrete piers and he has a good reputation in our area.
Permanent? - After two years, the repairs seem permanent.
Engineer - We did consult with an engineer when we first started looking into the problem. He suggested having the work done and seemed pretty confident that this type of foundation repair does actually work. He did not express a preference between concrete piers and helical. The engineer did not draw up the repair plan, the foundation company did.

jaygold53:
Interior damage - Probably some cracks. Floor in bathroom directly over "pivot point" for the side with the most movement has some disruption in the tile floor where it meets the baseboard (as if the wall came up 1/4" or so more than the floor). We plan to redo this bathroom anyway, so it doesn't really bother us.
Plumbing leaks - none that I know of.
Doors/Windows - Some windows would barely operate before the foundation work, now they operate smoothly.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2013 at 10:48AM
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musicteacher

I have had foundation done on two houses. It is very common here in Texas with clay soils and slab foundations. The men working outside were not disruptive at all. One time I thought they had all left for lunch or something and turns out there were three of them completely underground in the holes! It was however very noisy (teeth rattling) when they were drilling through the concrete patio. It took about a week or less to to get the holes ready and piers in, then the house is "lifted" all at once. The engineer stood inside the house and counted off then all the piers were cranked up at the same time - in small increments until he thought it was good. He took measurements, checked the interior cracks and decided it was good. All the cracks in the house closed up and the doors would shut/latch again. We had no problems with pipes, but I have heard it can happen. However, it the foundation bends too much that alone can cause very expensive pipe problems. My friend waited until she started having water problems to get hers fixed and it cost ten times what mine did. They even had to take up her hardwood floors and drill inside to work on plumbing.. It was a nightmare. Don't wait too long! The repairs should have a lifetime guarantee - that they will adjust as necessary.
The other side of my house showed some movement last summer but the foundation people told us that we might avoid having to do anything if we keep the foundation well watered. So we have soaker hoses half way around the house - about a foot away from the foundation - every night during our hot dry summer.
Get several estimates and listen closely to what they say about prevention etc. You can get an engineer first, but most companies have their own. They should be able to tell you if your house is not level in some areas, but how much, and when if is enough to require correction. Oh, the piers do have to be spaced at regular intervals so they might tear up some landscaping. I think labor is relatively cheap here but our repair was around $3500.00. It would have been a lot more fun to spend that money or remodeling, but peace of mind is nice too. I wish you well.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2013 at 11:55PM
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twosonsJMJM

I have a question for musicteacher:
I live in San Antonio and am writing you because you live in Texas. We have settling and would like to have it checked out. Our insurance company had a leak detector company come out and that was negative. Should I call an engineer first or go straight to calling a foundation person? How do I know they are honest?

    Bookmark   September 10, 2013 at 8:56PM
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horsley

I have a request to Musicteacher, if you don't mind sharing the company name as i live in North Dallas and i am thinking of getting my house repaired.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2013 at 6:42PM
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Avocado101

Are any of these costs can be covered by Home insurance?

    Bookmark   September 17, 2013 at 6:02PM
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Wadzymodo

Wanted to post my experiences thus far because I think they may be informative for others and I might be missing something.

My wife and I bought an 8 year old DR Horton home in San Antonio. We closed on it in May 2013. About one week later, there was a massive rain storm that dropped eight inches of rain on the city. I noticed a ton of interior/exterior cracks around my house. I talked to some of the neighbors and they mentioned the foundation would still be under warranty so I notified the warranty company. They recently notified me that they are moving forward with the repair, and I'll keep you all posted about the process. If anybody finds themselves in a similar situation let me know and I can give you details with my story but from what I read above there is a lot of good, truthful advice on here.

Here's something to consider though. The statute of limitations for failure to disclose during a home sale is 2-4 years depending on the jurisdiction. During my research and action to get this fixed, I found out that the previous owner had requested foundation repair work to the builder but never followed through with it and instead tried to pass it on to me. The problem is that a lot of information (e.g. home insurance, warrant request, communication with third parties) is discoverable. People will find out that there's a problem with your foundation if you start the process. Because we noticed the problem so quickly after closing on our house, we were able to move quickly to get in line with an attorney for a lawsuit. This is pending determination of our damages, but we have substantial documentation demonstrating negligence on the part of the prior home owner.

I'm only mentioning this because I would caution you all to be careful with your own houses. It's better to either disclose the problem during the sale of your house or to fix it and disclose that you fixed it. Doing otherwise can expose you to a very costly lawsuit. I'll let you know how mine turns out because it could take a year or so.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2013 at 6:17PM
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elphaba_gw

I know that not every one has a good opinion about Angies List but I think this is one time when AL can be useful if you have that option in your area. Because of the nature of foundation repair and how the results aren't easy to "see" clearly what has been fixed and how, be VERY careful. This is a field that is ripe with charlatans. Good luck.

Yes, we have had ours worked on and were happy with AL contractor.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 12:09AM
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