Sinking steps/ garage pad

mdodMay 14, 2009

Our house has a daylight basement so they had to excavate full depth for the front and none at the back. They then back-filled and tamped the area in front of the foundation before pouring the garage pad and front steps/sidewalk. My husband was worried about the concrete sinking and wanted the porch steps tied into the porch wall by interlocking the concrete blocks or rebar through both but the contractor assured us that it would be backfill would be tamped well and footing large enough to prevent. Right.

Within a few years, the front steps slowly starting sinking next to the porch, and tilting up in the front, eventually cracking at the seam in the sidewalk. As the steps sink, water run-off is now directed toward the back left corner which I suspect just aggravates it even more. My husband keeps putting off doing anything about it but now (18 yrs later) the steps have dropped a full 4" and it's a safety issue.

Likewise the pad in our garage is sinking in the back next to the house. In the beginning the whole thing tilted back raising the front edge but it eventually cracked and the front section is essentially flat and just the back section tilts down about 2" where it meets the foundation.

I finally had someone come out and look at it last fall and he said we need to put helicon piers on each side of the steps or they would just sink again and he quoted something like $3000 just for the steps. My husband, who never pays anyone to do anything around the house, said he'd do something himself.

Here's a drawing of the area if that helps.

Any suggestions as to how to fix this?

Can we just remove the brick steps and concrete footings, lay down some more gravel and repour footings? It seems to me that the ground should have settled by now and the helicon piers are overkill but I have no idea what it costs to tear out and replace the concrete. Maybe the $3000 is a good deal.

Same thing for the garage pad? If so is it best to replace the whole garage pad or, since it cracked and the front half is alright, could we just do the back half? We have no water problems in the basement so I don't think that's causing the problem.

Thanks for any suggestions.

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This sounds ideal for checking into concrete raising. Google "concrete raising" and see what you think.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 11:57AM
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Thanks for the suggestion. I didn't remember the term but I had seen that ages ago on "This Old House". Everyone I've asked about it around here (NC) either doesn't know what it is or says it's very expensive. I did Google and found one company listed in the Raleigh area It looks like RamJack in Durham does it too, although a guy that used to work for them is the who recommended the helicon piers. Concrete Raising Corp of America (CRC) has a website that says they are coming to this area soon. I'm not sure I want someone getting practice on my house though. I will give these guys a call and see what they say. Anyone have any experience with any of these companies?

    Bookmark   May 15, 2009 at 12:27AM
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is it still sinking or has it stabilized.

If it's stabilized then pour some leveling material on the existing pad and be done.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2009 at 3:51PM
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It keeps sinking a little more each year. Now it tilts back so rain water collects in the far left corner and I think that keeps the cycle going. The front end is raised up so it would have to be ground down. And the steps are brick so we'd have to take those out anyway. OTOH, the footer for the steps goes down pretty far so they may not be able to get it with the drill and hose. I emailed both companies on their "contact us" page last night and haven't gotten a reply yet. That's not a good sign, especially in this economy.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2009 at 4:42PM
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If the settlement has gone on for 18+ years and you are still settling more then you really need something to stabilize it like the piers. Not sure what they mean by "concrete raising" but it sounds like injecting something below to bring the concrete back to the correct grade. If you're still settling then by raising things back you're probably just starting from 0 all over again and in another 18 years you'll be 4 in. down again.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2009 at 8:03PM
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Yes, continued sinking is a concern. Our thinking is that the tilted slab is directing rain toward the house and is contributing to the problem. The hope is that when we get the steps and sidewalk sloped away from the house properly, it will stop sinking. They put appropriate gravel fill and footers in and the only place we have sinking is in the backfilled areas so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

In concrete raising (or mudjacking) they drill holes in the concrete and force cement slurry type stuff under the slab to raise it up and fill in any gaps. We haven't gotten a quote yet but if it's significantly less expensive, I'm thinking it's worth a shot. If nothing else it will buy us some more time.

Here is a link that might be useful: Concrete Raising Info

    Bookmark   May 16, 2009 at 4:57PM
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