Water damage and soil erosion are the main culprits of foundation cracks, usually caused by climate changes, downspouts not extended away from the home properly, or overflowing gutters. Left unchecked, a settling foundation could lead to thousands of dollars in damage.
Cracks on walls, often in a stair-step pattern, moisture in the basement or crawlspace, uneven flooring, and misaligned doors and windows are indicators of a foundation problem, which could jeopardize the structural soundness of your home and make it impossible to sell without first being corrected.
“It’s important to inspect your home annually for signs of foundation settlement and address any issues immediately,” says Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List, the nation’s leading provider of consumer reviews
on local service companies. “Walk around the perimeter of your home and see if you see cracks on the outside of the foundation or notice the ground pulling away from it.”
When problems arise, there are two common solutions for foundation repair
. A piering system is one in which steel rods are inserted under the foundation and stabilize (and in some cases lift) the foundation. A more economical solution is underpinning or mudjacking, in which concrete is injected under the slab to stabilize it, however, mudjacking is often only a temporary fix and is more for garage floors or sidewalks that might sink.
With steel piering, steel posts are driven down to the bedrock. Once they’re down there, the home can be hydraulically lifted back up. Because that post is sitting on the bedrock shelf, that home should not to settle again for the life of the structure.
It’s important to address any issues immediately. The longer the problem lingers, the more it costs. The average price of steel piering is about $1,000 for every 5 feet of damage, meaning it could end up being the most expensive repair you’ll ever make to your home
“That’s why it’s essential to hire the right company for the job,” Hicks said. “In many cases, foundation repair sales representatives work on commission, so do your due diligence and get estimates from at least three different companies. Foundation repair companies do not require licensing and are not regulated, so it’s important to find one established with solid references from prior customers. Ask for insurance and bonding information, and certification documentation from the piering manufacturer.”
Because there is a wide-range of services offered, it’s might be a good idea to first consult with an independent, reputable structural engineer
. It’s even more important if you’re uncertain what type of repair work you need done.
Foundation issues don’t just plague older homes. In fact, many newer homes are affected, often because the builder neglected to create a positive slope for drainage to go away from the home.
The best thing a homeowner can do to prevent their home from settling is to make sure the gutters are clean and the downspouts are out at least 10 feet away from the home, going away from the foundation. When droughts occur, water the ground around your foundation.
“Often, it’s the simplest steps, like watering your lawn and ensuring those downspouts are draining properly, that can save you literally thousands of dollars,” Hicks said.
Angie’s List tips for avoiding foundation damage
- Keep gutters clear of debris and make sure downspouts are properly extended at least 10 feet away from the home.
- Water the ground around your home during droughts.
- Inspect your home annually and look for signs of foundation damage, like cracks in walls, around windows and doors, or on your home’s exterior; soil eroding away from the home; moisture in crawlspaces, attics and basements; uneven flooring or misaligned doors and windows.
- Address any concerns immediately.
- If you have foundation damage, before you have any work done, get estimates from at least three different companies. Ask for references, as well as insurance and bonding information, and certification documentation from the piering manufacturer.
- If you’re hearing mixed advice from foundation repair contractors, bring in an independent structural engineer to assess the problem before you have it repaired.
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