The first thought homeowners usually have when they discover that their foundation is cracked or damaged is to have it replaced. The damage is unsightly and perhaps causing other problems—like basement leaking. Nonetheless, you shouldn’t act hastily here. A flat-out foundation replacement should only be considered if the slab or other supports are so severely damaged that it’s a genuine hazard. Why? Because it isn’t actually going to solve the problem.
The root cause of many foundation problems is the earth supporting the structure. Not addressing this will simply result in the problems resurfacing, even if you completely replace the foundation.
Regardless of whether you choose to repair or replace the foundation, it is vital to resolve the initial problem so that this job is a one-and-done deal. Effective and permanent solutions should be the goal for both yourself and whomever you hire for the job.
At Innovative Basement Authority, we are ready to help you find the best solution to your foundation problem. We can perform a comprehensive inspection of your foundation and then create a custom quote built upon a diagnosis of your foundation problems.
What’s Causing My Foundation Problems?
It may surprise you to learn that the primary cause of most foundation problems is the earth beneath it. To put it simply, when the soil beneath your home compacts, contracts, swells, or loosens, the foundation settles deeper into the earth.
As you can imagine, foundations have to support an immense weight. When the earth below the foundation isn’t able to maintain integrity, the foundation sinks. It may also heave if the soil expands and forces the foundation up.
Soil changes over time, usually due to seasonal shifts. Thawing and freezing and drying and swelling are two cycles that soil progresses through each year with winter and summer. There are also isolated events, such as heavy rainfall or extended droughts that impact the earth’s composition. All these cycles affect the stability, strength, and overall condition of your foundation.
These problems will only get worse without the intervention of experts.
Repairing vs. Replacing
Considering what is best for your home means understanding how repairing and replacing foundation jobs work. Each is a suitable solution in specific situations.
- Foundation Replacement
Foundation replacement should be considered a last resort, as the process of installing one is lengthy, disruptive, and destructive.
As expected, in order to replace a foundation, the existing one must be removed. This process requires heavy equipment for excavating all the soil around the home to expose the foundation. Not only will the earth be removed, but anything around the foundation, including porches, steps, gardens, walkways, and foliage will also need to be removed.
At this point, the house is then given temporary foundational support jacks prior to the foundation walls and floor being removed. Then and only then can the new foundation be constructed. After the new foundation is built, the house is lowered into place and secured. The excavated earth is replaced, and the team makes every effort to return the landscape to its prior state.
Foundation replacement is a disruptive, time-consuming, and destructive process. For safety, the house cannot be inhabited during this time either. It is much more expensive than repairing the foundation as well. However, there are times when it is your only option.
- When Replacement Is the Only Option
There does come a point when a foundation is damaged beyond repair and replacing it is the better option. In most cases, this is an extreme scenario. The foundation may have been upset by an earthquake or severe flooding and soil erosion. Or foundation settlement progressed to the point where the slab has split completely.
Regardless of the state of your foundation, our accredited inspectors will give you an honest assessment of the situation and the ideal solution.
- Foundation Repair
In all but the worst-case scenarios, foundation repair is a feasible and cost-effective solution—especially when compared to foundation replacement. Depending on the type of damage, different solutions may be enacted. Generally, the process for foundation repair will process as follows.
A thorough inspection will be conducted. Following this, the foundation repair contractor will explain how and why the damage occurred and how specialized materials and techniques can be used to make permanent repairs. In Innovative Basement Authority’s case, this will include a free quote that lays out all the individual costs.
As an example of a problem and solution, take the installation of a push pier system to reverse and permanently prevent foundation settlement. Rather than excavating all the earth along the circumference, single holes will be dug where the piers will be placed. Soil will be excavated until the pier’s base reaches reliably solid bedrock, and then each pier will be fitted into place and adjusted accordingly. Excavated soil will be filled back into the holes and landscaping repaired where possible.
Compared to foundation replacement, this process is much faster, less destructive, and far more cost-effective. Foundation repair can also be performed year-round. Our foundation products also include a written warranty, as well as our own performance warranty.
- Addressing the Problem
No matter what direction you choose to go, repair or replace, you must address the cause of the damage. Meaning, the earth.
Little can be done to change the composition of your soil aside from ensuring that water is drained away from the house. This reduces the amount of excess moisture in the soil directly bordering the foundation. A permanent solution is to ensure that a pier system is included in your foundation repair itinerary.
Not addressing the problem with the supporting soil means that any repair work or replacement foundation will experience the same issue.
What Are the Signs My Foundation Needs Repair?
If your foundation needs repair, you may not always notice in time. That makes it important to watch out for these signs.
Cracks in the floor and walls are indications that there are issues developing in the foundation. Hairline cracks will develop after construction as the concrete slab fully cures. These one to two-millimeter-wide cracks are a by-product of how concrete cures. The exterior will dry and shrink first and be split apart as the interior dries and shrinks.
Cracks larger than these are indicators that the foundation is either shifting due to heaving or soil settlement. Unattended, cracks will continue to develop.
- Window and Door Sticking
As foundations shift, the walls of the house are affected to the point where windows and doors jam. This can mean that windows become difficult to open and close, with the same for doors. There may also be visible gaps between the frames and the walls.
- Sagging or Uneven Floors
Foundations can sink or heave unevenly, causing floors to sag or bounce. With pier foundations, it is always best to extend the pier down to the sturdy bedrock, especially if the soil composition isn’t particularly good or has a high clay content. In modern homes, reputable builders will consider the soil quality when preparing the earth.
- Foundation Settlement
A settling, tilting foundation is a sign that there is an unacceptable level of soil settlement causing the foundation to sink. Sinking can occur unevenly or evenly, depending on the soil composition across the property. Tilting is commonly accompanied by cracks appearing in the floors, foundation, and walls.
An easy way to tell if your foundation has caused the house to tilt is to break out a classic level and place it on the floor. You can also try placing a marble on the floor and testing what direction it consistently rolls in if it rolls at all.
- Basement Leaking
The cracks caused by a settling foundation will often result in basement leaking. Hydrostatic pressure will force water up through these cracks, causing no small amount of liquid to pool in your basement. This sparks a whole other set of problems, including mold, wood rot, and spiking humidity levels.
Water and hydrostatic pressure will cause cracks in the foundation and basement walls to widen further. Creating greater weak points.
Why Does Soil Composition Impact My Foundation?
The soil below your foundation is literally bearing the weight of your entire home. For this reason, it is ideal when the soil is composed primarily of loam. Otherwise, including a pier system that extended to the stable bedrock below will provide the necessary stability.
There are five general soil categories you may find on your land. Note that soil can be a combination of two or more of these broad categories.
Sand is non-absorbent and will not change in structure when wet. Some builders may use a sand mixture to backfill certain areas because of this water-resistant quality. However, sand will degrade over time as it wears down into smaller particles. At this point, it can be pushed away by a steady water current. Sand is not considered an ideal soil to build on without foundation reinforcement solutions, like helical or push pier systems.
Peat is a dark soil made from decomposing organic material, like leaf litter. This is looser topsoil that expands greatly when wet and shrinks when dry. This instability does not make it even close to ideal for building on.
Loam is considered one of the most ideal soils for building upon. Loam is actually a combination of clay, sand, and silt. While it will absorb moisture, it won’t experience a great deal of expansion or shrinking. It compacts well and provides a largely stable surface for supporting a foundation.
Rock is great for supporting homes when prepared in the correct manner, as certain varieties have incredible load-bearing capacities. In our area, it is more common for rock to be buried beneath several feet of soil. To compensate for this, we use pier systems that extend from the foundation to the rock to provide exceptional support.
Clay, much like the stuff you got to play with in school, will greedily soak up liquids. It will also see a great deal of shrinkage as it dries. Moist clay almost has a slippery, slimy texture and will move easily with enough pressure applied. Clay-heavy soils are the cause for many foundation problems, and it is not a good supporting soil to build upon.
Why Repair Instead of Replace?
- Repairing a damaged foundation will almost always be the more affordable and less disruptive solution.
- The experts at Innovative Basement Authority will ensure that any solution quoted will consider all problematic soils and site conditions. Our solutions are permanent.
- Repair jobs are faster and won’t make the house unlivable during the job.
- Several repair products can be combined for a single solution.
Repair Your Foundation with The Experts from Innovative Basement Authority
Innovative Basement Authority is a fully trained and accredited foundation repair contractor. Our expert teams are equipped with the experience, tools, and training necessary for providing complete solutions to your home. It can always be tempting to DIY foundation repair, but this is best left to the experts. Not only do they have the expertise to get to the core problem, but they can easily resolve it.
Our mission is to create permanent solutions and happy customers. Our warrantied solutions can restore the value and structural stability of your home. We offer free foundation repair quotes throughout the Minnesota, North Dakota, and eastern Montana regions. Book in your free inspection and quote today.