Five things you must know about fixing the foundation of your house

DSC02805, originally uploaded by espeedy123.

A lot’s happened this week on the house flip project, starting with the repair of the foundation on Monday. Photos of it are here.

This particular foundation is a concrete slab. It’s over fifty years old, and in that time parts of it have sunk due to our shifting clay soil.

Here are five things I learned that you might want to know about fixing your foundation …

1. There is no one right fix to a problem foundation.

It appears that foundation repair is an imperfect science. We got four estimates on this job, and four different suggested fixes. Granted, they were not totally different, but it wasn’t as if one person could say with absolute certainty that their idea was the A-number-one end-all-be-all approach. We went with a company that suggested the addition of 10 piers. But we had estimates suggesting more and one suggesting less.

2. Installing piers around your house will disrupt whatever is next to the house.

The actual fixing process in this and in many cases like it is to insert cylindrical concrete pilings one on top of another underneath the foundation, pressing them down as far as a hydraulic jack will make them go. When they hit rock, or other material dozens of feet down into the ground, the workers jack up the house and set it onto the piers at the right level. they dig man-height holes around the house everywhere this needs to happen. If you have a concrete driveway or a nice shrub in the spot where a pier needs to go, you’re out of luck.

3. Installing piers around your house will disrupt whatever is inside the house.

When they were working on the outside corner of this house Monday, I could see the house move up as they worked. That’s pretty crazy considering how still a house is supposed to be. Walls don’t like being moved like that, and it’s a near certainty that they’ll crack when you have this done. Get a drywall repair crew ready before you fix the foundation.

4. Fixing your foundation may bust the plumbing.

Brittle pipes can crack when moved. Make sure your contractor tests for leaks before and after the job. All the foundation companies we got quotes from paid for an independent stress test on the plumbing before and after the job. We lucked out here – no leaks.

5. Landscaping can affect your foundation in a big way.

The trick to keeping a foundation stable is in keeping the ground underneath it at a constant moisture level. Wet dirt swells, dry dirt contracts. I guess moist dirt just sits.

Water-hogging plants can be detrimental if they suck all the moisture out from underneath a home. The large live oak out in front of the house was noted by those giving quotes as a consideration, and one suggested the addition of a root barrier to bar against potential future water drawing.

Do not plant red tipped photinias next to your foundation. One estimator said they are a huge cause of foundation issues, and they can be found next to a huge number of North Texas homes.

On the flip side, it’s good to maintain some plants at the foundation to hold moisture in the soil. Just not too many.

The repair job was finished by Monday evening, and the house was ready for demolition, which started bright and early on Tuesday.

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