Foundation Repair Preventative Measures for Mature Homes
One reason foundation repair is needed in the Houston area is related to our ever-changing weather patterns. Foundations are highly susceptible to moisture content in the soil. Houston is known for extreme weather changes. As a home experiences season after season of these changes, the soil erodes, lessening the soil’s load bearing capacity. As homes get older, they may display significant signs of stress associated with foundation settlement. When it’s hot and dry, the moisture in the soil can evaporate very quickly, causing our “Black Gumbo Soil” to shrink and crack. Slab-On-Grade foundations resting on this parched ground will naturally settle. Some Houston area slabs, especially Post-Tension type slabs, were not designed or constructed with enough structural strength to withstand this amount of downward pressure. Concrete slabs have some flexibility, and can absorb some deflections, but with enough pressure, will eventually crack.
Solution Soaker Hoses:
In an effort to keep soil moisture levels somewhat more constant, soaker hoses can be installed. They can often slow the inevitable progression of erosion caused by the soil constantly shrinking and swelling, and the eventual need for underpinning. However, if not installed and administered correctly, soaker hoses can actually make the problem worse. Over watering will add to erosion problems, and keeping the soil wet next to the foundation can attract termites. Not watering enough, or not in the right way, can lead to false confidence, and possibly to ignoring the real need for pilings or piers. The professionals at Dura Pier can assess the viability of soaker hoses in your particular situation, and explain the correct installation and use.
Problem Tree Roots:
Houston has many large trees and in many cases, they add value to a home. However, when planted too close to a foundation, the roots will grow underneath, and can absorb huge amounts of moisture, causing the slab to deflect downward. Roots will naturally migrate under a slab, seeking any high moisture content available.
Solution Root Barriers:
Installing Root Barriers is a viable solution to the problem, and if installed correctly, can not only block the roots, but can actually help retain soil moisture levels. Dura Pier installs a sturdy and reliable root barrier material, which has a very long service life.
When it does rain, it can be extremely heavy at times. This causes the gumbo soil to swell back up, often very quickly. This causes the foundation to return back to its former position, or degree of levelness. In some cases, the swelling soil over-compensates, and the slab “Heaves”, or rises above the original level condition. Heaving can actually be worse than settlement because it forces all of the other structural members back onto each other, and cracks can be even more severe.
As the Gumbo swells, and foundations return to more or less normal conditions, doors can begin to work again, and cracks in the walls will usually close. What is unseen is the damage actually taking place under the slab. Excessive amounts of water cause erosion, and eventually voids are created. Each successive year subtracts more and more soil until enough has been eroded that the slab can’t return to normal levelness. The only solution at this point is to install Dura Lock Pilings or Bell Bottom Piers, and level and stabilize the foundation.
Problem For Drainage:
Over the years, yards and flower beds are often built up, causing water to be trapped next to the foundation and unable to run off normally. Having too much water standing next to the foundation is a huge potential problem. Not only does this add to the erosion problem and attract termites, but can make heaving even worse.
Solution Drain Systems:
If re-grading the lawn, or rebuilding the flower beds isn’t feasible, the best solution is to install a drain system. French Drain and other Drain Systems, combined with moisture barriers and effective guttering solutions, can move the water away, reducing the risk of too much water harming the foundation system.
Problem Sewer Leaks:
A significant threat to any foundation system is sewer leakage. This is especially true in homes built pre-1980, as many were built with cast iron piping under the slab. The service life of a cast iron system is typically about 30 years. If the drain lines under a slab leak, all of this extra water can cause initial heaving, eventually contributing to long term erosion issues. This creates voids, one of the leading causes requiring interior pilings or piers.
Solution Sewer Testing and Repair:
Sewer repair, and / or replacement, combined with interior foundation repairs, is very expensive, invasive, and is often not covered by Homeowners Insurance. The best prevention is to have the sewer system Hydrostatically Tested every 3 – 5 years, and repair any leaks right away. Dura Pier’s plumbers provide full service sewer testing and repair.
In the Houston area, most homes are not constructed with any kind of pilings or piers. It is not part of our city’s building code. Because most homes don’t have any support under them, eventually it becomes necessary to add an underpinning system. There’s an old adage that says, “There are only three kinds of homes in the Houston area:
- Homes too new to need foundation repair
- Homes that need foundation repair
- Homes that have had foundation repair
The decision to support the foundation by installing pilings or piers is the single most effective way to control foundation settlement. The pro’s and con’s of both repair systems are discussed elsewhere in this website, and in the “Engineer’s Review Article”. Once signs of stress become evident, the key to protecting your foundation is making the decision sooner rather than later. Often, the problem is minor and can be repaired relativity inexpensively compared to waiting until the entire foundation system, and possibly the sewer system, have been damaged.
Call Today and allow the professionals at Dura Pier to perform a free, no obligation evaluation of your foundation system. We can advise the best course of action for your particular situation, whether it’s prevention, protection, sewer testing by our plumbers, or which type of foundation repair system would be most cost effective. Being pro-active by calling at the first signs of settlement, is the key to saving hundreds, and potentially thousands of dollars.