Whenever you build a house or a building, you can expect it to settle. How fast it settles depends on the type of soil the foundation is built on and the current weather. Some years back, builders struggled to troubleshoot foundation movements and perform structural repairs. Fast forward to today and wet landscapes and certain home designs are still much of a challenge in construction.
If you have signs of foundation settlement and you are considering installing an underpinning system, you may have already heard of benchmarking. Benchmarking takes place once an underpinning system has been installed and will help contractors ensure your foundation’s stability.
Your foundation will sink over time. And the settlement can be uniform or differential. Uniform means the foundation settles evenly while differential means different parts of the house settle at different times. Prevailing temperatures and soil moisture content will impact the rate of settlement.
Settlement can happen when the soil dries and shrinks up leaving gaps or voids under the foundation. It can also happen when foundation soil gets wet and soft and is unable to support your home’s weight. Poor soil compaction during foundation construction is also to blame.
Signs of Foundation Settlement
Below are some of the indications that your foundation is sinking.
Vertical cracks: Whenever the foundation settles, vertical cracks will appear along the foundation and on the corners of your doors and windows.
Sticking windows & doors: Keep an eye out on these fixtures. Shifting soils will cause your doors and windows that used to close smoothly to jam.
Concrete floor cracks: The upward and downward shift will exert stress on your concrete floor causing it to crack a few years or months after construction.
Gaps around doors and windows – It’s not uncommon for gaps to appear around your windows and doors, especially if your home is built on concrete slab. These gaps will let in light and a draft into your home.
Misaligned kitchen cabinets and countertops – If any of these fixtures are not aligned properly or tilting, it’s likely that foundation settlement is to blame.
Leaning chimney: Another unmistakable sign that you have foundation problems is a tilting. Over time this structure may collapse as it pulls away from your home’s foundation.
Some of the signs are subtle, and it can take you many years to realize there’s a problem. So, it’s important that you do occasional checks to determine your foundation’s health and state.
How Do Contractors Perform Benchmarking?
Homeowners are naturally curious about anything that could have an impact on their home’s structural integrity, especially the foundation on which the entire structure rests. After all, they spent lots of cash and time on their property.
Here’s how contractors perform benchmarking:
- Contractors install the right type and number of piers under your home.
- The crew then begins the benchmarking process above each pier.
- This entails setting up a laser level and driving small rivets into the foundation wall above each pier.
Once the benchmarking is complete, you can rest easy knowing that contractors can keep track of any future settling during yearly inspections.
As we mentioned, benchmarking is done after underpinning. However, it is part of the underpinning processes as a whole. Therefore, once benchmarking is done, the crew will replace and tamp down any removed soil, ensuring your home looks just like it did before. Any landscaping that was removed can be put back in place at this time.
Why Benchmarking Is Not a DIY Job
There’s more to restoring a settling foundation than driving piers into the ground. Professionals have to identify where the underpinning systems will go and how much load they can carry safely. This is not something you can do on your own as it requires extensive knowledge and skill that you cannot acquire looking through forums online.
Because benchmarking is a highly technical job, it’s best left to contractors with the requisite skills, training, and equipment.
If you’d like to restore a sunken foundation or bring up your floors to their original elevation, contact Complete Basement Systems for a free assessment and quote. Our skilled technicians will install piers at a consistent depth and benchmark the foundation so that it remains stable forever.