Foundations settle with time depending on the soil conditions and moisture content within your home. When this happens, cracks may form on your walls and your foundation could grow weak, which can make your home unsafe.
Whether your foundation sinks after a couple of years or after a decade, it’s important to underpin it. Let’s take a closer look at underpinning and what options you have to stabilize and potentially raise your settling foundation.
What Is Underpinning?
Underpinning is the act of strengthening or supporting the foundation of homes or buildings that are sinking. The goal is to distribute the load of the structure that’s being underpinned over a wide area.
Typical underpinning projects entail excavating the soils below the foundation. This happens in stages so as to minimize the risk of structural damage. Engineers often decide how deep foundations should go by examining the underlying soil.
Once the underpinning solution is deployed, the process is iterated within the foundation until the whole house becomes stable.
When Should You Use Underpinning?
It’s a good idea to know some of the reasons why homeowners in Colorado underpin their foundations. This way, you can decide whether underpinning is the right thing to do, and which option suits your home.
House settlement: A settling home will likely have gaps between walls and floor and out-of-level concrete. These signs aren’t just unsightly but can be hazardous if they’re not fixed. Underpinning your settling home brings stability to your house.
Poor workmanship: Whenever a builder misses a step or cuts corners during construction, you are likely to end up with a poorly constructed home. This tends to happen if their crew fails to tamp down the soil, chooses a poor location, or fails to level the soil. Lucky for you, underpinning can help resolve some of these problems.
Change in usage: A home that’s being turned into a business premises may require underpinning due to the heavy foot traffic and the installation or use of heavy equipment or machinery.
House leveling: You will also have to underpin the foundation if you intend to carry out house leveling. Experts from Complete Basement Systems can help with this to ensure it’s done properly.
Common Underpinning Techniques and Solutions
There are different ways of reinforcing a settling foundation. Let’s look at some of the options available.
Pile method: Foundation contractors install piers in the base to lift it and transfer your home’s weight to the stable below underground. It’s good for stabilizing foundations that are built on top of wet soils or expansive clay.
Mass pouring: Sometimes, it makes sense to use shallow underpinning techniques like mass pouring instead of deep excavation. The contractor first digs out the weak soil then pours concrete to strengthen the base of your home.
Pit method: With this method, the contractor divides the foundation into various sections then drills holes on the retaining walls. They then place a supporting needle with a bearing into your foundation.
Temporary Underpinning Solutions
If your foundation isn’t severely damaged, some contractors may recommend these fixes to stabilize it.
Concrete Underpinning: Contractors first dig out the soil surrounding your foundation then pour concrete footings underneath your home’s footings. They then back the soil after the concrete cures. While this method helps extend the footing, it won’t stop further foundational movements.
Concrete piers: Short and precast concrete cylinders can also be driven into the soil to support a home. They go on top of each other and are held together with a wire. Shims are placed right on top of the uppermost cylinder then the soil backfilled. The problem with this method is that there’s nothing to guide the pillars down. So, they may not go deep underground.
Permanent Underpinning Solutions
The key to resolving your long-standing or chronic foundation problems is using strong and permanent underpinning solutions in your home. We strongly recommend the following:
Push Piers: These are galvanized steel systems that are driven hydraulically through brackets into the ground and help transfer our home’s weight to the load-bearing strata. We often use them to stabilize and potentially lift settling foundations back to their original positions.
Helical Piers: These are round galvanized shafts that get screwed down mechanically into the ground until they reach the bedrock. Not only are they easy to install, but they’re also tried and tested. We often use this type to support the foundation of lighter structures.
Slab Piers: Whenever a concrete slab foundation starts settling, we deploy slab piers to support or strengthen it. This steel system can help lift the slab back toward its original elevation and eliminate tripping hazards.
Save Your Foundation
If your foundation is settling and you don’t know what to do, contact the experts at Complete Basement Systems for a free foundation inspection and repair quote. We will tell you what’s happening to your home and apply the right underpinning solution to your sinking foundation to give it a second lease on life. Our solutions are effective, durable, and come with warranties for your peace of mind.