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Pier And Beam Foundation Repair

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If you’re a homeowner looking for information about pier and beam foundation repair, you’ve come to the right place. This article has what you need, including the basics of pier and beam foundations, pier and beam foundation problems (and their causes), pier and beam foundation repair methods, signs you might need pier and beam foundation repair, and more.

Pier and beam foundation repair methods

The objective of pier and beam foundation repair is to stabilize and strengthen the structure. The three most common repair methods are:

Push piers (underpinning)
Resistance push piers are the most common method of repairing a pier and beam foundation. They’re driven deep down under the house until they hit the load-bearing soil. Once they’re in place, synchronized hydraulic jacks lift the house back up.

Helical piers (underpinning)
While helical piers are usually used for new construction projects, they’re sometimes used to underpin lightweight homes experiencing settlement. Because they’re shaped like screws, they’re turned into the soil until they reach the load-bearing strata. Synchronized hydraulic jacks then lift the building back up.

Crawl space support jacks
Settled support posts and deteriorated screw jacks are pretty common problems with pier and beam foundations. They can be fixed by using the existing pier locks and simply removing/replacing the posts or screw jacks.

What is a pier and beam foundation?

A pier and beam foundation elevates the house from 1 1/2 to 2 feet off the ground and creates a crawl space underneath. The term “crawl space foundation” is just another term for pier and beam foundation.

Pier and beam foundations were once popular because they offer easy access to the home’s plumbing and electrical wiring. While pier and beam foundations are still being built, slab foundations are more popular today because they’re less expensive.

pier and beam foundation infographic

Signs you might need pier and beam foundation repair

All homeowners should learn how to spot the signs of foundation issues early before they have a chance to turn into big problems that will be expensive to repair. Here are some things to watch out for:

  • Windows and doors that don’t open or shut correctly – If this is just one window or door, the problem probably isn’t being caused by a foundation issue. However, if it’s more than one, you should contact a foundation repair professional for an inspection.
  • Uneven floors – Even slightly unlevel floors could be a sign of a foundation problem.
  • Spongy floors – If your floor feels springy when you walk on it, you might have settled support posts or deteriorated screw jacks in your crawl space.
  • Furniture shakes when you walk by – This is also caused by settled support posts or deteriorated screw jacks in your crawl space.
  • Ceilings and/or floors no longer attached to the wall – Even slight separations could be a sign of trouble.
  • Floor cracks – If the crack is limited to one or two tiles, it was probably caused when something fell on the floor. However, floor cracks that run wall to wall are a sign the foundation has moved.
  • Wall cracks
  • Torn wallpaper – This could be a sign the wall behind the wallpaper is cracked.
  • Moldings that have separated from the ceiling and/or wall – Even slight separations could be a sign of trouble.
  • Stair step cracks in brickwork
  • Chimneys and/or porches that are leaning away from the house – This could indicate either a problem with the foundation under the chimney or porch, or it could be a sign your home’s foundation is in trouble.
  • High humidity inside the home – This is caused by moisture from the crawl space making its way up and into your home.
  • Your home smells of mold and mildew – A damp, unhealthy crawl space will affect the air quality inside your home’s living area.
  • High energy bills – As the humidity in your home increases, so does the cost of heating and cooling.
three types of foundations

Typical causes of pier and beam foundation settlement

Like problems with other types of foundations, pier and beam foundation problems often center around differential settlement. Differential settlement happens when only part of a foundation settles into the soil. This uneven settlement can be caused by various things including,

  • Expansive clay soils. This type of soil swells when it absorbs moisture and then shrinks by that same amount when it dries out. This cyclical swelling and shrinking – which is often seasonal – creates movement in the soil and, over time, will lead to differential settlement and foundation damage.
  • Soil that wasn’t adequately compacted before construction can also result in differential settlement because the house will settle after it’s built, usually unevenly.
  • Drought can also cause differential settlement because dry soil will shrink, causing voids to form. The house then sinks into these voids, and the trouble begins.
typical causes of pier and beam settlement infographic

Other commonly seen problems with pier and beam foundations

Pier and beam foundations are still pretty popular today. However, they do have a few downsides including,

  • The wood used to build a pier and beam foundation can rot – Pier and beam foundations are constructed using wood, and wood can rot. If this happens, the floor could start to sag and become unlevel. Any rotten wood will need to be replaced.
  • Bad air from the crawl space can enter your living area -Moisture in a crawl space rots wood and fuels mold growth. Because a certain amount of air makes its way up and into your living space, the crawl space should be as dry and clean as possible.
  • Termites and other pests love cool, dark spaces – Not much more to say here. Creepy crawlies love to hang out where there isn’t any sunlight.
  • The piers used to build the foundation aren’t big enough, numerous enough, or both – To support a heavy house, piers need to be large and numerous. Anything less is going to lead to structural problems.
  • There’s not enough room in the crawl space – A crawl space under a house should be at least 18 inches high for easy access to wiring, plumbing and for pier and beam foundation repair.
differential settlement infographic

Sometimes, a pier and beam house will have signs of foundation damage even though the foundation is perfectly sound. For example, the floor might be noticeably unlevel or feel spongy when you walk on it. This often happens when either the screw jacks in the crawl space have deteriorated, or the support posts have settled.

Read more about – How to repair uneven floor.

Pier and beam foundation repair cost

It’s hard for us to say how much pier and beam foundation repair will cost because various factors are involved, including the nature and severity of the problem, chosen repair solution, and geographical location.

The only way to know for sure what’s wrong with your home’s foundation and the repair cost is to contact an experienced foundation repair contractor and ask for an inspection. Most contractors will inspect for free and then give you a repair estimate.

Preventing pier and beam foundation problemstion repair cost

Believe it or not, water is the culprit behind most foundation problems, specifically poor drainage. Therefore, you can go a long way toward preventing foundation trouble by controlling the groundwater around your home.

  • Keep gutters free from debris – Clogged gutters can cause water to spill over the side of your house and into the soil next to the foundation. You don’t want this.
  • Install downspout extensions, if necessary – Downspouts that are too short will dump water next to your foundation.
  • Regrade your yard, if necessary – Your yard should slope away from the foundation. If it doesn’t, it should be regraded so that it does. A landscaper or a foundation repair contractor can help you with this. Some homeowners even do it themselves.
  • Keep water-hungry plants and shrubs away from the foundation.
  • Install a drain tile system – Drain tile systems collect water in the soil and channel it away from the foundation. There are two types of drain tile systems: interior and exterior. Newer homes will almost always have at least one of them installed. However, they can be installed in older homes as well.

If you think your home needs pier and beam foundation repair, don’t delay. Foundation problems get worse over time and will be more expensive to repair if you wait.

If you live in our service area in Northern California, contact us today, and we’ll come out for a free inspection and repair estimate.

Steve Egloff

Steve Egloff

Steve is the CEO at Bay Area Underpinning, a foundation repair contractor serving the San Fransisco Bay Area, California. Bay Area Underpinning was founded in 2005 with the goal of providing a cost-effective, engineered solution to foundation settlement problems with an emphasis on educating customers to make them feel comfortable with the various methods of foundation repair.

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