How To Fix Pier and Beam Foundations

Once the damage has been discovered, what’s next? Finding a contractor who has expertise with repairing pier and beam foundations is imperative. The company chosen to estimate and repair foundation damage must possess a legal licensed and registered company that meet state and federal requirements.

Check to be sure the name and address of the chosen company is on the license and don’t just accept the license number or a copy of the license from a contractor, look it up or call to confirm the information just to be safe. The reason this is important is having a repair job shut down because the contractor isn’t legally licensed or registered can compound the cost and time the repair will be finished. Also all contractors must possess insurance.

Steps To Repair Pier & Beam Damage

First step is for the contractor to contact the utility company to contact the Underground Utility Location to make sure all underground utilities cables, pipes, etc. are clearly known and marked before any work begins. The service is free and it is also against the law for any contractor to not first contact the Underground Utility Location office.

Ultimately the extent of the damage, the amount of the square footage and the total number of joint that are involved in the main areas are determining factors in the cost of pier and beam foundation repairs, as well as the amount of time needed to stabilize the base. Keep in mind the highest cost is the labor, which is why you want to make sure you hire skilled contractors who know what they are doing.

The experience or inexperience of potential contractors must be considered when comparing prices because although you may get a lower estimate, if the laborers are less experienced you may save some money, but ultimately due to inadequate repairs, may end up costing you more when the work done isn’t up to pare.

The majority of foundation repairs necessitate piering, which requires a lot of skill as well as very specialized equipment. This foolproof process redistributes the weight of the structure and foundation to the more firm surfaces that go deeper down into the soil.

There are Foundation Helical Piers and Push Piers these are the two proven methods used to reinforce sinking foundations. Which of these methods to be used is determined by the professional you have contracted to inspect the structure/house. Once the inspection is completed they will be better able to determine which method is most appropriate for repairing the foundation. A system using SmartJacks is another option sometimes used in pier and beam repairs.

This Foundation Push Pier system is beneficial because it will permanently stabilize the foundation as life the house/structure back to the original level without a whole lot of expense or major disruptions. It uses steel pier sections that are highly strengthened and are driven down hydraulically making it possible for the sections to reach well below any substandard soils.

If there are visible exterior or interior wall cracks, door and window frame distortions or the chimney is tilted the damage is more extensive and the Helical Pier system will be the better choice for repairing the damage. This system will permanently restore the structures foundation and also life it back up to the safer position levels. The Helical piers are mechanically screwed into the soil, similar to how a corkscrew works.

This is accomplished by using either handheld equipment or straightforward construction equipment. Because these piers are screwed in, they can’t be pulled or pushed out. As soon as they reach the necessary depth, heavyweight steel brackets are installed under the structures footing.

How It Works

It is important to note that one of the biggest expenses in repairing pier and beam foundations occur when there is very little or even no space in the crawlspace. Adequate crawlspace is typically a minimum of 18 inches under floor joists, however a minimum of 24 inches is not only more desired but beneficial.

This allows the air to flow freely under the structure, which helps to keep the beams and the soil dry. Adequate crawlspaces also make it easier for inspectors to access the area under the structure. For homes that do not have adequate crawlspace, the cost is considerably higher and it will be a lot more time consuming because the floors will have to be removed to gain the crawlspace access.

In the cases of inadequate or no crawlspace access, the soil can be dug out under the pier and beam foundation, however this also increases the potential of the additional danger of water amassing in the dug out area. This can also undermine the original pier supports and new supports will have to be added. All of which will increase the cost of the foundation repairs.

The number of piers to be added will be dependent on the board length of the beam needed to correct the damaged areas. Every 12 foot length of beam will have three or four installed piers under them. If the original piers have deteriorated, one to two new piers will need to be installed next to them. Depending on the damage however, they may need to be removed and completely replaced. All piers have either a four inch, 16 inch or 20 inch square concrete pad on the ground below them.

A three foot by four foot dig adjacent to the foundation is created at about 10 inches below the grade beam first. All sticky soil will be removed by scrapping from the bottom footing and the foundation, which is made even to expedite the accurate fit of the support brackets.

The hydraulics and brackets are then installed with a sleeve that acts as a guide is moved forward all the way through the support brackets. At this point the starter and pier sections are pierced using close to 50,000lbs of total driving penetration power force. Cut about five inches above the support bracket the last pier section is fastened at the top of the pier column.

At this point hydraulics are then reconnected and run in a consecutive method to raise the structure/house. Once the structure/house is lifted to the proposed height, the support brackets and fastening plates are permanently attached to the pier columns. Once it is determined the structure is secure and firm, the readings for the pressure, depth and elevation are recorded for each pier.

The removed soil is put back and compacted and all concreate and shrubbery removed in the beginning are put back into place, completing the installation and repair process.

Keys to Preventing Huge Pier and Beam Foundation Repair Bills

The main key to the ensuring years of durability and endurance of Pier and Beam foundation homes is controlling moisture around and under the surrounding areas of the structure/home. Louisiana is known for high humidity levels, high humidity means high moisture so making sure your structure/home has adequate air-flow under its structure is important. The newest method for high humid areas is to seal off the foundation of the structure and invest in a de-humidifier to get rid of any excess moisture that might get into the crawlspace.

This cannot be said enough, water is your home’s worst enemy! When it gets into the crawlspace whether it is from cracks in the beam or the air, it will lead to soil damage and erosion over time. The best way to combat this enemy is with a great drainage system!

The ground under the foundation can become incredibly dry in hot weather, and water can end up under the house after a heavy rain, which often leads to some serious ‘shifting’ problems. A good drainage system, like the French drain system is the most effective way to prevent water from pooling or ‘ponding’ around the house and it’s foundation.

When water is left to pool it leads to the erosion of the soil, not to mention rotting of the wood beams. The French drain system uses cap spaces with grates in the key areas with trenches in between them. Large river rock is then added to prevent the drain from clogging as well as stopping termites from getting into the home.

A less expensive but adequate drainage system is to use what is called, Surface drains. These are collector boxes that are buried with drain grates and buried solid pipes which will drain water towards an appropriate drain field or the streets. Sump pumps can be integrated to mechanically pump the water should there be no natural gravity to work the drain.

Roof gutters that have the correct down spouts capture water on the roof and direct it away from the house. It’s important to make sure the gutters are big enough and the down spouts are directed into a pipe that will keep rain water six to 10 feet away from the structures foundation. If you don’t have gutters installed, now is a good time to do so.