There are many warning signs that may lead you to believe you have a foundation issue. It is important to be able to determine the difference between ‘normal’ settlement and actual ‘structural instability.’ If you are unsure about the Foundation problems can sometimes be obvious, while other times, that bump in the floor or crack in the wall could just be an annoyance. Whether you have a pier and beam foundation or a concrete slab foundation, similar home issues can occur if foundation problems are the issue.
Some of the most common and visible signs of foundation breakdown are:
- doors and windows that are misaligned
- cracks in the walls of sheetrock
- doors and windows that are sticking
- floors sloping
- cracks in the floor or tile
- cracks in the brick
- gaps around the doors
- cracks in the foundation
No matter what kind of foundation you have, problems are due to the ground underneath the house shifting because of soil type and weather and drought conditions. In Corpus Christi, foundation problems are typical of the clay and sand composition of the soil.
A foundation is the base of a home, and typically, older homes were built with pier and beam foundations, while newer homes are built with a concrete slab. Some homes along the coast are built with high piers and on a concrete foundation, extending the entire bottom floor above the ground to prevent flooding.
Pier and beam construction
The original purpose of developing a pier and beam foundation was to create a crawl space underneath houses for access to plumbing and electrical systems. The air space under the home also allows for good ventilation and drainage and can last a long time with good maintenance.
The beams usually consist of blocks of concrete, bricks, or most commonly, poured concrete. They are laid around the perimeter of the building. The structurally strong materials provide continuous support for the house.
The piers are usually stacks of concrete blocks on the ground that are spaced evenly in a grid pattern inside the perimeter of the beams. The piers support the floors and walls of the interior of the home.
Sill beams are placed on top of the piers. These are 4-inch-by-6-inch boards laid in a line across the piers that tie the beams together in one direction to distribute the weight of the house.
Crossing the sill beams in a perpendicular fashion are floor joists. These 2-inch boards are laid vertically between 12-24 inches apart to allow for the positioning of floor boards. The sills and joists create an interwoven system to connect them to the piers and beam.
The subfloor, made of rough wood, is the next layer before the final finished flooring. All of the parts together, when properly assembled, will provide a firm pier and beam foundation for a stable home with a crawl space underneath.
Three types of damage to a pier and beam foundation
Soil settlement, moisture issues, and improper construction methods will cause damage to a pier and beam foundation.
The clay so prominent in Corpus Christi soil expands when it is wet and contracts and shrinks when it is dry. The varying weather conditions on the Texas coast, ranging from hurricanes to drought, cause the soil to shift and the home to settle unevenly. Eventually, the shifting soil damages the foundation. The season-to-season wear and tear can result in doors and windows not closing properly and cracks and gaps in walls and floors, all classic signs of foundation damage.
Since a pier and beam foundation sits above the ground, covered, there is always a possibility of water collecting underneath the building. Ventilation is installed, but it must remain clear for air to flow through. Often, vents are covered by plant and bush overgrowth and leaves. When the slats of sill and joists of the subfloor of wood is wet or too moist, it can rot and disintegrate. One compromised piece of wood can affect all of the other interconnected pieces of wood. Prolonged periods of water under the house can cause extensive foundation problems.
Construction materials, tools, and methods have improved immensely in the past 70-80 years when most pier and beam homes were built. In addition, builders or contractors may have placed the vertical piers on which the sill beams sit too far apart. The piers can also break down, crack, or settle differently than those around it. Without the correct support of the piers underneath, a floor can become wavy.
All of the above damages to a pier and beam foundation can be addressed by Eagle Foundation, a company with integrity and experience in business for nearly 20 years in Corpus Christi.
Ways to repair a pier and beam foundation
Eagle Foundation professionals use their knowledge and years of experience regarding pier and beam foundation repair to assess where piers or beams have settled or deteriorated to repair the foundation.
There are four ways to address the repair of a pier and beam foundation.
A shim is a wedge of wood or other material that fills up a space to align parts, namely, the floor boards so that they are even on the plane of the floor. The shim is wedged and then pounded into the space between the pier and the sill beams. This method is typically the minimal way to even out a pier and beam foundation and works best when there is little damage to the structure as well as the pier. When a homeowner makes or has a professional foundation repair specialist perform regular inspections, less intense tasks such as this are helpful for avoiding future, much larger problems. Scheduling a routine inspection with Eagle Foundation every three to five years is a good idea.
New pier stacks
As noted above, sometimes pier stacks can either wear out or become compromised because of soil movement. When this happens, a foundation repair contractor can repair the existing piers or build new ones. These repairs will even out the floors and provide a better support for the building that will last for years.
Wood sills and joists will eventually wear out. The exposure to damp air in the crawl space under the house causes deterioration, with different wood falling apart at different times. Sometimes, not enough wood was built into the structure to begin with, and sills or joists must be added. In either case, it’s imperative to replace the wood in a manner that will keep the house standing, and that’s why a professional from Eagle Foundation is a good call.
Perimeter beam reinforcement
While the interior of the building may be the most vulnerable to movement of the foundation, the perimeter can also be affected, possibly due to water runoff or weight distribution on the house. Concrete pilings or a drilled bell bottom pier can be used to support the perimeter beam. Depending on where the foundation has sunk or moved, the repairs may only need to be made on one or two sides of the home.
Because of the separate piers placed under the house with pier and beam foundation, repairs can be less expensive than those for a concrete slab foundation. The integrated cross hatching of the sills and joists, however, still make the foundation repair a complicated procedure that could involve more cost.
Whatever the foundation problem may be, Eagle Foundation has the wisdom, experience, and tools to complete a pier and beam foundation repair in your home.