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Foundations are often the cause of many a costly problem. While hiring the right contractor for your foundation problems is essential, proving even more important is the ability to detect the early warning signs of foundation complications, this allowing you to initiate repairs before your foundation trouble takes a costlier turn.

How foundation repair works and what its all about.

Not every frightening disturbance is a sign of foundation problems; most houses take a while to settle. Jamming doors on the other hand should cause worry, along with cracks (especially over doorways and windows) and sticking windows.

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Depending on the results of your investigations and the determined cause of the problem, foundation repairs can take different shapes and formats, the most common foundation repair methodologies including the following:

Cracks

Cracks larger than ΒΌ inch should cause worry, and the most commonly utilized solution, especially by homeowners trying to contain the problem themselves, is to inject the cracks with epoxy (the process costing as much as $3000). It is an efficient solution but not very comprehensive since it doesn’t attempt to deal with the core of issue, which is typically water in the foundation.

When water accumulates around the foundation, it causes the sort of expansion in the soil that applies pressure to the foundation, resulting in cracks. The first step in solving this complication would be to ensure that the soil around the foundation is properly graded. Gutters and downspout drains should also be investigated for potential damage.

-More often than not, the problem will emanate from a blocked perimeter drain system (designed to channel sub-surface water away from the foundation), in which case you will require the assistance of a professional for the unclogging process.

Unevenness

When the foundation tips or cracks severely, it is going to require considerable reinforcement to prevent further deterioration. The reparation process will require installing braces (steel or wood) against the wall, spaced a few feet apart and each costing an estimated $500. To prevent further movement, the braces must be attached to the floor as well as joists overhead, though most contractors today are shying away from this method because it intrudes upon the basement area.

-Proving particularly favorable is carbon fiber mesh; epoxy is applied in vertical strip before carbon fiber mesh is pressed into place, locking the wall in its appropriate position. The method is not only cheaper but the results are almost invisible and far less intrusive.

-Wall anchors are a little more costly and have been compared to large bolts. Metal plates are installed on the inside of the foundation walls as well as the outside before being connected by steel rods (which have been buried horizontally). The rods are used to slowly tighten the entire set up, gradually straightening the wall and availing stability. The cost of utilizing wall anchors can skyrocket up to $40,000. After all you will to excavate your foundation and rebuild it in the process.

Water

A surprising number of problems in this arena tend to arise as a result of the foundation or a part of it being washed away. Often a drainage problem will send water cascading alongside a perimeter foundation, enough to undermine that area. The fix is typically straightforward, a simple matter of shoring up the area in question using concrete.

-You could also just as easily level the area by shimming the sill plate.

-It might even prove necessary to tear out a portion of the foundation; you can then re-pour a new section, utilizing epoxy and rebar to tie it into the rest of the foundation. Depending on your approach, your costs might be as low as $500.

Expansive Soil

IN the majority of cases where the cause of a foundation problem proves difficult to determine, the issue will typically lies with the soil that the foundation sits upon; soil that expands and shrinks depending on whether it is damp or dry, which can cause considerable amounts of damage.

-If you have a slab foundation, solving this problem is going to prove particularly difficult because of the difficulty involved with accessing the area beneath the slab. You will have to take steps to reduce any moisture fluctuations that might be happening beneath your house, this including ensuring that soil slopes away from your house and all gutter water is piped away.

-You will also have to consider installing concrete around your house (or at least the five feet surrounding your house) to prevent water, especially rain water from soaking into the soil so close to your foundation. If this solution is not feasible, you can at the very least avoid planting vegetation in the immediate vicinity of your house that requires water in substantial amounts to live.

-Some people have been known to approach this problem from the opposite direction i.e. ensuring that the soils in the immediate vicinity of your house are evenly moist. This is especially effective in places with damp climates. The presence of cracks should immediately inform you that the soil is too dry, giving you the opportunity to remedy the problem. Damping massive amounts of water into the cracks is not going to do the trick however. You would be best served by irrigating the soil at least two feet from the foundation. You need to apply small quantities of water several times throughout the day.

-Mud-jacking is a popular method of raising sunken areas in rooms of houses, resulting from expansive soils. It is a process that will involve pumping cement slurry under the foundation slab.

-Because mud-jacking cannot do anything about load bearing walls, support must be provided to the slab, preferably using underpinning designed to reach down to more stable layers of soil (at a cost of about $5000 or more depending on whether you are using helical piers or steel posts that must be driven into the ground hydraulically).

Whatever method you use to approach the issue of expansive soils, or any other cause of foundation problems, an experienced contractor is going to prove essential, though only after you have consulted with a professional structural engineer.

A visit might prove expensive (costing an estimating $500) but a structural engineer is necessary to determine the source of your problems and the best approach for repairing the foundation. You need to remember that most contractors typically specialize in a single solution for repairing the foundation and will be quick to disparage other fixes; a structural engineer brings an objective mind to the table.

They will provide you with a written report, one that outlines recommendations for repairs as well as the pros and cons of each option.

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