Foundation Repair Expert Answers Your Questions

Whether you’re at home just pondering away about foundation repairs or if you’re curious about a particular repair – what’s wrong, who does the repairs, and how is it repaired? One Connecticut expert answers several important foundation questions.

Q: What is the cost of fixing a foundation in Connecticut?

Foundation repair costs can vary greatly, sometimes by hundreds or even thousands of dollars. The cost depends on a number of variables, but the main factors are described below:

Foundation type. Some foundation types are more easily repaired than others. For example, a poured concrete wall is usually less difficult to fix than a wall constructed from stone or brick.
Area and magnitude of damage. As might be expected, the more extensive the damage, the more expensive the repair is likely to be.
Accessibility for repair crew & equipment. When access is limited, such as in a narrow crawl space, it will become more difficult for workers and their equipment to maneuver-most likely increasing repair costs.
Q: What are the methods of fixing a concrete slab foundation in Connecticut?
A concrete slab that has cracked and/or shifted up or down will probably be stabilized with piers and brackets or by mud jacking. Steel piers installed beneath or alongside the slab can connect the slab to better load-bearing soil or bedrock. Steel brackets connect the piers to the slab. Many slab repairs can be completed within one or two days.

Q: Who can I call to repair a stone foundation in CT?
A foundation repair contractor who has experience with older houses should be able to handle this type of repair. Sometimes the existing stone foundation can be repaired. In other cases, damaged sections of the original foundation may need to be replaced with new materials – either poured concrete or concrete block. No matter the solution, an experienced foundation repair contractor can repair these stone foundations.

Q: How do you repair a shifting retaining wall in Connecticut?
Some earth behind the wall may need to be removed so that the retaining wall can be pulled back into proper alignment. It may also be necessary to install drain lines that prevent water from building up behind the wall. The work of pulling a retaining wall back into its original position is typically accomplished with helical anchors and hydraulic jacks. The anchors are designed to screw into the soil, which are then pulled deeper and deeper by helical plates being welded to pier shafts. Once stable soil has been reached, a bracket is attached to the end of the pier and the wall is jacked back into alignment before permanently affixing the bracket.

Q: What kind of foundation crack repair services are available in Connecticut?
Minor cracks in foundations can often be repaired by the homeowner or by a remodeling contractor. However, if the crack is wider than ¼ in. or if the foundation has not only cracked but also shifted, it’s important to enlist the services of an experienced foundation repair specialist. If a crack reappears after it’s been repaired with patching mortar or sealant, this indicates that a structural issue exists and a foundation repair contractor should be called.

Q: What are the solutions for concrete block wall repairs or cracked brick wall repairs in Connecticut?
A foundation repair specialist can provide both repairs. It’s important not just to fill cracks in block or brick walls, but to also determine why the cracks have occurred in the first place. If unstable soil and settlement problems exist, you can expect cracks to recur until the structural problems are corrected.

Q: Who do I call for cellar foundation repair in Connecticut?
Technically speaking, a cellar is a crude or early form of basement foundation. In a cellar, the foundation walls are typically made from stone or brick, and the foundation is likely to have a dirt floor. Repairing this type of foundation is tricky because the space is often cramped, dark and damp; also, rubble stone walls are likely to have been built without proper footings and with weak mortar. Seek out the services of a foundation repair contractor with historic house experience.

Q: What is “underpinning repair,” and what are the particulars to this kind of repair in Connecticut?
This type of repair usually involves installing steel piers beneath or adjacent to foundation elements (walls, slabs or footings) that have settled. Underpinning, also known as “piering,” helps to stabilize a foundation that has shifted because of unstable soil. The piers are driven deep enough to connect the foundation to bedrock or soil with adequate load-bearing characteristics. Steel brackets connect the piers to the foundation element. In addition to pier installation, underpinning can also involve installing footings or grade beams if these elements can contribute to greater foundation stability.

Q: How do I find a concrete foundation repair contractor in CT?
Foundation repair contractors, also known as foundation repair specialists or experts, are trained to correct a wide variety of foundation problems, including concrete foundation problems. Because repairing a home’s foundation can have serious repercussions if improperly done, it is important to find a contractor certified, backed or approved by an organization such as Foundation Supportworks.

Q: What is foundation pile driving?
“Piles” and “piers” are two terms that are used interchangeably to describe the posts, pillars or tubes driven into the soil to reinforce or stabilize foundations and other structures. Driving piles (or piers) is a strategy that foundation repair contractors use when surface soil conditions cannot adequately support a structure. Piers driven to reach bedrock or suitable load-bearing soil provide the structural support that the surface soil lacks. Foundation repair contractors rely on two main types of piers: push piers that are driven into the soil like giant spikes and helical piers that are turned into the soil like huge screws. Both types of piers are made from steel with a corrosion-resistant coating.

Q: Some of the floors in my house are out of level and excessively bouncy. How can I level and make the floors firmer?
Many older houses were built using undersized floor joists, which can cause bouncy floors. When the main floor of a house dips out of level, it’s often because a foundation wall has settled or because the post-and-beam framing that provides mid-span support has settled. Both settlement problems can be corrected by an experienced foundation repair contractor. As for the bouncy floors, these can be stiffened by first jacking the dipped floor section closer to level and then “sistering” larger floor joists against the existing undersized joists.

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Always Begin With A Good Foundation

The importance of first establishing a firm foundation is a commonly used phrase. The “foundation” might refer to a mission statement that governs an organization. It might refer to the base coat of finish on a new painting. Or it might be the masonry footings and walls that support a building. Like many metaphors, this one is often put to use without much thought to its origins or its most literal meaning. So let’s take a moment to determine if the “good foundation” cliché is as solid as it appears to be.

The foundation of a building is the stationary structural element that supports other major structural elements such as floors, walls, roofs, chimneys, porches, and decks. The foundation supports and anchors these to the ground and protects certain materials like wood and metal from ground contact that can cause moisture damage such as rot and rust.

Dead Foundation Loads

Foundation-designing structural engineers divide the “loads” that weigh on a foundation, into the “dead” load and the “live” load.

The dead load is the weight of the building itself. The building’s structural systems and all the materials used to build them qualify as “dead” load -stuff like plywood, floor joists, studs, ceiling joists, nails, rafters, roof sheathing, shingles, insulation, and gypsum board.

The “dead” load that bears on a foundation doesn’t change, but the “live” load does.

Live Foundation Load

The “live” load is the combined weight of the people who occupy the building and all the furniture, appliances, clothing and other items. The live load can also refer to the weight of snow or ice that accumulates on a building’s roof and sidewalls.

Other Foundation Forces

Although dead and live loads are the main forces that weigh on a typical foundation, there are other foundation “stressors” worth mentioning. For example, hydrostatic pressure is the pressure of water in the soil. In worst-case scenarios, hydrostatic pressure can cause a foundation wall to crack and leak; it can also push a foundation up out of the ground.

Expansive soil can also cause foundation damage. Certain types of soil with high clay content can expand with tremendous force when they become saturated with water. When this happens, the foundation experiences loading from the side, which is more likely to cause damage such as cracking and shifting.

The Durable and Long-Lasting Foundation

Just like buildings, foundations also differ in size, scale and design. A full basement foundation may have a purpose beyond just providing additional living space. Other foundations, such as crawl space foundations, slab foundations and post-and-beam foundations, cannot enclose extra living space.

The foundation makes contact with the soil under and around a building, which is why masonry materials are often used to build foundations: poured concrete, concrete blocks (technically known as concrete masonry units, or CMUs), bricks and even precast concrete panels. Unlike other building materials, masonry can be in constant contact with soil and moisture without succumbing to damage such as mold, rot, insect attack or corrosion. Masonry has the added advantage of being fireproof.

A Masonry Foundation

A well-constructed masonry foundation has the durability to outlast the other parts of the house that are built on top of it. When foundations become damaged and suffer deterioration, it’s often because of soil and water conditions that put pressure on foundations beyond standard dead and live loads. Soils can become saturated with water or expand with great force because of moisture saturation, as explained above. It’s also possible for the soils that support the foundation to have poor stability or inadequate load-bearing capabilities. Fixing problems such as these usually calls for the services of an experienced foundation repair specialist.

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