Complete Guide To Foundation Repair

Many homeowners panic at the first sign of a crack in the concrete slab of the driveway or uneven floors because they think the foundation repair process needs to be a stressful experience. However, at the end of the day, foundation repair is a smart, necessary move to make sure your home is safe. Don’t let the fear of a stressful project discourage you from taking the important steps needed. With the right help, you’ll have a strong, secure foundation that will last you for years.

That’s where Xpert Foundation Repair comes in with a complete guide to foundation repair. From the most basic questions, like how much it will cost, to the more advanced ones about the different kinds of structural repairs that can be done, we will answer all about foundation repairs here.

Xpert Foundation Repair is the go-to service for any foundation issues, thanks to their 20+ years in the industry. Their foundation repair system has earned them the trust of San Antonio property owners to repair and restore foundations and slabs since 2002. This guide will help you learn about foundation repair and how it can safeguard your home and belongings. Let’s dive in right now!

Dealing With Foundation Repairs As a Homeowner

As soon as the problem is confirmed to be the foundation, home or property owners shiver. No one needs to worry about the foundations of their homes and livelihood at any time, especially during an important project or stressful moment in their lives.

They first think DIY is possible but quickly realize it’s best for the experts to handle it. Xpert Foundation Repair knows the feeling because they’ve soothed the fears of thousands of homeowners in the San Antonio metro area and surroundings for 20 years. First, let’s go through the basics of using your home or property insurance to cover foundation repairs.

Does Insurance Cover Foundations?

It all depends on both your own policy and the cause of the foundation damage. We break down what is covered and what typically isn’t.

What typically is covered

Almost any home or property insurance will cover damage caused by natural disasters like flooding, a tornado, or earthquakes (although this depends on whether you live in an earthquake-prone area.) Your insurance might also cover accidents like gas explosions, a fire, and backed-up plumbing. There might be limits in your coverage for repairs in these cases.

What tipically isn’t covered?

Foundation repairs typically are not covered by insurance for causes of foundation damage, such as poor construction, improper maintenance, or water damage, generally are not covered by insurance unless the owner takes out an additional policy. Earthquake damage is also not covered in many areas of the country unless it’s an earthquake-prone area. Normal damage from aging homes is also not covered by most insurance policies.

What are my options?

You can take out an extra policy to cover more foundation damage, but there’s a limit to how much those policies will cover repairs. Regular maintenance and prevention is the best solution.

Some tips to follow for preventing foundation damage are:

  • You can protect your home’s foundation from tree roots by either planting new trees far from the house’s perimeter or erecting a root guard. It’s better to just avoid trees on some properties.
  • Watch for any cracks and leaks. Don’t let them get any bigger; deal with them as soon as possible.
  • Downspouts should direct water at least five to ten feet away from the house and away from the foundation.
  • Always keep the soil around the foundation wet during dry seasons to prevent it from expanding and contracting, creating gaps between it and the foundation.

What to Expect During the Repair Process

Property and homeowners can expect several things once the need for repairs becomes evident. The first step would be to conduct a comprehensive examination of the foundation to determine the underlying cause of the problem. The process may require excavation around the base to evaluate the level of harm or uncertainty. After identifying the problem, the repair process will commence. This may involve lifting and leveling the foundation, installing new piers (such as steel piers or concrete piers), or addressing severe drainage issues. The duration of the repair process varies based on the extent of the issue, ranging from a few days to several weeks. During the repair process, the homeowner should anticipate some interruptions to their daily routine as workers may require access to the home and may need to relocate furniture or other items. A reliable foundation repair company aims to reduce interruptions and maintain communication with the homeowner during the process.

DIY vs. Professional Foundation Repair

The first instinct for property owners is to figure out if they can repair any crack or foundation problems themselves. It could be possible with minor vertical cracks that aren’t larger than eight of an inch, using only epoxy. But anything larger than that will need a professional hand. Or several.

Foundation repair companies often provide free estimates and inspections, so you can decide on what’s the best course of action for your property and budget. However, there’s no doubt that serious foundation issues require professionals. Even experienced DIYers will lack the equipment to lift entire sinking foundations. It could be costly, but hiring a contractor to fix a foundation is preferable to putting yourself in danger or potentially causing more damage to the rest of the house or property.

Issues That Lead to Foundation Repairs

There are several common reasons why a house or building may require foundation repairs.

  1. Poor soil conditions: Building over clay or sand can cause the foundation to settle and become unstable over time. Your property’s foundation ends up with cracks, shifting, and settling, leading to foundation repair needs.
  2. Poor drainage: Not having proper drainage leads to water pooling around the foundation, which can cause it to shift, settle, and crack.
  3. Plumbing leaks: Leaks cause water to seep into the foundation, leading to damage.
  4. Tree roots: Tree roots can grow underneath a foundation and cause it to shift, settle, and crack.
  5. Drought: Drought conditions can cause the soil to dry and shrink, leading to foundation movement and cracking.

How Much Does Foundation Repair Cost

The national cost of foundation repair can vary greatly depending on the location, the severity of the damage, and the type of repair needed. On average, homeowners can expect to pay anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 for foundation repairs, with the official average hitting almost $5,000.

However, more extensive repairs, such as underpinning or replacing a foundation, can cost upwards of $20,000 or more. As mentioned, some homeowners insurance policies may cover foundation damage, so check first with your insurance provider before paying out of pocket for repairs.

What Foundation Repair Cost Depending on Issue

Here’s a simple estimate, based on national averages, of the cost to repair the most common foundation issues:

Problem Cost
Crack Repair $250 – $800+
Settling And Sinking Foundation Repair $500 – $3,000+
Foundation Leak $2,000 – $7,000+
Bowing Wall $4,000 – $15,000+

Remember that these are averages, and you should always get estimates from a foundation repair company before making a decision.

Labors, Permits, and Materials

There are many expenses involved in foundation repairs, with the main three being the costs of labor, materials, and local permits.

Labor costs are involved in foundation repair jobs because skilled professionals are needed to perform the necessary work to repair the foundation, which can come to $200 per hour. This includes tasks such as excavating the soil around the foundation, installing new support beams or piers, and filling in any cracks or gaps. While permits from the city are required for foundation repair jobs if they involve significant changes to the structure of a building, which must comply with local building codes and regulations. Permit costs can go range from $75 to $150 in some jurisdictions. And lastly, materials such as concrete, steel, and lumber are necessary for foundation repair jobs, and their costs can vary depending on the extent of the repair needed.

All of these factors contribute to the overall cost of a foundation repair job.

Factors in Calculating Foundation Repair Cost

Besides the type of repair, labor, permits, and the cause of the damage to the foundation, there are several other factors that go into calculating the foundation repair cost of a house or any building.

These factors include:

Home Size and Accessibility

The size of the home or building is a major factor in determining the cost of foundation repair. The larger the building, the more foundation repair work will need to be done, increasing the repair cost.

Furthermore, the accessibility of the foundation is also a factor in calculating the cost of repairs. If the foundation is difficult to access or is located in a hard-to-reach area, the cost of repairs may be higher.

The Severity of the Issue

The extent of the damage to the foundation is another factor that affects the cost of repairs. Minor cracks and settling will cost less to repair than major structural damage. The initial estimate will let you know about them or the severity of the issue right away.

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Additional Foundation Repair Costs and Considerations

Soil Report

The type and condition of the soil around the foundation can also affect the cost of repairs. If the soil is unstable or requires additional reinforcement, the cost of repairs may increase. An example is expansive clay or poorly-draining soil that will lead to harsher settlement.

Structural Engineer Report

Structural engineers are the experts when it comes to assessing a building’s structural integrity. If your home’s foundation has sustained damage, your best bet is to get a structural engineer to inspect it and write up a report. This report can range from $300 – $1,500, depending on the property size, accessibility, and other factors.

A structural engineer’s report is your best defense against further damage to the building. With their expertise, they can provide you with a detailed overview of the problems and necessary repairs.

Unknown Factors

On top of all of that, you also have to prepare an extra $1,000 to $2,500 for any unseen obstacles that might come up during any home improvement project. No matter how many estimates or reviews the experts make, there’s always an unexpected issue. For example, the repair team might bump into tree roots or older repair work that was not done properly or cleared away.

Foundation Failure Signs and Symptoms

There are several cosmetic and structural signs and symptoms of foundation failure to keep an eye on. Among the symptoms, look for uneven floors that could be causing vertigo when simply walking or looking at crooked door frames constantly. Listen to any worrisome creaks and groans that reverberate through the house. One major symptom is whether closing and opening your windows and doors has become progressively harder, getting to the point that you have to force them. That shouldn’t happen and is a tell-tale sign that your foundation is in trouble.

Among the signs are the following:

1. Cracks

A single crack on the wall or split in the concrete slab might not be enough cause for alarm in case of foundation issues. Learn to distinguish between cracks to know when to call a foundation repair company.

Types of Crack by Material

  • Drywall Cracks: These are among the top signs of foundation damage. A vertical, steep crack in your drywall is noticeable and continues to grow even after patching them up. They typically grow out of window frames and door frames.
  • Stucco Cracks: Stucco is common in a lot of older homes in America, especially around windows and doors. Not every stucco crack is a sign of foundation damage. Many stucco cracks are due to weather, age, seismic events, or simply the bad quality of the application.
  • Concrete Slabs Cracks: These are trickier since they can be out of sight, hidden under the carpet, wooden floors, or even under cars, and clutter in the garage. This is where you can better examine your concrete slabs and look for signs of dangerous cracks.
  • Tile Cracks: A problem with your foundation will also put pressure on the tile, creating cracks wherever you have it. Maybe it’s the backsplash, bathroom, countertops, or kitchen floors, but it’s going to be noticeable once the foundation issues get too severe.
  • Chimneys Cracks: A chimney slowly cracking away from the house or bricks splitting in half are clear signs that something is wrong with your foundation.

When Do Cracks Become Serious?

Distinguish between normal “settling” cracks on your walls and the foundation cracks that should make the red alert sign turn on.

  • Vertical Cracks: Most vertical cracks aren’t worthy of panic. Not immediately, at least. There are many reasons for a vertical crack to appear, with the primary one being the normal “settling” effect of the building after being constructed. When the apex of the crack is near where the wall and ceiling meet, you can bet it’s settling only.
    These require minor fixes, and you’ll find them mostly in new homes that have younger lumber drying out and are just settling into the foundation. In the case of drywalls, improper taping of them can cause some thin, up-and-down cracks that will have to be glued and sealed. Vertical cracks can become a sign of foundation problems when two appear in adjacent walls.
  • Diagonal Cracks: If a crack turns diagonal, running at a 30° to 75° angle, then start to worry. Above else, worry when the diagonal crack is wider at one end. This means the building’s foundation is settling unevenly or when one section of the building or house is sinking below the other. Diagonal cracks are common in homes built on a slope or where the soil beneath the house is expanding and contracting due to humidity. The fix here is twofold and more expensive; you have to stop the soil from getting wet and correct the sinking too.
  • Horizontal Cracks: A horizontal crack is never good. These cracks appear most often in homes and properties with brick or concrete block foundations. The concrete foundations receive water damage or seismic damage and need to be reinforced and repaired as soon as possible. Another reason is that the soil outside the foundation is unstable, making the walls bow.

2. Leaning Kitchen Cabinets

When a foundation shifts, it can cause walls and floors to become uneven, which can lead to cabinets and other fixtures becoming unlevel. This can also cause doors and windows to become difficult to open or close.

3. Sloping Floors

Sloping floors are the main cause of concern when it comes to foundation problems. It’s a clear sign that something is wrong, especially if the property is not built on a slope or was designed like that. The typical test is to place a marble or any type of ball on the floor and see if it rolls.. More than an inch per ten feet as a slope is a trouble for your foundation. Don’t hesitate to call the Xperts and have your floors and foundation examined if you notice sloped floors. Xpert Foundation Repair specializes in several foundation repair systems and solutions.

4. Jammed Doors/Windows

Jammed doors and windows can be a sign of foundation problems in a house because when a foundation settles or shifts, it can cause the house’s frame to become distorted. This distortion can cause doors and windows to become misaligned, making them difficult to open and close, or it could result in the opposite being true; they can’t close at all. Additionally, if the foundation is shifting, it can cause the walls to move, which can also affect the alignment of doors and windows.

5. Moisture Issues

This can lead to problems with your home foundation because when the soil around your foundation becomes saturated with water, it can expand and cause the foundation to shift or even crack. This is known as foundation heaving. On the other hand, when the soil around your foundation becomes too dry, it can shrink and cause the foundation to settle or sink. This is known as foundation settling. Both foundation heaving and settling can cause significant damage to your home, including cracks in walls, uneven floors, and doors and windows that don’t close properly. Therefore, it is important to address any moisture issues around your home to prevent foundation problems.

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How Does The Weather Affect My House Foundation?

The weather can have a significant impact on the foundation of your house. If the soil around your foundation becomes too saturated with water due to heavy rainfall or flooding, it can cause the soil to shift and settle, leading to foundation damage. On the other hand, during periods of drought or dry weather, the soil can become too dry and shrink, causing the foundation to settle and crack. Additionally, extreme temperature changes can cause the concrete in the foundation to expand and contract, leading to damage over time. It is important to monitor the weather conditions and take necessary precautions to protect your foundation, such as ensuring proper drainage and using foundation watering systems during dry spells.

What is Expansive Soil?

Expansive soil is a type of soil that can expand and contract in response to changes in moisture content. It is composed of water-absorbing clay minerals like montmorillonite or bentonite, which cause the soil to swell and expand. Areas with constantly wet and dry spells are especially prone to this type of soil. This expansion and contraction of the soil practically keep the foundation in perpetual motion, leading to structural failures in a home’s foundation if not properly managed.

Types of Foundation Repairs

The type of foundation will inform what type of repair you’ll need, with five main foundation classifications being the most common in homes and buildings across the country.

Basement Foundation Repair

Basement foundations are walls that also function as the structural foundation of a building, fitted to concrete footings. They run on the perimeter of the basement, which is typically 8 feet deep. The repair of a basement foundation can be a costly process. The extent of the damage determines the number of steps involved. The process may include excavating the exterior foundation wall, repairing any cracks or holes, reinforcing the basement walls with steel beams, and basement waterproofing the surface to prevent future damage. Repair crews may also install interior drainage systems to help alleviate pressure on the foundation in some cases.

Crawlspace Stem Walls

Crawlspace stem walls are a type of raised foundation that is generally built on concrete footings that are six to ten inches thick and a few feet off the ground, leaving a crawlspace beneath the building. The concrete footings are typically called stem walls and are some of the easiest foundations to repair. The unfinished and unheated space is commonly utilized to accommodate a furnace or house pipes and also serves as a storage area. Proper ventilation in the crawlspace is necessary to avoid the accumulation of moisture and potential issues underneath the house.

The foundation walls in a crawlspace are commonly constructed with poured concrete or concrete blocks and, therefore, may experience cracking. Additional issues in crawlspaces may include leaks and water damage caused by inadequate drainage.

Concrete Slabs Foundations

A large slab of concrete is poured on the ground and left to harden there, left with a thickness of between four and six inches.

The depth of the slab typically increases by 24” to 36” toward the house’s edges to counteract the additional weight there. A beam is a term for the low section of the slab. Beams are placed in a waffle-like pattern across the middle of a slab to strengthen its center. Typically, the distance between the interior joists is 10-14 feet. Post-tension cables or steel rods (rebar) are commonly used to reinforce foundations.

Since repeated soil freezing and thawing can cause even a thick concrete slab to crack, these are more common in warmer climates. Homes on concrete slabs don’t have the luxury of a basement or crawlspace, so while this eliminates the potential for water damage and pest infestations, it also necessitates installing the drainage system directly into the concrete. A problem with concrete slab foundations is when a concrete slab foundation shifts or settles due to poor drainage. When that happens, the foundation repair contractor often has to break into the slab to make the necessary fixes.

A contractor will install piers beneath the concrete slab to fix the foundation problems.

Pier and Beam Foundations

Piers made of concrete, masonry, or wood support a structure on a pier and beam foundation. The piers serve as support posts that are driven into the ground, and the beams sit atop the piers to provide a solid base for the building. The flexibility of pier and beam foundations makes them a popular choice for use in areas with shifting soil. However, environmental factors like humidity, pests, and settlement can cause these bases to deteriorate over time. Piers and beams that have been damaged must be replaced or reinforced before a pier and beam foundation can be repaired.It may be necessary to excavate the area around the foundation, set up new piers and beams, and make adjustments to the foundation’s level.

Wood Foundations

When the foundation is made out of wood, then it’s likely to be a pier and beam type as well. This is when a home is elevated several feet above the ground, leaving an open-air crawlspace. When the beams are made out of wood, there’s the danger of rot and decay after several years of being exposed to the elements. The most common and affordable solution is simply replacing them with more durable materials. Another option is to add extra support, along with fixing any drainage problem that might be introducing too much humidity into the soil or crawlspace.

Foundation Stabilization

When there’s no significant damage or plans to remodel a house or commercial property, experts recommend foundation stabilization. Stabilization implies the creation of more support to keep the building in the position it currently is in (if it’s leveled and not already slanted.) The goal is simply to reinforce the structure, not lift and level it, as it is when repairing.

Foundation stabilization is recommended before carrying out major renovations on the house and waiting two to three months for the stabilization work to settle and adjust.

What is Underpinning – Foundation Repair?

Foundation repair and underpinning are usually used interchangeably, but they’re not the same. Underpinning is more related to stabilization. Underpinning is to reinforce and strengthen the current foundation, making it more rigid, wide, and deep.

Underpinning may be necessary for a building if

  • The original foundation cannot maintain the current structure.
  • Due to a shift in the building’s intended use, structural upgrades are now necessary.
  • There is not enough support in the ground for the building to stand.
  • More floors are being added to the building, so the footings need to be dug deeper to accommodate the increased weight.
  • It’s more expensive to repair the current one, and an underpinning might be enough.
  • The building’s integrity has been jeopardized due to natural disasters such as earthquakes, drought, and floods.

As mentioned about foundation stabilization, underpinning is good for owners looking to remodel or renovate their property heavily and aren’t sure their old foundations will be enough to support the new structure. It’s also used to sell their home at a higher value. Or simply for peace of mind.

What is a Push Pier?

A push pier is a device used to stabilize and support a building, deck, or other sinking or shifting structure. It is a pipe typically made from steel and consists of sections that are hydraulically driven into the ground until they reach a stable soil layer. The sections are then connected to the supported structure, providing a strong foundation for the structure thanks to this hydraulic jack.

What Are Helical Piers?

Helical piers have become the industry standard for quality foundation repair due to their effectiveness in impeding foundation settlement and heave. They are steel circular or square pipes that are driven into the ground, usually to a depth of 10-20 feet, and are attached to the foundation. They have helices welded at the end of a galvanized pipe. The helical pier installation process is relatively quick and clean, making it a preferable option for many homeowners.

Crawl Space Jacks and Foundation Repair

When fixing a foundation that is elevated off the ground, crawl space jacks are an essential piece of equipment. Floors that bow or bounce can be fixed with crawlspace jacks, also called smart jacks or foundation jacks. These jacks stabilize and level the girders and floor joists in the crawl space.

Basic Parts of Crawl Space Jacks

  • Top Plate (attaches to girder beam via screws or nails)
  • Spindle with a threaded metal rod (is housed in the 3.5″ Pipe)
  • Pipe (which houses the threaded rod)
  • Bottom plate (planted securely on the post)

Is Foundation Repair Work Worth It?

Undoubtedly, yes. A home’s foundation is vital to its safety and stability and hence, critical to your life. Foundation issues won’t go away and will only get worse and more expensive as the cracks grow, the floors slope more, and the concrete slab deteriorates. Repairing any foundation damage will protect your home’s stability and investment. Consult Xpert Foundation Repair if you have any worries or questions about your foundation, and we’ll give you a free estimate immediately. Call us today!