The three basic methods of underpinning a residential foundation, be it concrete slab or pier and beam, all have their critics. Remember, underpinning is the process of getting piers (or pilings) under the foundation to shore it up. The type of pier impacts the cost of foundation repair.
When you are researching foundation repair cost per pier you’ll find quite a difference in price depending on the type of pier the contractor or engineer recommends. The mix also includes the Millennium Composite Piling System (TM)
I heard an ad on the radio the other day for something called “foundation shield” and wondered what that could possibly be. Not being very smart, yet imaginative, I pictured armor or maybe some sort of force field around a home foundation.
It turns out to be an industrial strength soaker hose system to keep a good layer of moisture around the perimeter of your concrete slab and hopefully avoid expensive foundation repair.
The reason most of us who live in areas with heavy clay soils have foundation problems is the shrink-swell nature of the dirt our houses are built on. When we have a lot of rain, our clay soils swell absorbing the water like a sponge. Then when dry weather hits, the soils give up that water and shrink. All this swelling and shrinking of the ground our houses are built on is hard on concrete slab foundations.
So one of the tools we homeowners can use to create an even layer of moisture around the slab is the use of soaker hoses. Soaker hoses dribble water out slowly along it’s length and over a few days can help stabilize the amount of moisture around the foundation. And “Foundation Shield” takes soaker hoses to the next level.
Instead of the traditional above ground rubber soaker hose made of recycled tires that most of us use, the “foundation shield” is a system that goes just below the ground and is made of entirely different materials.
A local company who installs this system uses lengths of Rainbird XFS subsurface drip line all around the foundation just below the surface of the soil. It’s a much more sophisticated system than your generic soaker hoses. Since it is installed just below ground level, there has be ways to keep grit and roots from clogging things up. That’s where emitters, pressure regulators, filters, water valves, air vacuum relief valves and such come into play.
If you watch the video below you’ll see that the systems is really designed for efficient drip irrigation of landscaping or gardens. But it’s a no-brainer to see how the system could be easily adapted to provide that even layer of moisture around the perimeter of a foundation that helps protect it from the shrink-swell effects of weather.
If this drip system is something you’d like more information on just visit the Rain Bird website. DIYers can buy the parts. They can also hook you up with a contractor in your area.
This humble blog about foundation repair from the home owners point of view is written from a region is the U.S. where we have wide areas and tens of thousands of homes with slab foundations built on heavy clay soils.
The trouble with clay dirt is that it expands when it gets wet and shrinks when it gets dry. And that means the soils our houses sit on are swelling and shrinking depending on the weather. Cycles of rain and then dry periods.
That’s why it’s important to keep and even layer of moisture around the foundation. An affordable way to do that is with soaker hoses. Proper drainage is also important.
The Perma Pier people have a good article on weather and foundations:
Foundation Problems Don’t Wash Away With Rain, Says Perma-Pier
EON: Enhanced Online News (press release)
“Foundation Problems Don’t Wash Away With Rain, Says Perma-Pier. Texas-based company discusses the impact of the wet-dry cycle on soil and home.”
That’s why it’s important to keep and even layer of moisture around the foundation. Proper drainage is also important. You want rain water draining away from the foundation and not ponding.
This video talks about proper drainage around a typical house foundation in very simple terms. Very. Simple. Terms.
So if you can keep even moisture in the soil around your slab foundation and make sure that excess water drains away. Who knows? Maybe you can avoid the cost of foundation repair.
Earlier this year one of my neighbors (Roy) had foundation repair done on his concrete slab. The hot dry summer drought had done its damage and resulted in some of the classic signs of foundation movement.
You could see separation of the brick veneer away from the window frames in the front of the house and by the garage door. There was a big diagonal crack (half inch or so) in one of the sheet rock walls in a small office inside the garage area. Similar cracks had developed inside the house proper.
With the cost of foundation repair in mind, Roy called three foundation repair companies for bids.
The foundation companies all suggested piers for the front and both sides of the house.The company Roy picked uses pushed concrete piers, a very common foundation repair method in Texas.
I was looking at a map from the US National Weather Service that showed almost a third of the country in drought conditions that range from “excessively dry” to “exceptional drought.” Not good.
And to make matters worse, many areas included in the drought also have homes built on shrink/swell heavy clay soils. That means when the soils dry out, house foundations start moving, usually dropping.
Things the homeowner will start to notice are cracks in the sheet rock inside and in brick veneers outside. Doors and windows that don’t work the way they used to and are supposed to, and in the worst cases, floors starting to slope.
It’s happening again at my house too.
Extended dry conditions like this provide plenty of work for foundation repair companies, but what about the homeowner?