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01/05/2021

3 Common Problems with Foundation Repair

Whenever you set off on the Hero’s Journey of a home improvement project, it is always the intention of the contractor (and an unspoken expectation) that the enterprise will enjoy smooth sailing. 

The ambition is that everything will be peachy-keen. Copacetic. A-OK. 

Unfortunately – this can be a pipe dream. When shiitake mushrooms hit the fan, it is most often through no fault of the homeowner or contractor.  

The numero uno thing your contractor has control over is being able to own it when Lady Luck turns a cold shoulder. Owning it is one of our Core Values here at Dalinghaus Construction, Inc.

Dalinghaus Construction Core Values

It’s easy to work on a project when everything is a breeze: no issues digging, placing piers, and lifting the home to maximum practical recovery. 

However, you need to be certain that you hire a contractor that wants to take initiative and tackle problems as they arise helmet-to-helmet. 

You need to ensure they are up to the task of determining the most effective solution for your foundational repair needs.

Foundation Repair is not immune to issues popping up here and there. Like in the 1986 Tom Hanks classic The Money Pit, home projects rarely go off without a hitch.


There is a slew of potential hiccups, but we are going to walk you through the 3 most common issues that can come up during a foundation repair project. 

  1. Unmarked or Damaged Utilities
  2. Footing Size and/or Locations
  3. Post Home Lift Issues  

Push Pier in crawl space

 

Unmarked or Damaged Utilities

Exterior Utilities

 Utilities can be defined as any renewable energy/resource that you pay way too much for. These include, but are not limited to:

  1. Gas Lines
  2. Sewer Lines
  3. Water Lines
  4. Electrical lines

Now, obviously, we never want to accidentally go BOOM or stink-up the neighborhood or hit a water main and have our own little miniature waterpark.

And we always do our best to clear electrical lines so as not to get crispy.

The big issue is that utilities are often located underground and are not marked clearly around or in your home. We play a kind of reverse Battleship – the goal is not to hit or sink anything.  

One question we get asked a lot here at Dalinghaus is, “Why don’t you call DigAlert to mark the utilities?” The answer: we do. In fact, we contact DigAlert for every project.     

Unfortunately, DigAlert only marks the utilities where they enter the property from the street.

Quick. Take a look out the window. Trust me – do it. Do you see how far back your home is from the street? Sure, all of that space is awesome at keeping you insulated from the rat-race, but that 100 or so feet can be a real puzzle.

It can quickly devolve into a guessing game on how exactly the utilities (gas, electric, water, etc.) were run from the street to your house.

You remember from geometry, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

Usually, most utilities follow this rule of thumb; however, we’ve seen bizarre trajectories and kooky angles (for reasons unknown to us & the rest of mankind).   

So, we don our thinking-caps and jump into our super-sleuth headspace when tracing utilities.

Typically, utility lines are a non-issue unless they were ran directly adjacent to the footing of your domicile.

Depending on the proximity of these lines to the footing, the lines may need to be disconnected or rerouted for the work to be properly performed. 

This can result in a temporary loss of utilities while the work is completed.

This is not a huge problem but can prove a slight inconvenience.   

Dalinghaus Inspectors with GPR Scanner

Interior Utilities

Utility lines on the inside of the house are inherently more difficult to trace without the help of a GPR scanner. 

GPR stands for Ground Penetrating Radar – and yeah, it’s as badass as it sounds. 

This machine will X-ray the slab and find any utilities that are buried under it up to an impressive depth of 12” (as well as any utilities and rebar embedded in the slab itself).

It is imperative to have these lines demarcated to avoid any possible damage to them if and when interior work needs to be conducted.

Raised foundation homes do not require a GPR X-Ray scan (yeah, sucks to be you), because we are able to easily locate utility lines from the crawlspace of your home.

In the unlikely event that an interior or under the slab utility line is damaged during the foundation repair process, the project can become a bit of a headache or brain-blurring-migraine.Dalinghaus crew concrete saw

The damaged line will first need to be accessed by saw cutting through the slab and breaking out the concrete in that area. 

You know that scene in John Wick where he wails on his basement floor with a sledgehammer?  It’s kind of like that. 

The required repairs will be made and then the slab will need to be dowelled and poured back into place. 

The new concrete will need to dry for at least a week before putting any new floor covering back over the top of it.

This is not a walk in the park and can prove a genuine fiasco. However, if such a hiccup does occur, it’s imperative to know it will only take a short amount of time to course-correct and get the project back on the rails.    

Remedial Bracket attached to foundation footing

Footing Size and Locations

Depth 

Footings are located on the exterior of your home and underneath load-bearing walls. 

In Southern California and Arizona, footings are typically about 18” to 24” deep.

For each pier location (and remember, piers are spaced out about six feet), the contractor will need to excavate to the bottom of the footing, and then some, to properly install the pier system.

Generally, this is a very simple and mind-numbingly monotonous process.

However, just like with utility lines run on wacky grids, we’ve some weird stuff when it comes to footings.    

We’ve run into footing depths in excess of 8 FEET.   

This is a rare phenomenon, but not hailing a Taxicab to find a sasquatch at the wheel dressed smartly in a driver’s cap and aviators rare.

Footing depths greater than 8 feet are highly uncommon for homes that are located on flat tops. 

Homes located on hillsides may have larger footings to act as a retaining wall and prevent settlement/lateral movement.

The math is simple: deeper footing sizes require deeper digging, adding time to your project. 

Digging an 8-foot hole takes about 6 hours to complete just one location. A typical 2-foot excavation only takes 1 hour.

Without physically digging up a portion of your yard during a Foundation Inspection, it would be difficult for a contractor to determine the actual depth of your home’s footing. 

Here at Dalinghaus Construction, we utilize 4-foot-long probing rods to analyze the depth of your footing without tearing up your wife’s favorite roses.

Probing rods are ideal for loosely compacted soils so that the probe can smoothly penetrate the dirt. 

However, some soils around the perimeter of your home might prove too dense to force the probe through to get an accurate measurement of your footing.

Dalinghaus crew with jack hammer _ concrete R&R

Location

Another garden-variety issue when it comes to footings is locale. 

Sure, the footing around the perimeter of your home is easy enough to access, it’s the pesky interior footings and/or grade beams that pose a possible predicament. 

*Note – this will only be an issue if you are lifting that area of your home.     

Interior footings and grade beams are designed to carry similar loads to exterior footings. 

As mentioned earlier, interior footings are generally located under load-bearing walls, but we have come across them (outside of their natural habitat/ecosystems) where the homes had grade beams under open rooms of the home.   

The unfortunate finding of a random grade beam is rare, but it does happen. 

Load-bearing wall footings are quite more common. These footings will need to be addressed when that particular area of the home needs to be lifted.   

To properly support these footings, the contractor will need to access the footing (surprise, surprise). 

This translates into some additional saw cutting and concrete R&R (Removal & Replacement) in the affected areas.

Once again, this snag will create a slight delay on the project and may pose a small inconvenience to you and your family.

In short – creating viable access to these footings that are deeper than average or misplaced adds more time to the clock.

footing excavation _ utilized push pier

Post Home Lift Issues

Drywall Cracks

Lifting your home can open up its own unique Pandora’s Box – even if the lift is properly conducted, ghosts and ghouls pop up here and there.

The most prevalent issue that we see is interior-design-destruction. 

This can range from drywall cracks to sticky doors and impossible-to-open windows. 

These issues often arise because extensive home renovation projects were completed before the home was lifted. It’s kind of like waxing before you wash your car – it just doesn’t work.

Wax on. Wax off.    

Drywall cracks resulting from a home lift are a relatively simple fix. 

You will need to smooth out the area if the crack has been previously filled and the filler material has compressed out of the wall. 

Or you will simply patch the newly formed crack with your favorite mud compound. Once the area has been dried and textured, you can paint.

The beautiful truth is: once these cracks are repaired, you will never see them again because the root of the problem has been properly addressed.  

Drywall Crack caused by foundation settlement

Doors & Windows

Doors that used to be misaligned can be a tricky business. Especially if these doors were “fixed” by being shaved down to close while the house had settled.

The fix is simple: you will need a new door.  

If the door had not been previously shaved or cut, then you can simply adjust the door hinges to the correct alignment, so the door opens and closes properly.  

The hard truth is windows are just as tricky as doors, but the good news is that windows have quite a bit of inherent flexibility within their framing. 

Windows are the gymnasts of the construction world – just don’t expect glass to stick a landing.  

If a window frame is older or has been replaced prior to the lift and it will. Not open or closes – then you need to have a professional window installer come and adjust the windows to make them functional again.     

Cracked Footing

Small hairline cracks and fractures appear on the foundation itself on the exterior of your home. Don’t Panic!

These cracks can be filled and do not compromise the integrity of the footing.

However, depending on the size of the crack and how the rest of the footing has reacted, the contractor may need to perform a more substantial repair to the affected area.  

The single most important thing you want to ensure happens when a footing crack is to fill it in.

You want to prevent water and/or moisture from entering the fissure and rusting the rebar that is located within your footing. 

Rusting metals e x p a n d and can blow out a portion of your foundation years down the road.

Stucco fissure caused by foundation settlement

The Thing to Remember

Problems can come up on any project no matter the contractor’s experience level.

Obviously, the contractor and the contractor’s staff potentially can be the single biggest problem you face if they don’t have the proper training, experience, or wherewithal – but we are going to assume a basic level of competency. 

So, when these three main issues rear their ugly heads, it is up to the contractor to ensure that the problems are addressed in a timely, competent, and professional manner.  

We know the 5 Best Foundation Repair Companies in Southern California and we do a pretty damn fine job of fixing foundations here at Dalinghaus Construction. 

We’re quick, think on our feet, and can handle any project (hiccups and all) that you throw at us.

You can book your Free Foundation Inspection through the button below.

schedule free foundation evaluation

 
Interested in learning more about the common signs of foundation problems in Southern California and Central Arizona?

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