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Understanding Foundation Raising and Differential Settlement

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Are you looking for information about foundation raising to correct differential settlement? If so, you’ve landed on the right page because that’s what we’re going to talk about in this article. We’ll go over what the term “foundation raising” means when talking about correcting differential foundation settlement, when foundation raising might be necessary, how it’s done, what causes differential settlement, and more.

What Do We Mean By “Foundation Raising”?

In this article, the term “foundation raising” refers to correcting a foundation issue called differential foundation settlement, or when a foundation settles unevenly into the ground, causing some parts of the foundation to sink lower than others.

Foundation piers are tools used to repair foundations experiencing differential settlement.

Differential settlement puts a lot of stress on the foundation and can cause severe structural damage if it isn’t corrected via foundation raising.

Foundation raising is achieved by underpinning the faulty foundation using supports, such as steel or concrete piers, to stabilize it and raise it back to its original position or as close as possible. We’ll talk in more detail about the underpinning process in just a bit.

When Is Foundation Raising Necessary?

Underpinning (i.e., foundation raising) is necessary when a foundation is experiencing differential settlement. Underpinning increases the stability and strength of the foundation and thus prevents further damage to the building.

Who Performs Foundation Raising?

Foundation piers are tools used to repair foundations experiencing differential settlement.

Foundation raising is a job done by professional foundation repair contractors. It involves complex calculations and requires careful consideration of the structure’s history and surroundings. It also sometimes requires permits and inspections from the relevant authorities to ensure compliance with codes and regulations.

How Is A Foundation Raised?

The procedure to underpin a foundation using push piers (a common solution) is as follows:

Step 1: Initial inspection and assessment

Before beginning the underpinning process, the foundation must be inspected and assessed for any signs of damage or instability. This may include using specialized equipment and techniques such as laser levels, monitoring devices, or ground sensors to measure the severity of any movement or subsidence. Based on the results of this assessment, the most appropriate underpinning solution can be determined.

Step 2: Excavation and preparation

Once the assessment is complete, the site is excavated down to the footing and prepared for the installation of push piers. This will involve removing any obstacles (flowers, shrubs, etc.) or debris in the way.

Step 3: Installation of push piers

Push piers are installed using the structure’s weight and hydraulic equipment that can drive the piers deep into the ground. The push piers will lift and support the weight of the building’s foundation and transfer it to stable, load-bearing strata deep within the earth.

Step 4: Completion of the underpinning process

Once the push piers have been installed, the foundation is stabilized and reinforced. The soil is backfilled around the foundation, and the site is restored to its original state.

Foundation raising – which may be done using push piers, helical piers, drilled concrete piers, or slab piers – is a highly-effective and long-lasting solution for stabilizing and reinforcing a building’s foundation. Underpinning can be completed in a relatively short period of time with minimal disruption to the building’s occupants.

Push piers are probably the most common type of foundation pier used to stabilize a settled foundation.

What Causes Differential Settlement?

Differential foundation settlement is pretty common and happens for various reasons, including the following:

  • Expansive soil – One of the leading causes of differential foundation settlement is expansive soil. Expansive soil is a type of soil that changes in volume significantly when exposed to moisture. When wet, it swells, and when dry, it shrinks. This causes movement under the foundation and can lead to differential settlement.
  • Erosion-prone soil – Other types of soil are susceptible to erosion. When the soil beneath the foundation erodes, it can cause voids to form. If the foundation settles into the voids, there will be differential settlement.
  • Seismic events – The waves caused by an earthquake can cause the foundation to shift and settle unevenly.
  • Inadequate site preparation – When the soil isn’t compressed enough before construction begins, the structure can settle unevenly into the ground after it’s built, causing damage to the foundation.
  • Excavation too close to the foundation – When soil is removed from areas adjacent to the foundation, it can cause the remaining soil to shift, leading to uneven settlement.

Common Signs Of A Foundation Problem

When it comes to foundation problems, there are several telltale signs that homeowners should be aware of. These include the following:

  • Wall, floor, and ceiling cracks – These cracks may appear in various shapes and sizes and may be located in different areas of the home.
  • Torn wallpaper – The wall behind the wallpaper could be cracked.
  • Doors and windows that are difficult to open or close – This may also be a sign of a foundation problem, as shifting foundations can cause the frames of these openings to become misaligned.
  • Uneven floors
  • Chimneys and porches leaning away from the house – Even a slight gap between the chimney or porch and the house is cause for concern.
  • Gaps between the walls and the ceiling or floor – These gaps are often accompanied by cracks or separation in the trim or molding around doors and windows.
  • Stair step cracks in brick or masonry – These are a sure sign the foundation has moved.

Since most foundation issues are caused by excess moisture in the ground around the foundation

If you notice any of these signs – or anything else that seems suspicious – contact a professional foundation repair contractor as soon as possible. A foundation problem left untreated will worsen and then cost more to repair.

How Much Does Foundation Raising Cost?

The cost of foundation raising (i.e., underpinning) varies based on several factors, such as the size of the building, the severity of the foundation damage, and the structure’s location. The cost could increase due to soil conditions, site accessibility, and the type of underpinning used.

The cost of underpinning a foundation can range from $1,000 to $3,000 per linear foot. For a typical 1,500-square-foot house, the total cost of underpinning can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000.

Tips That Will Help Prevent Foundation Trouble

As a homeowner, taking steps to prevent foundation trouble should be part of your regular home maintenance routine. Because most foundation problems are caused by water, you can go a long way toward avoiding foundation issues by simply controlling groundwater. Here are some ways to ensure excess moisture can’t build up in the ground around the foundation:

  • If necessary, regrade the yard around the foundation. This involves reshaping the landscape by creating a slope that directs water away from the foundation. This helps prevent water from pooling around the foundation.
  • Install downspout extensions. With downspout extensions, runoff will be directed away from the foundation before release.
  • Regularly cleaning your gutters is also important in preventing foundation trouble. Clogged gutters can lead to water overflowing the side of the house and soaking into the ground around the foundation.
  • Avoid planting flowers, shrubs, or other vegetation next to the house. When you water them, you’ll add water to the ground around the foundation.
  • Install a drain tile system. When it comes to foundation waterproofing, nothing beats a drain tile system. A drain tile system is designed to collect any excess water that seeps into the ground around the foundation and direct it away from the foundation.

Differential settlement places tremendous stress on a foundation and can lead to serious structural damage. We'll talk more about differential settlement in just a bit.

Foundation raising (and foundation repair in general) can be expensive. Taking the necessary precautions can save you a lot of money in the long run and preserve the value of your property.

If you think your home might need foundation raising, contact us today to schedule a foundation evaluation. If we find a problem, we’ll provide a repair estimate. We serve Southern California, Arizona, and Nevada.


Brian Dalinghaus

Brian is one of the Co-Founders of Dalinghaus Construction. He has been in the foundation repair industry since 2005. During his career, he has been associated with helping over 4,000 homes and structures throughout California and Arizona.

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