What Are Foundation Piers Used For?

How Long Do Foundation Piers Last?

Foundation piers should last for the lifetime of the structure. In other words, you shouldn’t need another repair for the same thing. Dalinghaus Construction and our suppliers offer a lifetime warranty on our steel foundation repair products. 

Signs You Might Have A Foundation Problem

Every homeowner should know the most common signs of a foundation problem because foundation issues spotted early cost less to reAre you looking for information about foundation piers and how they’re used? If so, don’t hit that back button because you’ve landed on the right page. In this article we’re going to go over what foundation piers are, what they’re used for, how they’re installed, and more.

What Are Foundation Piers?

Foundation piers are heavy-duty steel structures used to strengthen and stabilize foundations. Sometimes, foundation piers are used before construction, to build a deep foundation system. This might be necessary because of problematic soil. However, foundation piers are also used to repair existing foundations.

Types Of Foundation Piers

The four main types of foundation piers are push, helical, slab, and drilled concrete.

Resistance Push Piers

Push piers are used to raise, stabilize, and strengthen an existing foundation that’s experiencing differential settlement. That is, when a foundation is settling into the ground unevenly. We’ll talk more about differential settlement in just a bit.

Helical Piers

Helical piers are often used for new construction projects requiring a deep foundation system because of problematic soil. However, they’re also used to stabilize and strengthen existing foundations. Other names for helical piers include helical piles, helical anchors, and screw piles.

Slab Piers

Slab piers are push or helical piers installed through holes drilled in the slab. They’re used to stabilize slab-on-grade foundations.

Drilled Concrete Piers

Drilled concrete piers are used to stabilize foundations built on hillsides that are experiencing differential settlement and lateral movement from a phenomenon known as downhill creep. This is when soil at the top of a hill slowly moves downhill. 

Lateral movement and differential settlement can cause problems such as sloped floors, cracks, windows and doors that don’t open and close properly, etc.

What Are Foundation Piers Used For  

Foundation piers are mainly used to build a deep foundation system (helical piers mainly) or repair existing foundations experiencing differential settlement. All structures will settle into the soil slightly after they’re built. This is pretty normal and usually nothing to worry about so long as the settlement is uniform. Differential settlement is another matter. Differential settlement can cause severe structural damage.

So, What Is Differential Settlement And What Causes It?

Differential settlement is when a foundation is settling into the soil unevenly. This puts tremendous stress on a foundation and causes everything to be out of plumb. If differential settlement isn’t repaired, it can cause significant structural damage to a foundation.

Common causes of differential settlement include:

  • Soil that wasn’t properly prepped – Soil needs to be adequately tamped down before you build on top of it. If this isn’t done, the structure could settle unevenly into the soil after it’s built.
  • Expansive soil – This is soil with a lot of clay in it and because of this it swells considerably when it soaks up moisture and then shrinks when it dries out. This swelling-shrinking cycle creates movement in the soil and can, over time, lead to differential settlement.
  • Soil erosion – Erosion under the foundation can cause voids to form. If the foundation then sinks into those voids, you’ll have differential settlement.
  • Weather changes – An example of this might be constructing a house on top of expansive soil during the dry season. When the wet season rolls around again, the soil swells and this movement under the foundation can lead to differential settlement.
  • Seismic events – We probably don’t need to explain this one.
  • Excavation next to the foundation – If someone digs a big hole next to your house, it could destabilize the soil under the foundation leading to differential settlement.

Differential settlement is when a foundation is settling into the soil unevenly.

How Are Foundation Piers Installed?

Push Piers Installation

After heavy duty steel brackets are attached to the footing, the push piers are driven through the brackets and down to load-bearing soil using a hydraulic ram. Once they’re in place, a synchronized hydraulic lifting system raises the foundation to maximum practical level. 

Helical Piers Installation

Helical piers look something like giant corkscrews. They’re turned into soil until they reach the necessary depth or torque. This could be up to 150 feet deep, in some cases. Helical piers come in various sizes and configurations.

Slab Piers

Slab piers are helical or push piers that are installed through holes drilled in the slab.

Drilled Concrete Piers

Installation of drilled concrete piers involves using an auger drill to create a shaft of the required width and depth. Rebar is inserted for reinforcement and then concrete is poured into the shaft. The concrete takes around one month to dry and harden, and then the pier is ready for use.

pair. These include:

  • Sticking doors and windows – If this is an issue with just one door or window, it might not indicate a foundation problem. However, problems with multiple doors or windows is a sign of foundation trouble.
  • Uneven floors – You might not even notice they’re uneven at first. What happens when you drop a marble on the floor?
  • Cracks in floors, walls, and ceilings 
  • Torn or wrinkled wallpaper – There might be a crack in the wall behind the wallpaper.
  • Walls that are separating from the floor or ceiling – Even slight separations are cause for investigation.
  • Moldings that are separating from the wall or ceiling  
  • Stair step cracks in brick or masonry – These are a sure sign of foundation damage.
  • Gaps around doors and windows 
  • Leaning chimneys or porches 

How To Prevent Foundation Problems

Since most foundation problems are caused by too much moisture in the ground around the foundation, you can go a long way toward preventing problems simply by controlling groundwater around the home. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Don’t plant flowers, shrubs, trees, etc. next to the house. When you water them, you’ll be adding moisture to the soil around the foundation. This is what you’re trying to avoid.
  • Regrade your yard, if necessary so that it slopes away from the house. This will prevent water from draining toward the foundation.
  • Clean your gutters regularly so that runoff doesn’t spill over the side of the house and soak the ground around the foundation.
  • Use downspout extensions to carry runoff at least four feet away from the foundation before releasing it.
  • Install an underground downspout and pop up emitter. Runoff will flow into the underground downspout and toward the pop-up emitter situated in your yard around 10 feet from the house. When the pop-up emitter fills with water, it will pop up and release it away from the foundation.
  • Drain tile system – A drain tile system is – by far- the best way to waterproof a foundation and avoid costly repairs. It works by ensuring that excess moisture cannot build up in the soil around the foundation and cause trouble.

If you think your home might need foundation piers, and you’re in our California or Arizona service area, contact us today for a foundation evaluation.


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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