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What Is A Pier Foundation?

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Wondering what a pier foundation is? If so, don’t hit that back button because you’ve landed on the right page. This article will cover what a pier foundation is, how pier foundations are built, their pros and cons, and more.

What is a Pier Foundation?

A pier foundation is a foundation that lifts a structure off the ground creating a space underneath. You’ve probably seen houses near bodies of water raised high on piers. They look kind of like they’re sitting on a deck. Those are pier foundations. They protect homes from flooding and the rising tide. However, pier foundations aren’t just for structures near water…

When walls enclose the space underneath a pier foundation, it becomes a crawl space foundation, a type of pier foundation that sits between 18 inches and 3 feet off the ground. Until the 1960s, crawl space foundations were popular in the US. Although they aren’t as popular as they once were, they’re still being built today. Homeowners like pier foundations because they offer easy access to the home’s plumbing and wiring.

Older pier foundations were built with wooden piers. Today, concrete piers are more popular. Pier foundations are well-suited to regions with expansive soil because a structure sitting on a pier foundation is less affected by soil conditions and soil movement.

Our team working in the crawl space of a historic home in Riverside, California:

Pros of a Pier Foundation

The pros of a pier foundation include the following:

Cons of a Pier Foundation

The cons of a pier foundation include the following:

How Is A Pier Foundation Repaired?

How a pier foundation is repaired depends – of course – on what’s wrong with it. For example, are the piers settling into the soil, or is the perimeter wall experiencing settlement? Perhaps the problem isn’t settlement but deteriorated screw jacks. Here are a few possible repair solutions:

Push piers

Heavy-duty steel push piers are the most common method for repairing foundation damage caused by settlement. Brackets are attached to the bottom of the foundation, and then the piers are driven into the ground by a hydraulic ram until they reach load-bearing soil. After the piers are in place, the foundation is raised via a synchronized hydraulic lifting system. Underpinning a foundation using push piers is a fast and minimally-invasive procedure.

Helical piers

Helical piers are often used for new construction projects requiring a deep foundation system. However, they’re also used to repair lightweight structures experiencing foundation settlement. They’re shaped like corkscrews and turned into the soil to the necessary depth and torque specified by a geotechnical engineer. Once they’re in place, synchronized hydraulic jacks raise the structure.

Crawl space support jacks

Sometimes, what seems like a foundation problem with a pier foundation is really an issue with deteriorated screw jacks in the crawl space. Symptoms include a floor that feels spongy when you walk on it and furniture that shakes when you walk by. Fixing this problem often involves using the existing pier locks and simply removing and replacing the screw jacks.

Signs There Might Be A Problem With A Pier Foundation

Signs there might be a problem with a pier foundation include – but aren’t limited to – the following:

If you see any of the above –  or anything else that seems suspicious – contact an experienced foundation repair contractor in your area right away for an evaluation. 

How To Prevent Problems With Your Pier Foundation

Since most foundation problems are caused by water, getting groundwater around your pier foundation under control is the best way to prevent issues. Here are a few ways you can do that:

Keep vegetation – flowers, shrubs, trees, etc. – away from the foundation.

Yes, they look pretty planted next to the foundation. However, when you water them, you’ll be adding water to the soil around the foundation, and this is what you don’t want to do.

Keep your gutters free of debris.

Clogged gutters can cause runoff to spill over the side of the house and soak the ground around the foundation.

Regrade your yard so that it slopes away from your home.

If the yard slopes toward your home, water will drain toward the foundation and soak the soil around it.

Use downspout extensions

to carry water at least four feet away from the foundation before releasing it.

Install an underground downspout and bubbler pot (also called a pop-up emitter).

Runoff from gutters flows into the underground downspout and toward the bubbler pot situated around 10 feet away from the foundation. When the pot fills with water, it pops up and releases the water away from the foundation.

Install a drain tile system.

Nothing beats a drain tile system when it comes to preventing excess moisture from building up in the soil around a foundation. There are exterior and interior drain tile systems, and most new homes built today include one. However, they can also be installed in existing homes.

If you believe your home might have a foundation problem and you’re in our service area in Southern California, and Arizona contact us today for a free evaluation. No hidden fees or pushy sales tactics, and we’ll contact you within 24 hours.


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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