When is it best to NOT lift your home?

When most people look at any of our videos about foundation repair, they notice that we usually showcase the lifting and leveling of the home’s foundation.  But lifting and leveling your home may not always ensure what’s best for your home’s foundation and for you and your family.

In this article, we will dive into scenarios when we promote stabilizing your home from any further foundation settlement versus lifting and leveling your home.

Those times when it is better to stabilize are as follows:

  1. Your home has been completely remodeled, or the area that is experiencing settlement has been newly renovated.
  2. Your home’s foundation is not the required thickness.
  3. Your home’s foundation has deteriorated or is very brittle.

Now, these 3 scenarios are the most common when it comes to reasons to not lift your home’s foundation, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t or that we don’t have a solution if you do still decide to move forward with lifting and leveling your home.

1. Your home has been remodeled.

This scenario can have you feeling that real bad feeling in your stomach.  The moment that a foundation inspector informs you that your home is settling and you have just finished a remodel or you have just purchased a newly renovated home.

It is definitely not a fund conversation for either party involved.  The inspector doesn’t want to be the bearer of bad news and it is the last thing that you, the homeowner, wants to hear.  But the honest truth needs to be shared about the home.

Now, there are a few ways we can address this dilemma.

  1. We can stabilize the home from the future settlement.
  2. We can lift the home a little, but not the entire way.
  3. We can lift the home back to level

Lifting the home a little can help to get rid of some of the sloping of the floors and it may not cause any damage to any of the renovations.  The lift just has to be performed in a very slow, incremental process.  When doing some lift, we want to monitor doors, windows, drywall, and countertops.  If we start to see any of these items being stressed or compromised we recommend stopping.

Then there is just going for it and lifting the home and worry about the damages after the fact!  This approach is usually taken on by homeowners that are in the construction industry and know-how and have the means to correct any misaligned doors, drywall cracks, stucco cracks, or having to reset and adjust cabinets.

2. Your home is not the required thickness

This one is hard to know until our work has started, unless you have dug under your home or have building plans that show the thickness of your home’s footing.

A typical footing for a home in AZ and CA is supposed be a minimum of 18″.  A lot of older homes, because of the codes when they were constructed, do not have even 18″ of footing!  Kind of crazy, but they are out there.

The reason we don’t want to lift a home that has a footing less than 18″ is that the footing is not nearly as strong and may experience cracking during the lifting process.  Take a piece of paper and hold it by the ends, lengthwise.  The paper sags in the middle.  The footing acts the same way when you apply pressure to the piers during a lifting procedure.  The chances of that footing bowing is far greater than if we stabilize it and allow the soil to help support the footing that is in between the piers.

But we can still perform a lift, we would just need to shorten the pier spacing from the current 6-8′ to maybe 3-4′.  This will allow the footing to be supported during the lifting process and not cause it to sag or bow.

3. Your home’s foundation has deteriorated or is very brittle

We see this on homes that are 50 years or older as well as homes that have had constant water present around the home’s foundation.

What happens when concrete ages, just like us, it starts to breakdown.  I apologize for the hard facts, but we haven’t figured out to out run time yet! 😉 As the concrete breaks down, it will start to loose it’s structural integrity.  In simpler terms, it becomes weaker than when it was first poured.

If a home’s foundation is constantly surrounded by water, the water can start to breakdown the make up of the concrete.  The constant presence of water and then drying out, will cause the concrete to start to deteriorate.  You can see this deterioration on concrete if you are able to drag something along the footing and notice that white dust comes off or you can actually cause an indentation in the concrete.

When your home’s foundation is in this stage, we typically want to share our findings with a structural engineer.  They usually suggest that we stabilize the home in place or we stabilize the home in place AND add some additional support, such as a sister footing.  In really bad instances, a complete foundation removal and replacement may need to occur.

Read more: Why Is My Sill Plate Deteriorating?

The good thing about stabilizing your home is that the warranty is the same as it is when we lift a home.  The warranty is still transferrable and you will still have the piece of mind knowing your home is not going to experience any further movement.

Performing foundation repair work is more of a science than just slamming piers in the ground and lifting your home.  Understanding the make up of your home and your goals will allow for a more successful project.

At the end of the day, it is far better to have a home that is stabilized and not going to move rather than lifting your home and causing more costly damages or compromising your home’s foundation.


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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