Are you noticing cracks on your commercial property? Do you see cosmetic damage in the structure you own?
Seeing these issues aren’t comforting. You’re wondering about the integrity of your commercial structure? Perhaps you’re concerned about how these signs can affect the people working inside. Maybe visitors will notice the damage.
There are reasons you may be concerned about the integrity of your commercial building:
- It’s a source of equity.
- Investment in commercial buildings has earning potential.
- You have an apartment or family complex.
- They’re your tenants. Their safety is integral.
- A damaged building will make it less likely someone will want to move in.
- Businesses are in your commercial structure.
- You want to be reliable for these businesses. Or you’re receiving multiple complaints.
- Your business is in the building.
- You represent your company and want your workers to be safe. Seeing cracks can be unsettling.
Foundation failure will put everything listed above in jeopardy. It can put everything you have on pause.
If the problems result from foundation issues, it’s not a problem to sit back on. While issues start as cosmetic, they can turn into structural issues. Commercial buildings are heavier compared to residential homes. There is the risk of the damages eventually becoming structural.
Structural issues put people in danger. Thankfully, structural damage isn’t a prominent issue compared to cosmetic damage. That said, address the signs when they make themselves present.
Or are you the ambitious type, dreaming of having a commercial structure built on a property? You have a vision. An ambition to make that property. And you want the foundation of those dreams to come to life.
The thing about that dream is you need to build the foundation first. You wouldn’t construct a foundationless structure (I think).
What’s cool about a foundation repair company is that they can also help be a part of building a new foundation.
(I know. Mind blown.).
Dalinghaus Construction has been part of commercial foundation repair and new construction projects around Southern California, Arizona, and Nevada, building and repairing buildings ranging from multi-story hotels to movie sets, supplying solid foundations for you cinephiles out there. They’ve repaired foundations for structures experiencing foundation settlement or heaving.
Our galvanized steel piers have shored existing structures and provided solutions for commercial foundation problems.
Dalinghaus Construction is here to help you never settle. For our commercial structure owners, we’re here to help educate, guide and give you direction for your next course of action.
I. Foundation Problems
A. Expansive Soil
What is expansive soil?
Expansive soil is any type that expands or shrinks depending on moisture volume. Clay soils are notorious for causing issues for both residential and commercial structures. Undue stress is being put on a structure, whether the soils are drying and contracting or taking in moisture and expanding.
Expansive soils go by many names – expanding soil, expansive clays, shrink-well soils, and heavable soils. It’s the one friend who has a ton of nicknames from all the people familiar with them.
When the soils dry out and contract, it causes foundation settlement. An area or section of a structure is sinking into the ground. Seismic activity, climate, gravity, and time contribute to settlement issues.
When the soil shrinks, they compress and dry out. This results in removing structural support to a structure and causing damage. You will also see large cracks and fissures in the soil.
When soil soaks in moisture, they expand, causing foundation heave – thrusting an area of a structure upward. This is less common compared to foundation settlement. However, you’re likely to see this happening if you have a pressurized pipe leak that goes unnoticed.
Fun Fact – expansive soils can expand to over 10% when exposed to moisture. On top of that, colder areas can expand water by 9%.
All types of foundations are prone to these issues. And this is due to a multitude of reasons.
Changes in volume also affect the pressure on a home or structure, which can cause serious damage.
Expansive soils include:
You’ll find expansive soils everywhere, especially in Southern California, Arizona, and Nevada.
Builders are required by law to have geotechnical engineers do a soil report to identify the type of soil and give recommendations to builders, regardless of a residential home or a commercial structure. They will provide recommendations for the type of foundation that should be built or what should be used to reinforce an existing project.
To learn more about expansive soils, check out our article What is Expansive Soil?
Expansive soil can cause damage to structures and projects
This soil can be problematic depending on its contact with water. They can cause problems for structures and construction projects. Expansive soil causes problems such as:
- Structural damage to driveways and driveways.
- Foundation settlement and heave.
- Damage to pipelines and other utilities. Cracks in walls and ceilings.
- Lateral movement of foundations and retaining walls, especially on slopes.
Different stresses will be put on structures, resulting in signs and symptoms of a failing foundation.
While this article is more for residential homes, you’ll find similar signs and symptoms in your commercial structure.
Check out – The Ultimate Guide to Signs and Symptoms of Foundation Problem.
You’ll find issues such as:
- Exterior cracks
- You might find cracks in the exterior of your commercial building, regardless of the material. As time goes on, the cracks will expand.
- Interior cracks
- Pay attention to the drywall. Are there cracks? Is the mold separating?
- Different cracks may give various signs.
- Hairline cracks – They aren’t large and aren’t a direct indicator of foundation issues. Sometimes the moisture in the air can cause cracks naturally.
- Cracks large enough to fit a quarter – =Yeah, this is a sign of a larger issue. If you can put a quarter in a crack like you’re putting in tokens for an arcade machine, have your foundation looked evaluated.
- Foundation settlement
- We’ve gone over this subject. You’ll likely notice your building settling differentially. This is when you’ll want piers installed on the exterior (and maybe the interior) to maintain building stability.
- Foundation heaving
- This is also another subject we’ve gone over. Commercial buildings are already heavy. It’s impressive when expansive soils will push the building upward. This will also affect the building’s interior, doorways, and other areas.
- Foundation heaving can be an issue of a pressurized leak. Too much moisture will be the number one culprit to foundation heave.
- Foundation heave can also be due to improper drainage. The land around a building should be graded so moisture will go away from a structure.
- Pressure on the foundation can result in movement. Moisture in the soil and expansion will most certainly increase the pressure.
- The doors don’t open or close properly
- If doors stick constantly, you likely have an issue with your foundation. Interior doors will stick together while exterior doors might appear uneven and drag.
- With French doors and other double doors, doors might not meet in the middle. Sometimes they won’t hang correctly.
- If doors stick constantly, you likely have an issue with your foundation. Interior doors will stick together while exterior doors might appear uneven and drag.
- Exterior fascia gaps
- This is the material that connects the roof to the exterior walls. This can sometimes mean that your property may be reacting to humidity, but it can also be a more serious foundation issue.
- It’s more common for multi-story commercial buildings such as condominiums and apartment complexes.
- Plumbing issues
- You don’t want these issues in general, especially if you work in restaurants. Restaurants and institutional properties are notorious for having this issue.
- Less clogged pipes and lack of pressure might mean there is a foundation issue.
- Shifting foundations can cause force against existing plumbing. This can often go unnoticed.
- Check water bills to notice any spikes in usage.
- Reasons plumbing fails:
- Breakdowns aren’t addressed fast enough.
- Lack of maintenance.
- Excessive water pressure. This is big in causing damage to faucets.
- Age. Age can ruin everything. If pipes or fixtures are too old, replace them as soon as possible.
- Sloping/sagging/uneven floors
- You might see ceramic tiles start to crack, separated or bunched up linoleum, or wood floors start warping.
- If floors start to dip or feel off-level, you likely have a foundation issue.
- A way to test this is to put a ball or marble on the floor. If it rolls away and gets faster as it moves (aka accelerates), you have a problem.
- You might see ceramic tiles start to crack, separated or bunched up linoleum, or wood floors start warping.
- Counters and cabinets separate from a wall
- You might see gaps from the corners of a cabinet to a wall. If the gaps get wider over time, it’s likely a sign of a foundation issue.
- When walls aren’t level, other things in your building also might not be level.
Without a solid foundation, your commercial building will experience a multitude of problems. If you find one of these problems, it might not be a foundation issue. However, you’re more than likely to have a foundation issue if you find more than one of these signs.
Don’t ignore these signs.
These damages won’t magically get better. Give it time and they’re almost sure to get worse. If these signs get worse, the more expensive and extensive your repair will be. Preserve your building while you can.
For more to read, check out this in-depth article “What is Expansive Soil?”
B. Compromised Soil Conditions
No matter what region you’re in, no soils are the same – unless it’s the same soil (duh). As much as we want to think they are, we can’t exactly see underground.
The soil in east San Diego County won’t be the same as in Lake Elsinore. And we sure know soil conditions in Los Angeles, CA, won’t be the same as in Phoenix, AZ.
One of the first steps in commercial construction is acquiring land for commercial use. You may already have an idea of a building in your ideal location. But how do you know if the location has suitable soil?
Thankfully, soil can be altered in areas where it seems unsuitable.
Soil compaction is essential, especially if you don’t want your commercial building to move around willy-nilly. Compaction reduces the void space, eliminating the amount of air between soil particles. This is the practice of densifying soils by applying a mechanical compaction effort to densify soil by reducing void space.
So you’re applying pressure onto the soil to get rid of the air space to reduce the likelihood of settlement. This is excellent for a building, parking lot, roadway, or runway to reduce the likelihood of pavement failure, which would result in maintenance or repairs.
By eliminating air in the ground, you’re less likely to have your structure deal with foundation settlement. This is an essential part of the construction process since it provides a strong working platform – both during construction and once the pavement of your structure is in place.
Importance of soil compaction
Like the point we’re beating like a dead horse, there is a reduction of voids in soils. Load-bearing capacity is also increased for commercial and residential use. As soils are compact, more friction is applied to the particles in the soil. The soil becomes stiffer and reduces the chance of settling or heaving.
95 percent compaction is preferred
What does this mean?
This means the soil has been compacted by 95 percent of the possible soil density through compactive efforts. This percentage is used as a target compaction threshold so construction projects can be on a solid platform.
It would be cool if there was compaction that completely eliminates the possibility of soil expanding or contracting, but that would be like trying to make a part of a neutron star, causing neutrons to compact together.
This is a hyperbolic comparison, but you might see the point. Soil compaction is done to eliminate moisture being an issue for commercial structures. Getting the soils as close together and increasing friction is effective for commercial use.
Fun fact – a tablespoon of a neutron star would weigh more than the entirety of the human race.
Soil Compaction Equipment
Steamrollers have paved the way for modern equipment to compact soil – pun intended. There are many options used to increase soil density and strengthen the soil and material.
These are lightweight and portable units that quickly apply consecutive impacts to soil. Some are rammers, vibratory plate compactors, rollers, etc. The equipment depends on the amount of land that needs to be compacted, the type of soil, geometrical constraints, etc.
They are effective when working in confined spaces.
Geotechnical engineers can help owners determine issues in the soil before construction.
They conduct soil and site evaluations by going deep into the ground to acquire samples. The depth of this evaluation varies depending on the size and height of the proposed building. Smaller buildings may only need a few meters while larger multistory buildings might need to go to further depths.
Soils unsuitable for construction
Not every part of the United States has amazing soil conditions to construct great commercial buildings.
There might be high organic content in the soil that’s amazing for growing crops. Can’t say the same for construction, especially with load-bearing specifications. These soils break down over time, which compromises the structure.
High water tables can also be an issue. Water can create hydrostatic pressure that can push against the foundation, weakening it over time. This can be a larger issue in climates that endure freezing conditions.
Human interference with pollutants contaminates the soil. Industrial waste, old backfill, coal slags, or dredging deposits thrown out long ago can cause heavy metal contamination. These pollutants can affect the structural integrity of a building which needs to be addressed before construction.
We will go over contaminated soils in this next section.
C. Contaminated Soil Conditions
This is not something you want to deal with. Contaminated soils delay projects and becomes a time-consuming problem for builders and contractors.
Soil is complex with mixtures of minerals, various lifeforms, water, and organic materials.
Harmful products might be poured into some areas, whether intentionally or accidentally. They can hurt people, plants, animals, and structures.
Job sites can be halted when under construction due to contaminated soil. When jobs are halted, building costs can increase. The contamination can harm people, plants, animals, the rest of the environment, and a future building – especially its foundation.
Working the logistics and cost of dealing with contaminated soil beforehand will help you tremendously.
While there will be time delays, identifying and classifying the contaminated area is a must. This will be followed by safe, compliant, and expensive handling of the materials – which also causes further delays. But it has to be done. The soil must be managed using the best practice guidelines.
Also, there is a legal incentive to address contaminated soils. The responsibility lies on property owners and their developers to manage contaminated soils by relevant legislation and best practice guidelines.
Causes for contaminated soil
Manufacturing situations are mainly responsible for contaminated soil.
- Demolition exposes the soil to asbestos fibers.
- Fuel storage release to hydrocarbons.
- Steelworks release lead.
- Mining releases sulphuric acid, arsenic, and mercury.
- Leaks, spills, and pipeline ruptures contaminate the soil with agricultural, industrial, and human waste.
Contaminated soils affecting foundations
The water in contaminated soil can contain pollutants like chlorides, magnesium, and sulfate ions, which will deteriorate your concrete foundation. When your foundation deteriorates, it becomes weaker over time. If left unaddressed, there could eventually be structural issues. Structural issues can be dangerous, especially if your building is populated throughout the day.
So you’ll want to figure out how to combat these pollutants from compromising your structure. Maintaining the integrity of a foundation may require applying a below-grade foundation barrier and drainage board.
What to do if you suspect contaminated soils
You’ll want to see the site history and see if there is a potential for contamination. Look at maps, trade information, technical data, photo records, utility date, etc.
You may have a concern or a lack of history on the site. Soil samples will be obtained at different locations and depths to find out if there is contamination, determine the nature, and find out the level of severity.
Consider hiring a soil remediation expert to analyze the soil and come up with a plan to remove the threat.
To limit the spread of contamination, excavation and removal of the problematic soil will be involved.
Employees on-site for cleanup will have Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) stored with anything that isn’t reusable and properly disposed of.
If materials are transported off-site, vehicles licensed to carry hazardous materials will be used to transport them. Good environmental contractors will have the required equipment and vehicles to transport the contaminated materials.
You’ll want the contaminants to be treated. This will involve physical methods, biological, and chemical. This all depends on the chemicals present and to what extent.
Biological treatment –
Uses indigenous bacteria to break down hydrocarbons from petroleum storage in the soil.
Chemical treatment –
Uses reduction on oxidation to convert into non-hazardous soils.
Physical treatment –
Using water and heat to separate or remove contaminants.
D. Settling Structures
Settling structures will have an area that sinks into the ground. This is primarily due to soil conditions, whether from a lack of moisture in the soil or seismic activity. Earthquakes are an issue in Southern California.
Settling structures will show cosmetic issues both on the exterior and interior of the building.
You’ll see signs such as:
- Drywall cracks
- Stucco cracks
- Concrete slab cracks
- Ceiling cracks
- Tile cracks
- Chimney cracks
- Leaning chimney
- Sloping floors
- Doors and windows are hard to open and close
- Water leaks
If settling commercial buildings are neglected, the issues can go from cosmetic to structural. You do not want to be in a commercial building with structural problems. It puts people – whether it’s families, workers, visitors, etc. – in danger.
Foundation settlement can be divided into two categories
- Uniform –
A structure settles as an entire cohesive unit across all square footage. This isn’t too common.
- Differential –
A structure sinks unevenly. This is far more common.
All foundations come in various shapes, sizes, and carry different weights. Unregulated footings and compaction are huge culprits of foundation settlement.
Soil moves. Crazy concept, but it does. Especially in the “active zone,” which is typically the first six feet of soil below grade susceptible to movement due to contact with moisture. When an active zone lacks moisture, the soils contract, which results in foundation settlement.
Regardless of how your structure settles, it will cost money to repair. Expansive soils will do billions of dollars in the United States every year, whether through cosmetic damage, destroying pipelines, cracking roads, or other types of damage to various structures.
Signs of foundation settlement
Whether it’s a residential home or a large commercial building, they’ll face similar signs and symptoms such as sticky doors, cracked drywall, and sloping floors.
Combating foundation settlement
You’ll read much more on addressing foundation settlement later, but here are summaries of some forms.
- Mud jacking – plumbing slurry beneath your foundation. This isn’t always the most effective form of addressing foundation settlement, but it can work.
- Underpinning – Using galvanized steel piers to support your foundation. Some companies will use concrete piers, but they are not as effective.
- Polyurethane injection – This is typically a more effective alternative compared to mud jacking. Polyurethane foam is injected into the soil to fill voids or lightly lift a structure. The foam expands rapidly, having a 90% cure rate in 15 minutes.
- Push piers / helical pier / and polyurethane combination – this is one of the ultimate foundation repair methods used to address foundation settlement. Push and helical piers are anchored to your home as an underpinning to stabilize a structure. If the structure is lifted, polyurethane will fill any voids in the soil.
The galvanized steel push and helical piers are favorites in addressing foundation settlement. They work well in weak soil and can easily be placed comfortably into bedrock or competent soils.
So if you were to take the active zone away from a structure, the push piers and helical piers will act as stilts to hold up the structure.
They also allow for a structure to be lifted to maximum practical recovery.
Not to mention galvanized steel piers have a lifetime warranty applied with their installation (for most companies).
E. Limited Access Areas
Buildings come in various shapes and sizes, coming with their own characteristics that need consideration before work begins. Sometimes it comes with issues during the construction process such as limited access issues.
The efficiency of a construction job can be negatively affected by limited access problems. You want your projects to be as efficient as possible. Unfortunately, a common hurdle is due to limited access problems, especially in densely populated areas. It will be those beginning phases that need earthmoving work and for materials to be on site.
Construction jobs are no strangers to hurdles as work goes on, even during the actual project commences.
There will be battles with the permanent features of the structures – walls, buildings, adjacent structures, waterways, trees, or other natural features. These obstacles can reduce efficiency, which also means a loss of time and increased expenses.
You want an efficient job.
By Osha regulations, limited access areas will be accommodated before a project, established before structures such as masonry walls.
A limited access zone remains until a task is supported to prevent collapse and overturning.
So while some aspects of limited access inhibit project efficiency, it is also for safety. Regulating and accommodating these areas can still allow a project to be efficient.
Construction sites are already hazardous as it is. You already see plenty of areas susceptible to risk – Contractors, suppliers, consultants, and other workers who are going on and off the site. There is the risk of:
- Hazardous materials.
- Workplace violence.
- Unsecured heights.
- Heated metals and fire risk.
- Equipment and vehicles.
- Powerful tools.
- Violence in the workplace.
Sometimes having unlimited access is not a risk worth taking. It can sometimes improve efficiency and save money.
You want to be sure issues such as theft, accidents, injury, and vandalism are avoided.
Managing restricted access points
Control access to your construction site
Figure out the number of access points needed, who should be there, and at what time. Have the appropriate fencing to act as a perimeter, keeping out those who aren’t authorized. Fences at least show borders where unauthorized workers – or the general public – shouldn’t enter.
Consider factors such as the size of the project, the amount of personnel needed, and the vehicles needed to go in and out. This is why most contractors can’t be too optimistic about project timelines, expecting something to be finished as soon as possible.
Not everything goes to plan in new construction.
While limited access points come off more as a burden, it has long-term benefits in safety. Those burdens can be accommodated and made efficient if done as well as possible. Make sure it’s in the project timeline so everyone – ranging from the contractor to the workers – knows what goes on and when.
But what is a project timeline exactly?
F. Project Timelines
These timelines are what construction managers use to organize projects, going from individual tasks, to creating milestones, and attaching dates and deadlines. This will tell you what work will be done and when.
When creating a new structure, a new foundation needs to be made to carry a massive load. That’s where Dalinghaus Construction comes in. We create project timelines so we can (literally) lay down the groundwork for the new structure being built.
Each worker has a milestone that needs to be met. They also tie resources to these milestones, setting them aside for the completion of each task.
What’s considered when creating a project timeline
Many forces contribute to a project timeline, whether external or internal.
Size and scope of a project
This shouldn’t be a surprise. The larger the scope of a project, you may need more time. There may be expenses that need to be accounted for, more materials, more complex procedures, more labor to be accounted for, and other parts to manage.
Smaller projects might need one or two people to do projects and only takes a few days with fewer materials.
If you’re gonna build something, you need the necessary tools and resources. It’s important to have the availability of materials, labor, and other resources so the construction timeline isn’t impacted.
If you haven’t hired for a necessary portion of the project, a phase might need to be delayed until the proper workers are found to do it.
If there are delays from a supplier of materials, that can also cause delays. This needs to be taken into account.
We can’t control mother nature. When we try, she fights back. And she can hit hard. Hard enough to where projects can be incapacitated for a few days.
While other industries don’t have to deal with weather, construction companies always have to deal with it. And every area of the united states has to deal with different climates and temperatures.
Determining a buffer for bad weather is difficult. Looking at past projects is effective for guidance.
This issue can be accommodated by working Saturdays or having the flexibility to do projects indoors.
As we said earlier, mother earth can slap back and slap back hard. There are some aspects of this earth we have zero control over, ranging from the rain in the sky to natural disasters.
For example, Southern California is prone to earthquakes. Earthquakes come in various magnitudes. Usually not big enough to cause too much damage (*knock on wood*), but Southern California is by the San Andreas fault. So anything can happen.
Permitting and regulations
These are easy to dismiss, but they can really delay a project if a permit hasn’t been issued or approved. Permits can sometimes take weeks depending on what city you’re in.
Practices for creating project timelines
It takes years to master this. Some theories go around to help enhance the process. Dalinghaus Construction, with over 100 years of combined experience, has learned these practices for larger-scale commercial projects, especially for helping make the best foundations possible for structures.
You have to be thorough and organized when creating a timeline. You need to know what milestones you want to reach and when you’ll reach them.
This isn’t to say “be a pessimist,” No one needs that negativity during a construction project. It’s always good to have that optimism. But you need to set reasonably achievable goals.
For instance, you don’t want to set a certain phase for 30 days when you’ve never finished it past 45 days. It doesn’t quite make sense. Wanting to break those records with equal efficiency is fine, but not at the expense of cost and resources.
Things happen outside of your control, whether due to weather, subcontractor delays, a lack of material, etc.
Use daily reports to stay on track
Dalinghaus uses Buildertrend for daily reports and updates. That way we know our project’s progress and clients can check on what is happening. It’s very transparent.
The daily reports will tell you what’s happening on a job site, what was accomplished, and where those accomplishments are compared to the project schedule.
This is extremely important for spotting potential problems and delays. Finding those delays gives time to make the proper adjustments to get the project back on track.
Attach resources to milestones
Don’t schedule something if you don’t have the labor or materials to do it.
Having aspects such as labor, materials, and equipment ensures everything is available.
Benefits of creating project timelines
These timelines will improve how construction is done in an organized manner, as well as make the project transparent to those who need to see the timeline.
This should be an obvious one. This allows you to know when activities are taking place, what those activities are, the resources used for them, what the next activity is, how many people will be part of the project, and much more.
This is a basic structure for projects since they are necessary for any construction contractor or firm.
A timeline will let you know what is possible in terms of deadlines. Goals can be set appropriately so a client isn’t misled.
Don’t be too optimistic about the timeline. Delays can come out of nowhere.
The project timeline avoids delays that disrupt the project. That way the construction contractor won’t be in poor standing.
All stakeholders – ownership, foremen, you, and anyone else involved or interested in the project – will keep everyone involved and on the same page, clearly communicating the construction workflow, tasks that need to be done, tasks that are done, and who is responsible for each activity.
Any questions about the project should be seen in the project timeline.
Fewer cost increases
Being optimistic about a timeline doesn’t compensate for potential disruptions during a project. The optimism doesn’t compensate for cost increases – workers still need to be paid for the delays and other costs. Bad timelines cause unnecessary spending on resources such as labor, materials, and equipment.
This can also lead to a Change Order with a client – which no one wins from. No one wants to be spending more, and no one wants to be a bad guy with bad news.
II. Deep Foundation Solutions
A. Helical Piles
These piles, also known as helical piers, are excellent for foundation repair of any commercial structure and reinforcing a foundation for new construction projects.
Helical piles are made of galvanized steel, like push piers. These aren’t pushed down using the weight of a building. Instead, the starter pile uses helices at the bottom to be screwed into the ground – similar to how you would with a screw in a piece of wood. They’re hydraulically screwed until they reach competent soil. The higher the torque, the higher the axial capacity.
This method is incredibly effective at combating foundation settlement and foundation heave. They’re effective to the point they’re an industry standard for foundation repair. This is why you’ll see many of these types of piers for both commercial construction and foundation repair.
Think of these piles as though they hold a building effectively on stilts. They go past the active zone – the soil immediately under the structure (usually six feet) most susceptible to movement – and stabilize a structure once the piles are anchored onto brackets.
Helical piles are also an effective deep foundation solution.
They’re solutions that don’t cause nearly as much soil disturbance compared to Caissons and Grouted piles, being completed in ⅓ the time compared to other foundation solutions.
They also have a smaller upfront cost. They’re more affordable, just as effective as other foundation solutions, and save time for completing projects.
The amount of helical piers you need depends on the area of a structure affected by foundation settlement or heave. It also depends on how light a structure is. A heavy commercial building can exert enough weight to make push piers effective.
Helical piers will be placed anywhere from 6-8 feet apart depending on the structure’s load. The weight the building exerts and poor soil conditions might make pier spacing closer together.
Lifting or stabilizing a building will also dictate spacing. Lifting may require these piers to be placed closer together.
Think about it – lifting a building isn’t exactly easy. Helical piers and hydraulics allow humans to think they have superpowers. With the technology and equipment, humans have figured out a way to lift a building.
As for the amount needed, the area of the home most affected will determine where each pier will be installed.
For a more in-depth look, check out What are Helical Piers?
But are helical piles effective?
Like a comparison using a famous Nintendo franchise, electric types are super effective against water types. And galvanized steel helical piles are super effective compared to other foundation repair methods.
When it comes to commercial structures, galvanized steel is a way better choice compared to other types of concrete underpinnings.
Some people will pay for the cheaper concrete alternative, which can be more detrimental than effective.
Concrete underpinnings don’t often go past the active zone, meaning a building is still susceptible to foundation settlement or heaving. They sometimes accelerate the settlement process since they can act more like an anchor instead of stilts.
Also, concrete underpinnings don’t have a lifetime warranty compared to their helical pier and push pier galvanized steel counterparts. And the legendary Stan “The Man” Lee once said: “Just sayin’.”’
Learn more about the differences between push and helical piers compared to concrete underpinnings.
Also, check out How Many helical piers do I Need for my Foundation Repair?
Cost of helical piers for foundation repair
A pier can range anywhere from $2,500-$3,500.
However, if the pier needs a higher load-bearing capacity, this can cost around $3,500-$5,000.
Helical piles for new construction
When new construction is happening, your foundation first needs to be reinforced. That’s where helical piles come in. Helical piles are spaced out within an excavated trench for a new footing to be poured. They are installed until they’re at the required depth and the proper amount of torque has been achieved.
New construction helical piles are effective in ensuring the new structure is built on a solid foundation.
The load of the new structure is transferred to the helical piles to support the structure without experiencing any settlement or heave.
These guys do the heavy lifting. They ask the question, “do you even lift, bro?”
B. Grouted Piles
Grouted piles are used to displace soils, especially when they’re soft. Helical piers could be used in the place of grouted piles, but the amount it would take to reach competent soil would be considered impractical.
These piles have a lead section that acts as a standard helical pile.
These piles will increase soil compression 10-23% compared to a regular non-grouting helical pier. They are also capable of being installed to depths of 150 ft.
These piles have an added displacement cone to form a borehole to more effectively fill in with grout. Grout is put in the hole using a hose.
Turbine-like blades are on the piles to propel grout down along the shaft.
Grout is then forced down the shaft and out ports located at each helix with the displacement cone acting as a packer preventing the upward flow of grout.
Grouted piles have similarities between drilled displacement piles and hollow barred injection micro piles.
C. Helical Tiebacks
Southern California has an abundance of hills and mountains, ranging all the way from San Diego to just below the Bay Area – and further, but we don’t work past the bay area. Like how dirt and soil like to stay grounded and shift from under a structure, soils like to move down a hill. Sometimes soil will move toward your building. You may see your retaining wall is pulling a Michael Jackson lean.
Thankfully, a good solution to this lateral movement is helical tiebacks.
Helical Tie-backs are an amazingly cost-effective solution to stabilize the laterally moving soil.
Helical Tiebacks are very similar to helical piles, except instead of dealing with vertical movement, they combat lateral movement. They end up anchoring a structure into the dense, native soils that lock a structure or wall into place and fend off lateral movement.
Do you remember in Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith when Obi-Wan Kenobi exclaims, “it’s over, Anakin. I have the high ground”? The laterally moving soils are Obi-Wan Kenobi, while the helical tiebacks are Anakin on the low ground. Except helical tiebacks haven’t turned to the dark side to become Darth Tieback.
Tiebacks put the battle against the laterally moving soils to a stalemate. But with time, gravity and the soil will win. Though not for many, many years.
Helical Tiebacks are composed of three parts:
- The lead/thread bar.
- A series of extensions.
- An end cap/adapter.
This part of the Tieback does as it implies: it acts as the leading force to the tieback system. It has helices – which vary in size depending on the soil condition – that look like a massive screw. The weaker the soils, the larger the helices. The stronger and more compact soils, the smaller the helices.
The different-sized helices – or “flights” – are designed to produce the required capacity needed to retain whatever the structure is anchoring. They’re also able to achieve the required depth into strong native soils.
The extensions are the portion between the lead section and the end cap adapter. They act as those supportive friends you need to help stabilize your life and work as support.
They don’t make the rest of the Helical Tieback look exciting, but they sure do give support.
The number of extensions can be just one. It can also be ten. It depends on where the soil is strong enough so the lead and adapter can do their work.
These portions have couplers at one end and a receiver at the other to fit with another extension or a lead and end adapter. These are always the in-betweens to the lead and adapter portions of the Tiebacks.
They’re the part… at the end. Wow. Shocker. I know You can’t believe it.
In all seriousness, they’re the part connected to a steel plate or whaler beam to restrain existing structures. So they’re the endpoint.
They are usually connected to a new construction cap that connects to a square plate, which varies in size.
The cap is surrounded by rebar in a wall and encased in concrete, becoming part of the wall. This links the rest of the wall to the tieback.
Helical tiebacks don’t need much in terms of equipment. They only require a drive head and a hydraulic power pack. These aren’t intrusive and won’t compromise your gates or landscaping.
What’s cool about helical tiebacks – other than working against gravity to prevent further lateral movement – is that they can be used in conjunction with helical piles.
When you don’t want helical tiebacks
Dense soil or sand is difficult for helical tiebacks. The material is difficult and doesn’t allow the helices to go deep enough to be an effective anchor.
Remember: the deeper a helical tieback is installed, there is more soil that needs to be moved. This means that your tieback will work more effectively. This means rock soils don’t give enough depth and result in erratic installation readings. So the tieback may never achieve the load required for efficiency.
Rocks tend to be harder, causing a spike in loading pressure when the helices are caught onto them.
For more information on helical tiebacks, check out What are Helical Tiebacks? (Definition, Components, and When to Use).
You want to also retain some information with How are Retaining Walls Repaired?
D. Push Piers
Push piers are galvanized steel tubes that are hydraulically pushed into the ground – by using the weight of a structure – until they reach bedrock. They’re anchored into a foundation’s prepped footing by using a remedial bracket to secure and stabilize the structure.
A large amount of PSI is required to push these piers down into competent soils. With a large amount of PSI needed to get into these deep soils, a collar will be attached to the starting pier to reduce skin friction.
If you have a commercial building – even with one story – it will exert enough weight for push piers to be effective. Like any other commercial building, yours is meant to hold many people.
If there is a large amount of skin friction, the less likely the piers will reach bedrock or competent soils.
A guide sleeve is used to be pushed into the ground so the piers don’t go off course.
Facts about push piers:
- Push piers can balance loads of structures anywhere between 80,000 to 160,000 pounds.
- Push piers are hydraulically driven into the ground using the weight of a structure. The lighter the building, the less likely push piers will be used.
- If push piers can’t be used, galvanized steel helical piers will be used in their place.
- A lighter building would be lifted well before the push pier makes it to competent soils or bedrock.
To understand the differences between push piers and helical piles, think of them like so:
- Push piers are like nails.
- Helical piles are like screws.
Push piers are excellent for stabilizing or lifting a structure to the optimal level.
Push piers are less invasive
Installing push piers is also less invasive compared to installing a caisson or other foundation repair methods. A 3×3 square is made for each installation to expose the concrete footing for the piers to be installed.
You won’t have a huge excavator digging into the ground to get to a certain depth before putting in a pier. The push piers are hydraulically pushed into the soil until reaching their desired depth.
If any concrete is in the way, we’re able to drill through it to work in that small space.
Steps to installing a push pier
Step 1 –
Painter’s tape will be placed at six-foot intervals – the feet can vary depending on the project – around the exterior of the structure so the production team knows where the push piers will be installed.
Step 2 –
Excavations are dug 3×3 feet at each pier location deep enough to where the area underneath the concrete footing is exposed.
There is enough room where we don’t have to block off areas due to the project.
Step 3 –
A jackhammer is used on the footing to chip it down so the brackets can fit firmly for efficiency. They are then mounted against the footing.
Note – These brackets can handle a weight capacity of 40 thousand pounds.
Step 4 –
Piers are hydraulically driven – using a hydraulic ram – through the bracket to bedrock and/or competent soil. The quality of the soil will cause the depths they’re driven to vary.
On average, they’re driven about 25 feet.
This isn’t the fastest process in the world. They’re driven into the ground at the speed of a turtle. Slowly, but still winning the race.
What’s cool about these piers is people can still move around in the structure during installation. Areas won’t need to be quarantined off.
If worse comes to worst, the noise of the installation process might irritate a writer with an office by the exterior. It might cause them to lose concentration on the task at hand.
(Totally not speaking for myself. Moving on.).
Step 5 –
You can choose to stabilize your structure to prevent further foundation settlement. You can also lift the affected portion of the building to practical recovery.
Lifting will inevitably create voids under the structure’s foundation. Voids are filled with Polyurethane Foam to eliminate pockets in the soil and support the foundation.
And it’ll keep those pests from coming in.
Step 6 –
When everything is complete, the areas where the piers were installed will be backfilled.
Any drilled-out concrete done for excavation will be replaced. That’s one less thing you have to worry about.
Step 7 –
Stop worrying about the foundation of the structure, especially with the lifelong warranty on the piers.
Enjoy your life by getting back to work!
Push piers are affordable
Each individual push pier location can cost around $2000 to $3000.
Compare that to caissons, which can cost double for foundation projects.
E. Polyurethane Soil Densification
Polyurethane sounds like a massive technological device used for construction. However, polyurethane is just a foam used to fill voids in the soil under a structure after a lift.
What the heck is polyurethane?
Polyurethane is a foam composed of two materials known as polyol and diisocyanate – a resin and isocyanate – that fuse together to make a foam that solidifies. The foam rapidly expands during the reaction process. Think of it like shaving cream after it comes out of the can.
The individual chemicals are put into the soil using an application gun. The chemicals will then fuse together to create the polyurethane foam that cures at 90% in 15 minutes. And it’s as hard as concrete.
Polyurethane injection is generally a better alternative to mud jacking, which involves using concrete to reinforce and raise a previously settled structure.
There are a couple of issues with mud jacking:
- When concrete dries, it contracts.
- The weight of concrete can act as an anchor, sinking further into the soil.
Polyurethane foam is 97% lighter than concrete and stays expanded.
You’ll definitely want to look at our article Polyurethan Injection vs Mud Jacking (Weight, Application, and Cure Time).
Applications polyurethane is used for:
- Void fill.
- Void fill after foundation lift/stabilization.
- General soil stabilization (Permeates, Densifies, Stabilizes, and adds rigidity).
- Lifting and re-leveling flatwork.
- Driveways, sidewalks, pool decks, and other hazards.
- Deep injection
Dangers of Polyurethane
It isn’t dangerous.
Polyurethanes and chemicals are safe to the point they’re used in pacemakers placed in people’s bodies.
The individual chemicals aren’t something you want to swim around in, but the foam is environmentally safe. So your kids, family, and pets won’t be in danger.
When the chemicals fuse, they react within 5-10 seconds, giving an uncomfortable smell that quickly dissipates.
The odor can be toxic in an open area, but the chemicals are put directly into the soil. So being exposed to toxins isn’t an issue.
If anything, polyurethane is more irritating than it is dangerous.
You would have to be close to the poly as the reaction happens. Your eyes might feel uncomfortable, your lungs might be momentarily irritated, and your nose will endure a nasty smell for a few seconds.
So let’s say something happened with the application gun so the chemicals start to react on your skin rather than in the soil. The polyurethane heats up during the foaming process, but not enough to burn you. Your skin might be uncomfortable, but you won’t need to worry about burns.
And if it hardens on your skin, you may have to pull off a few hairs.
If the application gun does fail, we take precautions so your belongings won’t be damaged. It’s always good to prepare to reduce damages.
If you’re still worried about polyurethane being dangerous, look at our article Is Polyurethane Dangerous? (Why You Don’t Need to Worry). Spoiler alert: it isn’t dangerous.
III. Contact Dalinghaus Construction for commercial services
You know more about commercial services for foundations, whether it’s in creating new foundations or foundation repair. We have no problem being a part of projects repairing any foundation.
Residential? Commercial? No problem. We’ll make sure you never settle.
We can help with your commercial needs or commercial dreams. Make your structure strong by making your foundation stronger. We can provide commercial services for you.
For your commercial needs in Southern California, Arizona, and Nevada, call Dalinghaus Construction at (877) 360-9227 for any questions or book an appointment. For foundation repair on a commercial structure, schedule a FREE foundation evaluation.