Are you noticing cracks in your foundation, unevenness in your floors, or other signs which might point toward foundation problems? Or perhaps you are thinking of purchasing a home, but you suspect something might be wrong with its foundation.
In either case, it might be time for concrete foundation repair.
In this article, we will go over the common signs and symptoms of foundation problems. We will also discuss basic repair methods for concrete foundation, as well as what you should know about hiring foundation repair contractors.
But first, let’s talk about why you might be experiencing issues with your foundation.
What Causes Problems With Foundation?
In most situations, it is water which compromises the foundation of a structure. Obviously, a flood could damage a foundation, as could an earthquake. Drought conditions can actually lead to foundation issues as well. And if a pipe bursts under a structure, the water that leaks out can cause problems.
But it isn’t always something dramatic that leads to foundation damage. Sometimes, the nature of the soil combined with ordinary weather conditions can be at fault. Poor drainage, nearby tree roots, expansive clay, or improperly compacted fill soils all may be at fault.
Common Symptoms of Foundation Problems
Let’s go over some of the most telling signs that there could be problems with your foundation that require your attention.
If your foundation is visible, you might be able to detect damage to it directly. Walk around the perimeter of your house and look for cracks and deterioration.
You might also notice cracks on the walls of your home, or on other outdoor elements such as columns, railings, doorframes, window frames, and so forth. If the walls of your home feature bricks, some of them could be cracked as well. Take a close look at your moldings. They might show signs of deterioration, or may have shifted out of place.
Have a chimney? Try looking up at it. If you notice it is tilted at an angle, that is another possible sign that your foundation is compromised.
If you have a porch or stoop, check its level. Is it lower than it used to be, like it is sinking into the ground? This can happen when a foundation has issues.
Sometimes, if foundation issues are bad enough, you could even spot visible rotation in your walls.
Finally, try opening and closing your doors and windows. Do they open and close smoothly as they did originally, or have they started sticking?
Along with all the outdoor signs of foundation problems above, you might spot symptoms of damage to your foundation inside your home as well.
Visit your crawl spaces and basement to take a look at the floors and walls. If the floors are uneven or sagging, that can signify foundation problems. The basement walls might also be bowed inward.
While issues with walls and floors will likely be most prominent in basements and crawl spaces, you can also check the walls and floors throughout your home.
You can take a closer look at your doors and windows from inside as well, as it may be easier to detect alignment issues with them from inside the home in some cases.
One more thing you can look for in your home is signs of water damage of any sort. Although water damage does not always point towards a compromised foundation, if you see it in conjunction with any of these other signs, it is quite likely that whatever caused the water damage has also harmed your foundation.
If you notice any of these signs or symptoms, it is important to take action. Whether you are dealing with common cinder block foundation problems or problems with floating slab foundations, frost-resistant foundations, or others, problems will only get worse over time if you do not fix them.
How Do You Diagnose Concrete Foundation Problems?
Before you can repair your concrete foundation, you need to know exactly what is wrong with it.
On your own, you may have been able to determine that an issue exists. But unless you are skilled enough to consider yourself a foundation expert, you are probably going to need assistance with the next steps.
This is when to hire a structural engineer—not a home inspector, as you might initially be tempted to consider. A home inspector probably won’t be able to provide you with much more technical information then you have ascertained on your own.
An engineer, on the other hand, can give you a much better idea what is going on with your foundation and what will be necessary to repair it.
How Do You Repair Foundation Problems?
There are quite a few different methods of foundation repair that have been used in the past and the present. The exact techniques that are needed will depend on the problem, the type of foundation, and the level of disruption you were willing to tolerate.
But chances are good that you will end up needing one of these two modern concrete foundation repair techniques:
1. Slab jacking (mud jacking)
Slab jacking is sometimes written as “slabjacking.” This method gives you an alternative to replacing a concrete foundation that is sinking. The process of slab jacking involves pumping foam or a grout mixture under your existing foundation. Doing so lifts up your concrete slab and can be used to restore an even elevation.
You might think that this method would be intrusive and time-consuming, but actually, it usually just takes several hours. Nobody needs to disturb your lawn and garden in any significant way, and your house and furnishings can all stay put during the process.
Additionally, you do not need to wait for a clear day to have slab jacking done. It can even be raining. So, scheduling this type of repair is pretty straightforward.
What is also great about slab jacking is that once it is done, your slab will be reinforced by the grout that is now underneath. So, it will be stronger than it was originally.
You do not need to wait for anything to cure afterwards, so you can go right back about your routine once the slab jacking is done.
2. Hydraulic jacking (piering)
The other method that is common for foundation repair these days is hydraulic jacking, also referred to as “piering.”
The contractor will use a hydraulic ram to drive steel piers into the ground in the case of push piers. In the case of helical piers, a hydraulic torque motor will be used to screw in steel piers.
A metal head assembly joins the foundation to the piers once they are in place.
With hydraulic jacks, it is possible to lift the foundation up. Afterwards, the steel piers remain in place.
As with slab jacking, piering prevents you from having to replace the entire foundation, saving a vast amount of time, money, and hassle.
It is a bit more intrusive than slab jacking, in that some concrete, soil, and plants may need to be excavated when the piers are installed—but it is still very non-intrusive in comparison to many past techniques (or replacement of the foundation).
Your yard will remain intact throughout the process, aside from the minor excavations just discussed.
Also, there is no need to move furnishings out of the building or stop using it. Once again, you can stay in the home.
What Does Concrete Foundation Repair Cost?
It is impossible to give one set price estimate for concrete foundation repair, because the job required could be large or small.
There is a big difference between needing to fix a minor crack that has not yet impacted the structure of your foundation or home and needing a large job like piering.
Here are some price ranges that are common for various concrete foundation repair jobs:
To repair a crack in your concrete foundation: $250-$800.
To repair a foundation leak: $2,000-$7,000.
To repair a foundation that is sinking with piers: $1,000 to $3,000 per pier.
To repair a sinking foundation with mudjacking: $3-$6 per square foot.
To repair a sinking foundation with foam jacking: $5-$25 per square foot.
To repair bowing walls in your basement: $350-$1,000 per reinforcement strip.
To seal a foundation: $2,000-$7,000.
A typical foundation repair job will probably run you a few thousand dollars. If you are lucky and the problem is small, you might get away with just a few hundred dollars. But if the problem requires extensive repairs, $20,000-$30,000 is a possible price range.
Needing to repair your foundation outright could cost you $40,000.
Here’s the thing—you need to keep in mind that along with the costs of repairing the foundation, there may be additional costs to repair other structural damage to your walls, windows, doors, brick façade, and so on.
The longer you let foundation problems go on and the worse they get, the more repairs may be necessary and the pricier the job will ultimately be.
Should You Do It Yourself or Hire A Pro?
One last question you may have about repairing your foundation is whether you can handle it on your own or you should hire a contractor.
If you are sufficiently skilled and you have the equipment you need, you might be able to handle some minor foundation repair tasks on your own.
But chances are good that you do not have the expertise or equipment to handle a major foundation repair job, especially since you are reading this article.
You need this job to be done right. Mistakes in repairing your foundation will ultimately end up causing more structural problems that add up to be a lot more expensive to repair later.