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Residential Engineering

Foundation Movement

The foundation is the most important part of your structure. Foundations are normally made up of concrete footings laid underground as a structural base to a poured concrete or CMU block wall. Foundation problems should be addressed as soon as they are discovered and before the damage is irreversible. The two most common types of foundation failures are foundation settlement (vertical movement of the footers) and foundation wall bowing (lateral movement of below-grade walls).

Foundation Settlement

Typical signs of foundation settlement are stair-step cracks and vertically sheared bricks or blocks. The most common and typically most economical method of repairing failed foundations that have settled is to install a series of steel underpinning piers below the affected foundation area. The concept is founded on the principle of turning or pushing an anchor into stable subsoil strata until the torque or pressure applied indicates that the necessary load capacity has been achieved. The load-bearing steel shafts are installed independent of the structure and their bearing or holding capacity is verified as each pier is installed.

Adjustable brackets are then attached to the base of foundation walls, connecting the anchors to the foundation. The weight of the home is then shifted to the anchors. In the process, foundations, walls, and floors are repositioned and retained from further movement.

Bowing or Leaning Foundations

Bowing walls will commonly have a long horizontal crack starting near a corner foundation to the opposite corner of the same wall. This crack is typically within the middle third of the wall but can be in the upper third as well. Horizontal cracks in the lower third of the wall are often associated with a shift or offset of blocks rather than a bow of the wall.

These here are the most common remedial methods of stabilizing bowing walls are installing a series of (A) vertical struts or I-beams, (B) wall anchors or dead-man anchors, and (C) carbon strips. Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages and not all methods can be used in every situation.

Damaged Framing

Framing is the backbone of any construction project. The most common types of damaged framing are: cracked or cut roof trusses, bowing or twisting of joists and beams, column bowing, and inadequate connections between framing members. For example, one of the most common in a home improvement situation is a handy man cut where they probably shouldn’t have to accommodate pull-down attic stairs. An inexperienced handy man or homeowner can unintentionally weaken the roof truss and framing system, which ultimately can lead to roof failure.

Retaining Wall Damage

Most retaining wall failures are due to a lack of proper drainage systems behind the wall to reduce hydrostatic (water) pressure. Active failures include bulging, leaning, bowing, and material deterioration due to high moisture content of the retained soils.

A proper drainage system will capture and re-direct surface water infiltration from behind the wall, which dramatically reduces the hydrostatic pressure.

Most situations are often able to be rectified and stabilized and save existing retaining walls by excavating behind them and installing drainage systems rather than demolishing and rebuilding. Stabilizing a retaining wall rather than rebuilding can be a large cost savings.

Wet and Damp Basements

Wet basements or crawl spaces are often sources of immediate and long-term problems. Standing water inside and/or seepage into residential crawl spaces and basements can cause many problems for the homeowner. Wet basements and crawl spaces are sources of high humidity, which can produce surface condensation, mildew and fungi, musty odors, and an unhealthy environment. Such moisture can also cause deterioration of floor joists, beams, sub-flooring, insulation, and electrical-mechanical systems. Prolonged water around the footer and foundation wall can soften the soil and weaken its bearing capacity, increasing the possibility of foundation wall movement. Serious seepage under the foundation footer may erode soil away and cause the wall to settle and crack.