Every state has its unique topography, geological formations, and soil composition that define that distinctive terrain and set it apart from that of neighboring areas. In Georgetown, Texas, much of the soil has high clay content, often referred to as “expansive soil.” A notable property of clay is that it expands and contracts according to the amount of ground moisture present. This causes the soil beneath Texas homes to rise and fall with the weather’s rain and drought cycles.
Root Causes of Foundation Damage
There’s a lot going on underneath the ground at our feet, and many reasons the soil surface might change. Trees planted too close to a home’s foundation spread their roots beneath the foundation causing it to heave upward. Underground lakes known as aquifers provide much of the water that people depend upon. Waco and Georgetown area golf courses draw tremendous amounts of water from these aquifers to keep their courses green and pretty. Unfortunately, this custom, combined with fracking, may cause the development of sinkholes.
The reason Texas homeowners should have an interest in the clay content of the soil beneath their homes is that even small shifts in the ground’s surface are apt to lead to major upheavals in the buildings constructed on that unstable ground. This is true whether the house has an elevated foundation or a slab. Foundation problems occur when the earth beneath a building subsides or settles.
The expansion and contraction of the ground may cause structural damage within the home. Symptoms of foundation problems occur mostly within the home. The damage observed depends upon whether the soil beneath the home is subsiding or expanding, which depends upon its clay content.
First Signs of Trouble
Cracks in the foundation may not be the first sign that the Georgetown TX homeowner has of problems in the making. Shrubbery and underpinning hide the foundation of most homes, so the first sign that the house is settling may be floors that are no longer level, cracks in walls and between floorboards, broken windows, stuck doors and windows, and moisture inside a sealed basement or crawl space where there was none previously. The repairs to each home and foundation differ depending upon the cause and degree of the problems they’re experiencing.
Never worry needlessly, equip yourself with the truth. Homeowners sometimes wonder what is “normal” to accept in terms of their foundation settling. You can get free foundation inspections from a qualified inspector. It is easier to fix foundation problems when they’re small. Problems grow larger when ignored Don’t allow small, repairable foundation problems to grow so large that a structure becomes compromised. Find out what is going on with your home right away.
Concrete slab and post and beam are the two most widely used types of home foundation. Slab foundations are thick concrete pads, made by pouring concrete over rebar reinforced frames that sit over the top of a bed of sand. The finished slab is 4-6” inches thick. The edges are as wide as 24” to allow for extra support on the perimeter edge. Those that don’t use rebar reinforcement favor post-tension cables for additional strength. Post and beam foundations elevate the home and provide a crawl space for storage and utilities beneath it. The composition of post and beam foundations depends largely upon their construction dates, and range from field stones to cinderblocks.
Preventing Foundation Damage
Georgetown TX homeowners must take preventative measures if the soil beneath their homes contains a lot of clay. Doing so prevents future damage from occurring. Preventative measures involve diverting rain to areas away from the foundation of the home using a combination of gutters, drains, culverts, and other conduits. Homeowners that see a potential problem in advance and who take proactive measures to keep unwanted water from puddling at the base of their home’s foundation save themselves a lot of money.
Ideally, every home sits on a lot with a precise 3-5% downhill, away from the house. Ideally, every homeowner knows the danger of overwatering foundation plants, and the importance of diverting rainwater so it does not puddle around the home’s foundation and sink into the ground below. Sometimes, homeowners must take care to keep the soil around their home’s foundation uniformly moist.
Dealing with Damage
Foundations that have sustained damage are usually likely candidates for repair. Remedial solutions for foundation damage that has already occurred requires raising the house in the places where it has settled. Solutions vary depending upon whether the home’s foundation is a pier and beam type or a poured concrete slab. When the ground shifts beneath concrete slabs, there are two options for its repair. One is the installation of steel piers beneath your’ home’s concrete support beam. The other is to employ pressed concrete pilings.
Pier and beam foundation repair requires shoring beforehand. After they remove the underpinning, they place temporary supports beneath the home to bear its weight for the duration of the repair. Next, the pier installation is prepared. A 2-foot-square hole is dug below the grade of the earth and reinforced with a bundle of rebar through the center, half-filled with concrete.
Hydraulic jacks are used to level the house as the concrete sets. Pre-prepared forms on top of the hardened squares are filled with additional concrete till it reaches the now level beam. This completes the pier that will permanently support the home in a level position.
Pressed piling piers provide another option for foundation repair, one used with great success for decades. Hydraulics pound factory-made concrete cylinders into the ground until the point of refusal underneath the home’s support beams. Pressed piling piers are the industry standard for concrete slab repairs and pier and beam foundations.
In conclusion, the most important information to take away is the importance of acting sooner rather than later any time you suspect a problem. Know what’s going on behind your home’s foundation shrubbery, and pay attention to small things within the home, such as doors and windows that suddenly stick when previously they operated freely. Foundation problems are much like other problems in that they get worse when ignored. Therefore, if you suspect a problem with your home’s foundation, get a professional out to help you remedy the situation before the problem grows.