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The Pennsylvania Guide to Foundation Repair

Are you a homeowner in Pennsylvania looking for information about foundation repair? If so, you’ve landed on the right page. This short but comprehensive guide to foundation repair contains valuable information about common foundation problems, their causes, and repair solutions.  

What Is a Foundation?

A foundation is what a building sits on so that it doesn’t sink into the ground. 

Usually, foundations are made of concrete and designed to withstand the weight of the building and its contents. 

There are different types of foundations, and the one chosen depends on the local soil conditions, the type of structure it will support, and local building code regulations. In the US, most residential foundations are slabs, crawl spaces, or basements.  

What Causes Most Foundation Problems?

The two main causes of foundation problems are differential settlement and hydrostatic pressure.

Differential Foundation Settlement

Differential foundation settlement is when the foundation settles into the ground unevenly. The best way to describe this is via an illustration:

Differential settlement places a lot of stress on the foundation, and can result in severe structural damage if not promptly corrected. Common signs of differential settlement include wall cracks, doors and windows that don’t open and close properly, and uneven floors. 

So, What Causes Differential Settlement?

The most common causes of differential settlement include the following: 

  • Expansive soil – Expansive soil contains a lot of clay. Because of this, it expands when it soaks up moisture and then shrinks when it dries out. This creates movement under the foundation that can eventually lead to differential settlement.  
  • Erosion-prone soil – Some soil types are prone to erosion. If this kind of soil is under a foundation, poor drainage can wash it away, creating voids. If the foundation settles into the voids, differential settlement can occur.
  • Improper site preparation –  Soil must be tamped down before anything gets built on top of it. If this isn’t done correctly, the foundation will settle–often unevenly–into the ground after construction. 
  • Seismic events – Anything that causes the ground under a foundation to move can cause differential settlement.   
  • Poor drainage – Poor drainage can cause expansive soil to swell and erosion-prone soil to wash away. Therefore, good drainage around a foundation is essential if you want to avoid problems. 

For more information, see What Causes Foundation Settlement.

Hydrostatic Pressure

Poor drainage around a foundation can cause hydrostatic pressure to build up and push against foundation walls. If the pressure isn’t relieved, the foundation walls will eventually bow inward, and even crack. 

What Causes Hydrostatic Pressure To Build Up?

As noted above, hydrostatic pressure builds up in the ground around the foundation because of poor drainage. While almost all new homes include a drain tile system, older homes often lack this protection. We’ll talk more about drain tile systems in just a bit. 

hydrostatic pressure

Signs That Your Home Might Have a Foundation Problem

If you’re worried that your home may have a foundation problem, there are a few signs you can keep an eye out for. 

One of the most obvious is uneven floors. If you notice that your floors aren’t level, it could be a sign of a foundation issue. Sometimes, the unevenness is very slight. To test this, what happens when you place something round like a marble on the floor?

Another potential sign is cracks in your walls, floors, or ceilings. These might appear in the corners of doors and windows, or as stair-step cracks in brick or masonry. If hydrostatic pressure is causing the crack, the wall might even bow inward. 

You might also notice that your doors and windows don’t seem to work quite as well as they used to. They might be harder to open and close, or they might not fit in their frames properly.  

If you have a chimney or porch that’s pulling away from the rest of your home, this could indicate a foundation problem, either with your home or the foundation under the chimney or porch.   

Finally, take a good look at your walls and ensure they’re in contact with the ceiling and floor. If you notice any gaps, it could indicate that your foundation has moved.

If you notice any of these signs–or anything else that seems suspicious–then it’s a good idea to get a professional opinion. A foundation problem is not something to mess around with; the sooner you catch it, the easier it will be to fix. So, don’t be afraid to bring in an expert for a closer look.

See 4 Warning Signs Of Foundation Failure for more information. 

Foundation Repair Options

When it comes to foundation repair options, it really depends on what’s causing the problem. Let’s break it down a bit…

Foundation Repair Options for Differential Settlement

If the issue is differential settlement, underpinning using piers is a common solution. Underpinning involves placing sturdy piers beneath the foundation to help support and strengthen it. It is a reliable, long-lasting fix and can help prevent future damage.

Foundation Repair Options for Hydrostatic Pressure

On the other hand, if the problem is caused by hydrostatic pressure, you might need carbon fiber straps and a drain tile system. Carbon fiber straps are actually pretty cool–they’re super strong strips of woven carbon fiber that bond to the wall to add extra support and prevent further cracking. 

A drain tile system involves digging a trench around the perimeter of the foundation at the footing level and installing a drainage system to redirect groundwater away from the house.

Of course, there are other possible foundation repair solutions depending on the specific situation, but these are some of the most common ones. It’s really important to get a professional opinion and figure out exactly what’s going on with your foundation before you decide on a repair option.  

Buying and Selling a House With a Foundation Problem

Selling a House With a Foundation Problem

If you’re considering selling your house but discovered it has a foundation problem, don’t panic! Foundation problems are pretty common. However, it’s essential to know what you’re dealing with before you put your house on the market. Here are some things you should keep in mind:

  • 1. Get a professional evaluation – You need to know the exact extent of the foundation problem as well as an estimated cost of repair. An evaluation will help you determine the fair market value of your home.
  • 2. Disclose everything – You are legally required to disclose any foundation issues to potential buyers. Not doing so can lead to serious legal trouble down the road.
  • 3. Make repairs if possible – You might want to consider getting the foundation problem fixed before listing your house. Doing so will boost buyer confidence and increase the overall value of your home.
  • 4. Be prepared for low offers – Foundation problems can scare off many potential buyers, which means you might get lower offers. Be realistic about what you can expect to sell your home for.

Remember, selling a house with foundation problems is not the end of the world. With the right information and preparation, you can still get a fair price for your home and move on to your next adventure!  

Buying a House With (Or Without) a Foundation Problem

There are a few things you should keep in mind before deciding to purchase any home:

1. Have a foundation repair contractor inspect the house – This is crucial in determining whether there’s any foundation damage, along with how bad it is. If the inspection reveals minor damage, it may not necessarily be a deal-breaker. However, more serious structural issues such as foundation settlement may require more extensive repairs and could end up being a significant expense. If you get a repair estimate, you can figure that into your offer.

2. Consider the location and the type of foundation – For example, homes built on expansive clay soils may be more prone to foundation issues, while homes built on stable bedrock may be more resilient. Additionally, the cost of repairs can vary dramatically depending on the type of foundation (concrete slab, crawl space, etc.).

Whatever you do, never sign anything before the house has been inspected by either a professional foundation repair contractor or a structural engineer. 

Do All Foundation Problems Need To Be Fixed?

Foundation problems don’t go away on their own. In fact, they only get worse over time. So, yes, all foundation problems need to be fixed promptly. If you wait too long to address your foundation issues, they will become more severe and cost you more money to fix. 

Tips That Will Help You Prevent Foundation Problems

Since most foundation problems are caused by water, controlling groundwater around the foundation is the best way to avoid trouble. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Regrade your yard so that it slopes away from the foundation. If your yard slopes towards your home, water can easily collect and seep into the foundation, causing damage over time.  
  • Downspout extensions can be a huge help. They direct runoff away from your foundation before release. Make sure your downspouts extend at least 15 feet away from your home.
  • Clean your gutters regularly. When your gutters are clogged, water can overflow, run down the side of your house, and soak the ground around the foundation.  
  • Installing a drain tile system is a more involved solution, but it can also be really helpful in preventing foundation problems. Essentially, a drain tile system helps collect and direct water away from your home’s foundation. It’s definitely a good option to consider if you live in an area with a lot of rainfall or a high groundwater table.

You’ll also want to keep trees with extensive root systems away from your foundation. Some trees have root systems as wide as their canopies. If the roots invade the ground under the foundation, they can wreak havoc. It’s a good idea to keep these trees at least 50 feet away from your home.

If you’re concerned your Pennsylvania home might have a foundation problem, contact Baker’s Waterproofing today to schedule a foundation evaluation and receive a repair estimate. 

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