Deep foundations are necessary for homes with below-ground structures like basements. Not only does this extra level create an additional living and storage space in a single property, but it also increases the value of the home. Protective measures do need to be taken to preserve the hygiene and structural integrity of this space.
Deep foundations have to support the entire structure of the home, as well as combat the immense pressure applied by the surrounding soil. Weather can also cause this pressure to change and shift, as well as alter the stability of the soil supporting the basement foundation.
Identifying problems with your foundation can be difficult if you don’t know what to look for. It is important to know the causes of deep foundation problems, as this helps with pinpointing when and where issues develop.
Repairing your foundation is critical for protecting your home and preventing more costly damage from developing. Book your free inspection and let our experts assess the health of your deep foundation.
The Causes of Deep Foundation Issues
Basements have to deal with a fair number of external factors. These factors can develop over time or begin to impact the basement as it ages. A number of these stressors can also fluctuate in severity depending on even more factors. There are measures that can be taken to mitigate this impact, such as proper drainage.
Let’s take a look at some of the more common factors that cause deep foundation issues.
Hydrostatic pressure is when water-soaked earth applies extra force to the basement walls and floor.
Not only does this apply a great deal of weight, but it also forces water into and through the cracks that will develop in the walls. Aside from causing water problems in the basement itself, hydrostatic pressure contributes greatly to cracks in the basement.
Soil dense with water is heavier than dry soil. Earth is naturally damp if you dig down a foot or so. However, improper drainage, discharge lines, and gutters can cause water to pool in the soil surrounding the foundation. This causes the natural levels of hydrostatic pressure to skyrocket.
Even solid concrete slab foundations and basement walls will eventually buckle to unmitigated hydrostatic pressure. Horizontal cracks, or cracks on an angle, are particularly concerning and should be addressed as soon as possible.
Soil heaving is when soil expands beneath the foundation and lifts the slab. This occurs as soil dries and dampens. Dry soil shrinks and contracts on itself during dry weather. During rainfall or flood events, the dry soil soaks up water and expands. Freezing and thawing also has the same effect.
Usually, it takes repeated events to heave the foundation, or one larger event to cause the soil to expand so greatly. Issues with your drainage system or plumbing can also cause soil heaving. Homes built upon soil with a clay composition can see soil heaving more commonly than homes with a smaller percentage of clay soil.
Typically, soil heaving occurs under the perimeter of the foundation. Don’t assume that a heaved foundation can’t impact the rest of the house though. Soil heaving upsets the foundation and home overall. The foundation can be heaved onto an angle, causing cracks (often vertical) to form in the foundation and walls.
Soil settles over time. This is a natural occurrence as the matter in the soil is broken down by animals, insects, and bacteria, compressed by gravity and the home, and affected by moisture. Foundations will move as soil settles. Commonly, this results in sinking, although different types of foundations may see different outcomes.
Prior to constructing modern homes, the soil is analyzed and compressed based upon its composition. Older homes may not have had this step performed. As such, without proper preparation, many homes suffer from sinking as soil settles. Sinking can happen evenly across the entire foundation, or it can be localized to a corner of the home. In part, this is due to changing soil composition beneath the foundation. The presence of moisture contributes to shifting soil as well.
An excess of water beneath and around the home can cause soil to shift and settle in a myriad of ways, such as slab foundations eventually cracking from uneven pressure.
As we said above, the root cause of the foundation issue must be resolved to stop it from returning. A number of measures can also be taken as a preventative step to stop deep foundation issues from forming. These include:
Interior drains are effective below-ground drainage systems and are among the best options for effectively collecting seeping water to keep it out of the basement. Asides from being capable of handling a large volume of water, interior drains are perfectly positioned to pull water out of the soil bordering the foundation. This reduces the impact of the hydrostatic pressure and prevents soil from becoming bloated with moisture.
This water also needs to be drained from the surrounding soil due to the clay bowl effect. This is where the soil surrounding your home is naturally looser due to being disturbed by the construction of the foundation. Earth outside this radius is naturally denser, and it effectively corrals excess moisture toward the basement walls.
Any interior drainage system works best when paired with a sump pump system. Once the drains collect water, it needs somewhere to go other than into your basement. The water is then directed to a sump pump so it can be properly removed from your home. Sump pumps are useful for homes that see a heavy volume of water. These pumps ensure that water is forcefully expelled from the home, and are useful for situations where gravity isn’t a reliable force to move the water.
Alpha Foundations recommends installing a SafeDriTM Sump Pump alongside basement drainage systems.
Extended Discharge Lines
Ensuring that the water is drained from your house, be it from the basement or roof gutters, is discharged outside of the clay bowl goes a long way toward mitigating water damage. Many homes are equipped with discharge lines and outlets that disperse water a mere foot away from the foundation.
Not only does this open up the potential for water damage and foundation issues, but it can also even create a continuous cycle of water entering and exiting the home.
An extended discharge line carries water an appropriate distance from the house. Thereby reducing how much water can penetrate the soil bordering the house.
Foundation issues can be repaired if you act within a certain time frame.
The Worst-Case Scenario
Damage in foundations will continue to develop and worsen if left unattended—to the point where
repair work will not be sufficient and replacing the affected parts is the only option. This is a worst-case scenario in which foundation troubles have been left alone for years.
In most cases, sinking and cracking foundations can be repaired by a Alpha Foundations team. Depending on the cause of the issues, there are different options. Resolving the root cause is a necessity; otherwise, the foundation issues will repeat themselves.
When Repairs Aren’t Needed
Poured concrete foundations will commonly see hairline fractures develop as the slab fully cures post-construction. This will happen for a series of months after project completion, and these minor cracks are not a concern. Fractures that are over a set length and width are what you need to be on alert for. Caught early on, these can be repaired easily.
Foundations can be repaired and reinforced using a variety of Alpha Foundations solutions. To learn what solution your home needs, book a free inspection with one of our foundation repair experts.
Alpha Foundations provides a variety of repair solutions targeted toward individual problems in deep foundations. Depending on the issue developing in your foundation, one or more of the following solutions may be applicable.
Reinforcing the Foundation
Deep foundation issues are often caused by soil settlement over time, and lifelong solutions are essential to protecting the home and its value. Alpha Foundations provides pier system installations that not only can lift the foundation, but also permanently keep it from sinking or heaving again.
The three solutions Alpha Foundations provides are:
These support structures extend from beneath the foundation to the hard-packed bedrock beneath your home. This layer of earth offers incredible stability, and by drilling down and extending pier systems to the bedrock, homes benefit from its integrity.
Strengthening the Walls
Deep foundation walls require tailored solutions based on the severity and location of the damage. Alpha Foundations’ solutions not only halt wall cracks, bowing, and buckling but can reverse the damage over time.
Depending on the available space outside of your home, an Alpha Foundations expert will recommend one either an anchoring system, such as our Wall Anchors, Carbon Fiber Wall Reinforcement or an IntelliBrace™ System.
Supporting the Crawl Space
Although not always necessary for deep foundation repair, reinforcing the crawl space with IntelliJack™ supports can be important for stabilizing internal structures damaged by deep foundation issues including sagging or bouncy floors.
Alpha Foundations recommends inspecting your basement and foundation yearly for any problem signs. Increase the frequency of these health checks should there be any basement issues, such as foundation cracks from sinking or raising, ill-fitting window and door frames, and water issues in the basement.
Deep Foundation Repair with Alpha Foundations
Repairing your foundation isn’t something to delay. Trust in Alpha Foundations to return your foundation to peak health with our deep foundation repair services. Book your free inspection and repair quote today to learn how we can help protect your home.