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EP #6: Difference Between Foundation Repair and Concrete Lifting

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Charlie (00:00):

Welcome to the Alpha Foundations podcast, protecting you since 2002. Here’s your host, Brent Pearson.

Brent (00:08):

Hey guys. Welcome to the Alpha Foundation studio for this podcast edition of what’s the difference between foundation repair and concrete leveling. We have in house today, our director of sales, Rick Malphurs. Rick, thanks for joining us.

Rick (00:20):

You’re very welcome, Brent. Thank you for having me.

Brent (00:22):

I really appreciate you being here.

Rick (00:24):

I’m excited.

Brent (00:25):

So one question, let’s go get right down to it. One question we often hear is what’s the difference between foundation repair and concrete leveling. So if you could guide our listeners through these two services, that’d be great.

Rick (00:36):

Okay, fantastic. Absolutely. A quick review foundation repair is typically a permanent fix, a permanent lifting and leveling to your home, to your crawlspace, through either a piering system or our floor support systems called SmartJacks. Okay. Whereas the concrete leveling is the approach we’re taking for exterior concrete surfaces, driveway, sidewalks, pool decks, everything like that. And the intention there is for it to also be permanent, but it is generally meant for a lighter product in those outdoor areas.

Brent (01:11):

Okay. So if I’m a homeowner, I know I’ve got some stuff going on. I’m not sure really what’s going on. How do I know what services I need?

Rick (01:18):


Brent (01:22):

Let’s say a driveway. Okay. Okay. So I’m walking around. I noticed there’s a big crack, right? It doesn’t look level anymore. I know I just had this important six years ago when I bought the house. Should it be moving already? There’s like I said, a deviation. Okay. What kind of services are you providing for that kind of, problem?

Rick (01:39):

I mean for concrete, exterior, everything like that, we’re talking about PolyRenewal. Okay. PolyRenewal is a two-part polyurethane system that we’ve been using actually now, for almost 10 years. Okay. We were the, one of the first ones in Florida to use that product. And, you know, we’ve had a lot of great success with that.

Brent (01:58):

Is that the stuff that people say, oh, it’s the foam, like the grey stuff I see for windows and doorframes, is that, what does that is?

Rick (02:04):

Well, I mean, that stuff that you’re using for, you know, windows door frames in construction type stuff, it’s a single part foam that will continue to expand over time and everything like that. Whereas the PolyRenewal system, or a lot of the polyurethanes you’re seeing in a spray foam insulation and things of that nature, there are two stage and they’re only, they’re only meant to expand for a certain period of time and then they will stop.

Brent (02:27):

Gotcha. Okay. So if I have a driveway, that’s a experienced some settlement, that’s the PolyRenewal, correct. What got us into that mess? Is that a poor design by the builder or the concrete company, or is that a.

Rick (02:40):

Common causes for concrete settling and moving is a wash out dry out and sometimes compaction issues with the soil. We don’t want to say we will train it as poor compaction, but a lot of times the builder doesn’t know where the homeowner doesn’t know when they’re installing that concrete, how much compaction they’re actually getting, it’s not tested properly or anything like that. But a lot of it is again, is washout, dry out and compaction of the soils. So if you have a gutter that’s draining directly underneath your driveway or sidewalk or pool deck, it’s going to wash out the soil and the soil is what’s supporting that concrete slab. Okay. So if that concrete, if the soil moves, the concrete slab is going to move. Okay. So that’s your wash out. Your dry out is very similar. If we go through a period of drought or something like that, there’s not as much moisture in the soil. So the soil becomes a little less dense or it can compact on itself because there’s no moisture in there to allow it to expand and things of that nature. So that concrete will also settle in there. Okay. And then your compaction is, is just that if you’re having new concrete installed or anything like that, they’re going to compact the soil to make sure that it can hold the weight of that concrete slab. If it’s not compacted to the degree it’s supposed to, or again, if that soil wets too much or gets dry too much, it’s going to change that level of compaction. And the concrete is going to settle.

Brent (04:00):

Okay. So poor compaction wash out and dry out. My concrete will start to fail cause there’s nothing holding it up. As you said, so you guys will come out, lift and level the slabs with the PolyRenewal. How long does that take? Because I can’t afford not to be pulling it out of my driveway.

Rick (04:14):

Well, generally speaking, we are maybe three, four hours per job on a smaller job. If it’s a, if it’s an all day project again, it obviously takes all day. Sure. But generally speaking, our projects are two to four hours and that was embarrassing.

Brent (04:31):

Yeah. That’s a customer. I think calling that wants to know more about polylevel.

Rick (04:34):

Exactly. Right now they saw us. They saw us, even though we’re not live, I saw it happening and it was just like, you know, let’s go even all the way from South Carolina.

Brent (04:42):

I think what they wanted to know. Okay. Three to four hours is what, how long it’s going to take you to fix it.

Rick (04:47):


Brent (04:47):

But how long does it take the product to be cured?

Rick (04:50):

So it’s about 90% in about 15 minutes. Okay. So you can walk on it and everything like that when they’re finished.

Brent (04:56):

Can I drive a car on it?

Rick (04:56):

We, we generally tell them our people to wait about an hour.

Brent (04:59):


Rick (05:00):

It is 100% fully cured within the first 24 hours. Okay. But after that first hour you can drive on it. You can move on it. You can do the things that you need to do. Because that material has already pretty well stopped, moving and doing what is, what it’s going to do underneath the slide.

Brent (05:16):

Okay. Will it hold up big trucks or just Corollas and small sedans.

Rick (05:20):

I heard they were building a Corolla that weighs like 8,000 pounds now. So you never know, man, just kidding.

Brent (05:24):

I don’t know.

Rick (05:24):

I don’t know. That’s a lot for a car I’d say. Right. But, I would, that’s going to be any type of vehicle. So the way PolyRenewal works is whatever the weight of the concrete slab is above it. That is the counterweight to when you’re pumping the foam in. So if you’re pumping that material into that void space or lifting or anything like that, the counterweight is the concrete.

Brent (05:44):


Rick (05:44):

So as much as, you know, as as much weight as that concrete can hold, generally speaking, it’s going to be able to hold the same weight with the pilot level on it. It’s not going to, it’s not going to decrease the effectiveness of the concrete or the load. If anything, it’s going to increase that ability for that concrete to hold weight. So not saying drive, you know, 30,000 pounds dump trucks all over your driveway and right off the edge or something. Cause it’s going to bust it up, but it’s not going to decrease the load rating of that driveway.

Brent (06:11):

Okay. That makes sense. That makes sense. Yeah. Somewhat, I did go to a high education Ivy school. I’m big into environment stuff. Okay. What do we got PolyRenewal? Cause if you tell me it’s going to leach into the ground cause gases, I’m gonna have a problem with that.

Rick (06:28):

So the, the one, again, the nicer thing with a two-part polyurethane or the policy-level system that we’re using, is it, as soon as it stops off gassing, which is generally within that first 8, 10, 15 seconds, it’s not producing any material or anything like that is not leaching into the ground. It’s not decaying. The only thing that can really mess with the material is some levels of acetone or, sunlight and it’s meant it’s under the concrete. So the likelihood that the UV is going to deteriorate it is, is it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to get UV rays onto the concrete.

Brent (07:04):

Okay. So, yeah, I’m pretty sure that my driveway is not going to allow that so that you can offer a warranty with that. So it doesn’t break down with a UV light.

Rick (07:11):

I mean, again, the, it is the material should not break down outside of, I mean the UV light issue. And normally we just tell the homeowner, Hey, make sure if it’s visible from the side or something like that, make sure that you know, their soil covering and everything like that. As far as warranties go with the product, it’s meant to be a permanent solution. And you know, for that, we give a five-year warranty because it is also a homeowner maintain product. So if you’ve got gutters that are coming off the house, or if you’ve got drainage that is moving through the yard or something and you don’t maintain that drainage right, then the problem’s going to happen again, it’s not meant to stop the water from moving. It’s meant to compact the soil and level the concrete. So if you also move those things away, I mean the materials never going away and it should last, but we do give a five-year half inch, warranty. So if anytime during that five-year period, the concrete moves a half an inch, we’ll come out and fix it for you at no cost to the customer.

Brent (08:07):

Okay. So five-year warranty. So you’re saying if it hadn’t settled, eliminated, if this sounds right, if it hadn’t settled within the first five years, there’s a great chance that it will never sell. Correct. Okay. Yep. Good to go. So what are my options if I don’t want to use PolyRenewal and I’m not really sure why I wouldn’t, but ripping out and replacing that’s the only other option I have.

Rick (08:24):

I mean, again, ripping out replacing well, there’s other things. If you look online, you know, mud jacking, which is pumping concrete, you know, pressurized, concrete underneath your slab, which is dangerous. And, it doesn’t really work as well because it’s not solidifying. You still have to wait, you know, three to five days until the concrete securing to a certain degree to drive on the driveway the same way with ripping out and replacing, ripping out and replacing the driveway. Yes. You’re going to get that new driveway brand new look, which we can provide also. But the other side of it, your, you know, the cost goes way up. And you can’t drive on the driveway for again, at least a week, you know, because if you’re driving on that driveway with wet concrete, it’s obviously going to mess it up again.

Brent (09:06):

Is that what they call green concrete or something like that?

Rick (09:08):

Yeah, sure. Yeah, for sure.

Brent (09:10):

We might be just making stuff up.

Rick (09:11):

I mean, I’ve seen it. I mean, I wouldn’t say if it’s the green, I mean, yeah. It just, it hasn’t cured yet. I mean, it really takes a full 28 days for concrete.

Brent (09:19):

Gotcha. Okay. So you’re saying if I have a problem ,tripping hazard, just the aesthetics of it. It’s not good because if it has sunk, you know, due to poor compassion, wash out, dry out, you guys can come in. How big of the hole that we’re drilling into inject that foam.

Rick (09:32):

It’s pea size.

Brent (09:35):

So I’m not going to notice it, people aren’t going to come over and make fun of me because I’ve got giant.

Rick (09:39):

If you sitting out there and you’re watching the, you know, you’re watching, you know, Parker or Brandon or somebody to do this job, then yes, you’re going to know where the hole is and you’re going to go back through. But in two weeks, you know, when it’s all, you know, when we’ve gotten some rain or something or whatever, whatever, there’s some dirt all over your driveway, cause everybody’s driveway is dirty. You know what I mean? It’s going to look the same.

Brent (09:57):

But a homeowner still needs to maintain that still needs to pressure wash it and things like that.

Rick (10:01):


Brent (10:02):

Looks good.

Rick (10:03):


Brent (10:03):

Okay. So pea size hole.

Rick (10:05):


Brent (10:06):

15 minutes is 90% cured. You said 24 hours, a hundred percent cured. I can throw whatever I got at it.

Rick (10:12):


Brent (10:12):

Five-year warranty. My only other options are mud jacking, which is silly, or tearing it out, replacing it. And that would be unsightly if I don’t do the whole daggum thing.

Rick (10:21):


Brent (10:22):

That would be, parking out by the curb for a week or so, make sure it gets the best cure, time as possible. And okay, so driveways, where else might I use that pool decks? Cause we have a lot of pools in Florida. Is that a good idea for that? Or do we need to do something else?

Rick (10:37):

It’s the best option for the pool deck? I mean, you know, people want to want to talk about, well, what about my, you know, piping systems for the pool pumps, right about, you know, my, filters and all that kind of stuff. We do that every single day on pool decks. The guys are really good at knowing specifically where to drill. I mean, we’ve at this point thousands and thousands of pool decks. And it’s absolutely the best option because you’re not going to, you know, if you have somebody back there that’s ripping out concrete next to your pool to report next to your pool. You’re not able to use the pool for one, two, the amount of mess and debris and all that kind of trash. That’s getting into your pool. The possibility of messing up the, you know, actual pool filter systems, all that kind of stuff. And the costs. Because even if a driveway you can come in and you can remove it with a machine or something like that, if you’re doing it in a pool deck, that’s in the backyard, likely there’s very little access. So you’re going to be hand doing it by hand. And it’s correct. It’s terrible. I don’t, I don’t, I would not personally do it. If I had my choice of what I’m doing for a living, I wouldn’t do that.

Brent (11:38):

Okay. So driveways pool decks, patios, you stop me. If I say something that we don’t do a walkways front porch back porch. Yep. Okay. So if I’m in the interior of my home, right, let’s say dining room area, I’m on a slab, a monolithic slab, which is very common here in Florida, South Georgia. I noticed a crack above the doorframe or my tiles are busting. Is that due to the poor compaction wash out dry out itself of the soil or is that a builder problem?

Rick (12:03):

It’s generally the soil.

Brent (12:05):

Okay. Soil problem.

Rick (12:06):


Brent (12:06):

What is my fix for the interior slab of a home?

Rick (12:09):

Okay. So interior slab of home. Again, what we want to look at for one is we want to come out and take measurements and everything like that, to make sure of where that movement is actually happening, because you can go out again. Our guys have been doing this for a very long time. They could easily go out to your house, look at a crack in the wall or door and likely tell you what’s going on. What we ended up doing though, is we want to take measurements of those, areas in the floor to make sure okay. If it’s a doorframe on an interior part of the house and the exterior of the home is fine. Okay. Then yes, concrete, you know, PolyRenewal might be a good solution for the interior portion of the home. Okay. However, if you’re having movement on the exterior wall or along the footing or next to a garage wall or something like that, where the cracking is actually happening on the structural portion of the home, that would be a different fix.

Brent (12:56):

Okay. So going back to that, outside of my house, I always go back to the old rolling up the garden hose scenario because typically you don’t go in around the back of your house, but you’re doing some yard work. You look on the exterior brick, notice a, a crack stair-stepping on a brick. Is that a PolyRenewal or is that a different fixed cause you mentioned footing. So what it would be my fix and what do I need to do?

Rick (13:18):

So on an exterior wall of a home, and you’re seeing cracks or settlement or movement, we would, we would address it the same way as far as our inspection process, we would go in the house and we would make sure and take elevations. So in, if, if in that area where the crack is, we’re seeing a little bit of movement in the floor, then that’s going to be a helical pier system or a push pier system, depending on, you know, what area we’re in, in Florida or anything like that. But that’s going to be an actual foundation pier. That’s going to be a, a system that goes deeper into the soil, down to a more structural layer of soil, and be a permanent fix for that foundation wall.

Brent (13:53):

Okay. So you mentioned soil there. I would imagine that there is movement in the soil that could fall anywhere from right up underneath the footing down several feet, 20 feet. I don’t know. It depends on where you are in Florida.

Rick (14:06):

I would. Yeah. If you’re you’re we’re we’re in north Florida, correct. Okay. And so there’s a lot of different soil types in north Florida and you know, back 10 years ago, we had a big drought period where two or three years in a row, we were less than 50% of the amount of rain we’re supposed to get. So at that point in time, yes, typically that active zone is about, you know, five to 13 feet, depending on where you’re at the active zone, being a movement of the soil is happening most often. However, in a really big drought period, we were seeing soils down at 16, 17, 18, 19 feet that were drying out and the house was moving a lot. I mean, again, my house is, you know, 70 years old and hadn’t moved in 50 years and then all of a sudden it starts moving, you know, that kind of thing.

Brent (14:50):

And I think that’s a that we hear quite often as, Hey, why hasn’t this moved in 50 years, right. What’s going on? What’s changed?

Rick (14:56):

The soil, the soil. You’re not going to go back to a house that’s built 70 years ago and say, Hey, Mr. Builder, my house is moving. You know, the guy obviously built a nice house and you have changes in weather conditions, you know, a year with a lot of rain coming this summer in North Florida, especially we’ve had tons and tons of rain. So our crawlspace and foundation issues are really high right now because of the moisture, the level in the soil.

Brent (15:19):

Okay. So it’s not a builder issue. Doesn’t matter how long the house has been built. You introduce a lot of rain or the lack thereof and your house could start telling on itself to the cracking cracks in the slab, tile popping off, you know, doors and windows, not functioning properly. And those are all fixed with different solutions. Right? But what I liked earlier is what you said is there, I’m going to paraphrase. There is no guesswork. So for every house, even though those design tech see 350 to 400 houses a year, they still treat every house, you know, differently. Like I got to figure out, I don’t want to just guess and say, I know since I do this every day, that this is what it is, they take their time measure out the house each and every time to deliver a good product, a long standing solution for the home.

Rick (15:59):

I mean, again, even for the internal team, we want to set our production crews up for success. If we give the homeowner a poor repair plan or something like that, then the production guy gets out there and he’s not set up for success. And then the homeowner’s not getting the product that they deserve. But again, changes in soil and changes in moisture conditions in the soil happen every single year, all over the place. So it’s a constantly moving thing. Nobody buys a house, you know, cause you’ll hear the, you’ll hear the, the language of, this is typical settlement. And I always challenge the homeowner and say, so my, my I’m hearing you correctly, you bought the house understanding that we’re going to be cracks in the walls and the footings and things of that nature. And the answer is always no,

Brent (16:38):

Not so much.

Rick (16:39):

Yeah. I didn’t expect the stucco to crack. I didn’t expect this that’s because it’s not typical movement. And settling, there are things in the engineering built into that type of process, but if you’re having movement and cracks and you know, structural defects in the building it’s because that soil is moving.

Brent (16:55):

Gotcha. Okay. See, yeah. The likely, no one buys a house thinking there’s going to be cracks and that’s just normal settlement. Now it’s done settling, right? You can’t say that right until we put our product. Exactly, exactly. So if it is a, let’s say, you said perimeter settlement, that’s sitting on a footing. If there’s movement in the, you know, the cracking of the dry wall or the exterior brick, you know, you have a soil issue, right. And you mentioned helical piers, what kind of warranty are we looking like for that?

Rick (17:21):

For any of our piering solutions is the lifetime warranty for the area that we install the piers. And what’s different about us from other companies is let’s say we go to your house and it needs, you know, piers on the perimeter, you know, the rear perimeter of the house. So from where we put the first period to where we put the last pier, all of that is warranty. And it’s not just yeah. In between those piers, it’s not just the individual product, but the entire area that we repair.

Brent (17:46):

Okay. I was thinking it was going to be per location. Is that what you with other companies?

Rick (17:49):

We’ll see that some, yeah, every now and again, you know, being the, being the biggest company in Florida, you know, we get the opportunity to have, you know, to see a lot more customers or, you know, go up against, you know, in our, in our minds, different competitors and things of that nature, which, you know, the foundation repair industry and Florida’s pretty solid, but it’s, we are giving, you know, what we feel is the best warranty in the business for this type of repair.

Brent (18:15):

Okay. So it doesn’t matter if it’s interior, exterior driveway, we have a solution for that.

Rick (18:19):


Brent (18:20):

Whatever’s going on, Design tech is going to go out there. There is no guesswork deliver a nice repair plan to meet the customer’s needs with the warranty, backing it up.

Rick (18:28):

Yes, every time.

Brent (18:29):

Good deal. So that’s the difference between, you know, PolyRenewal, helical piers, all different kinds of repairs that we offer here in Florida and South Georgia. So we will join Rick probably back here in a couple of weeks with another, episode, if he’ll be back .

Rick (18:42):

I love it, this fun!

Brent (18:42):

Good deal. So thanks so much for joining us. We’ll see you next time here in the Alpha Foundation studio.

Charlie (18:48):

Thanks for listening to the Alpha Foundations podcast. To learn more about Alpha Foundations, go to or call 8 6 6 3 7 8 7 2 1 1.

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