Frequently Asked Questions
- What causes foundation failure in the first place?
- My house is only a few years old. Should I have to worry about foundation failure?
- There is a gap between my chimney and the house. Is this foundation failure, and can it be fixed?
- How do you actually repair the foundation?
- How does your system compare to your competitors?
- Is having galvanized material really that important?
- Why do you offer multiple methods of pileing systems?
- If your system is so much better, it must be more expensive, right?
- What kind of guarantee will I get?
- Will this repair completely destroy my landscape?
- How long have you been in business?
- Do you have references?
- How much do you charge for estimates?
- Will you finance the repairs?
- Will my homeowners insurance cover this repair?
- How quickly can the work be done?
- I am building a new home. Can I prevent this from happening?
- My basement walls leak and are cracked and bowed. Can this be fixed?
- My house is surrounded by beautiful trees and I’ve heard this could be a problem. Is this true?
- Can I do something OTHER than cut my trees down?
- I have some cracks on the walls inside my house and some of the doors won’t close. Why?
- The concrete in my garage is lower than it used to be. Is there anything I can do about this?
- My crawlspace is very dry and dusty. Isn’t this the best thing for the foundation?
- I seem to be getting water under my house from somewhere. How can I prevent this from happening?
- I’ve had another company look at my problem and they’ve suggested something completely different and I’m totally confused. How do I know what to do?
What are Causes of Foundation Failure?
Foundation failure can be attributed to several things. Most commonly foundation failure is caused by the movement of expansive and highly plastic soils beneath different sections of the foundation footings. This movement can be in the form of shrinkage, which causes settlement, or expansion, which causes heave. When dry conditions prevail, soils consistently lose moisture and shrink. When moisture levels are high, the opposite is true, and soils swell. Regardless of the nature of the movement, it will most likely manifest itself in the form of visible cracks in the foundation walls, exterior brick walls, or interior sheetrock or plaster walls. Officially, any structure movement is known as differential settlement. In addition to expansive soils, subsurface peat, which has a low bearing capacity and deteriorates over time, can also cause differential settlement. Other soil types such as sand and silt also have lower than required bearing capacities. Poor drainage from yard run-off and gutter downspouts discharging at the base of the foundation are among other causes. Excess moisture around the foundation can cause the soils to become over-saturated and lose “bearing pressure,” or the strength to support weight. When this happens, structures “settle” or sink into the ground. If soil and water control problems weren’t bad enough, there is also the issue of transpiration. Transpiration is a fancy word for the process of trees and large plantings absorbing the water from the soils beneath and around your home. During an active season, roots extending beneath and around the footings of the house can remove moisture from the soil, causing it to become desiccated. Again, where expansive soils exist this removal of moisture will cause soil shrinkage and settlement. Water bill seems to be too high lately? Plumbing leaks are another major contributor to foundation settlement. Inundating the foundation with water from your home’s pipes will cause foundation failure, as would poor drainage on the outside. Poor construction sometimes causes settlement in homes, but only rarely.
Do New Houses Have Foundation Failure?
Unfortunately, for many homeowners, problems may develop relatively soon after the house has been completed. While older homes experience some settling over time, serious foundation failures occur more frequently in homes less than ten years old. BACK TO TOP
There’s a gap between my chimney and the house. Is this foundation failure, and can it be fixed?
Yes, a chimney pulling away from the house is a form of foundation failure. Chimneys are not structurally attached to the house. Because of the shear weight of the chimney, there is more force or pounds per square foot of load on its footing than your perimeter wall sections. When soils outside become dry and shrink, the chimney will lean towards the lesser pressure and outward from the structure.
What is Your Method of repair?
For the benefit of this venue, the condensed version is as follows: Depending on the structure, one of four specifically designed types of support piles are installed into the ground beneath the existing footing until load-bearing soil is reached. Tests are performed, using proven engineering methods, to determine load-bearing capacity. We then attach galvanized lifting brackets to the foundation footing and lift the structure as close to original position as possible. The piles and lifting brackets remain attached and are concealed in the ground to permanently support the home. No part of the system will remain visible.
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How does your system compare to your competitors?
We believe our concrete caisson system is the best available on the market today. No other pileing method can compare on any level whether it be loading capacity, life span, lateral stability or versatility of use. Engineering tests and documentation prove this. Our steel pile lines are also superior in strength and life span due to the galvanization process. Galvanization is accepted as the best method of preserving metal in contact with soil or the elements they are in. Our customers will receive only the best.
Is having galvanized material really that important?
All unprotected carbon steel systems rust. Galvanization is a process whereby carbon steel is dipped in molten Zink, encouraging a chemical bond to the steel. With the exception of stainless steel, galvanized steel products provide the best protection against rust and failure when used above or below grade. Pay attention to guard rails, traffic signposts, and bridges. Each of the steel in these items has been galvanized, as is evident by the unique silver color. And, since stainless steel foundation repair products don’t exist, this consideration is very important when selecting a foundation repair product. Consider a hollow tube system, whether a push pile or pipe-shaft helical. When the rains come, the pipe fills with water. Without the benefit of galvanization, rusting and corrosion begin with the first rainfall. Years and years of rain simply turn the whole system into a mass of rusted parts that make future adjustments virtually impossible. For more information on the galvanization process and the benefits of galvanization, please visit the American Galvanizers Association website.
Why do you offer multiple methods of pile systems?
There have been instances where concrete piles were either infeasible, impractical, or cost prohibitive given the circumstances. Additionally, engineers have sometimes specified helical systems for particular or unusual situations. We have found that it is best to provide several methods so that all of our customers’ individual needs can be accommodated. No foundation is created equal; therefore, no single repair method can meet all needs.
If your system is so much better, it must be more expensive, right?
On the contrary, because of our experience and position in the industry, we are able to remain competitive while offering a product line that is far superior to other companies providing products of lesser efficiency and quality. Actual costs will be determined by a site evaluation.
What kind of guarantee will I get?
All of our adjustable pileing systems carry a life-of-structure transferable warranty against further settlement. The ultimate life span of the galvanized helical pile system can be 300 or more years depending on soil conditions. Concrete Caissons last virtually forever.
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Will this repair completely destroy my landscape?
Regardless of the foundation repair system you choose, the same amount of soil has to be removed to install the bracket on the footing and advance the pile. Removal of the soil can be preformed by hand digging or with the use of mini-excavators. Roughly the size of a golf cart, mini-excavators ride on wide rubber tracks that apply only a few pounds per square foot of pressure to the surface of the lawn. Conversely, a hydraulic power pack rolled across the yard on four tires is much more likely to cause disturbance because of its weight to surface displacement ratio. Foundation repair is a labor-intensive process that is much more efficient with the use of small, specialized machinery capable of repairing your home while preserving the landscape. There are circumstances, however, where piles must be installed by hand without the use of machinery.
How long have you been in business?
Eric Brackett Construction Company, Inc. was established in 1972 and has been in the foundation repair business for the majority of this time. Eric Brackett Construction Company, Inc. has a General Contractor license and is fully insured.
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Do you have references?
References are available upon request; we can provide engineering data as well as customer testimonials.
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How much do you charge for estimates?
Nothing! Our estimates have always been free to anyone with a foundation issue. We will be happy to visit your home for an evaluation, just call!
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Will you finance the repairs?
Terms on repairs are generally due upon completion. We will be happy to provide you with a list of financial institutions that may be of assistance to you.
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Will my homeowners insurance cover this repair?
Unfortunately, “settlement” is excluded from homeowner’s insurance policies. It never hurts to ask in the event there are extenuating circumstances such as broken water pipes, etc. Some builders do provide extended warranties past the first year. These warranties vary, but the extended warranties usually last up to ten years and do cover settlement in some cases.
How quickly can the work be done?
Scheduling depends on the complexity of the repair procedures as well as weather conditions and other factors. We have crews deployed daily and work is scheduled based on received contracts. We will be more than happy to discuss a possible start date upon performing a site evaluation.
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I am building a new home. Can I prevent this from happening?
Before the footings for the foundation go in, contact a soils engineer to have your soil tested for load bearing capacity and expansive clay content. Bring these results to your builder and discuss what must be done to prevent problems later on. Steel reinforcing bars and larger, deeper footings may prevent settlement from occurring. Often, new construction piles installed prior to the concrete footings being poured is the answer.
My basement walls leak and are cracked and bowed. Can this be fixed?
Absolutely. Often, by excavating to the base of the exterior of the wall, restoring the waterproofing, installing helical tiebacks, and backfilling with a washed stone product, the load is reduced by as much as 50% and walls can be plumbed back to the original position to carry overhead loads as designed. In addition, with helical tiebacks in place, you are guaranteed to never have a similar problem! Only in the worst cases do basement walls have to be rebuilt entirely.
Beautiful trees surround my house. I’ve heard this could be a problem. Is this true?
Yes! A single large tree with a diameter of 12″-18″ can remove as much as 150 gallons, or about 20 cubic feet, of water from the soil every day. Shrubbery and other plants can also remove large quantities of water thereby drying out the soils. When you remove moisture from around the footings, the soil shrinks and allows the footings to settle and crack.
Can I do something OTHER than cut my trees down?
Yes. If a homeowner wishes to minimize seasonal foundation movement and damage, a controlled water program will help. This program is designed to maintain a constant level of moisture around the home’s foundation. The best way to water a foundation is to place a soaker hose from one to two feet from the edge of the foundation, which allows water to soak into soils evenly. If only enough water is supplied to keep the surface damp, the program will not work. The hose should not be placed against the foundation. This may allow water to run through cracks and accumulate around the bottom of footings. Too much water in this area will lead to lost soil bearing capacity and the house will sink and settle. An alternative is a chemically treated fabric product that is buried between the house and the tree. This deters root growth where installed while protecting your trees from the chainsaw.
I have some cracks on the walls inside my house and some of the doors won’t close. Why?
This could be an indication of structural design problems, termites, simple wood rot, or excessive water. But, more than likely, this can be attributed to loss of bearing under interior piles. Homes with crawl spaces and no vapor barrier (plastic) lose moisture over time causing the soil to dry out and allowing settlement. Homes which have gas or propane heating units under the house use air from the crawl space for combustion of the heat exchanger thereby drawing extra moisture out of the soils during the winter months. BACK TO TOP
The concrete in my garage is lower than it used to be. Is there anything I can do about this?
Yes. A process known as pressure grouting can be a solution for not only settled garage slabs, but for homes built on monolithic slab foundations as well. A fluid cementious mixture (grout) is pumped at low pressure through drilled holes in the slab, filling the voids and forcing the concrete up to its original position. The disadvantage is that this procedure does not cure the underlying problem of soil conditions and cannot be warranted against future movement.
My crawlspace is very dry and dusty. Isn’t this the best thing for the foundation?
At one time it was thought that when it comes to foundations, the drier the better. We now understand that extreme moisture deprivation can be as devastating as saturation. The best solution is to install a 6-mil plastic vapor barrier in the crawlspace to minimize moisture loss and maintain a consistent environment. It is important to remember to seal the plastic tightly around the interior piles while leaving a 12″ gap around the perimeter walls. This prevents moisture loss in the soils around the piles, thereby helping to stabilize those areas from settling.
I seem to be getting water under my house from somewhere. How can I prevent this from happening?
Many companies will suggest a French drain along the interior foundation wall with a sump pump to remove water in the crawlspace. This is an inefficient and inadequate solution. The problem is not that water is standing in the crawlspace but that water is getting there in the first place. The proper solution to this problem can be a combination of proper grading of land near the house to promote water run-off and/or a foundation drain system on the exterior of the home. This will eliminate the need for a sump pump and prevent excess water from ever reaching the crawlspace. This way, the foundation footings never get saturated; the water is diverted before any harm can be done. Additionally, problems can occur when electrical service is out. If the power is out, the sump pump won’t work. Most power outages occur during severe storms when heavy rains increase the likelihood of flooding a crawlspace.
I’ve had another company look at my problem and they’ve suggested something completely different and I’m totally confused. How do I know what to do?
Some companies will over simplify the problem to keep the cost in line with what they think the homeowner is willing to pay, regardless of whether it is the correct solution to the problem or not. Other companies will over estimate a project (adding more repairs than are necessary) to increase workload and profits. Always deal with a licensed company specializing in foundation repair that can provide insurance information and references upon request. A reputable company with a solid history of good business practices can mean the difference between a necessary structural repair and a nightmare. References should include professionals who are familiar with foundation repair processes and have worked with the repair company you have selected. Remember, a positive personal experience with a salesperson does not always guarantee an adequate and efficient repair. If quotes are vastly different, we suggest hiring an engineer to make recommendations for repairs to your home. Unlike a sales representative, an engineer has no vested interest in your ultimate decision to make the repairs. Then, stick to the repair plan! The engineer should approve any changes in materials or methods. We recommend contacting a soils engineer since the usual underlying problem is in soil mechanics and not construction issues.