Problems With Pier and Beam
Love’em or hate’em homes with a crawl space and pier and beam foundation can be frustrating at times. Creaking, sagging, wooden floors along with cracked walls are not uncommon with these foundations. The primary cause is unstable soil, caused by too much or too little moisture. Swelling and or shrinking soil is the result, causing extreme movement of supporting piers. This moisture can also lead to extensive mold and fungus growth which eventually destroys wooden support beams.
The issue of foundation repair often becomes the major consideration for homeowners planning to remodel their basements. With aging, the structural stability of every foundation becomes slightly prone to stress induced by environmental and designing reasons. Repair of pier and beam foundations is regarded much easier than that of concrete foundations. The entire repair process is more affordable and less labor-intensive.
Understanding Pier and Beam Foundations
Pier and beam foundation may be a traditional foundation system for residential dwellings but it as efficient and durable as most modern, concrete-heavy foundations. Pier and beam foundations provide homeowners the advantage of maintaining a larger, integrated crawlspace. This space can be used for incorporating the plumbing connections of the home, making it easier to tend periodic plumbing repairs. Similarly, the crawlspace is often used for installing central heating systems. Pier and beam foundations that have been used for decades may develop some maintenance-based problems. These can be easily resolved if you are familiar with foundation-repair basics and the common methods of tending to such repairs.
Understanding Reasons of Pier and Beam Foundation Problems
You should have a basic understanding about how foundation problems are caused. This helps to precisely identify the problem and undertake the appropriate repair procedure. Common factors that can affect pier and beam foundations include:
1 – Underlying Soil
Seasonal moisture is a major reason that induces cracking within the foundations. Soil beds that have high clay content create more problems since they support greater moisture retention. The soil expands every time moisture seepage is heavy and this induces stress upon the foundation. This causes undulating, uneven flooring sections in the basements along with sustained seepage along the basement doors. The basement’s sheet rock may also crack.
2 – Inappropriate Construction
Many homes having pier and beam foundation were built with cedar piers. These piers are durable but they restrict the footing area for the foundation. The surface area offered by the footing area dictates the support that is extended to the foundation. Thus, with cedar piers, the foundation is unable to “pass on” the stress to the sub-flooring. This causes constant compression and eventual rotting of the soil layer under the foundation. This causes the basement to start sinking into the underlying soil. This is a common reason for the typical “sunk” appearance of aged pier and beam foundations.
3 – Improper Drainage
The foundation becomes more prone to cracking and mold growth if the drainage isn’t directed away from the home’s basement. Such wrongly directed, drainage system causes constant presence of moisture around the basement area. The moisture is gradually passed on to the lower foundation layers. Presence of water also compromises proper ventilation of the foundation. This hinders quick drying of the basement. Other foundation problems include ignorant gardening practices wherein the garden’s soil bed drains towards the basement.
Understanding Pier and Beam Repair Methods
Most pier and beam foundations can be easily repaired by choosing both or one of the following methods, according to the extent of the problem.
1 – Shoring the Foundation
The process of site shoring is recommended when it becomes apparent that the pier and beam foundation is unable to bear the stress. This can be detected through observing the cracking pattern that becomes concentrated along the base of vertical walls of the basement. Thus, shoring or inducing more support for the foundation is recommended. Here, retailed timber piers are inserted to increase the load-bearing capacity of the foundation. Commonly, temporary shoring is recommended for residential foundation repairs. The timber is inserted under the existing beams of the foundation. This adds more surface area to the footing of the foundation, making it easier to transfer the stress onto the new piers.
2 – Strengthening the Foundation
If shoring doesn’t solve the issue then sonotube application is recommended. However, if the basement shows considerable cracking and the floor has developed a visible slope, you can proceed with sonotube strengthening without shoring the foundation.
Sonotubes are concrete forms, usually hollow, retailed as concrete columns. They are inserted in aging foundations to even their slope and increase their overall durability. Sonotubes can be ordered according to different size requirements. They are supplied in a precut/pre-shaped configuration. Sonotubes are usually placed around the rebar of the footing area. This is followed by pouring some concrete to ensure that the sonotube is secured in its position. Sonotube repairing is seriously recommended if there are visible gaps between the ceiling’s sheetrock panels or between the base of vertical walls and the foundation floor.
Now that you understand the basics, the question is whether or not to attempt to do the repairs yourself. The answer lies in a clear understand of your own strengths and weakness. Simple shimming is easy enough but that just addresses the symptom, not the cause.
A homeowner who is serious about fixing the problem permanently should bring in a professional foundation contractor who has the equipment and expertise.
Related: Foundation Repair Services