Sunken concrete slabs pose a real danger to your home, no matter where they are found, especially when they are being affected by a process of settlement. Settlement is a major structural issue that will eventually start to impact every part of your home, causing cracks to spread and even impacting your doors and windows. Of course, the early signs of this issue are not always easy to spot. This is why most people only worry when they notice visible sinking or the formation of a tripping hazard.
Slab piers offer an efficient and permanent solution to the process of settlement and slab displacement that restores the look of a home, as well as returning it to its original placement. This makes them a far more convenient and cost-effective solution than total slab or foundation replacement. As such, they are favored by homeowners in Cincinnati and Columbus, OH.
Slab vs. Poured Concrete Foundations
The differences between slab and poured concrete foundations are fairly small, but they make a huge impact on how damage and instability affect a home.
No matter what kind of foundation you have, however, it all starts with the footing. Poured 24 inches below the projected finish grade, this is the lowest point of any structure. A poured concrete foundation involves the placement of wooden forms, the continuous pouring of concrete into the forms, and the installation of rebar to limit weak spots.
Homes that have concrete slab foundations will then see a minimum of two layers of concrete blocks laid on top of the footing before the piping is installed and a rock filler is added. This will then be finished with at least four inches of concrete poured on top. These foundations are more cost-effective and require very little maintenance, but offer little protection from bad weather and are subject to expensive repair costs because the plumbing system is buried below the slabs
When Are Slab Piers Necessary?
Slab piers are a kind of foundation repair tool that is designed to be driven deep into the earth to find competent, load-bearing soil. This is done to provide support to individual foundation slabs. They can be used for slab on grade, basement floor, garage floor, and warehouse floor applications.
Slab piers are used internally to support and reposition slabs in the middle of your home. For this reason, they differ slightly from external foundation piers. So as you might imagine, slab piers are necessary when there is some form of foundation damage or issue within the soil under your foundation.
In fact, almost all foundation damage has something to do with the soil around and under a property. Whether the soil is weak, loose, and eroding, or it is heavy, wet, and marshy, properties can quickly succumb to damage when the soil is not competent. Expansive soils are the most likely to cause damage to a home, but they are not the only kind that can cause an issue.
Signs That Your Home Needs Slab Pier Installation
If you see any of these problem signs around your home, it is possible that you may need slab pier installation or general foundation repair:
Uneven flooring is rarely caused by defects or damage to the flooring itself. Instead, it is almost always connected to some form of foundation problem. Subsidence and settlement, for example, can cause uneven flooring because of the way in which the joists under the floor are affected by the movement of the foundation.
How your flooring becomes uneven, the placement of dips and sags, and whether or not it pulls away from your walls laterally (or vertically) can all help in diagnosing the precise cause.
Bowing walls are commonly caused by excessive hydrostatic pressure and expansive soil, but they can also be connected to advanced foundation damage. As a property’s foundation shifts or sinks, the basement walls may pull away from the floors and start to lean or bow because of the lack of support.
In some cases, the weight of the soil behind the wall is enough to cause them to start to deviate significantly. Once a wall has started to deviate, it will not stabilize or rectify without professional intervention.
Sticking Windows and Doors
Doors and windows that start to stick without explanation are a subtle and common sign of foundation sinking, shifting, and settling. This happens because the shift in the structure of a property steadily moves and deforms the frames, leading to sticking windows and doors in every affected area.
In extreme cases, you may start to notice that the frames are moving or look uneven. If you see this, you should call in a professional immediately to assess the situation and the health of your home.
Sunken Concrete Slabs
If you see sunken concrete in your basement or around your property, you should schedule an investigation immediately. This is a strong sign that there are issues in the soil around and under your home.
If you can already see sunken concrete slabs, there is a good chance the damage you cannot see is far more widespread.
Some small hairline cracks in your floors and walls are fairly normal. Hairline cracks are those that you cannot fit a credit card into, and they often form as a result of the natural relaxation that a property goes through after construction. These should be static, however, and will not grow in size unless there is movement in your property.
Cracks that seem to be actively spreading and growing, however, are a sign of ongoing pressure in your home and should not be ignored. Foundation damage is the most likely cause of this pressure.
These are just some of the strongest signs that you could have foundation issues that require the installation of slab piers. As a homeowner, you know your property best, so if you start to feel that something is wrong at any point, do not hesitate to reach out to a local professional.
Why Not Replace Damaged Slabs?
This question is often asked by homeowners who are daunted by the process of slab pier installation. Certainly, replacing damaged slabs and sections of foundation used to be the only real option for properties that had serious foundation problems. These days, however, slab piers are a far more efficient and cost-effective way to address foundation problems.
In fact, as well as being more efficient and cost-effective, they are simply a better solution because they actually address the underlying causes of damage, rather than simply repairing the visible symptoms. Because the problem is most often in the soil and not the foundation, replacing the foundation will inevitably lead to recurrence.
Slab piers are a specialist foundation repair and support tool with a very specific purpose. Do not immediately plan slab pier installation just because you have uneven floors or some kind of foundation issue.
Soil Washout and Erosion
Soil washout and erosion are common causes of foundation damage in Cincinnati and Columbus, OH. However, just slab piers are not always the best solution for properties that are experiencing this kind of damage. This is because properties being impacted by erosion and soil washout tend to experience sinking around the exterior edge of their foundation. This means that exterior foundation piers, either push piers or helical piers, can be a better option.
Soil washout and erosion occur most often in areas that have unhealthy, bare, or very loose, light soils that are primarily made of sandy or loamy earth. These processes occur when strong winds blow away dehydrated soil or flooding washes loose, saturated soil. Over time, it will lead to the soil going fallow, cause driveways and sidewalks to sink, and expose the edge of your foundation.
Expansive or Weak Soils
Properties that sit on weak, marshy, or expansive soils are more prone to issues like sinking and settlement, as the expansive soil increases and decreases in size and changes in texture. When expansive soils are saturated, of course, they swell and become soft and marshy, which can lead to heavy properties starting to sink into the ground. This happens because the soil is unable to support the weight.
However, when expansive soil becomes dehydrated, it shrinks, gets harder, and can start to crack, leading to large gaps opening up. This can leave large voids under a property and lead to sections of the foundation cracking and falling into the voids. When either of these issues arises in a way that affects the center of a property, slab piers can often be the most effective way to lift, secure, and support a property that has a damaged foundation.
Slab pier installation is a complex and tricky process, but it is effective because it can be tailored to suit the needs of most properties. In fact, slab piers can even be used in tandem with other solutions to provide a better result.
The Severity of the Damage
The severity of the damage that has been done to your property and foundation plays a huge role in the number of slab piers that you may need in order to rectify and repair the issues. The first step in deciding how many piers are needed and how they should be placed is finding the epicenter of the weakness and damage in and under your home. If the damaged sections of your foundation are still basically whole (rather than being cracked into many small pieces), slab piers can be used.
If the damage is incredibly severe and there are sections of your property’s foundation that have been essentially smashed into many fragments, it may be necessary to replace these slabs and segments entirely. In this case, slab piers may still be needed in order to prevent the damage from recurring at a later date. In this case, the process of repair and stabilization will be lengthy, but the results will be very good.
Placement and Weight
The number, placement, and size of the slab piers that your home needs will also be impacted by the weight of your property and the state of the soil beneath it. Using slab piers means that you will need to find stable, load-bearing soil or strata deep below your property foundation and the frost line. Depending on the state of the soil, this can require you to dig very deep, so to speak. It can also lead to you needing to install slab piers at different levels.
The weight of your property will not only determine how many slab piers are needed to hold it but also which kinds of piers are best. Very light properties, for example, may need helical piers, while heavier properties can make use of push or resistance piers. Depending on all these factors, a property could need as few as one or two slab piers all the way up to 15 or more slab piers in order to stabilize it fully. As a result, there is no quick and easy way to calculate the number of piers with any effectiveness.
We understand that many people wish to save money by undertaking certain household repairs by themselves. However, we always tell our clients that DIY should end where structural repairs begin, and we stand by this for a number of reasons (most of which are about your safety).
Structural Repairs are Dangerous
One of the biggest issues with structural repairs is the fact that they are incredibly intensive, difficult, and dangerous. In fact, many structural repair processes can have unforeseen consequences for inexperienced individuals. For example, if a damaged section of your foundation lies near your property’s perimeter and you begin to excavate, this disturbance could well cause nearby walls to collapse. This will be incredibly dangerous to you and anyone helping you.
There is also the matter of the machinery used to undertake the processes of excavation and slab placement. This equipment tends to be very heavy and specialist in nature. If you do not know how to use it, or you do not have appropriate protective equipment, you could cause damage to your property and injury to yourself by trying to use them. That’s not to mention the expense of renting them.
Professionals Have Everything They Need
While the average homeowner will not have a jackhammer, jack, and other foundation repair equipment to hand, professionals do. This means that hiring an expert could actually be less expensive than renting the equipment yourself and trying to tackle the issue alone. Plus, professionals have access to the best products and materials, meaning that you get the best result from the process. Because of this, professional work tends to be more likely to give you a permanent result.
Finally, professionals have the training, experience, and skills to calculate the needs of your home effectively. This means that they will be able to find out how many slab piers your home needs, where they should be placed, and how deeply they will need to be set in order to support your home properly. This is the hardest part of the process. If you try to do this alone and miscalculate, even if you successfully install the piers, the chances are that the damage will recur. It may even be worse than before.
What You Need to Know About Slab Pier Installation
No matter what state your home is in, a full inspection of your property will be the first step in any repair process. These inspections are designed to help the professional attending your home understand what the root cause of the damage is, as well as allowing them to assess the overall severity of the cosmetic damage. Once they have decided that slab piers are the right choice for your home, the installation will look like this:
Firstly, the team will need to excavate within your home to ensure that they can place the slab piers appropriately. This can be messy, but also undertaken with remarkable speed if you have an experienced team on your side. The holes drilled will be approximately two feet by two feet.
This will include the lifting or cutting of any flooring in the way, but do not worry. This will be replaced and restored afterward. Nonetheless, if you have carpets or vinyl flooring, we recommend that you lift it beforehand to minimize damage.
Once the holes have been fully excavated in the appropriate places, the team will place the piers themselves. This means driving them into the ground until they reach resistance strong enough to stop them. This is called the “point of refusal” and signifies that the piers have reached a load-bearing strata.
Once these piers are placed, the team will make sure they are stable and firmly in place before moving onto the next step.
Once the piers are in place, a hydraulic jack will generally be used to lift the concrete slabs and foundation back into their intended position. Once the foundation is in place, the top of the pier will be shimmed off to prevent it from protruding from the ground.
This will leave a more or less even result. At this point, all that is left is the process of weight transference and the restoration of your home’s interior.
Weight transferal is the process by which your foundation’s weight is placed onto the slab piers and, by extension, the stronger soil that they rest upon. It is this that should prevent the recurrence of your foundation’s problems in the future by entirely bypassing the problem soils.
This is the trickiest part of the process and must be done with precision to ensure that the slabs are not shifted or knocked out of place.
Concrete Replacement and Covering
Once the work is almost complete, the jack is removed, and the installers will pump grout into the hole to fill the void left by the settled soil and the piering installation process. After this, your property’s foundation will be restored to completion and the excavation point will be covered over. The hole is then filled with concrete to seal it.
While the team will do their best to ensure that the finish is seamless, you may need to resurface concrete flooring in order to entirely obscure the excavation point.
There are many factors to consider when it comes to installing slab piers. This is why we recommend that you never attempt foundation repairs alone. There are too many variables to consider and the consequences of making the wrong choice can be immense.
Quality Foundation Repair in Cincinnati and Columbus, OH
Foundation repair is a big task that should not be entrusted to anyone who has no experience or training. Here at Ohio Basement Authority, we know what it takes to fix a slab foundation and other foundation types that have started to undergo a process of settlement. Our team is highly trained, very skilled, and always on hand to help homeowners return their property to full health.
All you need to do is contact us to schedule a free foundation inspection and repair quote.
During this assessment, your inspector will look for the underlying causes of slab settlement, as well as secondary and tertiary damage. They will then provide you with a written estimate for all the work (which comes with no obligation to book repairs through us). Once you feel you are ready to make an informed decision, feel free to contact us once more.