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Foundation Leveling VS Foundation Repair

By now it is more than likely that you are well familiarized with what a ‘Foundation Problem’ is. We have talked about it in the past and gone into further detail in our videos, as hosted by our charming Ina. So today we will only limit ourselves to a quick recap; soil and weather conditions are the main culprits here.

Expansive clay soils dominate most of our beloved state; this means that the soil will expand and contract based on moisture levels. With a high content of water the soil will expand pushing in the direction where there is less resistance, meaning upwards against your foundation. With low moisture it will contract, sinking down and letting your foundation fall back.

And given the cyclical and intense nature of the weather patterns in our state the soil will expand and contract countless times during the year which, as it is only natural, will eventually deteriorate your foundation.

If the soil of our state wasn’t expansive clay, then climate changes would not be much of a problem to your foundation. Or if we had expansive clay soil but our climate stayed the same all year long, then this also wouldn’t represent much an issue. Problem is we have both; and they don't go well hand in hand. At least as far as our foundation is concerned.

We have also talked about tips for maintenance or additional services to keep your foundation safe, but let’s say that the damage has been done and now it is time to have your foundation repaired. And here is where sometimes the terminology gets mixed up a bit. So in order to clear this out we will explain what Foundation Leveling and Foundation Repair are; their difference and what pros and cons each one has.

First we will start with FOUNDATION REPAIR. A foundation repair defining (and most important) element is the installation of new supports under the home and the raising of the foundation back to its original position, securing it to the new supports. In short is raising and stabilizing. But the job does not end there however. Key to foundation repair are the additional services; checking and repairing any possible damage to the pipings (be it water, sewage or gas lines) along with other services like area drains, french drains, gutters, retaining walls, root barriers, slopes, water pumps and soaker hoses. All of these to make sure that the problem is well taken care of and will not rear its ugly head again in the future. In other words Foundation Repair encompasses the installation of new supports, the leveling of the structure and additional services of prevention and maintenance. A comprehensive job in all accounts.

The process of foundation repair starts with the contractor forming a plan, based on his or her previous inspection. This plan determines where your home needs additional support in order to level it back to its original position. While there are different methods to do this, the main one that is used in our Central Texas area consists of supports called ‘underpinning’ but most generally referred to as ‘piers’. These piers are columns, tall and cylindrical and can be made of concrete or steel.

The piers are driven into the ground by hydraulic pressure until reaching 9,000 PSI or refusal, meaning the wight of the home will no longer continue pressing down the piers, as they have finally reach a harder layer underground. Once that happens we place the top cap, followed by the top cylinders and steel shims in order to provide maximum support. Then we take measurements with the zip level once more, to make sure that the house has been raised and leveled back to its original elevation. Following this we set to work in any additional service that the house/foundation might require in order to complete the repairs.

Now we will go into FOUNDATION LEVELING. Now herein lies most of the confusion as sometimes people think foundation leveling and foundation repair are the same thing. What leveling is in reality is raising the part of a settled home back to the original elevation or as close as possible. The goal of this is mainly to restore functionality. Meaning doors and windows, trims to proper placement and bringing wall cracks back together.

There is no denying that in some cases this might be the way to go; specially when the homeowners want the home returned to level because they can feel the tilt and want it fixed; or maybe because they no longer want to deal with the cosmetic or functionality symptoms of the damage.

In order to level the house bottle jacks are used to bring the structure back to level, but it should be noted that sometimes this can place the plumbing at risk during this process.

All in all it could be said that while foundation repair will ensure that the problem is fixed and taken care of, foundation leveling is more of a cosmetic makeover as there is no guarantee that the house will not settle again or even worse, that there might not be further damage to the foundation itself. This is dealing with the effects, without taking care of the cause.

Now, we can’t talk about foundation leveling and foundation repair without mentioning HOME STABILIZATION. In a manner you could say that home stabilization is the in-between. Or you can also call it the illegitimate offspring of foundation leveling and foundation repair, whatever sounds best.

Home Stabilization is installing the supports to secure the house in its current position without raising it back to its original elevation. This can prevent further movement, sinking and damage but without putting the home back in place.

Now this might sound counterintuitive at first; why would you not raise the home back in place if you are already going to the trouble of installing new supports to secure the structure? Well, this generally happens when remodeling has already taken place, nice finishes and all. This could mean walls, trim, cabinetry, built-ins or countertops for instance. Raising the house back into place would damage all these because they were done when the home was not in the right position. This would cause more problems and repairs for the homeowner.

Another instance would be when the foundation has tilted but not cracked and the telltale signs of foundation damage (like cracked walls, separating trim work or misaligned windows/doors) have not yet appeared. In this case Home Stabilization might be a good idea.

One thing to take into account is that while the same number of supports would be used for leveling, the fact that the house will not be raised will in turn result in less of a time to get the job done and at a lesser cost.

And finally, in case the owner were to ever change his or her mind, Home Stabilization allows for Leveling to be done later in time.

Having gone through that you might look at your home and wonder; which of these three is the right option for my home? Well, it all depends in what your ultimate goal is. Fortunately, if you are still hesitant, you don’t have to make that choice on your own. At iFix we will be glad to help you think it through and help you make the right AND informed decision for your home, always in the service of your needs. So give us a call and we will be more than happy to solve this riddle with you!


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