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The Inherent Problems of Pier and Beam Foundations

While we have previously touched upon de subject of pier and beam foundations, today we will be talking specifically about what inherent problems this type of foundation might entail. Remember, the more informed you are the better you’ll be in preventing and dealing with this possible issues, keeping your foundation and safe and sound as possible.

The main characteristic of pier and foundation is that it props a home above the ground. Before the 1960s these type of foundation were standard practice, and although they might not be as common today they are still in use in places where soil conditions and climate don’t see eye to eye with slab foundations. 

The two main components of these types of foundations are piers and beams (shocker!) Piers are the vertical structural elements tat support the building by transferring its weight to the ground; the are placed beneath load-bearing points like corners and intersections and are generally made of concrete or masonry. Beams are the horizontal elements of the structure, resting on top of the piers. These are parallel to the ground and form the framework of the building. They distribute the weight of the construction evenly across the piers. And in spite of their decreased usage they still remain one of the most reliable types of foundation.

Some of the benefits that these type of foundations provide are protection from flooding and moisture, given they elevate the actual home a couple of feet above the ground. At the same time this is a great advantage as it has better drainage capabilities.

Elevating the structure provides another benefit in creating a space between the home and the ground; the crawl space; high enough for a person to crawl through it allows utilities like plumbing and electricity to be installed and be accessed in case there is any need. This may be in fact the greatest advantage pier and beam foundations have over other foundations like slab on grade foundations. In the case any sort of problems are found with utilities and repairs are needed in a slab on grade foundation access might be quite a hassle as it would typically mean either breaking open the concrete or digging beneath the house and foundation in order to access these spots (assuming you know exactly where the problem is located, otherwise it might take a while more time and effort to locate the issue) and this will obviously translate in time and money spent.

Another plus is that the space between ground and home is the additional bit of insulation from the air beneath which will save you a bit of money on energy costs. There are also people who prefer the feel of a wooden platform over a concrete floor, but that is more a mater of taste. 

Having spoken of the benefits of pier and beam foundations it might feel like an obvious superior choice, however, as the title of this post suggest, there are some inherent issues with this type of foundation that you should definitely not dismiss as various factors could impact the integrity of the foundation. Soil movement, moisture infiltration and natural wear and tear can all take a toll on your foundation.

Structure sinking or settling can bring about different issues like Sagging Floors and Shifting Beams which can damage the integrity of the building. In order to fix these installing shims, additional piers or supports might be necessary in order to restore stability and stop further damage from developing.

Tilting of Piers is another possible problem of these foundations, and quite a big one as it can lead to foundation failure so stabilization of all piers will be necessary through techniques that allow the piers to be secured in their intended position.

Deterioration of Exterior Piers can also happen and they will let you know through the door frames as they become misaligned. Installing shims and new beams might be a solution while other times replacing the damaged exterior piers might be necessary.

Due to the nature of the crawl space, Dampness might also occur. And this is a problem not to be taken lightly as dampness can severely deteriorate a foundation in little time. Implementing ideal drainage services is a must as it will not only correct the symptoms but, if done right, will address the origin of the problem altogether.

One more thing to look out for is Mold and Mildew. Not only can they become a significant threat to wooden components but also to the actual health of the persons living inside the house. To fix this replacing the affected wooden components is essential, but in order to make sure this does not reoccur, additional steps need to be taken like draining any stagnant water (and removing the source of said water), sealing the crawlspace and/or installing a dehumidifier will go along way to ensuring this.

As we mentioned earlier, knowing this will help you be on the lookout for signs of trouble, and remember that if you are already noticing some of these tell tale signs, or you already have or suspect foundation damage, or if you just want to make sure or install preventive measures or services, don’t forget to call iFix! 

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