Educational Consumer Tips

Foundation repair

Author: Better Business Bureau

Foundation problems present the most expensive potential repair for homeowners. The foundation is that part of the structure that is in direct contact with the ground and transmits the load of the structure to the ground. The
prevention and correction of foundation problems require care and investigation.

There are two types of residential foundations in widespread use in this area: Pier and Beam and Slab Construction. Pier-and-beam construction (often found in older homes) is designed to distribute perimeter loads on a continuous concrete beam supported by piers drilled into the ground. The slab construction typical of newer homes is designed to transmit essentially 100% of the load to the soil and comes in a variety of configurations.

The signs of foundation movement may take many forms - - cracks in walls or ceilings, separation in brick mortar, interior doors out of plumb - - and may seem to appear almost overnight. Foundation movement, however, is usually the product of long-term forces. The movement of pier-and-beam foundations is usually restricted to settlement and can be corrected.

If the foundation needs repair, several points should be kept in mind in selecting a foundation contractor. Get a firm bid on the cost of repair from more than one company. Determine whether the contractor will cover any damage during repairs. Compile a list of old and new references. Find out how long the company has been in business and whether it has changed owners. Learn whether the company uses day laborers or full-time employees. Check to be sure that the contractor is registered with the city as required. Improper foundation repairs may only add to your problem.

As with many homeowners' expenses, prevention of foundation problems will be cheaper than correction. Foundation problems in this region often are due to variations in soil moisture. Too little moisture causes the soil to shrink and the foundation to settle; too much water causes the soil to swell and heave the foundation. Periodic watering, drainage adjustments, and even landscaping can be manipulated to help maintain constant soil moisture. A small investment in preventive maintenance can avoid costly repairs at a later date.