There are usually a number of different soil layers underneath a house.
Foundation settlement can occur when one of these soil layers can't support the weight of the home.
Your home is showing signs of damage related to foundation settlement.
How to Fix It:
We fix foundation settlement issues by installing steel foundation piers. These piers will extend beneath the foundation, contacting strong supporting soils that will permanently stabilize your structure.
At Yellowstone Structural Systems, we solve foundation settlement issues of all kinds! Call us for a free foundation settlement repair quote today!
We serve Helena, Great Falls, Bozeman, and many nearby areas in Montana and Wyoming.
Signs of a settling foundation can be very subtle at first -- many homeowners can go months or even years before noticing a crack in their foundation. The long-term damage from foundation settlement, however, is ongoing and will lead to more severe foundation problems.
As a foundation settles, many telltale signs will become evident. What follows are some of the most common ways that foundation settlement can become visible to the homeowner.
Stair-step cracking is one of the surest signs of foundation settlement and is very common in brick in concrete block walls.
As the settlement continues, vertical cracks may widen or become uneven as wall sections tilt away from each other, indicating more severe displacement.
Keep an eye out for cracks that are wider at the top than at the bottom, as this is a sign of advancing settlement.
Tilting chimneys that are separating from the home are one of the most intimidating and dramatic signs of a settling foundation.
Sometimes a chimney is built on a footing that is not connected to the house foundation. The enormous weight of a chimney can make it even more at risk of settlement.
More information about tilting, leaning chimney repair.
Damaged Doors & Windows
An opening cut in any wall is a weak point, so signs of foundation settlement often show up around door and window openings.
Doors and windows frames may be racked out of square. Cracks may extend from the corners above doors and windows. Doors may separate from the framing or exterior finish. Other signs of foundation settlement include sticking or jamming doors and windows, and locks that stop working.
More information about sticking windows and doors.
Slab Floor Cracking
Cracks in your concrete floor slab can be a sign of foundation settlement, but they may also be a sign that the slab floor alone has settled.
There are times when your slab floor may sink or lift independently of the foundation walls, damaging the floors but not necessarily the foundation walls themselves.
More information about slab floor crack repair.
Cracks in drywall throughout the house are reliable indicators of foundation settlement. Cracks will often be larger and more obvious in the home's upper levels.
Typical drywall cracks during foundation settlement are commonly located at the corners of doors and windows and along drywall seams. Drywall tape can also be a good indicator, especially if it's ripping or coming loose. Drywall cracks can also be a sign of sinking crawl space supports, sinking floors, and heaving floors.
At Yellowstone Structural Systems, we recommend installing foundation piers to stabilize, repair, and restore a foundation that's been damaged by issues related to foundation settlement and poor supporting soils.
There are several different types of foundation piers; each one is designed to address a different kind of foundation problem. We install three different kinds of foundation piers: push piers, helical piers, and slab piers.
Push piers connect the foundation to strong, stable soil or bedrock.
Foundation piers attach to the base of the foundation with special brackets and extend through settling and unstable soil layers, transferring the weight of your home to competent soils or bedrock.
Foundation push piers are straight, steel piers that attach to your foundation and extend far below the structure to strong supporting soils.
During the installation, a section of the foundation footing is exposed and cut to attach to each pier's bracket. This is possible year-round from either inside or outside of your foundation or structure.
Foundation brackets are secured to the footing, and tubular pier sections are hydraulically driven through each bracket.
Pier sections continue to be driven downwards until the piers meet competent strata that can bear the weight of your home without compression.
When all push piers have been installed, they will work in unison to transfer the weight of the structure to the strong soils or bedrock below. If possible, the home is also lifted back to its original, level position.
More about installing foundation push piers.
Read about our push pier system.
Illustration of foundation helical piers stabilizing a home.
Like push piers, helical piers are attached to the foundation by mounting a bracket. Helical piers include rotating blades that are advanced (or "screwed") into the soil.
Foundation helical piers are straight, steel piers that have helical blades welded to each shaft. This installation is possible from either inside or outside of your foundation.
These piers are driven into the soils underneath your foundation, then each pier is connected to the structure's foundation via a steel bracket.
During the installation, a section of the footing is exposed and cut for each bracket.
Next, round-shaft helical piers are mechanically advanced into the soil.
Once the helical pier has been advanced into the soil, a foundation bracket is secured to the footing.
When all helical piers have been installed, they will work in unison to transfer the weight of the structure to competent soil. If possible, the structure is also lifted back to a level position.
More about installing foundation helical piers.
Read about our helical pier system.
Slab piers can stabilize a settling concrete slab.
When the soil beneath a concrete slab shrinks or settles, the slab itself is also likely to settle, often cracking in the process. Slab piers restore stability by connecting the slab to competent soil at greater depth.
Slab piers are not appropriate for supporting foundation walls or repairing damage caused by foundation heave.
Foundation slab piers are straight steel piers that extend from stable soils deep below the structure to support brackets directly in contact with the underside of the slab.
These piers are meant to support a settling concrete floor, and are not appropriate for foundation wall stabilization.
Slab piers are also inappropriate for repairing heaving foundations, where the floor is being lifted by expansive soils or frost heave.
During installation, a small hole is cored through the concrete floor. A slab bracket is assembled beneath the concrete slab, and steel tubes are hydraulically driven down through this bracket assembly.
When the slab piers have reached competent soils, the weight of the slab is transferred through the piers to load-bearing soils below. If possible, the slab is lifted back to level position.
At the end of the installation, grout is pumped under the slab to fill any voids, and all cored holes in the slab are restored with new concrete for a clean, professional look.
This installation is possible year-round, and provides a permanent solution for your home.
Read about our slab pier system.
Like all home improvements and repairs, some methods work better than others. On the other hand, some methods seem to hardly work at all. In fact, at Yellowstone Structural Systems, we find that many of our foundation repair jobs are actually just fixing the unsuccessful repairs of other contractors.
Based on our experiences throughout Montana and Wyoming, here are three "fixes" that we do NOT recommend:
A complete foundation replacement in Melville. The house is placed on temporary supports while the foundation is excavated and replaced.
To completely replace your home's foundation, the soil will have to be removed from around your home and your home will be jacked up and placed on temporary supports.
Next, your foundation walls are completely removed, and a new set of walls are constructed.
This is expensive, time-consuming, and extremely disruptive for a family. Even worse, it doesn't even address the real problem -- the soils around your foundation.
Many homeowners remove and replace their foundation without addressing the problem that caused the foundation issue in the first place. When this happens, they often find that after several years, they're facing the same problem all over again.
At Yellowstone Structural Systems, we address the problem with warrantied solutions that will fix your problem once and for all.
Concrete underpinning failed to stabilize this house. Eventually, the homeowner had to invest in a different, more permanent solution for their home.
To install concrete underpinning, the soils must be excavated from around the foundation. Larger concrete footings are poured beneath the existing footings. Once the concrete has cured, the soil is backfilled.
When it comes to foundation footings, "bigger" is not necessarily "better." Most of the time, the underpinning will not extend beyond the problem soils under your home. If this is true, the larger footings you just paid for will continue to move and cause damage.
Concrete shrinks as it cures, and small gaps can form between the new and old footings. Open gaps beneath a home are never a good thing!
When concrete underpinning is installed and fails to solve the problem, it is much more expensive to repair. Before installing a new foundation system, all that added concrete will need to be removed.
Concrete piers are too big and blunt to be driven deep into foundation soils, so they usually don't extend to competent supporting soils.
These piers can crack under pressure, and they often install unevenly or crookedly under your home.
To install concrete piers under a home, the soil will first need to be excavated from around your foundation.
Short, 6"-8"wide concrete cylinders are then pushed into the soil on top of one another, strung together by a wire. Shims are then placed between the top of the concrete pier and the footing, then the soil is backfilled. The over-lifting process required to perform shimming may lead to further damage to your foundation.
Blunt, wide concrete cylinders are difficult to push deep into the ground, making it very difficult to extend them past the poor supporting soils under your home.
Concrete can crack and break when under pressure, and even in response to temperature changes, making concrete piers a flimsy repair method.
Additionally, there is nothing to guide the direction for the pier, which means they might not be installed straight. So how will they support your home?
Because of these and other reasons, very few companies will recommend this kind of approach.
At Yellowstone Structural Systems, we can identify and repair any issue you may be having with settling, sinking foundations. We have a wide variety of solutions for foundation repair that have been tested and proven effective throughout the United States and Canada through the Supportworks network of foundation contractors.
Each of our solutions starts with a free, written foundation repair quote, and includes a personal consultation with a foundation expert, an in-person inspection, and a free copy of our 90-page foundation repair book. To schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, call or e-mail us today!
We proudly serve Great Falls, Bozeman, Helena, areas such as Billings, Belgrade, Big Sky, Missoula , Jackson, Anaconda, Butte, and nearby.
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