Pier and Beam Foundation Repair Basics

pier and beams

Foundation repair is often a major consideration for homeowners planning to remodel their basements. With aging, the structural stability of every foundation becomes prone to stress induced by environmental and design factors. Repairing pier and beam foundations is regarded as much easier than that of concrete foundations. The entire repair process is more affordable and less labor-intense.

Understanding Pier and Beam Foundations

A pier and beam foundation may be a traditional foundation system for residential dwellings, but it as efficient and durable as most modern, concrete foundations. Pier and beam foundations provide homeowners with the advantage of maintaining a larger, integrated crawlspace.

This space can be used to contain the plumbing connections of the home, making it easier to do periodic plumbing repairs. Similarly, the crawlspace is often used for installing central heating systems. Pier and beam foundations that have been used for decades may develop some maintenance-based problems, which can be easily resolved if you are familiar with foundation repair basics and the common methods of tending to such repairs.

Understanding Reasons for Pier and Beam Foundation Problems

You should have a basic understanding about the causes of foundation problems. It helps to precisely identify the problem and undertake the appropriate repair procedure. The following factors affect pier and beam foundations.

Underlying Soil

Seasonal moisture is a major cause of cracks within the foundations. Soil beds with high clay content create more problems since they support greater moisture retention. The soil expands when moisture seepage is heavy, which stresses the foundation and causes uneven floor sections in the basement as well as sustained seepage along the basement doors. The basement’s sheetrock may also crack.

Inappropriate Construction

Many homes with pier and beam foundations were built upon cedar piers. These piers are durable, but they restrict the footing area for the foundation. The surface area offered by the footing area dictates the support that is extended to the foundation. With cedar piers, the foundation is unable to pass the stress to the sub-flooring.

The constant compression and eventual rotting of the soil under the foundation causes the basement to sink into the underlying soil. That is a common reason for the typical sunk appearance of aged pier and beam foundations.

Understanding Pier and Beam Repair Methods

Most pier and beam foundations can be easily strengthened by choosing both or one of the following methods, depending on the extent of the problem.

Improper Drainage

The foundation becomes more prone to cracking and mold growth if the drainage isn't directed away from the home’s basement. Such drainage system puts constant moisture on the basement area.

The moisture gradually passes to the lower foundation layers. Water also compromises proper ventilation of the foundation, which hinders quick drying of the basement. Other foundation problems include ignorant gardening practices where the garden’s soil bed drains towards the basement.

Shoring the Foundation

Site shoring is recommended when it becomes apparent that the pier and beam foundation is unable to bear any more stress. The condition can be detected by observing the cracked pattern that concentrates along the base of the walls.

Retailed timber piers are inserted to increase the load-bearing capacity of the foundation. Commonly, temporary shoring is recommended for residential foundation repairs. The timber is inserted under the existing beams of the foundation, which adds more surface area to the footing of the foundation. The increased footing facilitates the transfer of stress onto the new piers.

Strengthening the Foundation

If shoring doesn't solve the problem, then a sonotube is recommended. If the basement shows considerable cracking, and the floor has developed a visible slope, you can install a sonotube without shoring the foundation.

Sonotubes are concrete forms which are usually hollow. They are retailed as concrete columns. They are inserted in aging foundations to even the slope and increase overall durability.

Sonotubes can be ordered according to different size requirements. They are supplied in a precut/pre-shaped configuration. Sonotubes are usually placed around the rebar of the footing area. Then concrete is poured to ensure that the sonotube is secured in its position.

Sonotube repair is seriously recommended if there are visible gaps between the ceiling’s sheetrock panels or between the base of vertical walls and the foundation floor.