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Sinking Foundation

by Jon Nunan

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The foundation of your house is one of the most structurally significant aspects of the building. When set on a solid foundation, the rest of the house has the support it needs to maintain its integrity and stand for decades upon decades. If your house's foundation is set improperly, there are a host of problems that can follow. A sinking foundation is one issue that can occur if the foundation is laid improperly or on unstable soil. Sinking foundations are problems that need to be addressed and examined as soon as you notice them to prevent further damage (and, of course, repair costs) to the rest of the house.

How to Spot a Sinking Foundation
Obviously, if you notice your home gradually slanting to one side, you'll probably be well aware that you have some foundation problems. However, there are a few less obvious symptoms of foundation problems that will help you identify issues before your home begins to resemble that oh-so-popular tower in Italy.

Keep on the lookout for things like windows and doors becoming jammed or misaligned. Watch for cracks in basements, slabs, and on walls in the living areas of the house. Water puddles that form around the base of your home may also indicate foundation problems, as can upheaval of floors or floors that gradually become sloped. Homeowners in areas where soil is known to be unstable should keep an even sharper eye out for such occurrences.

Sinking Foundation Repair
The first step in fixing a sinking foundation is to have your home examined by a professional. A structural engineer is generally the person to hire to diagnose foundation problems and tell you what, if anything, should be done about it. Structural engineers do not have a vested interest in the kind of repairs that will be done, as this job is performed by either a foundation specialist or a general contractor. This means that the engineer will be able to give you an unbiased and accurate assessment of the situation without any concern about monetary incentives.

Once you know what the exact problems are, it's time to hire a contractor to do the work. Foundation repair can be expensive and tricky. You'll want to shop around and get several bids from several different contractors as well as have a look at their experience in such matters. The size of the job can be pretty tempting for a contractor looking for work, so make sure to check references to be sure that the one you hire has done this before with good results.

There are several different techniques used to fix a sinking foundation, and each is more appropriate in certain situations. High-pressure grouting works by injecting grout into unstable soil to improve its integrity, and in some cases, to lift the structure of the house up, as well. The introduction of load-bearing piers can be used to lift and stabilize a sinking foundation; they are an economical and permanent solution to foundation problems in many instances. Helical piers can be used in some situations where other piers cannot. These, too, provide an economical and permanent solution to sinking foundations, and are especially useful where fill material or a high water table is present.

Jon Nunan is a freelance writer who draws on his experience in construction, ranging from landscaping to log home building, for his articles on home improvement.