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Engineering Foundation Questions

Structural Design Solutions has years of experience in structural design including foundation designs. We have listed a few commonly asked questions below for your reference. If you have any specific questions, feel free to contact us. We will be glad to help with your foundation concerns.

Frequently Asked Questions about Foundations?

What are the differences between the different foundation types?
Slab or Slab on Grade is a foundation that is one large piece of concrete reinforced with steel bars or cables. “On grade” simply means the structure is supported by the ground or grade.

A pier and beam foundation keeps the structure lifted off the ground or grade by using a tall perimeter concrete beam and a series of piers which support the floor constructed of wood.

A simple frame foundation is the oldest type of foundation and is similar to a Pier and Beam. A frame foundation does not use a concrete perimeter beam, but has supports around the perimeter that are covered by siding down to the ground.
How can I best maintain my foundation?
Following these common sense steps could save you thousands of dollars in foundation repairs.

During the rainy season: Check your drainage around your property. Wait until a hard solid rain (not just a sprinkle), then walk around your house and see if the runoff water is draining away from your foundation without standing or puddling.

If you see puddling that’s a problem, the solution is a positive watershed. A positive water shed exists when the dirt is higher at the foundation and slopes away from the house at the minimum rate of one inch per foot and extends past the roofline. If your house has gutters, be sure they are free from obstructions and that the down spouts direct the water away from the house past the roof line.

Do not build a dam around your house with landscape timbers, concrete trim, sidewalks or metal trim, that will prevent proper drainage. Fixing a severe problem could include cutting a depression in the ground to direct the water or installing a drain system. Remember, too much water is just as bad as not watering in the dry season.

During the dry season: The ideal way to maintain a constant moisture level around your foundation is to use an automatic sprinkler system with a rain gauge cut off. You can also use a soaker hose positioned 18 inches from the foundation. Turn on the water until you see it form a standing puddle on the ground.

The expansion of the soil will provide uniform support for the foundation. Watering should be repeated when drying cracks are observed or when soil is clearly too dry. Do not put a hose in big cracks and try to water the foundation. This can cause additional damage. You may find that the south and east sides of the house will require more watering. Remember… the goal is moisture uniformity on all sides.

Trees and shrubs: As a rule of thumb, trees should be planted a distance equal to their mature height from the house. Trees planted too close to the house rob moisture from the soil, allowing the dirt to shrink causing foundation problems.
Would I be able to see a drainage problem?
Yes, if it’s a surface water problem. No, if it’s an underground water problem. However, there are many other indicators that can be observed by an experienced engineer.

What is needed for a foundation inspection of a pier and beam house?

A certified foundation repair specialist performs all the inspections needed for a concrete slab foundation plus crawling under the pier and beam house (where space allows) to inspect for signs of foundation problems. These may include: 1) rotten or termite damaged beams and joists, 2) evidence of standing water, and 3) tilted support posts which are no longer providing adequate beam support. Pier and beam house leveling may be as simple as adding steel shims. In some cases, excess dirt under the structure may need to be removed in order to facilitate repairs.

What is the correct foundation repair plan?

Pier placement is not an exact science, so it is not uncommon for reputable house leveling contractors to differ somewhat in their repair plans. That is why it is important to have the 3rd party opinion of an independent structural engineer.