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Foundation Soils

Your foundation relies on the compact supporting soils underneath to keep your home upright and stable. Learn more about what can cause these soils to erode and settle.

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The sole purpose of a foundation is to elevate your home from the soil below and give support to your home’s structure. The soil itself is also a crucial component of the foundation’s stability. Unfortunately, soil protection is one aspect that homeowners tend to overlook. 

Unfortunately, failure to compact or protect this soil can inevitably lead to foundation damage that could have been prevented. Let’s take a closer look into how inadequate foundation soils can cause your foundation to fail, what problem signs you can watch out for, and how Foundation Repair of Western Colorado’s solutions can help. 

Common Causes of Foundation Damage 

Some homeowners might want to know how such an important structure like your foundation could even be susceptible to damage in the first place. Here are some of the most common causes of foundation damage. 

Foundation Soils and Settling 

The soil surrounding and underneath your foundation is critical to maintaining its structural integrity. Without properly compacted soils used to support the foundation, it will likely shift out of its original placement, settle, and even crack apart. 

One way the foundation’s supporting soils can become undermined is through a phenomenon referred to as the clay bowl effect. When contractors first plan to build a home, they will assess the soil of the area they plan to build on. They will then dig a large hole where they plan to lie down your foundation and either a basement or crawl space. 

After each component is set into place, there will typically be some space left around these structures. The contractors will then backfill some of the soil they previously dug up back into this space. This essentially creates the “clay bowl” around the foundation.  

This soil is much looser than it used to be, which can make it even more susceptible to washing out during a storm or when substantial amounts of snowmelt in the spring. Without this soil, your foundation will start to shift or settle further into the earth. This settling or shifting may also cause the foundation to crack as well. 

Another factor that can negatively impact these soils is wild tree roots growing around the foundation itself. Though these tree roots are not technically strong enough to push through the concrete itself, they will take up all the moisture within the soils around your foundation. Tree roots may also push these looser soils around as they search for moisture to drain away. 

This can then cause the soil itself to shrink or at the very least become less compact. Again, with this soil now becoming weaker or more brittle, it increases the chances of your foundation settling further into the earth. 

It is best to take steps to not only waterproof your foundation but the surrounding soil around it as well. This will prevent it from washing out during any harsh storms and deter tree roots from attempting to grow through it and dry out the soils. However, the best preventative measure you can take is to have your foundation inspected every year by the foundation experts at Foundation Repair of Western Colorado. 

Hydrostatic Pressure 

The soil surrounding your foundation is also prone to absorbing far more moisture than it is realistically capable of holding. This is largely due to Colorado’s clay and sandy loam soils. Soil that is mostly comprised of clay tends to absorb a lot of moisture. This is because moisture moves slower through clay soils than other types of soil, which means that it will take longer for that water to drain out or evaporate. 

If this soil is not washed out by that moisture, the combined weight of the water and soil can create immense pressure against your foundation. This pressure can even be enough to shift your foundation out of its original placement or even crack it apart. Contractors and experts refer to this phenomenon as hydrostatic pressure. It is common and affects homes all over the world. 

Hydrostatic pressure can also occur in another form as well. If the water has not drained out or evaporated, then it may have become trapped in the pores of your concrete foundation. This itself will not cause any problems. Come wintertime, however, these trapped droplets can freeze over, expand, and eventually cause your foundation to crack from within. 

Soil Shrinkage and Compaction 

If the supporting soils keep constantly being washed out and left to dry, it is possible that they will start to shrink and compact even closer together. This leaves your foundation with even less of a surface area of soil to support itself and your home. That alone can cause the foundation to settle or shift. 

When any moisture does seep into the soil again, the once-dry soil will then suddenly swell up again. In Grand Junction, Colorado, this swelling can easily create either hydrostatic pressure against the foundation or even push your foundation upward or disrupt other structures around your home (such as the surrounding concrete sidewalk, for instance). This disruption is commonly referred to as heaving and can create harsh cracks along the corners of your home creeping upward. 

This is also known as the swell-shrinkage capacity. Soils that are mainly made up of a clay mixture are especially vulnerable to this due to the fact that water moves slowly through it when it swells. Clay soils are also the best for building on top of, too. Conversely, soils that have a lack of clay content tend to wash out easier, so contractors need to always take the pros and cons into consideration before deciding to go with a different soil mixture. 

The swell-shrinkage capacity of the soil can be measured through the volume of water content already on the surface, the specific type of clay or soil type, and the overall ratio of clay mixed into the soil. Thus, Colorado’s high clay loam soils tend to be rife with swell-shrinkage issues. 

soil shrinkage

Problem Signs of Foundation Damage 

Most homeowners will not know if their foundation itself is cracked or damaged. Fortunately, there are various problem signs that may crop up in other parts of your home that you will be able to spot to know if your foundation is damaged. 

Leaks 

Your basement is usually the first place you may notice that something is wrong with your foundation. You might notice that leaks have sprung in your basement, leading to random pools along your floor or even massive floods that do not drain out. 

Even small leaks have the potential to grow larger and flood your basement or other parts of your home. This is why it is not wise to ignore any leaks you see no matter what. 

Cracks 

Cracks are perhaps the most obvious sign of foundation damage that you will be able to spot. If your foundation is cracked, then it makes sense that your basement or crawl space floor or walls would be cracked as well. These cracks can easily spread out to other parts of your home, including the concrete surrounding your home, so it is best to call the foundation experts to repair them as soon as you see them. 

Any cracks that measure less than 1/8 inches wide are referred to as hairline cracks and may be left alone for a brief period. Cracks that measure anywhere between 1/8 and 1/4 inches wide may also be left alone for some time, but you should schedule an appointment with one of our experts to patch it up and inspect your foundation. 

Any cracks that measure wider than 1/4 inches wide, however, need immediate attention. 

Sagging Floors 

Another sign that your foundation is damaged is if your floor seems to sag or bounce in places. It is possible that your foundation has shifted or settled, which can cause the support beams of your floor to shift and crack as well. This then leads your floor without a stable support system, thus leading it to sag and create tripping hazards all around your home. 

sagging floors of interior house with tape measure

Stuck Doorways and Windowsills 

Many homeowners will attribute a hard-to-open door or window to mere age. This might be true in some cases, but the possibility that this might be due to a shifted or cracked foundation should not be ignored, either. If your foundation becomes damaged, other structures in your home will start to lean or sway. Thus, your doors and windows might become trapped in the tilted frames and become much harder to open and close. 

Tilting Walls 

Perhaps the most dangerous sign that your foundation is damaged is when your very walls start to tilt. This is often a sign that your home is on the verge of collapsing altogether. You need to take steps to protect your foundation and the soils surrounding it long before it ever reaches this point. 

Foundation Soils

FAQ's

It might sound ridiculous that something as vulnerable as soil is used to support your foundation and your whole home. Some homeowners might wonder how it is even able to protect your foundation at all given its brittle nature. 

Soil Type 

The type of soil is also taken into consideration before building a house over a property. Compact soils are the best soils to build over given their inherent strength and ability to bear heavy weights, but contractors will not always have this luxury. Fortunately, Grand Junction, Colorado, has mostly clay loam soils, which are perhaps one of the best soil types to build on. 

In this case, contractors will not need to rely on digging into additional layers as extra support for the foundation. However, in the case that the soil is mainly made up of sand or other looser material, then this can present issues. To prevent this looser soil from washing out, contractors may need to add an extra gravel bed layer or work into other layers as support instead. 

Soil Layers 

When contractors first go about building a home, they will look into the soil already present in the area they plan to build on. Sometimes the top layer of soil, known as the subgrade layer, will be the only layer the contractors will need to consider when constructing a new building. Again, Colorado’s firm clay loam is great for this. 

Artificial gravel layers are typically only used when this top layer is too loose to work with. This layer is referred to as the subbase layer, and its main purpose is to slow down the flow of any groundwater or other moisture seeping into the soil. This prevents this moisture from washing out the looser subgrade layer altogether. Multiple base layers may need to be laid down if the soil is especially loose or unstable, too.

When it comes to something as important as your foundation, it is best to leave any repairs you might need to the experts at Foundation Repair of Western Colorado. 

Why DIY Repairs Are Not Recommended 

The foundation is perhaps the most vital structure to your home’s overall health. It is not something that just anyone should attempt to repair on their own. You may accidentally damage it even further, leading to more costly repairs further in the future. It is best to call the foundation experts to assess where the true cause of damage lies. 

Similarly, any DIY repair methods sold at your local home improvement stores will not be strong enough to fully protect your foundation nor the soils supporting it and your home. At best, they can offer temporary relief to your issues while you schedule an appointment with our experts. 

Leave It to the Foundation Experts 

The foundation experts at Foundation Repair of Western Colorado are trained to assess and repair all issues your foundation could likely face. We will have all the right tools and equipment for this delicate repair job, so you will not have to worry about performing any preemptive repairs on your own. In fact, it is always best to leave these repairs to the foundation experts for both your budget and safety. It is possible that you might accidentally damage another part of your foundation when you are attempting to fix it up again. This is why when you spot any problem signs at all, it is best to call the foundation experts at Foundation Repair of Western Colorado to circumvent the worst damage.

Let’s take a quick look into some of the other foundation repair solutions we at Foundation Repair of Western Colorado can offer your home. 

Carbon Fiber Wall Straps 

Though wall anchors and our piers systems might be tough repair solutions, they may not be the best solution for every home. This is because wall anchors typically require a specific amount of yard space to install. If your yard does not have this ample space, our experts may then resort to installing alternative foundation repair solutions. 

Our carbon fiber wall straps might not look as if they can repair an entire foundation, but do not underestimate its strength. Carbon fiber is one of the toughest materials out there, being around 10 times stronger than steel. It is used to create heavy-duty sports equipment, racecars, and even aircraft. When these straps are attached to your wall with our equally powerful epoxy resin, you can rest easy knowing that your basement walls will be slowly repaired again over time. 

IntelliBrace™ I-Beam System 

Our IntelliBrace™ I-beam system is yet another alternative to wall anchors that you might prefer over our carbon fiber wall straps. Essentially, they have the same function as these wall straps, only they are galvanized steel I-beams strategically braced to your basement wall instead of a thin strap. These beams are light and will take roughly the same time to install as our carbon fiber straps. 

The main difference between the carbon fiber wall straps and our IntelliBrace™ system is the fact that the I-beams will need to be tightened over time whereas the wall straps can be left as is. This is because each beam is braced to your wall in a way that will slowly repair the cracks and damage over time. This much slower tightening method then ensures that any larger bowing issues (such as bowing that is more than two inches) will close without disrupting other parts of your home.

Foundation Repair Solutions by Foundation Repair of Western Colorado 

It might seem impossible to repair your foundation on your own. Fortunately, Foundation Repair of Western Colorado will have all the tools and solutions to repair your foundation for you. 

Wall Anchors 

By installing wall anchors in strategic areas around your yard, they can transfer the strength of these more compact soils to your foundation and brace it against any future threats that might cause it to shift, bow, or crack. 

Piers Systems 

Like the wall anchor system, our piers systems will settle into the more stable layers of your soil to provide support from directly below. We can offer your home two different piers systems: helical piers and push piers. The only real difference between them lies in how they are installed. 

Helical piers have spiral-like attachments at the end that allow our experts to hydraulically drill them into the soil underneath your foundation. As its name implies, a push pier is manually pushed into the soil by one of our foundation experts. Each pier is typically braced to the underside of your foundation to keep them in place while they continue to brace your foundation against any damage it is likely to face.

Contact the Foundation Experts at Foundation Repair of Western Colorado 

Your foundation needs to be protected against any forms of damage that might threaten to move or damage it. Though some homeowners might be savvy enough to have the foundation itself waterproofed, the same cannot be said for the surrounding soils that support this structure. 

This soil is critical to your foundation’s overall health and maintenance. It’s important to watch out for damage that can threaten to disrupt that soil as much as the foundation itself. Fortunately, calling a foundation expert for advice and repairs is simple and can be implemented quickly if you catch this damage in time. 

Contact the foundation experts at Foundation Repair of Western Colorado for a free foundation inspection today. You can also ask for free quotes on all our powerful foundation repair solutions during our visit as well. We serve clients all throughout Grand Junction, Colorado.

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FOUNDATION REPAIR OF WESTERN COLORADO

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