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Pier and Beam Foundation Repair

The most important part of a home is the foundation, if the foundation is not strong or suffers damage, it can and typically does lead to a huge expense. There are three foundation types typically used by builders before the actual construction of a home begins. The slab-on-grade is the most common type of foundation used.

The second foundation uses a base of reinforced concrete with the soil, and because the ‘second foundation’ begins with the soil, testing and approval of the soil has to be done first before any pouring of concrete is started. The soil has to be sustainable for the concrete because things like seasonal settling caused by drought, rainfall and even extreme temperature changes will affect the amount of ‘moving’ that can occur.

The third type of foundation used is pier and beam. A majority of the homes, especially the older ones in the New Orleans and Baton Rouge areas have pier and beam foundations. This type of foundation has a crawl space underneath the structure. Constructed with a concrete footing, a pier is positioned to support the wood beams and the floor joists.

As with the ‘second foundation’, the ground’s quality is also an issue because of the thin nature of the base. The financial cost or any concrete repair can be incredibly high if the soil can’t be supported to weather the pier and beams weight.

The definition of pier and beam homes are defined as dwelling which can be crawled under, which is where the term crawl space comes from. And unlike the slab foundations with concrete flooring, pier and beam houses\/structures have typically have wood floors as well as a wood sub-structure.

One of the disadvantages of the pier and beam foundation is the wood is prone to rot when subjected to prolonged contact with soil or water, not to mention issues with bugs like termites and a few other wood eating critters.

This article focuses on the repairing of pier and beam foundation damage types and causes, how repairs are made and the some preventative suggestions. The focus is on pier and beam foundation repairs for Thiboudaux, Metairie, Slidell, Madisonville, Mandelville and Covington Louisiana located homes\/structures.

The beams are the largest pieces of lumber and they run parallel to the length of the structure\/house. Generally they are spaced up to 12 feet apart. Wooden beams or joists, run perpendicular and are spaced about 18 inches apart.

The sub-floor sits on top of the joists and the sub-floor is at the very least. The wooden substructure is raised and supported by concrete beams, drilled concrete, pads and blocks, piers or some combination of the four systems.

Academy Foundation Repair
Catching the need for repairs before extensive damage is done is important, the worse the damage is the more expensive it will be to repair and the more extensive the means to repair it will be. Knowing the early signs of potential bean and pier damage can mean the difference between a few thousand dollars to upwards of $40,000 or more.

Some of the early signs your pier and beam foundation is in need of repair are commonly visible inside the house, the basement, crawl spaces and outside walls and foundation cracks. Things to look for first are any changes in the floors or walls such as warped or bowing window frames and doors. Generally if the doors and windows start sticking and become difficult to close or they do not close correctly, this is a sign of the foundation beginning to show signs of more serious conditions other than normal settling that occurs.

Early signs of damage include, floor tiles that are beginning to crack or pop, walls that are bulging in or bowing out; cracks in the walls, ceiling, brickwork, drywall or sheet rock; signs of gaps above window and door frames; popping, creaking or cracking sounds either when walking through the house or just in general that had not been common before.

Other signs also include soft-feeling, spongy or shaky spots in the floor; wet crawl spaces and basements and chimneys that begin to pull away from the house or are starting to tilt and signs of mold and\/or mildew around or on the beams. Foundation damage unlike other home repairs cannot be put off and need to be addresses as soon as possible.

The Causes Of Pier & Beam Foundation Damage

There are several potential causes of foundation damage. The damage occurs when there is a substantial changes in the soil below the foundation. During summer months when the temps are hot, the soil can expand and then retract when the temperatures drop to freezing or below. These changes under the foundation can lead to cracks and excessive movement of the foundation.

Because the soil in Louisiana contains a lot of clay and silk type sand, both of which are highly prone to retain moisture, good drainage is imperative to prevent foundation damage. Signs of poor drainage are ponding or pooling of standing water around the structure, the beams and the foundation itself.

Not having proper moisture control or drainage around the house or structure is one of the major causes of pier and beam foundation damages. Movement of the interior piers can occur when moisture or water get into the foundation and causes the piers to move. Moisture is the biggest culprit when it comes to damage to beams. Exterior piers can move or sink because of softening ground. Another issue that can lead to damage is vegetation growth allowed to continue unchecked.

When soil components of clay and silt get wet, whether it is from rain, ground water, flooding or irrigation, they soak up the moisture and swell. On the flip side, when clay and silt soil experience dry hot weather or drought, the soil will shrink and harden. Both the shriveling and enlargement cause the foundation to shift, move, and settle which leads to those cracks, warping, and severe structural damage over time if not fixed.

A deficiency in the correct design for the pier and beam locations is another issue that can lead to damage of the pier and beam foundations. The improper placement of columns is a leading cause for pier and beam damage especially in many of the older homes.

Piers that are spaced well beyond what they should be, can cause the beans and girders to become over-stressed and overworked, which in turn leads cracks and sags. For two-story homes this can present an even more serious issue because of the extra weight and pressure on the structure.

Poorly spaced or undersized lumber is another cause of foundation damage. A four inch by six inch wood girder is the minimum size that should be used for a girder or beam that is supporting the structure. There are times when a four inch by four inch is at times used, however this generally ends up causing a more pronounced settling and sagging that causes the floor above to slope.

The standard spacing of piers should be approximately six feet apart. Any less or any more leads to sagging and bowing of the wood structure above the foundation. When the piers don’t cover enough area on the ground they end up settling into the ground, which again leads to sagging and cracking in floors and walls.

Not having adequate concrete footing or a big enough base below each pier that covers sufficient ground area prevents the weigh distribution from being equally shared by the piers and beam foundation. One of the most common defective pier supports used are wooden stiff-legs, this is simply a piece of wood that has been stuck in the ground under the structure\/foundation.

Repairing foundations that have suffered damage due to the situations mentioned above involve adding a poured-in-place one foot footing in the ground. A two-foot by two-foot when placed on no further and six foot centers will usually adequately support most pier and beam foundations.