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RE: Foundation Pinning

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Hey Bill,
 
I am still alive, just dormant, and the house just sold w/o any foundation repairs. I would have done the work but I felt there was some conflict-of-interest doing a stamped engineering report saying the slab was OK for a friend.
 
Eric Green
Who Speaks Only for Himself
-----Original Message-----
From: Tom Barsh @ Codeware [mailto:tom(--nospam--at)codeware.com]
Sent: Tuesday, June 07, 2005 11:42 AM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org
Subject: RE: Foundation Pinning

May I re-open this topic as a consumer (home owner) in Houston?  I'm hoping to get considered thoughts of engineers familiar with our local conditions.
 
My house is 37 years old, I've been in there 4 years. 2 storey on "slab" foundation (I have no idea what if any steel there is in it). It certainly needs something...got the cracks in the walls, doors that stick or don't even close, etc. Every house in the area has had piers done, possibly more than once!
 
As someone mentioned in this thread, foundation pinning is a commodity in this area with commercials on television for "CableLock (TM)", etc. There are scads of cowboys running around in old pickups offering to install piers for X dollars per pier. Some piers are made from concrete cylinders (almost like those compression test cylinders we tested back when I took my concrete course) but no tie of any sort for tension. I am told that the CableLock design doesn't really lock the cable at the top of the pier so I don't know where the "lock" comes in. Some of these guys even jack down concrete blocks (cmu's) about 4-5 feet, probably works good until the first deluge. All of this BS offends my engineer's sensibilities. And to add injury to insult is that any way you cut it the cost will be $6000 on up to much much more.
 
One guy actually drills down and pours concrete piers and seems like a pretty level-headed, professional sort of guy. I do have trouble swallowing the $20,000 to have this done. His proposal for my house has about 66 of these piers, mostly around the perimeter of the foundation but about a dozen internal piers (which means drilling holes in my living room, etc; nice). And as much as I like this guy he is not an engineer, but on the other hand he's been doing this for 20 years under one business name.
 
I would like to get this done once and get it done right. Of course that means getting an engineer on the payroll! But offhand, what sort of remedies should I be looking at? Might a smaller number of these poured concrete piers be adequate if a proper analysis is done?
 
Thank you.
 
   
   Tom Barsh, P.E.
   Technical Support Engineer
   Codeware Inc
   www.codeware.com

From: Polhemus, Bill [mailto:Bill.Polhemus(--nospam--at)tyson.com]
Sent: Monday, May 09, 2005 1:56 PM
To: seaint(--nospam--at)seaint.org
Subject: RE: Foundation Pinning

 
About ten years ago I did what turned out to be my "first" forensic investigation, in Tulsa.
 
It had to do with an apartment complex owned, by that time, by the city's housing authority. It had been privately built twenty-plus years earlier, and had changed hands several times. The foundation problems were well-documented, and from time to time over the life of the complex each owner had a foundation contractor come in and do an "investigation," and recommend a fix.

The problem didn't really "get worse," so much as it waxed and waned with the prevailing soil moisture content, as these types of situations are wont to do. So it isn't like each proposal was based on an increasingly more severe problem.
 
There must have been a half-dozen proposals by different contractors (and one engineer working for a contractor), and every proposal was different. Each building in the complex was about 2,000 square feet, and the "solutions" ranged from FIVE piers to SEVENTY-FIVE piers for EACH BUILDING!!
 
No one here was guilty of taking an analytical approach to the problem--even the engineer. It was all just so much hogwash.
 
And you know: I'm not even sure what my own proposed solution was, to tell the truth. I do remember discovering that there was no steel in the slab (which is why it was cracked so badly that the upturned slab edges were completely visible).
 
Anyway, my major point is that most of these "experts" are just guessing. And some of them, I suspect, are just looking to see how many piers they can get the owner to swallow.
 
More recently I had a client (referred to me by Eric Green, who at least at one time was a regular contributor to the List) who'd been told by a "home inspector" who was NOT an engineer that they had foundation failure, and would have to get it addressed before they could sell the home.
 
Alarmed, they looked in the Yellow Pages for a "foundation contractor" to come give them a "free estimate" for repairing the "damage." (We could have another conversation about how ironic it is that homeowners and even commercial property owners and managers seem to think that if you have a problem of this kind, a CONTRACTOR is the one to go to!)
 
This guy told them "Sixteen piers at about $1,000 per pier, installed." The husband and wife nearly passed out. Then they decided to hire an ENGINEER (imagine that!) to give them the scoop, and I told them that not only was there no need for sixteen piers, there was NO foundation failure! I saw no evidence of ANY such problem. Their slab had a difference in elevation from one end of the house to the other that was within the allowable ACI 117 tolerance.
 
They gladly paid me my modest fee, and last I heard were able to successfully sell their home.
 
For whatever they're worth, those are my pertinent anecdotes on this subject.