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RE: Foundation Pinning

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I would offer that before you start worrying about remedies, it is
adviseable to try and figure out the cause or causes of the problems.
Foundation problems are something that happen all over the place
(expansive soils common to Texas are not the only cause of foundation
problems...basement leaks and foundation settlement are somewhat common in
my neck of the woods)...and fixing them are usually rather expensive (some
saying about "building on a strong foundation" kind of comes to mind and
hints why foundations are important and why fixing them can be expensive).
And a lot of time that money is wasted cause the contractor that
specializes in such repairs that was hired to do the work did not have the
knowledge/experience to understand the problem and determine its cause so
that a proper repair that deals with cause was done.

And I would also say that it is important to know what your current
foundation system is.  If you have a slab on grade (either prestressed or
not...but likely prestressed from what I understand of the Texas area),
then it may be reasonable to need a heck of a lot of drilled piers (or
helical anchors) to adjust the movement issues.  After all, such a slab
might be rather flexible and have significant differential movement from
point to point.  If your foundation system is "stiffer" and can move more
monolithically, then maybe a significantly fewer number of drilled piers
(if that is the solution that seems to address the problem) might work.

If I were looking at the problem, the some of the questions I would be

1) Is there signs of active movement?  Do the cracks in the walls open and
close over time?  Do the doors that stick or not close sometimes work
fine?  If yes, then it could be expansive soils and/or other movements due
to things like moisture.  If so, then the first thing to do might be to
try to modify moisture "paths" or exposure if possible.  If no, then maybe
it is long term settlement of the foundation.  If there is active movement
then some remedies could temporarily "fix" the problem only to reappear
(thus, money wasted).

2) Are the problems "livable"?  This is kind of linked to the active
moment question.  In my old house (that I sold about a year ago when I
moved to my current location which is about an hour southwest of where I
was), I had cracks in the exterior red-tinted CMU bearing walls (they
looked like brick, but in fact were CMU) and some cracks in some of the
interior plaster walls.  The pattern of cracks and location of crack
clearly indicated to me that the foundation had settled at sometime in the
past in the middle on the one end wall.  It could have settled due to just
poor soil prep and high loads or it could have been "helped" by water
penetration at that location or by superimposed surchage load (the
driveway was RIGHT next to the house at this location...something heavy
could have been place there on the driveway at one point).  I don't know.
The point was that there was no apparent sign of movement...the settlement
was done.  So, there was no need to repair the foundation (i.e. jack it
etc)...just repair the cracks in the masonry and plaster.  In otherwords,
my problem was eminently "livable" and spending thousands on fixing the
foundation would have been a was of money for me.

3) If the door problems come and go, it is possible that it such a problem
is unrelated to foundation issues?  I know that in that old house that I
mentioned above I had one interior door that would stick during the summer
but not during the winter.  It was likely humidity related...the humidity
in the summer would cause it to swell.

While that does not give any specific answers, it might help a little.


Adrian, MI

On Wed, 8 Jun 2005, Eric Green wrote:

> 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)]
> 	Sent: Tuesday, June 07, 2005 11:42 AM
> 	To: seaint(--nospam--at)
> 	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 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
> ________________________________
> 		From: Polhemus, Bill [mailto:Bill.Polhemus(--nospam--at)]
> 		Sent: Monday, May 09, 2005 1:56 PM
> 		To: seaint(--nospam--at)
> 		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.

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