Tips for Safe Foundation Repair
LESLIE: We’re going to talk to Ed in New York who’s building a foundation. What can we do for you?
ED: Hi. I have a question. We purchased a house – a small house – in Northern Washington County in New York, right on the Vermont border. And we’re situated …
ED: … on kind of a hillside. And …
ED: … when we – when we originally looked at the house, we knew that it was – we were going to need to do some work on the foundation and …
TOM: OK, how come?
ED: The house – it actually was added on to. So, the front part of the house, which is more on the hillside, is built on a concrete – a poured concrete foundation. OK?
ED: But the addition was built on concrete block. And that block …
ED: … we knew was starting to buckle.
TOM: Well, obviously, a solid poured concrete foundation is the best, Ed.
TOM: First of all, let me say this is not a do-it-yourself project.
ED: Oh, absolutely. I know that.
TOM: Right. Because if you have one that’s seriously buckled, you’re going to have to temporarily support the wall while this is being done. And generally, they do something called needle beaming, to do this; which is where you sort of take steel beams and thread them through the wall that has to be supported and then they’re supported on either side with some sort of jacks or blocking to take the pressure off.
In a repair situation like this, probably the best thing is going to be to rebuild the concrete block wall. If it’s the addition and it’s buckling, it sounds to me like it wasn’t done right to begin with.
ED: Yeah, I think that’s probably true. I think …
TOM: It probably wasn’t reinforced properly or they didn’t use the right width block or something. And so, I think probably what you’re going to end up doing is supporting the home in place, taking out those portions of the wall or perhaps all the wall, and then bringing it back up to speed.
Let me give you this recommendation, Ed. What I think you should do here is not go straight to a contractor. I think you should go to a structural engineer or an architect and let them design the repair and give you a set of plans. It might cost you a thousand, 1,500 bucks, maybe a little bit more. But have them actually spec out the repair because they’ll be able to tell you exactly the best way to fix this. They’re going to give you a set of drawings which you’ll need to get your building permit. And then, with these drawings in hand, you can go ahead out to several contractors and get bids on having it repaired.
And there’s another reason you want to do this. Because it’s sort of like a pedigree on the condition of the repair; the quality of the repair. Because if you go to sell this house in the future, you have a professional home inspector come in and they see that, obviously, there’s been work done on this wall, um, if I was the inspector, I would ask you about it and if you said, “Yeah, I had some mason come in and fix it,” that would not be good. But if you said to me, “I hired a structural engineer or an architect to take a look at this. The architect designed the repair. Here’s the plan. We hired contractors to follow this particular plan and make the repair,” and then – and this is an important final step – have the architect or engineer come back and certify that it was done consistent with their design – now, you can see what I mean by pedigree. You have all your ducks in a row and it looks good; it was done right and it won’t impact negatively the value of your home.
ED: Uh-huh. OK.
TOM: That’s the way I would approach it, Ed. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.