Dennis O'Toole: Structural Repairs


Pier & Beam Foundations

The two main foundation types are Pier & Beam and Concrete Slab. Of the two, pier & beams foundations are generally less labor intensive to fix and are thus less costly. This is due to being able to access and work on the problem area through a crawl space.

What Is a Pier & Beam Foundation

A pier & beam foundation is first created by digging a series of equally spaced holes in the ground. Concrete is poured into the holes at a minimum depth per local building code. The concrete is leveled off and allowed to dry. The piers are cinder blocks are layed with mortar and allowed to dry. The beams are placed on the piers and the entire house is rested on the structure. This effictively is the crawlspace of the house.

Pier & Beam foundations provide homeowners and contractors the benefit of the crawlspace and access to structure, HVAC ducts, plumbing, & electrical systems of a house. When there is a problem with any of these systems, it is easier to identify by going into the crawlspace. The repairs can usually be done without having to do major demolition to access the problem area.

Understanding why you may have Foundation Problems with your Pier & Beam system

There are several reasons why a pier & beam foundation could fail. It is important to both 1) Identify the CAUSE of your problem and also 2) FIX THE DAMAGE that has resulted. Common reasons for problems include:

1) Underlying Soil

Seasonal conditions cause the soil properties to change. When soil is full of water it naturally swells. When it dries out it contracts. The process over time undermines the integrity of the soil, and any foundation built on it. On the East Coast, namely Virginia Beach, and the Hampton Roads area, clay soils are the predominant soil type. Clay soils are the worst draining of all soil types causing a higher proportion of foundation issues.

2) Faulty Construction Methods

The soil should be prepped prior to the pouring of any concrete. For a highly clay soil like that of Virginia Beach, sand should be added to facilitate drainage. Foundation contractors should also tamp the soil with a tamper prior to ensure the soil is compact as possible to reduce the chance of any settling. The soil should be even before pouring any concrete. Additionally the use of rebar and fibers can be used to further strengthen the concrete footings.

The building codes in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Chesapeake were much more relaxed in the past than they are now. Many homes in the Hampton Roads area were built in the 1960's - 1980's. Contractors could get away with spacing piers and beams further apart reducing their costs, but also reduing the support of your homes foundation. The building codes have also gotten more strict on the size of supporting floor joists over the years. For example, a house supported by 2 x 8 beams, should have piers that are spaced no more than 6 feet apart. We have looked a homes that had 2 x 8's with piers that were 16 feet apart, which caused sagging in between the piers. In those cases it was necessary to install 2 sets of piers in between the existing piers and support with beams.

3) Improper drainage

Water is your friend when you are drinking it or when you are taking a shower, but it is your enemy if it gets under your home. In some cases, busted plumbing under the soil compromises the soil and the foundation. Most commonly, the yard doesn't have proper drainage. The ground surrounding your home should be graded/sloped away from your home to allow the water to drain. If the water is pooling around and under your home, you have a problem you need to fix immediately before the damage is done.

Continue Reading: Pier & Beam Foundation Repair

Exterior Warning Signs

  • Brick or Block Cracks
  • Displaced mouldings
  • Pooling water around foundation
  • Separation around garage door, windows and/or walls
  • Stuck windows & doors
  • Interior Warning Signs

  • Baseboards & Casings detaching
  • Drywall Cracks
  • Nail Pops
  • Separating window & door jambs
  • Stuck windows & doors
  • Uneven Floors
  • We provide a professional report from a Structural Engineer with all of our repairs certifying the work has been performed to industry standards and meets building code restrictions. We have a Class A Contractor's License and are fully licensed and insured.

    All of our work is guaranteed to fix your foundation problem. We have a 5-year warranty on all work performed.

    Foundation Contractor in Virginia Beach specializing in house leveling, slab jacking, installation of additional crawlspace piers, slab repair and all other structural repairs in Virginia Beach, VA


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