Thursday, June 4, 2015

Raising the Roof!

Home improvement is not always glorious work... Keep reading to find out what had our front yard in shambles.

The most important thing about a house is the foundation.  If you have a great foundation, with proper upkeep, everything else can last - and stay pretty.  There are many different signs for foundation/settlement problems everyone should notice and they should never be ignored.  Cracks are probably the most obvious sign that there might be something wrong with the foundation.  These cracks can be in the foundation, floor tile, walls, or in the brick veneer on a house.  Another sign is if doors are becoming harder and harder to close.  All these signs should get you thinking, "Maybe I should call someone."  I speak from experience.

The main foundation of our house is great.  We have a fully waterproofed, stone foundation basement as seen below.  This basement would make the guys on "This Old House" proud.  There is no water penetration and we do not even have a sump pump and pit.  

However, the reason for this post is to talk about some piers we had installed which didn't even touch our main foundation.  The portion we were concerned about was the front entry way we will refer to as the "tower" (looks like a tower Rapunzel should let down her hair from - circled below), which covers less than 50 sq ft of combined space between the main level and upstairs.

This foundation is separate from the main house foundation.  When we bought this house we realized some tuck pointing on this tower was recently done.  I have been taking mental pictures (while Brooke takes physical pictures) for the 8 months we have owned the house to make sure nothing changed.  Well it did, very slightly, but it did.  The front 2 corners of the tower were slowly sinking. Essentially, the tower was slowly cantilevering away from the house, but since it is attached as one structure to the main and 2nd level, there were other issues that arose. This included cracks in corners, a hard to open front door, and the floor bowing upward in the upstairs tower portion.

Crack in the front hall closet located in the main level of the tower:

Crack in the upstairs tower was a direct result of the cantilevering movement (this picture is as we were patching the crack):

As with slow occurring issues like this, it can be fixed now or fixed later with potential bigger issues in the future (or sell i guess).

We went to the Home Show in KC (Brooke wanted to see Chip and Joanna Gains from HGTV’s Fixer Upper) 

and of course there were all types of vendors including foundation contractors.  There are different ways to fix different types of foundation issues so we needed to choose the proper fix.

As follows, we had a foundation guy come out and take a look.  He recommended using a pier system to stabilize the foundation and maybe do a slight lift.  He said we could get by using 2 piers, but recommended 4 (2 in the front of the tower and 2 where the tower meets the house).  For us, piers were the most economical and least intrusive route.  Due to the style and age of the foundation we felt this was the most appropriate fix.

We decided to use DynaPiers from Pier Magic.  The following 2 pictures are directly from their website which does a great job illustrating the differences between several foundation stabilization treatments.

The pier foundation system is quite simple but very labor intensive.  The first step to start the installation was to dig the holes for each pier, in our case there were 4 holes (labeled below).  

We had some bushes/plants in the way which had to be removed.  The company would have replanted them, but since we wanted new landscaping anyway we told them to not worry about saving the bushes.

Once the holes were to the bottom of the foundation, the next step was to dig under the foundation.

Holes 1 & 4:

Before cinder block foundations and poured concrete foundations, this is what foundations looked like, literally stones piled on top of each other and mortared in place.  Once they were done digging under the foundation a bit, they started driving steel slugs into the ground.  These slugs are nested into each other and driven until they encounter bedrock, in our area this distance was about 34 ft. 

After the slugs were driven, a large piece of steel angle was used on the foundation to distribute the load across more of the foundation.  This steel angle was needed because of the foundation type (a new poured concrete foundation would not usually need this).  After the steel was in place, the bottle jacks were used to slightly raise that area so the last slugs and shims could be put in place.  

Steel Angle:

Hydraulic Press (drives slugs to bedrock):

Piers in holes 2 and 3 were the most important for the tower foundation since that is where the tower was sinking.  These were also the two piers used to slightly lift the tower. Just so you know, being in our house when the tower was being raised was absolutely terrifying!  It sounded like they were ruining our house and Brooke had mini heart attacks the whole time. I knew it would sound like this and it still terrified me, mainly because there is always a chance things can go south quickly with old houses. Luckily the slight lift was successful and we got our front door working smoother.

Picture when one side of the tower was jacked which caused the door to be temporarily crooked:

The back left corner (hole 1) was causing issues and in the end could not have the pier installed.  Since the hole was already dug, that area was back-filled and re-mortared. Basically, we made sure it was as stable as we could make it.  

Last, all the dirt was re-inserted that was dug out to install the piers.

An electric powered tamper was used to do the job right.

In the end, there is no trace that these piers were even installed.

We couldn’t be happier that we now have the peace of mind that we won’t have any issues with our foundation and subsequently no cracks and hard to open doors!

No comments:

Post a Comment