Think you might have signs of foundation problems in your poured concrete foundation? If so, you’ve landed on the right page. In this article, we’re going to go over the basics of poured concrete foundations, signs of foundation problems, and briefly discuss some possible repair solutions.
What is a poured concrete foundation?
Poured concrete is both a material and a method for building foundations. The building contractor erects wooden wall forms and then pours concrete into them. After the concrete has cured and hardened, the forms are removed. Rebar is added to strengthen the walls. Most foundations today are built using either poured concrete or cinder blocks.
The pros of a poured concrete foundation include:
- Resistance to hydrostatic pressure – See How Does A Drain Tile System Work for more information about hydrostatic pressure and the problems it can cause for a foundation.
- Poured concrete foundations are easier to waterproof because there aren’t any joints except the joint where the wall meets the floor (cove joint).
- Quick construction
The cons include:
- Non-structural cracks caused by improperly cured concrete -These can allow water to get into your home’s basement or crawl space.
- Poured concrete foundations are more expensive to build
For more information on the different types of foundations and how they’re built, see our article on Foundation Repair Methods.
Signs of foundation problems in a poured concrete foundation
If you notice changes in the concrete around your home, it could be a sign that your concrete foundation needs repair. Some changes in concrete to be aware of are:
With concrete scaling, there’s a loss of surface mortar, and pieces of concrete peel off the surface. Concrete scaling is caused by exposure to freezing temperatures and then thawing.
Concrete spalling is easy to see as the concrete becomes rough and flaky. Spalling typically happens when steel embedded in the concrete rusts. The rust causes the steel to expand, which puts pressure on the surrounding concrete, and pieces of it start to break off.
Non-structural cracks – These are mainly caused by shrinkage during the concrete curing process and are not a threat to your home’s structural integrity. However, they aren’t entirely harmless because vertical, non-structural hairline cracks in your basement wall can allow water to seep in.
Structural cracks – Structural cracks are mainly horizontal and diagonal. They are more serious and do affect your home’s structural integrity. Structural cracks are caused by foundation movement.
Concrete heaving – Concrete heaving is caused primarily by expansive soil. Expansive soil swells when it soaks up moisture and then shrinks by that same amount when it dries out. This swelling-shrinking cycle is usually seasonal (rainy vs. dry seasons) and causes movement under the foundation, which can lead to structural damage. Concrete heaving usually results in the center of the slab being higher than the slab edges.
Concrete shrinking – As we mentioned above, shrinkage during the concrete curing process can cause non-structural cracks. If these cracks are in your basement wall, they could allow water to seep in.
If you notice any of the above in your poured concrete foundation, you should contact an experienced foundation repair contractor for an inspection. Most foundation repair contractors offer free inspections along with a repair estimate.
Other signs of foundation problems
If you see damaged concrete around your home, it might mean that there has been movement in the soil underneath your foundation. Look around your home and see if there are any of the following signs of foundation movement:
- Sloping floors – If you drop something round on the floor, does it roll toward one area? If so, your floor might be sloped, and this could indicate a foundation problem. Read more about – Concrete Leveling
- Wall cracks – Vertical wall cracks are almost always caused by shrinkage during the concrete curing process. However, horizontal wall cracks are usually structural and a sign of serious foundation damage. Horizontal wall cracks especially should be inspected immediately by a foundation repair contractor or structural engineer.
- Floor cracks – A floor crack limited to only one or two tiles was probably caused when something was dropped on the floor. However, a floor crack that runs wall to wall is a sign of foundation movement.
- Ceiling cracks – Be on the lookout for ceiling cracks that run across the ceiling and down a wall. These are a sign of structural damage.
- Bowing or leaning walls – Sometimes, bowing or leaning walls are accompanied by cracks.
- Leaning chimney or porch – A chimney or porch that’s starting to lean or pull away from the house might indicate a problem with the foundation under the chimney or porch. However, the problem could also be caused by the home’s foundation.
- Sticking doors and windows – If just one door or window is sticking, it’s probably not a foundation problem. However, if multiple doors and windows have a problem, it’s likely a foundation issue that needs to be inspected by a professional.
Repair solutions for poured concrete foundations
Possible repair solutions for poured concrete foundation include:
Heavy-duty steel push piers are the most common way to stabilize and lift a poured concrete foundation experiencing settlement. The piers are driven deep down into the soil until they reach the load-bearing strata. Synchronized hydraulic jacks then lift the building back up.
Helical piers are mainly used for new construction projects. However, we sometimes use them when we’re not able to use push piers to repair foundation damage.
Crawl space support jacks
A crawl space foundation might show signs of settlement even though the foundation is perfectly sound. In these cases, the solution is often to simply remove and replace the posts and/or screw jacks.
Basement wall repair
Non-structural cracks caused by shrinkage during the concrete curing process can be repaired using epoxy injection or carbon fiber straps. Structural cracks can be repaired using wall plate anchors, carbon fiber straps, or push piers.
If you’ve read through the above signs of foundation problems and think your home’s foundation might be in need of repair, contact us today for a free inspection and repair estimate. Our service area includes parts of Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, and Missouri.