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What Are Piers In A Foundation?

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foundation piers
foundation piers

The importance of having a strong foundation for any building cannot be underestimated. A foundation is there to provide support and stability, as well as protect the entire structure from failure and collapse.

While many parts of the foundation may play a critical role, foundation piers should not be overlooked. In many cases, they form an essential part of the foundation–especially when the soil is not able to support the building properly.

In this article, we will take a look at the different types of foundation piers that may be used. Some of these can be part of the foundation from the initial construction but they are often used to stabilize and repair a foundation that is already failing.

Types of Foundation Piers

Concrete Piers: These are essentially solid concrete pillars that are strong enough to support the foundation and the building that rests on top of it. Because of the additional work needed to use them, however, they are not the most common choice. Usually, push or helical piers are preferred.

Push Piers: As the name would suggest, push piers are made of steel and are pushed into the ground. They stack on top of each other until the pier eventually reaches stable soil or bedrock. At that point, they are then attached to the foundation to provide support–or even lift it up.

Helical Piers: Similar to push piers, helical piers are put into the ground until they reach stable soil or bedrock. The main difference between the two is that a helical pier has a helix, which makes it similar to a screw.

Types of Foundation Piers

Push Piers or Helical Piers: Which Should You Choose?

The difference between push piers and helical piers is relatively minor. A push pier can be pushed into the earth because it is essentially a steel pipe, while a helical pier is screwed into the ground because it contains a helix.

Although the difference between the two types of piers is minor, there is a significant difference in why they are selected. Choosing the right pier type will help support the foundation in a way that will benefit the building to the greatest extent possible.

Helical piers are typically preferred by most contractors, but they aren’t the best choice for every situation. They can be used for both light and heavy loads, and are often used as a tieback for basement and retaining walls.

Push piers are frequently used because they can be sunk to a greater depth than a helical pier. If it is necessary for a deeper pier to be used, then a push pier is usually the choice that is made.

For most foundations, the selection commonly involves the depth of stable soil or bedrock. Both piers can be attached to the foundation, which provides stability for the structure.

Another factor to consider is the access. If you are working in a tight space (such as between buildings), you may not be able to fit the equipment for installing helical piers. These types of situations usually make push piers the support of choice.

Push piers are also considered the better choice if you need to support a very heavy structure. They are often used in industrial or commercial settings where the building is much heavier.

Helical piers are often preferred if you are stabilizing a smaller area, such as a porch or wing wall. They may also be able to provide additional lift for the foundation, if necessary.

If you are supporting the foundation during the initial construction, then helical piers will often be used. If you are trying to support a foundation that is already failing, then push piers may be considered.

Signs That a Building Foundation May Need Piers

Sticking windows and doors: When a building’s foundation sinks or shifts, it causes the frame of the building to shift as well. This includes smaller frames, such as the window and door frames. Sticking windows and doors is one of the first signs that a building’s foundation is failing.

Uneven floors: You may not notice that the floor is uneven, but you may feel as if you have vertigo or are falling when you walk across the room or down the hall.

Cracked or separating bricks: In a brick home, you might notice that the bricks are separating or cracking. Stair Step cracks or cracks that originate at the corner of the foundation, a door, or window frame are common signs of foundation failure.

Gaps between walls and the ceiling: There is a significant amount of torque on the frame of the home when the foundation shifts. You may notice this when the walls and ceilings begin separating from each other. The cracks may even expand as time goes by.

Nail pops: Do you see nails popping out from the drywall? This is also due to the tremendous pressure being placed on the frame of the home as the foundation sinks.

For more information, check out our blog about – Slab foundation vs crawl space.

Foundation Pier Maintenance and Longevity

Installation of piers often requires some excavation to reach the part of the foundation where the pier will be attached. There is also a significant amount of work involved in either pushing or screwing it into the ground.

A pier is designed to be a permanent part of the foundation. However, that doesn’t mean that problems can’t occur (and they sometimes do), so a maintenance routine should be considered.

While digging down to visually inspect the pier is not typically done, there are some measures that can be taken to help limit the possibility of damage to the pier. This is especially true in the case of hydrostatic pressure.

When you have piers installed for your foundation, talk to the company about also setting up a drainage system that will keep the soil from being waterlogged. These often include a French drain around the outside of the foundation or a tile drain system inside the house, including a pit and a sump pump.

You can also use gutter extenders to keep the water from draining from the roof directly into the ground around the foundation. Be careful about planting shrubbery too close to the foundation, and make sure that the slope of the ground allows water to safely flow away.

In most cases, piers will last longer than the building itself, and there is not typically a need to worry about the piers unless some type of extreme issue occurs (such as a mudslide or earthquake, which can affect the piers on an underground level).

The bottom line is, you don’t need to be concerned about the piers disintegrating or needing to be replaced. Just appreciate the fact that they are in place and helping to keep your home stable.

Does Your Home Need Foundation Piers?

At this point, you may be wondering whether or not your home needs foundation piers. It is difficult to answer this question–but not if you take advantage of a foundation inspection.

Are you noticing problems that could indicate foundation failure or a sinking foundation? These could include items listed above in the article, such as sticking windows and doors, sloping floors, and cracks in the drywall.

When these problems occur, contact EPP Foundation Repair for a free inspection of your foundation and a repair estimate. After filling out the form on our website, one of our friendly representatives will get back to you as soon as possible, so that a foundation professional can let you know what is necessary to keep your foundation strong.

WRITTEN BY

Dave Epp

Dave is the President at Epp Foundation Repair with over 27 years of experience in the industry. Dave has worked on thousands of foundation, basement, concrete, and crawl space repair projects since 1993. Dave is involved in several civic and church organizations and enjoys coaching youth sports, mainly football, golfing, and elk hunting.

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