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The Dirty Little Secret of the Foundation Repair Industry

When a Homeowner calls out a foundation repair company to “get a free estimate”, it is a little known fact that many times the foundation repair contractor misdiagnoses the problem and the resulting repairs do more damage than help to the house. This is common all across the country. The Homeowner is not a foundation repair expert and has no idea if the recommended repairs are the right thing to do or not. The Homeowner knows his house has damage, but really is at the mercy of the foundation repair contractor to evaluate and recommend the right repairs.

MYTH: Most foundation repair contractors are professionals.

They wouldn’t take advantage of Homeowners… would they? How and why could this possibly happen? It all starts with understanding soils. The thing supporting your foundation. There are 2 basic types of soils: clays and silt/sand. Silt and sand are fairly straightforward. When wetted they usually consolidate and therefore are fairly easy to understand. Expansive clays on the other hand, swell when wetted, shrink when dried and collapse when wetted too much!

To make matters worse, the typical damage signs in your house look very similar when it is settling to when the floor is heaving from expansive clays. Yes that is right. Expansive Clays under your home can cause the floor to heave upward. Take a look at the two scenarios to understand what I am talking about.

The Dirty Little Secret of the Foundation Repair Industry

The above diagram shows the typical scenario that we usually think of when we have foundation problems. This the scenario that foundation contractors understand well and are well equipped to fix. Notice that the footings on the right side are lower causing stress to the trusses above. This is commonly repaired by underpinning the lowered footing and raising it up. See my website for a more complete explanation of the underpinning process.

Now take a look at what is essentially the opposite scenario. Heaving from Expansive Clay Soils.

The Dirty Little Secret of the Foundation Repair Industry 1


Notice how similar many of the symptoms look.  The footings have not moved from their original position and the trusses (for the most part) are not under stress. Underpinning in this situation is not only a bad thing but can actually bring more damage and stress to the home as lifting the footings elevates them to a new height where they have never been introducing stress to the trusses.

Surely the professional foundation repair contractor knows the difference between these 2 scenarios, right? Not necessarily. As pointed out earlier the symptoms are similar and in some cases exactly the same. Don’t get me wrong, if carefully analyzed it can be done (but I cannot stress the 'carefully analyzed' part too much).  To boot, the motivation is all wrong for the foundation contractor to recognize it as a floor heave. Why? Because in that case he has nothing to offer and must go home empty handed. So when push comes to shove and the foundation contractor needs to feed his children, sometimes the interpretation tends to get rationalized as "Well….. this LOOKS like it could still have SOME settlement…. Let’s put some piers under the foundation to make sure".

That's not a foundation repair plan rooted in science.