Pier Foundation Repair

Of the three basic types of foundation construction, those constructed of piers and columns are considered among the safest, most reliable, and easiest to repair.

Pier and column foundation construction provides easy accessibility to heating and plumbing utilities without having to damage any part of the concrete slab. While not the quickest, nor the cheapest method of foundation construction, if the foundation has shifted and requires repair, piers can be easily adjusted to accommodate any shrinking or swelling in the soil at little additional cost in comparison to other foundation methods.

Pier and column foundations, also known as pier and beam foundations, are popular amongst back pain suffers because the suspended action of the wood platform are often easier on the body’s joints. They are also commonly used in cooler, northern climates and in those such as Texas in which the soils experience wide ranges of swelling or shrinking due to moisture retention or weather conditions. These extreme soil conditions cause shifting, however, the deeply drilled piers are well secured and the height of piers can easily be adjusted to accommodate any new stresses placed on the house and its foundations. However, over time, even piers have been known to deteriorate into a state of requiring replacement or repair.

Replacing piers can be a challenging task. Due to the infinite number of possible scenarios involving angles upon which the beams and piers rest, the weight supported, etc, there is no one particular method by which to accomplish this task.

The common rule to replacing piers is to alternatively support the weight of the structure balanced upon the piers. This is most often accomplished by utilizing bottle jacks to support the building. It is of the utmost importance to ensure the jacks are always placed on even, leveled ground, and never on an incline, or unstable or shifting soil. If the jacks were to shift or not provide proper support the structure while removing or replacing a pier, permanent damage could be sustained to the structural integrity of the building.

Steel plates, generally 3/4″ or greater thick, are often used beneath the hydraulic jacks to create an even, sound surface. Also, it is suggestible to remove any soft soil or grass prior to placing the steel plates to ensure the stability of the jacks. If the pier being repaired happens to be on the edge of a structure, a wooden beam is often used in the conjunction with the jacks to ensure the corner of the building is well supported. Often the beam supported by the pier is also attached to the pier. This attachment should be absolved prior to beginning the jacking process.

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When jacking a structure to remove a pier, it is imperative that the difference in space between the beam and pier required to be able to remove the pier, should be of the most minimal difference as possible. The building should never be jacked up more than 1/8 of an inch off of the pier in order to result in as little to no damage as possible to the structure itself, the dry wall, sewage and draining systems as well as any other possible connecting systems of the house.

It is also highly advisable that material of nearly the same height be placed next to the jack to provide additional emergency support in the event the jack collapses or breaks down. This will serve to protect not only the structure’s integrity, but also the safety of the workers and tradesmen carrying out the repairs.

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