FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions
How do concrete steps and decorative stone steps compare regarding costs, design, durability, etc.? Please focus on the more formal type of concrete steps (as opposed to, say, making precast concrete stepping stones).
Concrete steps cost about $300 per step to be installed as opposed to $150 for a stone step. While concrete as a material may be cheaper than stone, it is much harder and more time consuming to install. On average, it takes about two full days to lay concrete steps, but only half a day for stone stairs. The prep and installation of concrete is also much more meticulous because there is more room for error.
What are the differences between the different foundation types?
Slab or Slab on Grade is a foundation that is one large piece of concrete reinforced with steel bars or cables. "On grade" simply means the structure is supported by the ground or grade.
A Pier and Beam foundation keeps the structure lifted off the ground or grade by using a tall perimeter concrete beam and a series of piers which support the floor constructed of wood.
A Simple Frame foundation is the oldest type of foundation and is similar to a Pier and Beam. A frame foundation does not use a concrete perimeter beam, but has supports around the perimeter that are covered by siding down to the ground.
At what point should I require a foundation inspection?
Foundation engineering and inspection is a necessity when walls continue to crack or produce cracks greater than 1/16th of an inch, at which point water can pass through the wall.
No matter how much attention is given to foundations during construction, foundations will crack when the soil beneath moves, upward, downward, and laterally. Foundation and building walls are typically design to only accommodate very small amounts of movement. In terms of residential buildings, the tolerance is significantly less. Due to the relatively light load the house must withstand, the foundations and structural walls are designed accordingly, thus when movement occurs, the residential structure is more likely to crack. Most residential walls are not designed to withstand this additional ground movement.
Why are my floors sagging?
The causes of sagging floors, like many other issues, are usually not obvious. In many cases, there are several contributing factors. Reasons your floors are sagging; a few common causes are listed below, please note, that in most situations there are several issues that can contribute to the problem. Foundation Settlement Below Pier, Rotten or Decayed Wood, Over-Loaded Members, or perhaps Excessive Moisture.
That is why it is important to correct the cause of the problem and not only fix the obvious problems. That is why we suggest contacting a structural engineer to inspection your current issues.
Is There any type of preventive methods a homeowner or business can perform to maintain the foundation?
Following these common sense steps could save you thousands of dollars in foundation repairs.
During the rainy season: Check your drainage around your property. Wait until a hard solid rain (not just a sprinkle), then walk around your house and see if the runoff water is draining away from your foundation without standing or puddling.
If you see puddling that's a problem, the solution is a positive watershed. A positive water shed exists when the dirt is higher at the foundation and slopes away from the house at the minimum rate of one inch per foot and extends past the roofline. If your house has gutters, be sure they are free from obstructions and that the down spouts direct the water away from the house past the roof line.
Do not build a dam around your house with landscape timbers, concrete trim, sidewalks or metal trim, that will prevent proper drainage. Fixing a severe problem could include cutting a depression in the ground to direct the water or installing a drain system. Remember, too much water is just as bad as not watering in the dry season.
During the dry season: The ideal way to maintain a constant moisture level around your foundation is to use an automatic sprinkler system with a rain gauge cut off. You can also use a soaker hose positioned 18 inches from the foundation. Turn on the water until you see it form a standing puddle on the ground.
The expansion of the soil will provide uniform support for the foundation. Watering should be repeated when drying cracks are observed or when soil is clearly too dry. Do not put a hose in big cracks and try to water the foundation. This can cause additional damage. You may find that the south and east sides of the house will require more watering. Remember... the goal is moisture uniformity on all sides.
Trees and shrubs: As a rule of thumb, trees should be planted a distance equal to their mature height from the house. Trees planted too close to the house rob moisture from the soil, allowing the dirt to shrink causing foundation problems.