Foundation Failure with New Home Construction
Within 4 months of moving into their newly constructed home, evidence of foundation problems started showing in Aaron Jackson’s home in Dallas. First, he noticed the side door in his garage started getting hard to open and close. Then he started seeing some significant cracks in the garage floor.
This was unbelievable particularly since he had paid the builder extra money to include a post-tension slab to “eliminate” foundation settlement issues. Yes, this type of higher-tech slab can and does fail because the edges are not protected to prevent water from getting underneath which can then cause “heave” forces to crack the foundation.
Causes of New Home Foundation Failure
An amazing statistic comes from the Zillow Research https://www.zillow.com/advice/US/all/question-discussion-guide/foundation/ up to 15% of new homes constructed each year will have a foundation settlement issue – that’s 150,00 new homes each and every year. This is particularly a problem in areas of expansive clay soils such as many parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Kansas among others.
There are a variety of factors that can contribute individually or in combination that can result in failure with a newly constructed foundation. Here are the primary factors:
- Poor Site Preparation – sometimes builders, primarily subdivision builders, fail to take geotechnical samples on each lot and thus miss important soil characteristics to properly excavate and properly design the building pad and the foundation. This includes removing all sod and organic material, layering in and compacting course stone and chips to reduce capillary action, and leaving a high and dry sloped building pad. The soil composition under every home is different and should be evaluated individually.
- Improper Concrete/Cement Mixture – the cement/concrete recipe must meet specific standards to result in a perfectly poured slab foundation. This is not always achieved either through improper ingredients or even too much or too little water during the mixing. For example, a 2017 report in Connecticut showed that pyrrhotite bearing aggregate was to blame for as many as 34,000+ homes with failing foundations.
- Improper Drainage – the interaction of water and soil is perhaps the most critical component of a stable, long-lasting foundation. Pier and beam foundations are designed such that the area under the house should be kept bone dry. Slab foundations are designed to keep the moisture level of the soil consistently moist i.e. not too dry or too wet. Ponding or flooding adjacent to the foundation will cause clay soils to expand like a sponge heaving the foundation. Drought conditions will cause the soil to shrink, resulting in settlement. Proper drainage management and maintenance is critical.
New Construction Technique for Foundations on Shifting Soils
According to a news report in the Dallas News (February, 2017) a newly developed, patented technology to address the problem of building foundations on expansive clay soils has been created. The system has been introduced by Tella Firma Foundations has been used by over 1,000 foundations constructed in the Dallas area.
“It sells piers and a lifting mechanism that allows concrete companies to elevate a foundation. The piers go down to bedrock or solid earth and then the concrete foundation is poured on top. A crew uses wrenches to raise the slab up a few inches, so it is at least an inch higher than the predicted vertical rise of the soil. That leaves a protective void for the soil to rise and fall, without moving the house. The suspended structure resembles the design of a parking garage.”
This appears to be a viable and cost-effective solution for new home builders and homeowners.
Do Foundation Problems Affect Home Resale Value & Marketability?
Visible signs of foundation issues will most definitely have a negative effect on your home’s resale value and your ability to market the home successfully. That is the reality.
First, the issue will be seen by any reputable home inspector notwithstanding your legal obligation to disclose the defects. Any efforts to hide or mask the problem will likely backfire, sooner or later.
Put yourself in the shoes of a typical homebuyer, looking for a nice place to live. Would you want to buy a place with uneven bouncy floors, cracks in exterior bricks or sheetrock cracks around windows or doors? Marketing a property with foundation issues is not impossible but it will certainly present a challenge to you and your real estate agent.
Even if you find someone willing to buy with these obvious defects, a bank or mortgage lender will not put a loan on the property unless the foundation failure is corrected prior to closing. This is because the condition and value of the property will continue to decline over time thus depreciating the security of their loan.
The exception to this is to find a buyer willing to buy and finance with an FHA 203(k) Consultant Loan. This loan program can be used by fixer-upper buyers who intend to live in a home that has structural problems (among other issues). Note that an FHA 203(k) Limited Loan would not work due to the foundation issue.
What are your options as a homeowner wanting to sell your property?
- Sell to a fixer-upper buyer (owner-occupied not an investor) willing to utilize the FHA 203(k) program. Depending on the severity of the foundation and other issues needing renovation, a sales price well under full market value will be likely.
- Sell “as is” to an all cash investor. Marketing to investors looking to flip a property will attract offers but expect at least a 25% discount below market value.
- Get the foundation fixed up front which will allow a sale at full market value for your neighborhood. There are usually several financing options available including refinancing the home yourself with an FHA 203(k).
Foundation Repair Company Expertise
Regardless of the option you choose, your best starting point is to get your foundation inspected by a foundation repair professional. Of course, if you are in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, we suggest our company, Foundation Repair Pros! We have been doing these inspections day in and day out for 20+ years and have seen it all! And we can help you with financing options. For more information on costs: How Much Does Foundation Repair Cost?
The key advantage of getting this done right away is that you will find out exactly what is causing the problem along with a written estimate for getting the problem fixed. This will be critical in helping you decide how best to proceed with the sale of your home.
Best of all, you can find out what is wrong with your foundation and how much it is going to cost to get it fixed…absolutely free. Give us a call right now and we’ll schedule your no-obligation appointment:
Advantages Of Steel Piers Vs. Concrete Piers In Foundation Repair
Both steel piers and concrete piers are commonly used in the construction industry, and each type has its own advantages and disadvantages. It is known that concrete is very versatile and it has been used for centuries across different areas of application, it is steel that is ultimately the best choice for a foundation given its unparalleled structural support.
This aspect is particularly important since a home’s foundation must be able to withstand a tremendous amount of weight over the years. Having a sturdy and durable foundation is paramount; this is why one cannot take any chances when deciding on the most suitable type of pier, and here you will find a deeper insight into the advantages of steel piers vs concrete piers in foundation repairs.
The Average Depth For Steel Piers Is Higher Than That For Concrete Piers
Another important difference between these two types of piers is the average depth – the deeper the piers are inserted, the stronger and more reliable the foundation (and the overall structure, for that matter). Having said that, the average depth for steel piers is influenced by a wealth of different factors, including the type of soil they are inserted into, but on average these piers are inserted up to 20-25 feet into the load-bearing bedrock. In some cases, it is not uncommon for the steel piers to be inserted as much as 50 feet deep into the ground, which is essential for skyscrapers and other commercial buildings.
On the other hand, the concrete piers are not as strong as the steel ones and they often allow a maximum insertion depth of around 10-12 feet; this makes them slightly less reliable particularly for taller buildings which require a sturdier foundation. The steel piers are hydraulically driven to the bedrock and any foundation repair that is done with steel is strong, durable, reliable and permanent.
Steel Piers Are More Expensive But Also Stronger And More Stable
Apart from their performance and long-term efficacy, one of the most notable differences between steel and concrete can be noticed in terms of pricing: while it is true that concrete piers are a cheaper and considerably easier to make than their steel-based counterparts, the latter are widely considered to be stronger and more stable in the long run. As a matter of fact, steel piers have been used in the foundation repair industry for more than half a century now, and most construction and repair companies consider them to be superior to concrete piers, especially when it comes to restoring the structural integrity of a foundation after it has previously failed. If a foundation that was based on concrete piers starts to show signs of degradation, then it would be recommended that steel piers be used for any additional repairs.
No Further Repairs Will Ever Be Needed
When you opt for steel piers, you can rest assured knowing that this will be the first and the last foundation repair process required, unlike it happens with concrete piers which can degrade over the years, slowly but surely. Steel piers are solid and they feature no shims or loose parts whatsoever – consistent, extremely strong and reliable at the same time, steel piers allow you to secure your building in place without worrying about any potential points of failure in the foundation system.
Time-Efficient And Hassle-Free
Given the fact that the steel piers are hydraulically driven solid into the bedrock, the entire process is very quick and straightforward. Not only are steel piers minimally invasive, as they only involve some basic excavations, but they are friendly with the surrounding environment as well: as opposed to other piers that require extensive excavation, the steel-based ones do not disrupt the landscaping and the environment, neither do they take their toll on the native soil or the flora and the fauna in any way.
Steel Piers Offer Homeowners The Peace Of Mind They Need
Last, but not least, steel piers are specifically designed to last for tens of years – repeatedly tested to withstand thousands of PSI and treated to resist chemicals and harsh weather conditions, steel piers are truly reliable and can benefit a foundation on many different levels. Besides this, most geotechnical engineers recommend steel piers these days!