Spaces for Life: Foundation Repairs That Don’t Work & what most experts aren’t telling you

Spaces for Life: Foundation Repairs That Don’t Work & what most experts aren’t telling you

By Lance McCarthy
There are great things about living around here: Antioch Park, Oklahoma Joe’s, Dolce Bakery cookies (click here for some pastry porn), weird bands that play in downtown Overland Park on Saturdays, hometown of Sock 101 (yeah, check it), voted 20th manliest city in America (we dropped 5 ranks last year. I know, right?)

Unfortunately, there are some bad things too. Like the temperature last Monday for example. Another one is really bad foundations. In fact, I would go so far as to say that foundations are to Kansas Citians as teeth are to the British. As in not good.Cracks, bulges, leakage…I’m talking about foundations now, not teeth. To make matters worse, fixes can be really expensive, and I think something about basement foundations feels a little mysterious and black magick-y. If you have a foundation problem, you call a company that has the word “foundations” in their name, and you hope for the best.

There are a lot of ways this can go wrong, and DOES. One of the biggest reasons it goes wrong is that many companies that claim to fix foundations are really only good at fixing symptoms. And each foundation they encounter tends to be a great candidate for the solution that they just happen to specialize in.

Here are four types of foundation repairs that don’t always work. ***This is where I’m supposed to put the disclaimer in about me not being an engineer or a foundation specialist, and about how every foundation is different, and that you should consult your doctor before trying to repair your own foundation.***

Bad Solution #1

Probably the most common foundation complaint I hear from homeowners is about water coming in, and the foundation cracking and bulging. The most common solution I see in houses is some form of a perimeter drain and extra sump pump. The contractor comes in and trenches around the inside edge of the foundation wall, lays in a drain pipe, and then connects it to a sump pump. This will usually keep the basement floor dry, and can sometimes be the solution if there is normally a high water table in the soil, but the reason it is usually a bad solution is because it only solves a symptom–water in the basement. The real problem is that water is wanting to get in in the first place, and this does nothing to help that.

Bad Solution #2

Around here, the temperature swings so dramatically up and down, and the rainfall varies so much seasonally, that the soil moves a great deal. Through all these changes, the foundation is getting bombarded from the outside by tremendous pressures. No wonder you have that crack in the wall big enough to swallow a small woodland creature. Many times people will put epoxy in the cracks to help seal them up. Not a bad thing, recommended even, but it will certainly not keep water out (since concrete is naturally porous) and won’t keep the foundation from continuing to move.

Bad Solution #C

As the walls continue to close in, many homeowners begin to feel like Luke in the trash compactor. In comes the foundation company with some really strong looking steel C-channels.

Whew! That’s a relief. Nothing can bend steel. You catch my sarcasm? Often when we see these C-channels installed as braces against the foundation wall, they have bent in with the pressure, no match for the mighty Mother Earth. Again, often symptom solving.

Bad Solution #3 Part B Subsection Kappa Kappa Gamma

The other type of steel bracing that companies recommend is the steel I-beam as a brace against the wall. This is much better, and will help prevent further movement of many foundations, but (can you predict what I’m going to say here?) symptom solving, not problem solving.

So, what is the real solution? What is the answer to all your problems? Unfortunately, I’m already over my word count for the week, so I’ll have to answer that question next week.

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