Recurring Repair Requests from Tenants
If these multi-unit repairs are ongoing and involve structural problems such as cracked walls, floors, ceilings, or doors and windows that won’t open and close properly, then your repair efforts are band-aid fixes.
The root problem you’re facing is foundation damage. It’s the reason why you are seeing the same types of problems within the building. It’s also why the same tenants make similar repair requests repeatedly over time. As the soil beneath the damaged foundation continues to shift, this movement propagates throughout your building, causing old cracks to widen and new ones to form. The frames of previously repaired doors and windows distort yet again, causing the same sticking problems.
A thorough inspection of the building’s outside may reveal large cracks in the external brick, block, and concrete walls. You may also see cracks where sections of your building join together.
Root of the Problem: Texas Expansive Clay Soil
If the above describes your situation and you’re located in Texas, then your building may be sitting on expansive clay soil. This soil type responds to moisture by expanding when it gets wet, and shrinking when it dries out. When the soil’s moisture content changes, it shifts. This continual movement cracks your foundation and causes the structural problems you are seeing in your building.
Why would shifting clay soil damage something as hard and strong as concrete? The enormous weight of your building cracks the foundation when it lacks support underneath because the soil has shrunken away and has left an empty void in its place. Conversely, when the soil expands, it can exert 7.5 tons per square foot of pressure against your foundation. This is more than sufficient to cause damage.
Why Aren’t Buildings Built to Withstand Texas Clay Soil?
Over the years, building codes and construction techniques have improved and as a result, buildings today are more trouble-free. However, buildings have very long life spans which means that many of them don’t enjoy these benefits because of their age. A wide variety of building types are used for multi-unit residences, and the standards and construction practices used in building them tend to be more relaxed than for government and commercial buildings.
In addition to a building’s construction, several other factors affect its vulnerability to foundation damage. For example, even the newest buildings constructed specifically for expansive clay soils shouldn’t be tested by neglecting landscaping that allows water build-up next to its walls after heavy rainfall. Undetected plumbing leaks can release large amounts of water into the soil beneath the foundation. This can either erode the soil base away or cause significant soil heaving. Over watering the lawn next to the building also causes soil heaving against the foundation.
Large Tree Roots Can Cause Foundation Damage
Large tree roots that grow next to or underneath your foundation have the opposite effect of a plumbing leak. They can extract hundreds of gallons of water per day from the soil near or under the foundation. This large-scale desiccation means the soil no longer provides support because it has pulled away. If water run-off from the roof lands on the ground next to the walls, the water causes localized heaving and erodes a depression that rings the building. This depression is a natural place for water pooling.
During protracted dry weather such as a drought, special measures called foundation watering must be taken to ensure that the soil near the foundation doesn’t dry out.
Perma-Pier Foundation Repair’s commercial foundation division has extensive experience in multi-unit residences such as townhomes, condominiums, and apartments. We also repair multi-unit commercial buildings. Our staff members are all trained in geological sciences and we partner with a number of structural engineers. If your foundation is giving you problems, let us put our expertise to work for you. Contact Perma-Pier Foundation Repair of Texas today for more information.