Pier and beam foundations are known for being robust and long lasting. But they are not immune to damage. Time, the environment, and poor design eventually weaken all home foundations. Fortunately, repairing pier & beam foundations is easier and more affordable than repairing modern, concrete foundations.
But if you wait too long to resolve your foundation problems they become expensive to fix and even dangerous.
What are pier and beam foundations?
Pier and beam foundations were far more common 60 years ago than they are today. Most homes are now built on modern concrete structures on account of their low cost and efficient design. But in many areas of the United States, pier and beam foundations are a necessity, especially in areas that receive heavy rain fall, seasonal moisture, and flooding.
These foundations are constructed in a similar way roofs and ceilings are constructed. Piers are dug into the ground and beams are laid across them to support the home. Beneath the beams are spaces or gaps that form after cartons, used to support the concrete when it’s poured, rot away.
Pier and beam structures are just as durable and efficient as concrete structures, with the added benefit of an open crawlspace. Because these homes are elevated, the gap between home and the ground, or the crawlspace, provides room for utilities such as plumbing, heating systems, and electricity. As a result, it’s easier to maintain and fix these utilities if they should ever go awry.
Common pier and beam foundation problems
Though it’s the crawlspace that provides the biggest advantage to pier and beam foundations over concrete foundations, it’s also the source of many problems. Seasonal moisture and poor construction underly most pier and beam foundation problems. They include:
- soil expansion that stresses the foundation
- mildew and rotting wood that weakens the structure
- shim failure caused by non-standard materials
- inferior support unable to withstand constant compression
- cracking at the base and along the walls
Because most pier and home foundations were built in the early 1900’s, many of the piers are made from cedar wood that restrict the footing area of the foundation. Constant compression loads the cedar piers with stress, thus sinking the foundation into the ground. Even modern pier and beam foundations are poorly designed.
For instance, piers are often not widely spaced or dug deep enough into the soil, thus lacking adequate loading support ability. Shims and spaces can also be made from inferior materials such as plywood and cardboard. Furthermore, the shims might not properly match the width of the beams and/or length of the piers.
Strengthening the foundation
Repairing a pier and beam foundation is far less expensive and labor-intensive than repairing a concrete foundation. For instance, shim failure caused by poor materials can easily be resolved with steel shims. If there are any gaps between the steel shims and the beams, you can fill the gaps with durable mortar.
You can also shore the foundation, inserting wood beneath the beams of the foundation to provide more load support. By adding more surface area to the footing, the new piers reduce the stress of the existing beams, strengthening the foundation.
When seasonal moisture seeps into the soil, it expands and stresses the foundation, causing floors to sag and crack. Overtime, water, rain, and moisture accumulation can lead to cracking walls, sticking doors, and sinking piers.
Soil with high clay content is particularly prone to moisture seepage, potentially turning into mud. When this happens, your foundation loses it’s capacity to hold up your home, making it very dangerous to live in.
This is why it’s important you have the proper drainage system that directs water away from your home. It’s also important to prevent water from ever getting under the foundation in the first place. In fact, despite the frequency of inadequate construction, most pier and beam foundation problems are caused by the soil underneath it.
If you need foundation and drainage repairs that incorporate the most up-to-date information, technology and research, at Perma-Pier we offer cutting-edge solutions that ensure your foundation is secure and your home is safe. Rather than wait until the problem gets worse, you can instead get a free evaluation and pricing quote, by contacting us today.