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Foundation Soils

Your home’s foundation is only as strong as its soil. Loose soil can easily contribute to foundation damage if you don’t take steps to protect it.

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Your foundation is the most vital structure to your home’s structural integrity. Without it, your home would collapse or sink into the soil. Your foundation is also vulnerable to damage as well. If you do not take steps to protect the soil surrounding it, you may find your foundation being negatively impacted sooner rather than later. 

The soil around your foundation might not be compact enough to be able to support the foundation properly. They may be susceptible to washing out during harsh storms, thus causing the foundation to shift, settle, or even crack altogether. 

Let’s take a closer look into how weak foundation soils can contribute to foundation damage, the various problem signs you can watch out for, and the powerful solutions that AFS Foundation & Waterproofing Specialists can provide your home below. 

Common Causes Behind Foundation Damage 

The average homeowner might want to know how their foundation can be damaged in the first place. Here are some of the most common causes of foundation damage. 

Foundation Soil Disruption and Settling 

The soil that supports your foundation is crucial to maintaining its overall structure. Unfortunately, many homeowners tend to overlook protecting this soil, which can result in all sorts of damage that could have been prevented, especially in Birmingham, Alabama

It is possible that your already loose soil has become looser due to a phenomenon called the clay bowl effect. This usually occurs due to a common construction practice contractors will enact when first building a new home. Contractors will dig a large hole where they plan to place the foundation and either a basement or crawl space. Once each component is laid down, there will be some space left around these structures. The contractors will backfill in this space with the soil they previously dug up. 

This creates a “clay bowl” of sorts around the foundation. The soil does not technically need to be composed of clay for this phenomenon to occur, either. Both Alabama and Tennessee have sandy and silt loam soils, which are the loosest types of soil to build upon. 

This soil will become that much looser once dug up, making it more susceptible to washing out, shrinking, or compacting together. Considering sandy and silt soils are already prone to washing out, this makes the soil in any Alabama or Tennessee home that much more vulnerable to storms and melted snow in the spring. Without a stable support system, your foundation is likely to settle even further into the remaining soil, shift out of its original placement, or break apart altogether. 

Additionally, tree roots can easily creep through to the soil around your foundation and drain the moisture out of it. This can cause the soil to shrink and compact even closer together, which creates an uneven surface area to uphold the foundation. This can cause the foundation to settle or shift. 

Draining out moisture can be especially dangerous for sandy or silt loam soils. These loose soils need to retain a certain amount of moisture to compact enough to support a foundation. Without this crucial moisture, these soils will start to settle even further down, which can cause your foundation to start to settle as well. 

These tree roots can be managed, but sometimes, they may become too out of hand for you to properly handle. In that case, you may have to unfortunately chop down the tree altogether to save the structural integrity of your foundation and your home. 

Overall, there can be plenty of factors that can cause the soil around your foundation to shift, compact, or settle. If the soil surrounding your foundation is not waterproofed or otherwise protected against any potential moisture damage, you will likely face all kinds of foundation issues in the near future. 

Hydrostatic Pressure 

If your soil has not washed out, it is likely that it will absorb much more moisture than it is able to carry. Storms, melted snow, or even normal rainfall can all contribute to this. Your soil will become much heavier due to the weight of all that water it has absorbed and create immense pressure against your foundation. 

This pressure may even be strong enough to cause the foundation to shift, settle, or crack altogether. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as hydrostatic pressure, and it is unfortunately quite common. 

Hydrostatic pressure also has another form as well. Water droplets can easily flow into the concrete foundation’s pores and can become trapped inside. When winter comes and the temperatures dip, these trapped droplets can freeze within the foundation itself. The expanding ice can cause the foundation to crack apart from within. 

Soil Shrinkage and Compaction 

Continuous washing out can create problems within the soil itself, too. When soil is constantly exposed to excessive amounts of water, they are likely to swell up and expand. When the water drains out or evaporates, however, your soil will begin to shrink and may even compact together. This decreases the surface area of soil used to support your foundation, which means it will start to settle into the remaining soil, shift, or crack. 

Thus, your soil will typically be measured through the swell-shrinkage capacity, or how much this soil is likely to swell up with moisture and shrink again once that moisture has evaporated or drained out. Clay soils tend to be most infamous for this, due to how slowly water can travel through it. This means it will take longer for the water to drain out or evaporate, which only allows time for more water to saturate the soil. 

This constant swelling can cause heaving issues, which is when the foundation is pushed up and cracked apart by the soil directly below. Heaving can be a huge issue on its own. Once these soils do eventually dry up, however, the sudden shrinkage can cause the foundation to settle and crack apart even more. Therefore, it is important to call a foundation expert the moment you notice anything wrong around your property. 

Though sandy and silt-type soils are far more prone to washing out than swelling, that does not mean these soils will not experience this issue, however. All types of soil have a certain capacity for swelling up and shrinking, so you will need to call a foundation expert to help provide the toughest waterproofing solutions there are to protect your home. 

Foundation Damage Problem Signs 

Knowing what can cause foundation damage in the first place is certainly useful. However, even when knowing this, many homeowners will still not be able to identify if their foundation is facing issues or not. Therefore, it may also help you to know the problem signs to look out for that can alert you to when your foundation is damaged. 

Leaks

Finding leaks in either your basement or crawl space (whichever you happen to have) can often indicate that your foundation is damaged. The water absorbed in the soil around your basement or crawl space can easily push against the walls and leak through to flood these spaces. 

Active zone in soil surrounding home

Cracks 

Finding cracks along your basement walls or floor is the most obvious sign that you have significant foundation damage. You may also spot cracks sprouting along the concrete surrounding your home as well (i.e., your sidewalk, driveway, backyard patio, etc.). 

Not every homeowner will have the time to deal with every single crack they might see along their property. Therefore, it is important for every homeowner to be able to distinguish which cracks can be left alone and which must be treated as soon as possible. 

Any cracks that measure less than 1/8 inches wide can typically be left alone as they will not pose much of a threat to your home. The same can be said for any cracks that measure anywhere between 1/8 and 1/4 inches wide, though these can be a bit trickier. You will need to keep a close eye on these cracks just in case they expand out further. 

Any cracks that measure larger than 1/4 inches wide, however, are signs of significant foundation damage and cannot be ignored whatsoever. You need to make an appointment with one of our foundation experts right away if you spot any of these wider cracks on your property. 

Sagging Floor 

If your foundation has become damaged, the rest of your home’s infrastructure will swiftly follow. This is especially true if you notice your floor sagging or bouncing in places. It is possible that the floor support beams have shifted or cracked alongside your foundation, which is what causes parts of your floor to sag or bounce in the first place. 

Stuck Doorways and Windowsills 

Many Knoxville, Tennessee, homeowners will simply brush off stuck doorways and windowsills as a sign of age. This may be true for some homes, but if this is the work of a damaged foundation, this problem sign cannot be ignored. 

Typically, a broken foundation will cause the other structures in your home to start to tilt or sway. This can cause the doorways and windowsills to tilt as well. The doors and windows themselves will not tilt, which leaves them trapped in their frames and thus much harder to open and close. 

Tilting Walls 

Tilting walls are a major sign of foundation damage that cannot be overlooked whatsoever. This can signal that your house is on the verge of collapse. If you notice your walls leaning or tilting, you need to set an appointment with a foundation expert as soon as you can. 

Foundation Repair Solutions by AFS Foundation & Waterproofing Specialists 

Your foundation is a surprisingly delicate and complex structure. You might not know how to go about fixing it, but fortunately, AFS Foundation & Waterproofing Specialists can offer your home powerful waterproofing repair solutions that we can install in one day. 

Wall Anchors 

Wall anchors are sturdy anchors buried in more compact areas around your yard. These anchors connect to your basement wall via a sturdy steel rod that transfers the strength of these deeper soils to your foundation. 

These anchors will slowly repair your cracked or settled foundation again over time, closing any cracks or other previous damage it has faced. These anchors will also brace your foundation against any future damage that might threaten to bow it in again as well. 

Piers Systems 

Like our wall anchor system, our various piers systems will utilize the strength of the deeper, more compact layers of soil to repair your foundation. Where wall anchors are installed in strategic points around your yard, however, these piers are either drilled or pushed directly underneath your foundation to support it from below. 

Foundation Soils

FAQs

Some homeowners might still question why the soil around their foundation is so vulnerable to all this damage in the first place. Let’s take a closer look into how contractors assess the soil of any given site and how they will still build on weaker soils below. 

Soil Type 

The type of soil is a key factor in whether a contractor will have to implement artificial layers to keep the foundation steady. Compact clay soils are typically the best soil to build on top of. Compact soils are far stronger than sandy or silt soils since they can bear larger weights per square foot. Clay soils are typically sought after most for this very reason. 

However, this does not mean that contractors will refuse to build on top of these weaker soils, either. A contractor will look deeper into this soil’s layers for more compact support or even build completely artificial layers to keep your home steady and secure. You should also keep in mind that even the most compact soil is not immune to wearing down or washing out over time. Therefore, you will still need to implement waterproofing protections around your home, no matter what kind of soil you have. 

Soil Layers 

The layers of soil in any given area are important for contractors to research. Though the top layer of soil (known as the subgrade layer) is usually the only layer of soil contractors will need, sometimes this layer will not be compact enough to build on top of. Therefore, they will start to add more layers on top of this subgrade layer to better stabilize your foundation against any future water damage. 

This artificial layer is referred to as the subbase layer and is typically composed of a thick gravel path that prevents groundwater from welling up and causing your soil to swell or wash out. They will add an additional base layer to create even more stability for your foundation. Sometimes the gravel layer will be enough to prevent the worst moisture damage, but it is still a good idea to have your foundation inspected yearly just in case. 

When a problem arises around your home, you may attempt to fix it by yourself. When it comes to foundation damage, however, it is best to leave those repairs to the experts instead. 

Calling the Foundation Experts 

The foundation experts at AFS Foundation & Waterproofing Specialists are trained to assess and repair any kind of foundation damage your home is likely to face. We will also have all the right tools and equipment needed for this job, so you will not have to worry about attempting to fix it all by yourself. 

Indeed, our industry-grade solutions are not available to the public, which means your home will be protected by the best of the best waterproofing and repair solutions. Our solutions will both be able to tackle foundation repair and protect the supporting soil underneath. We also offer yearly foundation inspections to ensure that your home stays upright for years to come. 

An astute homeowner might investigate all the foundation repair solutions that can be installed in their home. Indeed, AFS Foundation & Waterproofing Specialists offer a couple other foundation repair solutions that you might want installed instead. 

Carbon Fiber Wall Straps 

Carbon fiber wall straps might not appear to be strong enough to brace your basement walls against any outside damage, but do not underestimate them. Carbon fiber is around 10 times stronger than steel alone and is used to manufacture heavy-duty sports equipment, racecars, and all kinds of aircraft. You can rely on these straps to brace your walls against any damage that threatens to bow them inward. 

Additionally, with the application of our tough epoxy resin, these wall straps become that much tougher. They are the perfect alternative to wall anchors should you not have the space around your yard for that system’s installation. These secure straps will slowly push back against any bowing issues and even close any cracks that crop up along the way. 

IntelliBrace™ I-Beam System 

Much like our carbon fiber wall straps, our IntelliBrace™ I-Beam system will brace your basement walls against anything that might threaten to cause them to bow inward. These galvanized steel I-beams are guaranteed to never rust or wear down over time. You will be able to enjoy a perfectly leveled-out wall for years to come. 

These I-beams are attached to your basement walls via adjustable braces on both the top and bottom of the beam that can be slowly tightened over time. This adjustment should be left to the professionals who installed these beams in the first place. Foundation repair requires a precise set of measurements that our experts will plan out beforehand. 

Contact the Foundation Experts at AFS Foundation & Waterproofing Specialists Today 

The soil supporting your foundation is key to its overall health. Without stable, compact soils surrounding it, your foundation is more vulnerable to shifting around, settling further into the soil, or cracking apart into pieces. This can obviously lead to other problems cropping up around your home, so it is important for every homeowner to take the proper precautions where their foundation and its supporting soil are concerned. 

Contact the foundation experts at AFS Foundation & Waterproofing Specialists for a free foundation inspection today. We can also offer you free quotes on all our powerful foundation repair solutions while we visit as well. We serve clients all throughout Birmingham, Huntsville, and Mobile, Alabama, as well as Nashville, Chattanooga, and Knoxville, Tennessee. 

CONTACT OUR FOUNDATION EXPERTS TODAY

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CONTACT OUR FOUNDATION EXPERTS TODAY

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