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Foundation Heave

Foundation heave is the upward movement of your foundation flooring, which can result in many structural problems. This can be quite common in Alabama and Tennessee.

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Foundation heave refers to any shift in foundation slabs, but it is usually an upward movement. This can dramatically alter your home’s structure, especially since it is dependent on your foundation for support and stability. 

If you live in Alabama or Tennessee, experiencing year-round rain is common to you. Unfortunately for homeowners, this type of climate can be problematic for your foundation, as it results in foundation heave. Constant rain and flooding alters the integrity of the soil beneath your foundation slabs and can introduce heavy ground saturation. Birmingham and Huntsville, Alabama, and Knoxville and Chattanooga, Tennessee have a significantly higher amount of rain in the first half of the year, while the opposite is true for Mobile, Alabama. The city of Nashville, Tennessee, has the most rain during April and May. 

foundation heaving cracks in a slab floor

Each city has different soil characteristics, but regardless of whether you reside in Alabama or Tennessee, the soil makes your home quite vulnerable to foundation heave. All of Alabama and Middle Tennessee (where Nashville is located) have sandy loam soil, which is very susceptible to soil erosion by wind or rain. Knoxville and Chattanooga, located in eastern Tennessee, is abundant in clay soil, a very troublesome soil infamously known for poor water drainage and filtering, as well as swelling when it absorbs water.

Problem Signs Behind Foundation Heave

Fortunately, finding the warning signs of foundation heave is quite easy. Once homeowners know what to look for, it’s one step closer to determining if repairs for are needed. 

Interior Wall Cracks  

Foundation heave can dramatically alter your home, especially since your walls are resting directly on top of it. One of the problem signs that you may experience during the beginning stages of foundation heave, is cracks forming on the interior walls of your home. There may be cracks on the exterior walls of your house, but this is less common. 

Cracks on Concrete Floor 

Foundation heave can also cause cracks within concrete floors. This happens because your flooring will be experiencing a high amount of pressure as the foundation heaves upward against the concrete and floors of your living space. These cracks can be found outside around your doorway, such as your porch, or near your garage, such as your driveway. You are also likely to find cracks inside your house, especially near the front door if the foundation heave is bad enough. 

Displaced or Uneven Concrete Slab Sections 

On a similar note, foundation heave can result in sections of uneven concrete slabs. In situations of foundation heave, concrete slabs are more likely to rise higher than normal, with some sides higher than the other. This warning sign is typically seen alongside cracks in concrete flooring. 

However, displaced, or uneven sections of concrete slabs, as well as cracks on concrete flooring, are frequent problem signs of general foundation issues. Therefore, these two warning signs can make it quite difficult to pinpoint if the cause is foundation heave or another problem entirely.

Misaligned Door and Window Frames 

The stability of your door and window frames is heavily reliant on the condition of your foundation since it rests right above it. Because foundation heave shifts the foundation concrete upward, your door and window frames may become misaligned. If you notice that your doors and windows are not closing properly, you may have this problem. 

What Causes Foundation Heave? 

Figuring out what causes foundation heave in your home is just as important as learning how to find the problem signs. There are several causes of foundation heave: shrink-swell cycles of soil, soil erosion, frost heave, plumbing line leaks, and continuous exposure to rain. These causes can often overlap with each other as well.  

Repeated Shrink-Swell Cycles of Soil 

Shrink-swell cycles are more typical of clay soil, which is dominant in Knoxville and Chattanooga. When clay soil particles become saturated with water, they swell to sizes double or triple their original size, depending on how much water they take on. In contrast, when water evaporates from these clay soil particles, they shrink down to their normal size. Since Tennessee experiences a large quantity of rain, this may happen quite a lot in Knoxville and Chattanooga.  

Repeated cycles of shrinking and swelling soil can cause foundation heave for several reasons. When the soil experiences these shrink-swell cycles, over time, it can become severely weakened. Although clay soil already does not drain water well, weakened soil can decrease its filtering capabilities even more. This means that water is likely to remain in the soil for longer. Large volumes of water in soil underneath your foundation can cause the concrete slabs to heave upward. 

Soil Erosion  

If you live in Birmingham, Huntsville, or Mobile, Alabama, or Nashville, Tennessee, you may experience soil erosion. Soil erosion is more commonly seen in sandy loam soils. Soil erosion occurs when the soil washes away from water or is swept away by wind. Sandy loam soils are more vulnerable to soil erosion because soil particles are significantly smaller and can be moved away quite easily. 

Soil erosion can cause foundation heave in an almost comparable ways as shrink-swell cycles of clay soil. Much like clay soil, soil erosion can increase the volume of water that enters the ground underneath your foundation’s concrete slabs. This happens because there is less soil, and therefore, more water can enter below. 

Water can exert quite a high amount of pressure, particularly when there is not enough room for it to move elsewhere. When enough water accumulates underneath foundations, this can cause foundation heave. 

Frost Heave 

Frost heave refers to the force exerted by frozen water. Although homeowners in both Alabama and Tennessee do not experience a significant amount of snowfall annually, there is still a decent amount during the winter season. Freezing temperatures during this time of the year, combined with problematic soils, can result in frost heave occurring underneath the surface of your foundation. 

Remember that both clay and sandy loam soils invite more water to seep through. When copious quantities of water below foundation slabs freeze, the ice can exert a lot of pressure against your foundation. This intense pressure can cause your foundation to heave. However, this may take quite a bit of time and multiple seasons for this to happen. Keep a lookout for the other problem signs before frost heave makes your foundation worse.  

Plumbing Line Leaks 

Your plumbing pipes are responsible for transporting large volumes of water a day. In fact, the average water flow through various pipeline sizes is: 

  • 50 gallons per minute in a half-inch pipe 
  • 110 gallons (about half the volume of a large refrigerator) per minute in a ¾ inch pipe 
  • 210 gallons (about the volume of a large refrigerator) per minute in a one-inch pipe 

Many of your home’s plumbing lines run below your home. Considering the substantial amount of water that runs through these pipes, this can pose quite a considerable risk for foundation heave. If even one of these pipes’ bursts, a significant amount of water will flow at high speeds underneath your foundation all at once. 

Concrete is incredibly strong and durable against many things, but it is not always strong enough. The sheer amount of water that can leak from plumbing lines, combined with its speed, is sure to exert a large amount of pressure against your foundation concrete, resulting in foundation heave. 

Repeated or Heavy Bouts of Rain 

Tennessee experiences about 53 inches of rain annually, peaking around the spring months (April and May) and tapering afterward. Alabama experiences a similar amount of annual rainfall, averaging at about 56 inches. However, the rainy season peaks earlier in the year, in January and February, as well as late summer. 

It is not just rain that can influence the likelihood of foundation heave. Any form of water can—and this includes snow. Although both Alabama and Tennessee are two of the least snowy states in the country, there is still enough that can enter the soil beneath your foundation. During the springtime, as the temperatures begin to rise, the snow can melt. This melted snow, in combination with year-round rain, can increase the chances of foundation heave. 

Remember that water underneath your foundation can cause the concrete slabs to heave upward, especially if there is a large volume of it collected below. A lot of water under your foundation can also impact the soil. Both rain and melted snow can cause the clay soil of Knoxville and Chattanooga, Tennessee to expand, and thus, exert upward pressure against your foundation slabs. In Birmingham, Huntsville, or Mobile, Alabama, or Nashville, Tennessee, more water means more soil erosion, also paving the way for foundation heave. 

Foundation Heave


It is usually not recommended that homeowners repair foundation heave—or any other problem requiring home repair—on their own. DIY repairs might seem tempting, as it might save you some money in the short run. However, many homeowners do not possess the proper tools or have the appropriate knowledge to complete a dangerous job like foundation repair. The reason contractors are hired for these jobs is because they can repair your foundation properly. 

Dangers of DIY Foundation Heave 

Working with concrete is incredibly messy, dangerous, and time-consuming. In fact, a solid concrete slab weighs about 150 pounds per cubic foot, and a broken piece of concrete weighs about 75 pounds per cubic foot. Foundation heave typically spreads to one or more slabs, so you are dealing with a lot of weight at once. Without exercising caution, one may easily hurt themselves. 

Demolishing concrete is unsafe as well. The dust that falls from broken concrete can lead to a lot of health concerns. This can include respiratory issues and eye irritation. 

Costs of DIY Foundation Heave 

Concrete can cost somewhere between $113 to $126 per cubic yard, but this may vary depending on the thickness of the slab you need. Foundation concrete tends to be on the thicker and heavier side because it is important in maintaining the stability of your home. You also need to purchase the equipment for pouring concrete as well, such as molds, support stakes, nails, and so on. Additionally, you may need to hire another person to pour this concrete for you. Depending on where you live, you may or may not have concrete mix readily available for you at hardware stores. 

This does not even include the cost of tools and protective equipment. DIY foundation repair often requires that you demolish the area first. This requires a jackhammer and other tools for cleanup. In the end, this may even amount to costing more in total than if you were to hire an expert contractor to repair your foundation heave for you. 

Some homeowners that have a lot of foundation issues may consider completely replacing their foundation. While this may certainly repair foundation problems, such as foundation heave, fully replacing your foundation does not properly address the issue. Repairs, especially those offered by AFS Repair, can fix your foundation problems at the root cause so that it does not happen again in the future. 

Costs of Foundation Replacement 

Replacing your entire foundation has a lot of hidden costs. Not only do contractors have to uproot and replace all your concrete, but they must put temporary support posts in place in order to support your home as they work on your foundation. Foundation replacement also requires that the soil be entirely replaced as well. Furthermore, even when your foundation is completely replaced, this does not guarantee that the issues will not come back because replacement does not address the source of the problem. 

This can be quite a lengthy and costly process. There are a lot of components to consider, such as foundation demolition, concrete pouring, soil replacement, and lifting your home with temporary support jacks. Even the most trained contractors require a lot of time to complete a big job like this. It also requires a substantial number of tools and protective equipment to accomplish. 

Benefits of Foundation Repair 

Many of the foundation repair options that are offered by AFS Repair, fortunately, face the root cause of your foundation issues and resolve them. This makes for a much longer-lasting solution, which is more cost-effective overall. Some of these options include the: 

While it seems like there are many options to choose from, remember that the option you select depends on the issue you wish to address. You may be overwhelmed by the sheer number of solutions. However, do not worry. The expert contractors at AFS Repair will help you to select which one works best to repair your foundation. 

Although it may not seem like it, foundation heave can cause quite a lot of problems in your home, especially if it goes unfixed. Fortunately, foundation heave can be quite easy to catch before it results in these drastic results. Regardless, foundation heave that goes unfixed can be very destructive. 

Other Foundation Issues 

Foundation heave that remains unrepaired can lead to even more foundation issues. Some of the more common foundation problems include foundation settling, caused by soil shrinkage, compaction, and settlement under constant exposure to water, bowed-in foundation walls, caused by hydrostatic pressure, or uneven concrete floorings and house structures. Foundation heave can also cause cracks to form inside and outside your house. 

In more extreme cases, foundation heave can cause leaking in your crawl space and even your basement. This typically occurs when foundation heave is present with the other previously mentioned foundation problems. Water being introduced into other areas of your home can, therefore, open a whole avenue of other issues outside your foundation, which can be very costly and time-consuming to repair. 

Lifestyle Issues 

Foundation heave that is left unchecked not only alters the integrity of your soil and your home, but it can also affect your daily life as well. Since foundation heave can pose a tripping hazard, it can make your landscape difficult to walk across and even be problematic for your cars if the foundation heave has altered your driveway. Furthermore, it can also disrupt your landscape aesthetics because it can look incredibly unsightly, as it makes concrete slabs uneven and ridden with water. 

The damage it can cause to your home, such as cracks and misaligned doorways and window frames, can change your living space environment as well. Cracks in your walls, doors and windows that do not close properly can introduce and host a multitude of pests inside your home. It can also affect the temperatures within your home since even these tiny openings allow some of the outside air to waft inside. Since Alabama and Tennessee experience both cold and hot temperatures at separate times of the year, this can cause your electricity bills to skyrocket as you try to maintain a comfortable temperature inside. 

How To Fix Foundation Heave 

Fixing foundation heave is not an easy thing to do. Luckily, the expert contractors at AFS Foundation & Waterproofing provide a wide variety of solutions that homeowners can choose from, that can be catered to an individual’s unique yard space, needs, and budget. 

Pier Systems 

AFS offers several different pier systems that can help repair foundation heave: the Push Pier System, the Slab Pier System, and the Helical Pier System. The main difference between all of these is the weight it can support and the way it is installed. All Pier Systems can lift foundation slabs to even them out. 

Support Posts  

Although this is installed within your crawl space, your foundation heave can certainly improve with Crawl Space Support Posts. It is the only repair system offered that addresses soil problems that can lead to foundation heave. Therefore, in addition to supporting foundation slabs that are heaving, it also strengthens the integrity of surrounding soils, so the problem does not get worse. 

Rely on Your Local Experts 

Foundation heave can be quite problematic. It can interfere with the aesthetics of your yard and your house, cause tripping hazards, and in the worst-case scenario, create severe structural damage. No homeowner should have to deal with foundation heave, so let us help you! Contact your local experts to schedule a free inspection today. 


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