Push piers are hollow rods made from solid steel that are used to stabilize settling foundations. They are hydraulically pushed into the ground and attached to the foundation. Instead of relying on a layer of soil, the foundation is now supported by the piers and the stable soil deep underground.
The push piers we use here at AFS are specially built to perpetually stabilize your home, making it a reliable, long-lasting solution to foundation settling. Among the many features our push piers have, we offer:
- Galvanized steel design
- Year-round installation
- 25-year warranty
- Minimally invasive installation
- Opportunity to lift the foundation back into place
- Patented pier sleeve design for maximum support
- Can be installed inside and outside the foundation
- Repairs are not visible after installation
Foundation settling typically requires a lot of complicated repairs, especially if the foundation is cracked. Not only does the foundation need to be stabilized, but contractors also need to raise it and make sure it’s stabilized in such a way that does not disturb the soil or cause further settling. This often involves complex machinery, a myriad of tools, a lot of money invested, and a lot of time devoted to a single repair job.
Because of their revolutionary design, push piers are capable of doing it all. All your foundation problems can be solved with a single push pier installation job.
How Foundations Settle
The reason foundations settle in the first place is because of soil displacement and erosion. Before the foundation is built, a dense layer of soil is laid out so that the house is supported by an even base. The problem is, this soil does not stay dense forever. Even with the house on top of it, soil can still become displaced and loosen up.
Soil becomes displaced because of certain external factors, such as ice, water, earth tremors, and substantial amounts of weight. The element that makes soil erode the most will depend on the qualities of the soil itself.
For example, a great deal of Alabama is covered in clay soils. Homes in places like Mobile and Huntsville see a lot of foundation failure because of the expansive qualities of the soil. Clay soils expand when exposed to water, then they shrink when that moisture dries up. A constant cycle of expanding and shrinking displaces the soil and begins to leave gaps all around the soil layer. Because the layer is no longer even and stable, the foundation settles against it.
Other areas, like Chattanooga, Tennessee, have sandy soils. Sandy soils do not expand when met with water. They lack clay content and their particles are too big to compress together, so they don’t shrink. However, because soil particles are so grainy, they wash away easily any time they get saturated with water. Sandy soils are a lot looser, so it’s quite easy for erosion to occur.
This creates a big problem because most homes are built upon a layer of soil. Whether it’s sandy soils, clay soils, or loam, there will be some sort of soil displacement. This is especially true if the home is in a region with extreme weather.
Alabama is the third rainiest state in the entire contiguous U.S. Not only is rain abundant, but tropical storms, tornadoes, and thunderstorms are frequent year-round. The same can be said for Tennessee, which, like Alabama, is close to the Gulf of Mexico. Their proximity to this ocean basin is what causes such extreme weather in both these states.
The intense winds and heavy rains are extremely detrimental to the soil on your property. Most homes do not have a backup plan if the soil under the foundation begins to fail, which is why settling is such a frequent problem for homeowners.
How Push Piers Stop Foundation Settling
Push piers are the best way to repair a settled foundation. This is because, unlike other repair methods, they don’t just stabilize the foundation—they also make it so that the foundation never has to rely on the soil again. Other repair methods, like concrete pillars, are still supported by the softer soils in the upper layers of the earth to hold up the foundation. These softer soils are just as capable of getting displaced as the original top layer that caused the settling. This means that, over time, the pillars will settle and you will be back to square one.
Push piers are driven deep into the ground until they reach load-bearing soil. Load-bearing soil is soil that is dense, stable, unlikely to erode, and can support large amounts of weight without displacement. The earth has multiple layers of soil and each layer has different properties. The layers in the uppermost soil are usually the softest because they contain a lot of organic matter.
The farther down you go, the denser the soil is. By transferring the weight of the house to these competent, deeper layers, you can guarantee that the house will be supported by soil that will not budge. Each pier transfers the weight of the house to these competent soils below, making them the best solution for foundation settling.
How Push Piers Are Installed
Before even installing the piers, specialists will have assessed the foundation to determine where each pier will go. Knowing how many piers to use and where each pier is to be placed is incredibly important. Too many piers are a waste of money and resources and too few piers won’t be enough to support the foundation.
If the piers are to be installed outside, the soil around your foundation is excavated until the foundation’s footing is exposed. For indoor installations, holes are drilled in the foundation floor until the soil is exposed.
Before the pier itself is installed, brackets are secured under the foundation. When the bracket is in place, the piers are pushed through the brackets and into the soil with a hydraulic ram. The rods are pushed in sections, one after the other until the piers meet resistance or hit bedrock. How deep they must go depends on the soil and the terrain the house was built on. Usually, piers are installed between 10 to 25 feet below ground but can go even deeper if needed.
Once the piers are in place, they are secured to the brackets. From here on out, the house is permanently stabilized and settling will no longer be a problem. If the house is severely tilting or if the foundation is cracked, the contractor will attempt to lift the foundation back into place. With a manometer (a tool used to measure the amount of pressure that is applied to a surface) the contractor will monitor the applied pressure to know how much force is needed to lift the foundation.
After the foundation is lifted, there might be a void under your home. A mix of water, sand, and cement is pumped under the foundation so that the voids are filled. Outside, the soil that was excavated out will be filled back in and any holes drilled are covered up. At ASF, we don’t just get the repair job done and call it a day—we handle the clean-up process with as much care as we do the repair job. We make sure your yard and foundation look completely untampered with by the end of it.
Push Piers vs. Concrete Piers
If you are in the market for some foundation support piers, you may have heard some talk about concrete piers. Concrete piers are just another kind of support system for settling foundations. They are compressed, solid concrete pillars that are placed under settling foundations to support them.
While concrete piers are widely used by many contractors, they are not reliable and are not long-term solutions for foundation settling. The reason they are so popular is that concrete is cheap and easy to use. Concrete is a material that has been used for many years, so contractors that are familiar with it will prefer to stay in their comfort zone, even if it isn’t the best method. Using cheap materials also allows contractors to give homeowners cheaper repair quotes, making them seem better than their competitors. What those homeowners don’t know is that they are paying for something that will cause them problems later.
The reason concrete piers are the worst support system for a settling foundation is that they are not capable of reaching competent soil depths. The deeper a concrete pillar goes, the thicker it must be made. If it’s too long and thin, it will not have the strength to support a foundation because concrete has terrible tensile strength, and this weakness is amplified the thinner the pillar is.
You might be wondering what is so bad about thicker concrete piers. If they are all going underground, what does it matter if they are large? The reason larger concrete piers are not a promising idea is that the bigger they are, the more likely they are to suffer from skin friction. Skin friction refers to the downward pressure the pier experiences that’s caused by the surrounding soil. The weight of the house plus this downward pressure is too much for the concrete to bear, so it breaks apart.
Because concrete piers can only be set in the upper layers, much like the settled foundation, they rely on unstable soil. When choosing concrete piers, you risk future foundation settling once more.
How Can I Get Push Piers for My Foundation?
The best way to get push piers for your foundation is to call your local foundation experts for professional installation. Installing push piers is not something you can do yourself. It takes a lot of knowledge to understand where each pier should go, how to operate the hydraulic ram, how to install the piers, and how to read a manometer to lift the foundation.
Without these skills, there is no way to do a good enough job to justify doing the job yourself. DIY foundation jobs always end up costing the homeowner more because the inadequate repairs mean the foundation will settle again.
Push piers are one of two pier systems we offer. The other kinds of piers are called helical piers, and they are similar to push piers. Instead of being hollow rods, they are solid steel shafts with helix blades welded to one of the sides. Instead of being pushed into the ground with a hydraulic ram, helical piers are drilled into the soil.
The contractor doing the repair job will be the one deciding which pier system is right for your home, but it’s still important to understand the differences because the system chosen will reveal a lot about your home. Your plans for your property will also need to be factored in when choosing between helical and push piers.
When To Use Push Piers
Push piers aren’t just pillars that support the weight of your home. They rely on the weight of the house they are under in order to function. Once the piers are attached to the bracket, the house is meant to act as a counterweight that keeps the piers at load-bearing depth. This means that the house needs to be heavy enough to push against the pressure created by the piers. If the house is too light, the piers will not be able to stay at load-bearing depths.
Push piers cannot be removed once they are installed. If you aren’t planning to extend your home or making any sort of renovations that tamper with the foundation, push piers are for you. Push piers can also push through tougher soils and rocks. If your property is surrounded by sedimentary rock, the contractor will most likely recommend push piers.
When Not to Use Push Piers
Push piers cannot always be used in every situation. If your home is on the smaller side and isn’t heavy enough to hold down push piers, helical piers are your best bet. Helical piers are great for softer soils, so homeowners in Huntsville, Alabama, and Knoxville, Tennessee, would do well with this kind of pier system.
If you have a basement with bowing walls, helical piers are preferred over push piers. Helical piers can be installed at an angle so that they can straighten out bowing walls if needed. Push piers can only be installed vertically, so they can lift horizontal surfaces like the floor of your foundation, but not vertical walls.
Advanced settling causes certain structural issues around the home, not just in the foundation itself. If the settling gets severe, you’ll be paying for more than just foundation repairs. To avoid the damage and the extra repair costs, familiarize yourself with the problem signs. The moment you notice the settling, you can contact your local foundation experts to stop the settling completely.
You’ll want to start in your basement since the signs will be most severe closest to the foundation. Check for cracks along the floor and the walls, as well for any spots where leaking is common. Use a level ruler to measure the evenness of the space, and if there is any uneven area despite the smoothness of the surface, there’s likely some settling.
In the upper portions of your home, look for cracks along the ceiling and the walls. If you have jammed doors or windows, that’s another clear sign of settling since the tilting house is warping the frame. Walk around the house and see if you can feel any areas where the floor is uneven. If you can’t feel anything, use a level ruler too, as it’s possible that the damage isn’t severe enough to cause sagging floors, only slight unevenness.
Again, you can start looking for signs from top to bottom outside as well. Check along the bottom of the home for any cracks. All concrete displays hairline cracks after a few years, but if the cracks are plentiful and wide, it indicates a problem. One of the clearest signs of settling is stair-step cracking along the mortar. If the crack is wider at the top than it is at the bottom, the settling is advanced.
Observe your chimney to see if it’s tilting. The good thing about chimneys is that because of their height, it’s easy to spot unevenness. Look at the chimney from multiple angles and search for cracks. If your front porch has handrails, unevenness there also indicates settling. If you aren’t sure about the signs you are seeing, contact a local foundation expert for a professional assessment.
Unless your house was installed with push piers from the moment it was built, foundation settling is inevitable. This is because no matter how much you try to stop it, soil will become displaced. External factors like soil quality and weather are what determine soil displacement, so there isn’t much homeowners can do. However, there are certain changes you can make to make sure the soil degradation process is as slow as possible.
Outdoors, you should talk to a landscaping expert to determine the grade of your yard. A negative grade means that water flows toward your foundation whenever it rains. If needed, you can regrade your lawn so that water drains away from your home. Downspouts should be extended so that they drain water as far from your home as possible and no water gets the chance of saturating the soil.
During the rainiest time of year, make sure to continuously check your drainage systems for any debris. You don’t want water flowing down the side of your home because of clogged gutters. During the winter, shovel the snow out of your yard as often as you can, especially during the beginning and end of winter, when the temperature isn’t cold enough to keep snow from melting. You don’t want any water from the melted snow seeping into your soil.
Indoors, you need to set up a proper drainage system for your foundation. This means installing an interior drain system and a sump pump if you don’t already have one. Keeping your foundation dry is just as important as keeping the soil outside dry as well. Water is an erosive element that can damage the materials your foundation is made of. The more cracks and breakage in a foundation, the faster it will settle.
Consider getting a second sump pump, especially if you live in Alabama. Sump pumps get overworked during rainy seasons and often malfunction as a result. A second sump pump will guarantee that your foundation stays as dry as possible no matter how severe the weather is.
Why You Should Consider ASF Push Piers
AFS offers homeowners unique solutions to every kind of foundation problem. Our push piers are no different. What makes our push piers so reliable and efficient is the design of the rod itself. Our piers have a patent-pending external sleeve that gives the area right below the bracket extra strength and support.
Push piers that aren’t reinforced below the bracket run the risk of buckling. Because they are installed next to the foundation footing instead of directly below, the weight of the house can sometimes be transferred to the piers themselves instead of the load-bearing soil below. As a result, standard, cheaply made push piers bend under the weight of the home.
We made sure to eliminate this design flaw in our push piers. With the sleeve providing added support, our push piers will not bend and will successfully transfer the weight of the home to the competent soil underneath.
AFS Can Repair Your Settling Foundation
If you live in Alabama or Tennessee, we can help you. AFS has proudly helped homeowners keep their homes stable since 2000. We service Birmingham, Huntsville, and Mobile, as well as Nashville, Chattanooga, and Knoxville.
If you need push piers for your settling foundation, just give us a call or fill out our online contact form. We’ll send over one of our experts to your home for an inspection, free of charge. A quote and a detailed rundown of the repair job will be developed by the contractor and given to you the very same day of the inspection. A stable foundation awaits, so don’t hesitate to contact us.