Our Favorite Design – The Pier and Beam Foundation
The sometimes maligned pier and beam foundation is our favorite for several reasons. Although in today’s market it is about 2 times more expensive to build, it provides a very flexible design platform for many custom builders who can provide openness and transparency in the layout of the home. Here’s an illustration of a typical foundation:
Many homeowners benefit from the wooden floors that are more comfortable for those with joint and back issues.
From a foundation repair company perspective, this design is much easier to correct deficiencies at a much lower cost due to ease of access to problematic areas. This ease of access also includes inspection and correction of plumbing problems, mold and termite issues which may develop.
Here’s an informative video on the pier and beam foundation benefits:
How the Pier and Beam Foundation Can Fail
It’s important to understand that most pier and beam foundation will eventually require at least a “tweak” or two over the lifetime of the home. Here are some of the main clues that there may be a problem:
- Uneven flooring, bowing up or sagging down
- Flooring is bouncy, sinking or sagging
- Doors won’t close completely or stick because of unevenness
- Visible cracks (usually diagonal) can be seen around doors and windows
- Gaps appear along inside walls and the floor
- You detect noticeable odors emanating from your crawl space
- In the crawl space, you can see broken or cracked beam or wood rot on beams, joists
One or more of these observations indicate a pier and beam foundation problem. In 98% of the homes we inspect, the problem comes down to two main causes:
#1 – Wet or Damp Crawl Space Areas
Without a doubt, this is the most common cause of pier and beam damage and failure. A damp, dark, or wet crawl space is the perfect environment for fungi, mold and termites to thrive. These little critters love it and will weaken and otherwise destroy wooden posts, beams, joists and girders.
The source of the water or moisture can come from one or more of the following:
- Poor drainage adjacent to the home caused by broken or clogged gutters and downspouts or negative slopes allowing water to pond and then flow into the crawl space
- Plumbing leaks or condensed water vapor from HVAC ducts
- High moisture in the crawl space during the summer months caused by too many vents
#2 – Original Design Flaws
With older homes in particular, we sometimes see that the vertical piers were spaced too far apart such that the cross beams and joists are trying to carry too much weight. In this situation, they can eventually become compressed, weaken and sag or even crack.
Another common problem with the original construction is poor footing design associated with the piers. Pier depth should be based on soil conditions and in the range of 12-18 feet in the Oklahoma City area. In addition, the footing base should be properly designed to distribute the load to solid ground; 12-20 inches wide base on the load bearing value of the soil (psf) and number of stories.
Source: International Residential Code for One- and Two-Family Dwellings, Table R403.1 International Code Council (Falls Church, VA, 2003).
Leveling the Pier and Beam Foundation
At Foundation Repair Pros, we take a three-pronged approach to each pier and beam foundation repair project: (a) identify all highly stressed and damaged structural components; (b) identify any sources of water leaks or excess moisture; (c) develop a proposed corrective action plan consistent with any budget constraints of the homeowner.
There are many techniques available in our arsenal of corrective actions and we will work with you to select the most appropriate economical solution. Here is an example of several of the solutions that may apply to your specific situation:
- Replace rotted or broken wood joists or beam with steel I-beams or fresh wood
- Sistering damaged joists, girders or beams with engineered or framing lumber
- Level healthy girders and joists with heavy duty jacks
- Replace damaged shims with ¼ inch steel plate shims where needed
- Auger and install helical steel piers to stable soil depth and engineered footing bases
- Correct crawl space plumbing or HVAC water leaks; close unnecessary vents
- Correct external drainage problems with sloped swales or French drains as appropriate
Foundation Repair Pros – #1 in Quality and Lowest Pricing
Our company is one of the only foundation repair companies in the Oklahoma City area that offer the specialized techniques to repair a pier and beam foundation. In fact, many area companies do not have the technical knowledge required and do not offer this service.
We’ve been extremely busy recently, particularly since the Moore Tornado destroyed or damaged over 13,000 homes in the area. However, we are committed to serving our community and have added additional professionally trained staff to meet the growing needs of our clients.
Give us a call today to schedule our free, no-obligation inspection to evaluate your pier and beam home. With 20+ years of experience in the OKC area, we are the industry leader in repairing these homes and look forward to earning your trust and confidence to get the job done right. We always stand behind our projects 100%.
Foundation Repair Pros Oklahoma City
3600 N.W. 138th
Oklahoma City, OK 73134
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