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A-Pier-ant Structural Damage

10th January 2007


This property would be my first experience with slab foundations. I had jacked up a house setting with a crawl space to replace rotting sills, aprons, and joists, but this was a whole new ballgame. My search for foundation repair experts began on the internet. I Googled various search terms to get a general understanding of what was involved. I learned that a great deal of the settling problem were due to trees close to the foundation. The way I understand it, tree roots travel under the house looking for water. By removing the water in the soil under the house the soil shrinks and the foundation settles. No matter how it happened the foundation had some serious settling problems.

Here are a few pictures that give some idea of the settling problem. I could show damage just about anywhere around the perimeter of the house though.

I sent out 4 emails to local foundation repair companies, explaining the damage, and asked for estimates. I recognized several names from the TV commercials. You know the ones with the Coaches and Baseball Hero. I figure these companies must have been busy recruiting and scouting foundation repair rookies because they never answered my emails. I did get an reply form a company that happened to be less than a half mile from the place. We made an appointment to meet the next day at 1:00.

A truck pulled up just a little before 1:00 the next day. A man with a clip-board got out scanned the front of the house and said walking towards me “Son, you need a Bunch of Piers.” I replied “it a-piers that way to me too.” He must not get my sense of humor (or lack thereof) since he just began to take notes without even a smile. He spent the next 20-30 minutes or so taking measurements and making notes. He must have got my little joke just as he totaled up the estimate because a broad smile came to his face. We sat down and he began to explain my options. To sum them up, I could go with 20 concrete and steel piers every 8 feet around the perimeter for about $7,000, or I could go with the same number of all steel piers for around $12,000. However due to the fact that it was December, their slowest time of the year, they would give me a 10% discount if I had the work done in immediately. I decided to go with them on the spot. They would start a couple of days before Christmas and finish just before New Years. That was the plan at least. It turns out that we would experience the mother of all ice storms a couple of days later. They had so many cancellations I was bumped up a couple of weeks. I was one of the few place in town with electricity. I had no gas, heat or water but I had electricity.

Just 3 days into the ice storm a large truck pulled up into my my driveway. More trucks began to show up right after. The foreman came over, introduced himself. He gave me a quick explanation of what was going to be done that day and asked for my check for half of the repair cost. Within minutes a six man crew was moving equipment, cutting large holes in the sidewalks and back porch, digging holes and in general working a lot harder that I would want to. Once they were well established, I decided to leave them alone and get back to work. I told the foreman I would be back around 3:00.

To my surprise, at 3:00 when I got back the crew was gone. All of the concrete had been cut, holes dug and the piers filled with cement.

They came back about a week later to finish the repair. A little larger crew showed up this time. Within minutes of arriving, the crew was placing large bottle jacks on each pier, dropping off concrete blocks and steel plates around each hole. Once again I told the foreman I had to get back to work and left around nine. By noon when I came back on my lunch break, the house had been raised, several holes already filled and the place was buzzing with activity. Cracks were being mortared, joints caulked, dirt compacted, concrete patches poured in the sidewalk and porch. I was impressed! The foreman told me that they would haul off all of the extra dirt, but I asked him to move to the back yard. I would eventually use it to regrade the soil surrounding the foundation. He would haul off the broken concrete and other debris though.

As the crew continued to work, the foreman took me around the house pointing out all of the improvements. The floating corner was now meeting the slab. The separating sheet rock had moved closer but not quite back to the original spot. He explained that it was not always possible to raise the foundation all the way. There were many factor involved in how much they could safely raise the foundation. The cracks in the brick were being re-pointed and missing brick replaced. Overall I was very pleased with what I saw. I told him that I was ready to get started replacing doors and windows. He warned me to wait a minimum of 4 weeks, to allow any settling that may occur. I gave him the final payment for the work and and went back to work. Several hours later when I returned the crew was gone.

Neighbors continued to come by while the work was being done. I learned that piers around the neighborhood were a source of great pride. The number and style of piers, the guaranty, the company name, and total cost were all factors in what made their foundation repair special. I lost on all count other than number of piers, but I’d use this company again.

I also began to get other visitors that had seen my property listed on the internet under foreclosures. It appears that the place was listed as sold for the judgment ($24,000). That was not the case at all. With the auction price, back taxes, legal, and now foundation repair, I was at $42,000. This was actually what the original auction had brought in, the one where both bidders backed out. Still a good price but no where close to what was listed on the net. Anyway I was on my way finally. I would have 3-4 weeks to plan, clean, buying materials, and make minor repairs, but I was now on my way. It felt good.

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