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Groundworks Company Lifts, Stabilizes Freestanding Chimney in Richmond, VA

by Holly Richards-Purpura

Foundation and Structural Problems

All structures – from homes and schools to garages and fireplaces – can sustain various forms of foundation damage. Signs include cracking and bowing walls, interior drywall cracks or nail pops, sticking windows and doors, and leaning chimneys. The latter can be a particularly dramatic and dangerous, and it’s what homeowners in Richmond, VA, noticed on their property.

Most chimneys are attached to a side of a home, but this particular chimney/fireplace was freestanding in the owners’ backyard. The homeowners detected some shifting and leaning in a large stone fireplace that was built on a separate slab from the home. Concerned with the safety and function of the fireplace, the owners wanted to promptly have it inspected and repaired.

Trust Experts for Assessment and Repairs

While many projects can be completed with do-it-yourself fixes, anything involving the foundation and structural stability is best left to experienced industry professionals. The homeowners reached out to JES Foundation Repair, a local Groundworks company serving the area, for professional advice. Groundworks is the nation’s largest privately held foundation services company.

An inspector with the local company evaluated the condition of the problematic fireplace, which included measuring for settlement. The inspector recorded the chimney was leaning ½” from left to right, as well as tilting back 1.75” and rotating.

Causes of Foundation and Structural Problems

Just as crucial as it is to fix issues like a settling chimney, it’s important to understand why this is happening. Structural problems including foundation settlement can happen for a variety of reasons. It all boils down to the soil supporting the foundation. If the soil underneath a structure is unstable, it cannot properly support the weight above it. Unstable soil happens when the soil is wet and softened, dry and shrinking, or poorly compacted.

This can happen in any soil, and the soil around Richmond is quite problematic. The sandy loam common in Richmond can easily erode and become weak and wash away when combined with the area’s frequent rainfall. This means anything built on or around this type of soil is at risk for structural damage.

Finding the Right Repair Solution

Every home and structure’s foundation is different, and each requires its own specific repair solution. The inspector considered the environmental factors and the damage the chimney sustained, and he recommended the installation of helical piles as well as polyurethane foam injections.

Helical piles are perfect to use underneath lighter structures to permanently stabilize and help lift the foundation. Polyurethane foam injections are an updated twist on older concrete lifting methods like mudjacking, but they employ similar concepts.

Installation Project Overview

The homeowners agreed to these repairs, and two crews from the Chester branch of JES Foundation Repair completed the project in two working days.

The crew specializing in repairing foundation settlement first slightly excavated the dirt around the fireplace to access the footing. Two helical piles – 2-7/8” O.D. steel tubes with 8” and 10” helix blades and an allowable capacity of 20,000 lbs. – were then installed underneath the fireplace footing by hydraulically “screwing” them into the ground. Each pile was installed 15’ below grade, and pressure gauge readings indicated that a minimum torque of 2,300 lbs./ft. was achieved at this depth. Once foundation brackets were secured, they were benchmarked, and the benchmark nails were recorded.

The helical pile installation successfully lifted the fireplace and corrected the settlement initially measured by the inspector. As an added protective measure, polyurethane foam was free sprayed by another crew to help further support the chimney and slab underneath. The soil was then backfilled and replaced to complete the project, which gave the homeowners peace of mind and a stable and functional fireplace.

About Groundworks

Groundworks®, headquartered in Virginia Beach, VA, is the nation’s leading and fastest-growing foundation and water management solutions company. Groundworks Companies provide residential foundation and water management solutions including foundation repair, basement waterproofing, crawl space repair and encapsulation, plumbing, gutter installation, and concrete lifting services. Since 1975, the combined companies have helped nearly 1.5 million homeowners protect and repair their most valuable asset, their home. Groundworks operates more than 40 offices and has been named numerous times to the Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies, BBB integrity award, and Best Places to Work.

For more information about Groundworks, please visit:

The Local Groundworks Company Serving Richmond, VA is:

JES Foundation Repair
2410 Southland Dr.
Chester, VA 23831