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Cracks and Settling: More Than Aesthetic Impact

Spotting a crack or bit of unevenness in a home should not be taken lightly. What may start out as a small crack or tilt can grow and worsen over time, impacting not only the appearance of a property, but its safety and structural integrity as well. These issues can signal something deeper is going on with a building and its foundation. If these issues continue, they can result in extensive and costly repairs.

After seeing various cracks widen and worsen, a longtime homeowner knew it was time to have them inspected and the issues repaired once and for all. There were various cracks around windows and doors, which also failed to properly operate, and a large ceiling crack continued to grow. All these problems were visible in an upper sunroom addition and adjacent rooms of a 1970s split-level home in Colonial Beach, VA, approx. 70 miles northeast of Richmond.

Contacting Local Experts for Professional Assistance

The owner knew she could count on JES Foundation Repair, a local Groundworks company serving the area, for help with these structural issues. Groundworks is the nation’s largest privately held foundation services company.

An inspector with the local company visited the property to complete a thorough evaluation of the home. Along with the cracks, unevenness, and window and door malfunction reported by the homeowner, the inspector also noticed cracks and gaps along some of the exterior walls and siding.

Situated over the patio area outside of the home’s walk-out basement, the upper story addition was supported by four 3.5” steel poles wrapped in PVC, sitting atop concrete footings. However, these poles and footings were not properly reinforcing the home’s sunroom. The inspector also measured for settlement, recording 1.75” of movement.

Digging Down to the Root Cause of Foundation Problems

Homes and other buildings can lack proper support and experience foundation settlement for a variety of reasons. Common assumptions include the use of improper materials and shoddy workmanship. What many root causes boil down to, however, is what is underneath a home – the soil, its type, and its condition. Foundation settlement is largely due to unstable soil which can result from wetting and softening of the soil, shrinking and drying of the soil, and poor compaction of the soil. This also applies to the beams and footings at this specific home in Colonial Beach.

It also depends on what kind of soil a home is built on. The United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Web Soil Survey shows this property in Colonial Beach was built on fine sandy loam that is considered moderately well-drained with no frequency of ponding or flooding even though it is situated along Monroe Creek. The surrounding area also contains silt loam, silty clay loam, and loamy sand soil types, which can be problematic and aid in foundation settlement.

Tailoring Solutions to Meet Unique Repair Needs

Each home and foundation is different with their own repair needs. The best solutions are not one-size-fits all but instead customized to address the specific problems and unique structural aspects of the home. The inspector with JES Foundation Repair understood this well and recommended the right repairs. He suggested the installation of eight helical piles – two under each support beam’s footing – to permanently stabilize the structure.

Helical piles are ideal to use on lighter structures with problematic soils. They are typically installed under a home’s foundation, but also can be used on other areas such as under the exterior support beams to hold up the Colonial Beach property’s sunroom because of the underlying footers.

Installation Project Overview

The homeowner agreed to proceed with the recommended repairs, and a crew from the Chester, VA, branch of JES Foundation Repair completed the project in two working days.

The crew began by excavating the dirt around the exterior support beams, digging down 2’ to access the bottom of the footing under each beam. The crew paid close attention to the location of utility lines and the proximity of the back deck and its support posts, making minor adjustments to switch locations of a couple of helical piles.

All piles were installed 7-8’ in the ground at a pressure of 1600 psi. The homeowner wanted to have the sunroom lifted, if possible, and the crew applied pressure of 1000 psi to all piles simultaneously. This successfully resulted in lifting the support beams and sunroom 1”. This also helped to level the floor of the sunroom and close cracks around the doors, and the windows and sliding doors moved freely once again.

The homeowner was happy the project accomplished her goals of stabilizing the home and restoring the use of the windows and doors so she and her family can enjoy living in a safer environment for years to come.

Groundworks Company Installs (8) Helical Piles to Stabilize, Repair Northeast Virginia Home Addition

by Holly Richards-Purpura

The local Groundworks company serving Colonial Beach/Northeast Virginia is:

JES Foundation Repair

2410 Southland Dr.

Chester, VA  23831

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, gutters, and concrete lifting services. Since inception, our combined brands have helped nearly 1.5 million homeowners protect and repair their most valuable asset, their home. Groundworks operates more than 45 offices and has been named numerous times to the Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies, Qualified Remodeler Top 500, BBB integrity award, and Best Places to Work.

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