Did you know that in 2019, nearly three out of every four new single-family constructions in South Atlantic states had a slab foundation? The trend has been prevalent for a very long time, and many homes in these states have concrete slab foundations.
Concrete slab foundations are durable, affordable, but they come with a common problem: settling (or sinking). And even though it has nothing to do with the foundation itself, rather the changing soil conditions, the structural consequences can be disastrous, nevertheless. Cracks in drywall, sinking floor segments, and cracks in the foundation are just some of the problems it can cause.
Fortunately, there are several solutions for this, but one of the most effective solutions is slab piers.
Slab Piers: What You Need to Know About Them
If you wonder whether slab piers are the perfect solution for your concrete slab foundation problem, here are a few things that can help you make up your mind.
What Are Slab Piers?
Slab piers are support pillars made of steel that can be used to raise the concrete slabs that make up your home’s foundation. Unlike actual piers that are used to raise a platform above water, slab piers raise concrete slabs over uneven soil, preventing it from sinking any further. The core purpose of slab piers is to restore the original level of sinking concrete slabs and fix the structural problems that the settling foundation was causing.
How Do Slab Piers Work?
Think of slab piers as an extension of your foundation. Concrete slab foundations start to settle or sink once the soil beneath them becomes ill-suited to support the home’s weight. There are several reasons why this might happen:
- The soil wasn’t properly compacted.
- Too much moisture impacts its load-bearing capacity.
- Mature plants start to draw moisture away from the earth under your home.
Whatever the reason, once the soil under the home starts to give way, concrete slabs start sinking under the weight of the construction. The house doesn’t sink as a whole; instead, it starts to settle disparately.
Slab piers are rooted deep into the soil. They bypass the soil that’s now unable to support the home’s weight and reach the stable part of the soil. This allows them to prevent the foundation from sinking any further and can potentially lift the foundation and restore it towards its original position. This can reverse a lot of the damage caused by the sinking concrete slab foundation.
Slab Piers Work Only with Concrete Slab Foundations
Slab piers are a concrete-slab-only solution. They cannot be used with other foundation types, unlike some other foundation repair solutions.
But it’s also important to note that they are not the only pier-type solution available for concrete slab foundations. You should consult an expert to find the right solution for your foundation problems.
Still, slab piers are usually the best, permanent, and effective long-term solutions for concrete slab foundations.
If you need expert advice regarding the effectiveness of slab piers in Raleigh and Winston-Salem, NC, and if they are the right solution for you, you can contact us.
Slab Piers Are a Long-Term Solution to Concrete Slab Foundation Sinking
Slab piers can give you peace of mind for decades instead of years. Compare that to other solutions, like adding concrete under your foundation to prevent further sinking. This only aggravates the problem by adding more weight to the soil. Instead, slab piers target the root of the problem. It’s a permanent solution, which can immensely benefit you for two reasons (compared to temporary fixes):
Concrete foundation fixes that need to be deployed every few years add up to a high long-term cost. Slab piers, on the other hand, will cost you once.
Temporary solutions (even if they are timely deployed) contribute to the weakening of the structural integrity of the home. Slab piers solidify the foundation, preventing structural issues from evolving into costly problems.
Slab Piers vs. Other Foundation Repair Solutions for Concrete Slab Foundations
If you want to understand why slab piers are one of the most effective solutions when it comes to sinking concrete slab foundations, it’s a good idea to compare them against some of the more commonplace solutions:
Slab Piers vs. Mudjacking
Mudjacking refers to boring holes in concrete slabs that have settled into the soil and pumping cement slurry in to fill the voids that are developing underneath the slabs. This results in the restoration of the slabs to their former level, but it comes with its inherent set of weaknesses, making it a subpar solution compared to slab piers.
For one thing, it’s a surface solution. The material you pump in to solidify the soil under the concrete slab can only go so deep. And if the disturbed soil reaches a few feet deep or deeper, mudjacking won’t prevent the floor from sinking for long. Slab piers, on the other hand, can rectify the soil problem, no matter how deep it is.
Secondly, mudjacking puts even more weight on the soil, which might expedite the pace of settling instead of slowing it down. Slab piers reduce the weight on the disturbed soil by transferring it onto more stable soil, several feet deep.
At best, mudjacking might be able to offer a temporary solution (if the soil disturbance is not too deep) and has to be repeated frequently to sustain the concrete slab foundation level. At worst, it might add to the sinking problem. Slab pier solution is much more definitive.
Slab Piers vs. Re-leveling Using Foam
Foams offer one distinct advantage over mudjacking (even though the essential process is the same), and that’s one of weight. It also tends to stick to the concrete slab better than new concrete, making the re-leveling relatively more efficient. But the core of the problem remains the same: It doesn’t go deep enough to remedy the disturbed soil situation.
Slab piers are a much more practical solution compared to re-leveling using foam, even if they do need more time and preparation.
Slab Piers vs. Replacing the Foundation
As a homeowner experiencing cracks in the foundation and drywall or other structural issues associated with settling concrete slabs, you might think about replacing the very root of the problem, i.e., concrete slabs. A new slab foundation might seem like the ultimate solution to sinking foundation problems, but unfortunately, it isn’t. The root cause of sinking concrete slabs is not the slabs themselves but the soil underneath the slabs.
And that’s something new slabs won’t fix, but slab piers will. By targeting the actual root of the sinking problem, slab piers can breathe new life into your old slabs and turn them into a more dependable foundation than new slabs (with the disturbed soil problem intact) could ever hope to become. And that’s when you disregard the high cost and highly intrusive nature of replacing the foundation that can aggressively disturb your routine and life at home.
Advantages of Using Slab Piers for Concrete Slab Settlement
It’s easy to see why slab piers are a significantly better solution compared to other slab settlement solutions. But let’s take a closer look into their inherent strengths and advantages.
Target the Root Cause of Slab Sinking/Settlement
This is the core advantage that slab piers offer. Changes in soil are a natural phenomenon that is nearly impossible to predict and avoid. Even if you can take appropriate measures to not disturb the soil underneath your home yourself, you can’t control the extenuating circumstances that contribute to the problem.
The best you can do is target the problem itself and not the symptom, i.e., disturbed slab foundation level. That’s what slab piers help you do. By distributing the weight of the home on relatively more stable soil or reaching all the way to the bedrock for even firmer support, slab piers allow you to target the root of the problem and fix it (usually permanently).
Compared to other solutions that only work until the soil shifts again, slab piers help fix the sinking foundation problem (and other issues that stem from this) by breaking the self-perpetuating cycle. When the soil shifts or becomes weakened, it’s just one factor that causes the foundation to sink and settle. The other core factor is the weight of the home. Slab piers take the second factor out of the equation, so even if the soil shifts again, the weight of the home (which now rests upon steel piers) no longer causes the sink.
Slab piers can be drilled up to 100 feet into the ground (even though it’s not usually necessary, especially if the bedrock is near to the surface). This allows it to solve not just the problem of today but the impending future problems as well. Let’s say your home sinks because the soil three feet under your home has shifted. You might be able to fix things up with another solution. But if the earth under 30 feet has changed, slab piers would be one of the handfuls of viable solutions.
This is also helpful for bypassing soils that don’t work well with concrete foundations, like clay. No matter the mixture of soil and the levels of different soil layering that are causing your concrete slabs to sink, you can simply bypass it all till you find something strong enough to bear the weight.
Restoration vs. Repair
Several slab settlement fixes are essentially repairs, i.e., they resolve the problem and prevent it from spreading further. But they usually don’t fix the tangential damage that the root problem has caused. Even if they can restore the level of one sinking portion of the home (by pumping the slabs back to their original level), they can’t lift the foundation as a whole.
That’s something slab piers can do quite easily. Once in place, slab piers can act as a hydraulic jack and potentially lift the whole foundation to its original level. This doesn’t just help by naturally fixing the sinking and cracks in the foundation itself, but by fixing the problems like doors and windows that won’t properly close or growing cracks in walls.
Slab piers offer true restoration of the foundation, which forestall a slew of other problems, like water collecting near the foundation’s base.
Fixing Cracks and Tripping Hazards
Cracks in the foundation and wall aren’t just structural problems by themselves; they can be a gateway to other issues, especially related to water. The cracks can act as unintentional drainage sources for spilled water, making the situation worse by adding more water to the sinking equation.
Many foundational issues can also contribute to plumbing, HVAC, and electrical problems. Cracks on the floor can become tripping hazards (if they are big enough) and might become accident causes.
A lot of these minor issues can evolve into abnormally complex problems that won’t just be a more aggressive resource drain but might also cause you physical and emotional distress. And you can effectively nip all of them in the bud by employing the right solution (slab piers) as soon as possible.
Yes. Well-designed and well-made slab piers are significantly safer than most other foundation support or repair solutions that you might consider looking into. But it’s important to note that the inherent safety of the slab piers doesn’t just lie with how they are deployed, but also on the construction of the piers. So, there are two things you need to look into: construction material and design.
Reliable Construction Material
The most important factor you should investigate when evaluating the safety of the slab piers is the material it’s built of. It must be strong enough to hold the weight and stable enough to hold its structural integrity underground, where it would be subject to moisture. Galvanized steel is a popular choice, and it offers the best structural integrity by far. It’s not adversely impacted by underground moisture and can withstand the constant load without bending/breaking.
Slab piers made up of relatively subpar materials exist as well, but they cannot survive the test of time. They might offer the core strengths of the slab pier but might start to crumble in a span of years. And if you have to redeploy the slab pier solution well within a decade, it takes away one of its most important benefits: longevity.
The design is something you’d have to look into for both individual piers and the system as a whole. Even with the best material, you can have mistakes like the suboptimal thickness of the pier, which results in less load building capacity or a shape that unevenly distributes the weight, increasing the probability of the pier bending over time. Then you’d have to look at the system as a whole. How many piers are holding up your foundation, and are they enough to bear the weight for decades?
Many design considerations might require more mechanical and structural knowledge than you might have, so just to be safe, make sure the slab pier system your foundation repair company is offering you is designed for your home, taking factors like its size, weight, and even shape into account.
In most cases, there are three different pier systems you can choose from when it comes to the concrete foundation: slab, helical, and push. In order to ensure that you are choosing the right system, there are two things you can do:
Understand What Problems Different Pier Systems Solve
Every pier system has its own strengths and weaknesses, but most importantly, each system is ideal for a particular set of foundation problems. The first thing you need to look at is what problems different pier systems solve and whether you are matching the right pier solution to your particular foundation problem.
Other considerations to keep in mind are the cost, the complexity and time of deployment, the effectiveness, and longevity of the solution. There might not be one ideal solution for all foundational problems, but with enough research, you might be able to find the perfect fit for your particular situation.
Choose The Right Foundation Repair Service
Even though we would recommend you do your own research, you can effectively bypass the need by choosing the right foundation repair service. A company that employs foundation repair experts and top-of-the-line pier system solutions can figure out the ideal pier system for the foundational problems you are facing. They might also be able to match the solution to your cost expectations and needs.
But the most significant reason for consulting experts when you are working out which pier system would be your ideal fit is that their advice will come from a wealth of experience. These experts usually have the experience of working on hundreds of different foundations and will have more insights about the soil condition and severity of the settlement sinking problem than you might be able to define on your own. This knowledge makes them better equipped to come up with the ideal solution for you.
How Do Slab Piers Impact My Property Value?
Foundation problems can severely damage your property’s value because the buyers will see it as a considerable capital drain. They will either ask you to get the repairs done or drop the price to make up the difference. A permanent solution like slab piers doesn’t just get rid of the foundation issue, but it also puts potential buyers at relative ease that the property won’t develop significant foundation issues in the near future.
A Worthwhile Investment
If your primary residence (with a concrete slab foundation) develops foundation problems, it will ruin your living experience. A sword would always be hanging on your head that the foundation problems can evolve into more extensive and costlier issues.
If you are selling that property, each potential buyer will analyze the property with the fear of inheriting those problems. Many of them might simply move on to more structurally sound properties. Slab piers allow you to attract a larger, better pool of potential buyers by restoring your property’s foundation to its original position and fixing several foreseeable problems.
Retains and Helps Grows Your Property Value
Several different factors determine the value of a property. Factors like foundation problems don’t just knock the price of your property down; they also prevent the property’s value from rising at a decent pace because they become the root of several other problems. If you don’t deploy an effective solution like slab piers as soon as possible, your property’s condition might keep deteriorating, and the price might keep going down.
On the other hand, if you use slab piers to fix your foundation issues, they won’t evolve into severe structural problems, and your property’s value will keep pace with other properties in your neighborhood
Get the Best Slab Piers with Expert Assistance
At Tar Heel Basement Systems, we are committed to providing our customers with exceptional services and long-term solutions. We have refined our pier solutions to perfection, and everything, from our estimate to the deployment of the slab pier systems in your home, is backed by years of experience.
We believe in finding the ideal solution for all our customers, so when we propose a slab pier system for your settlement or sinking problem, you can be sure that it’s created specifically for your property, and it isn’t a cookie-cutter solution that’s pitched to every potential customer with a similar problem. Feel free to contact us for a free inspection and estimate.