The American Dream.. Ha!

Home Foundations

 

I find it amazing what “greed” will cause man to do.

 

Here in Texas we have hot summers and of course cold winters.  Not as cold as some of you, but we get our fair share of cold weather.  The difference between our cold and some of you folks up north is ours last a few days and then we are back to 80 degrees.  The snow and ice that we get generally is here just long enough to cause pot holes large enough to loose small cars in and serves as a constant reminder of just how ill equipped people are regarding their skills for driving in same.

 

During the summer months we are asked to conserve water.  The lawn suffers, landscaping suffers, and worst of all the foundations suffer as we have a type of soil where I live that has high levels of clay content.  As it dries it shrinks causing the homes to move not only up and down but, sideways or back and forth as well.  Homes in the area can sink as much as a quarter inch per year and not recover fully during the wet season “spring” as gravity works.

 

It is expensive to build homes the way that they should be built, on piers, so they just don’t do it.  Piers driven to the bedrock with a house built on top of them will survive the harsh summers here much better allowing one to plant drought resistant landscaping and actually conserve water.  Not rocket science just common sense.  As the home ages and the doors start sticking etc the foundation repair specialist are called and then they install the piers at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars and depending upon where they install them they may bore through interior floors.  As you might guess they make a huge mess which the homeowner must contend with for several days.  Installing piers after the home is built is always more expensive than before it is built and if you live here, your home will at some time need piers!

 

Some of these foundation experts are college kids with a small amount of training and are tantamount to used car salesman.  The goal is to scare you enough to get you to sign on the dotted line.  One of these companies hired this gorgeous young lady.  By day she sold foundation work and I would bet that by night she worked as an exotic dancer! She looked more like a Bambi than a Gloria; if you catch my drift.  I knew more than she did and she was clearly there to simply get a signature.

 

After calling many foundation people for estimates you will get all kinds of “engineers” to give you all kinds of solutions with different prices all over the map.  Cement piers vs. Steel etc.  Unless you yourself are an engineer, you need to have many come out and take notes as to what they say and look for common qualities or solutions in what they are proposing.  Then talk to others in your area for information regarding who they used and why, how long ago and are they still happy.  It is an arduous process but it musts be adhered to as this is a lot of money that you are spending and it is on your home which, for most people their most valuable asset.

 

Do not be tempted by the cheapest solution as it is most probably the solution that will need to be “adjusted” the most in years to come.  Keep in mind that if you home sinks on one side or back or front and the other does not this damages not only your foundation but the structure of the home.  Let’s say your home sinks 2 inches on one side but not on the other.  The 2 inch difference on the floor translated to what is happening in the attic could be 8 or more inches depending upon the size of your home.  That pulls things apart in the attic which of course most builders put together with as few nails and boards as possible.

 

I am reminded of the American Airline proposition to save money.  They found if they removed one olive from each salad they would save some astronomical amount of money.  Of course they went several steps beyond the olive and just cut out salads all together unless you are in first class.

 

One note about the repair process is this; they will never get the home to level again.  They do what is acceptable to them and cosmetic, meaning an inch or so of slope is acceptable.

 

A word about “future adjustments”:   Companies will sell you a solution that says that they will install the piers to X amount of pounds of resistance.  They will tell you that if the home shifts X inches they will come adjust it for free for the lifetime transferrable warrantee.  Here is the gotcha, the shifting will not have anything to do with their piers already installed or if it does it will be negligible. They will tell you that now you need more piers in other parts of the house and give a quote including discounts for customer loyalty or some such non-sense. If you are victim of this, call a few more companies to make certain that what they are telling you is the truth and get it in writing.  Some of these folks are nothing more than opportunist, much like roofers that flock to a city after a bad storm.  Use people that are listed with the BBB, that are in the yellow pages and have been in the area for some time.

 

After the foundation repair folks finish you are cautioned not to repair the cracks in the walls for at least a year as the house may settle some more on the new piers.

 

One of the last aspects of foundation repair is, people don’t think about plumbing. As the house shifts it can cause plumbing to become pulled apart causing a leak under the slab.  Depending upon if that leak is on the supply side or not will give the homeowner a chance to determine that A they have a leak and B how bad is it.  The supply side will alert the homeowner either with high water bills or standing water where there should not be any.  It could manifest itself in other ways as well but, most probably will be detectable before it does too much damage.  On the sewer side of the plumbing, a slow leak will cause the ground underneath the home to become saturated over time and cause a lifting effect under the home.  While this too is easily detectable it happens over time and because of that may be ignored as normal movement until the damage is significant.

 

A monthly walk around your home looking for cracks in the brick may clue you in that there are issues.  For those of you without a brick veneer keep on the lookout for sticking doors or windows or, doors that open or shut themselves as the house is no longer level.

 

A plumbing test before and after a foundation repair is not only a good idea but should be mandatory by state law.  If not, insist on one, call your own plumber and have it done.

 

Moral of this story is this.  If you are building a home, see about having it built on piers.  Yes it will raise the cost of your home but the issues down the road will be lessened and the resale value of your home will be increased.

 

Currently there is a new neighborhood being created not far from here.  This was farm land for some time.  The people prepping the soil have removed all of the vegetation and leveled the land with huge equipment.  Now they are going to poor slabs on it and the dirt will settle over time and those folks will have issues.  There was also a stream that went through that land into a pond.  That too is filled in and houses will go on top of that.  The stream although not on the surface will still be there under the homes.  The pond that was filled in will still collect water underground.  Not an expert in this area but, that water comes from a huge lake not too far away.  Just because its surface path has been covered up; I am doubtful that it will just stop to exist.

 

So, if you own your home already, place soaker hoses around the foundation and do your best to keep the area around your home hydrated.  You should not see cracks in the soil around your home.  By the way, a sprinkler system is not enough.

 

As we continue to place homes and businesses on every square inch that the city owns or has control over, with insufficient resources to handle what we already have, the problems will only get worse.  The City does this for more tax revenue and could care less if you are inconvenienced “once you are here.”  I would guess that the state is the same way, once you are here; you are a revenue stream for them as well.  If you can’t water your yard or fill your pool they don’t care.  If there is not enough electricity to go around on cold or hot days, they don’t care.  They cater to business at that point as they pay a larger part of the taxes.

 

Case in point, we have been under water restrictions for the last few summers.  Stage 1 or 2 or what have you.  Recently a large spa with pools and all sorts of water using amenities was built.  It is owned by Koreans and in their culture one must remove all of their clothing and shower before getting in the pool, hot tub etc.  This is a public shower and this again is part of their culture.  No issues there however; how many thousands or tens of thousands of gallons of water go down the drain daily!  Yet the homeowners are asked to conserve…  If it were truly about our resources, that permit would never have made it through the city approval process.

 

Maybe I am old fashioned and possibly delusional but I happen to believe that the Citizen comes first, before the needs of business.  When decisions are called fore, someone should be asking “will this help or hurt the citizens of this city?” And that my friend is why it is important to vote in local elections.

 

-Best to you and those that you care about!

 

 

 

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