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  • I couldn't have asked for a better experience. The quality of the work impressed me every step of the way. - S. Wallace
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home improvement

Simple Pressed Pilings - Foundation RepairSuperior Foundation Repair will be examining disadvantages of various foundation repair methods, over the coming weeks, with an in depth look at why these methods are inferior to Steel Piers. The first type of foundation repair we will expose is the often used method of concrete pressed pilings.

Disadvantages of Concrete Pressed Pilings

In homes with Simple Pressed Concrete Piling Foundation Repair, concrete cylinders are driven underneath the home’s foundation one on top of the other using the weight of the slab to press them down until they cannot go any further (known as the point of resistance). Unfortunately, it is impossible to tell what this point of resistance is, it could be bedrock, stable soil or unstable soil. Most engineers agree this method of Foundation Repair is not the correct solution for foundation problems because expansive soil will continue affecting pilings after installation. When the soil expands it can work it’s way in between pilings and completely nullify the support this method is intended to provide (see picture above for example of piling displacement).

There is no factor of safety built into Concrete pressed pilings

The factor of safety is defined as “the structural capacity of a system beyond the applied loads or actual loads” by Wikipedia. Because the weight of the structure is used to press the pilings down until they can go no further, simple concrete pressed pilings have a factor of safety ratio of 1:1 which means any significant weight additions, have a great potential to cause foundation instability. According to Wikipedia: “Buildings commonly use a factor of safety of 2.0 for each structural member.”  This means foundation piers should be able to support the sturcture’s weight times 2 at the least. Superior’s Steel Pier Method supports a structure’s weight comfortably with a safety factor significantly greater than 2 by anchoring the structure to solid bedrock, which prevents future additions in weight to a house, i.e. add-ons, new furniture, etc, from causing any negative affect on a home’s foundation. Superior’s Steel Piers are certified by Independent Engineer Consultants.

Pressed Pilings installed in dry or unstable soil may sink upon the introduction of moisture

Because Texas experiences long periods of dry weather followed by wet weather, the soil moisture content is continuosly changing, causing expansion/contraction of soil (further reading: Article from Geology.com, Blog post on Expansive Soils in Texas, Article from USinspect.com). Therefore pressed pilings inserted into dry soil are unstable from the start. If the point of resistance is on unstable soil, increased moisture can cause the piers to sink further into the ground, or, if the soil is stable, expansion will cause the piers to move.

Oftentimes companies will pre-soak the soil to drive the pressed pilings as deep as possible. This is to prevent the pilings from sinking in times of increased rainfall. Introducing large amounts of water into soil is not good for any home at any time, under any circumstances. Superior’s Galvanized Steel Piers are driven through the soil until they reach the bedrock up to 100 feet below the surface, effectively securing a home’s foundation to a solid rock, which is unaffected by shrinking and swelling.

Further Reading on Simple Pressed Concrete Pilings:

An excellent article on the disadvantages of Simple Pressed Concrete Piers from myfoundationrepairs.com

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Image: Daniel Rizzuti

This blog post will examine some of the factors that contribute to how foundation repair estimates are priced and educate homeowners about how foundation repair estimates are formulated.

  1. The Extent of Foundation Deviation

    Deviation refers to the extent that a structure is unlevel. If the home is experiencing severe signs of foundation problems, such as bowed walls, large cracks in the ceiling or walls, or doors that will not open or close properly in a majority of the house, it is feasible that the foundation will need to be stablised with interior piers to a greater extent than houses with a lesser deviation. The more stabilization a house needs, the more the repairs will cost.

  2. The Stability of the Soil

    In Texas, houses situated atop a great amount of unstable soil tend to need more interior piers to counteract the shrink-swell characteristics of soils. Each house sits on a unique mixture of soils and some soils have greater shrink-swell potential than others (read our article about soil types in Central Texas). Another factor that contributes to the stability of the soil is proper drainage. Improper drainage can cause erosion underneath a structure which will adversely affect the foundation, and cause it to sink. Naturally if the drainage problem is affecting the entire structure. More interior piers will be needed to counteract the erosion.

  3. The Size and Weight of the Structure

    Other major factors in determining the cost of foundation repair are the size and weight of the structure. Heavier structures will need more piering closer together to adequately support the weight of the structure. The size of the ground floor of a structure also contributes to the amount of piering that will be needed to adequately solve foundation problems. Larger homes will need more piers to provide support over a wider area.

Contact Superior Foundation Repair today for a free estimate on repairs. Superior’s Steel Piers are certified by Independent Engineer Consultants as required, and, all foundation repair work is backed by a lifetime transferable warranty.

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image courtesy of *Sally M* on Flickr

A list of 5 resolutions Central Texas Homeowners should take to heart to help protect their home investment and insure a healthy foundation:

  1. Know the signs of Foundation Problems

    There are many telltale signs of Foundation problems, which homeowners may not be aware of. Early signs of foundation problems may be chalked up to faulty construction, poor materials, or general wear and tear. But left unchecked may lead to major structural damage in the future. Read Superior Foundation Repair’s Top 10 signs of Foundation problems and check your home to see if it is starting to show any signs of these problems. Most foundation problems begin to manifest themselves within 3-4 years of construction, and when ignored can adversely affect the price of a house.

  2. Find out what type of soil your house is built on

    Austin is home to many expansive soil types. Expansive soils wreak havoc on home foundations, as they expand during wet periods, and contract during dry periods. All this expansion and contraction leads to major stress on home foundations, and over years can seriously damage a buildings structural integrity. Read Superior Foundation Repair’s blog post about expansive soils in Central Texas, and contact your builder or a certified geologist to determine what type of soil your house is sitting on. If you know you are in a potential danger zone, Superior Foundation Repair’s Steel Piers can counteract the effects of expansive soils on your home by anchoring your home’s foundation to bedrock.

  3. Learn how to avoid causing foundation problems

    Oftentimes Home Owners undertake remodeling or landscaping projects at home which adversely affect their foundations. Read Superior’s blog post about how home owners cause foundation problems, before making additions to a home or property. Well planned projects can save a lot of money and headaches for the future. Use certified contractors to complete any additions and do not opt for the cheapest option. Check the contractor’s standing with the BBB before agreeing upon any contract, and ask for a list of references.

  4. Maintain a healthy foundation

    As homeowners, there are steps that can be taken to ensure that minimal stress is put on a home’s foundation. Superior Foundation Repair’s Foundation maintenance tips are a good start for learning how to care for a home’s foundation. Follow these steps to counteract typical causes of foundation problems and to protect your home investment. Even if a home has previously had foundation repair (Spread Footer, Drilled Bell Concrete Pier, Simple Pressed Pilings, Concrete Pressed Pilings, etc.) these are not permanent fixes, and the home will most likely need foundation repair again in the future. Superior Foundation Repair’s Steel Pier House Leveling Process is the only solution for permanent foundation repair. By lifting a home’s foundation and anchoring it to bedrock, the home will have a secure foundation for a lifetime.

  5. Check your landscaping and remedy potential problems

    Check existing landscaping at home to avoid potential structural damage caused by poorly designed installation. Read Superior’s tips about Landscaping and Foundations to learn how to properly install landscaping additions to a home or remedy current problems a home may be experiencing. Inattention to Landscaping problems can seriously affect a home’s foundation, while proper care can help homeowners avoid headaches in the future.

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A frustrated home owner with foundation problems

  1. Overwatering

    Overwatering a lawn is a common cause of foundation problems in areas with Vertisols (Expansive Soils).

    A frequent source of damage is the differential swelling caused by pockets of moist soil adjacent to dry soil. For example, lawn and garden watering creates a moist zone on the exterior of a foundation, whereas the interior is dry; this creates differential swelling pressure on foundation elements.

    source: Damage to Foundation from Expansive Soils (pdf)

    Texans tend to overwater due to the unpredictability of the weather patterns. However, maintining a constant moisture level in the soil surrounding your foundation is imperative for home owners. Overwatering exerts added pressure on foundation walls which can cause them to swell upwards, thus causing the infamous, unsightly cracks to appear in walls.

    Watering – Year-round watering should be planned to avoid too much moisture in the rainy season and too little in the dry season. Automatic watering systems may help, but they can require a seasonal adjustment and attention to maintenance. If the valve accidentally sticks open, major damage could result.

    source: Living with Expansive Soils (pdf)

  2. Installing Landscaping too Close to a Foundation

    When considering landscaping for your house, it is important to keep plants a safe distance from the foundation, usually 5 feet or more. Landscaping planted too close to a foundation can cause the soil to expand through overwatering, deprive the plants of moisture (when the roots reach under the foundation), or in cases of trees cause foundation problems because of their roots.

    How Close to the House Should You Place Foundation Shrubs?

    Having shrubbery right up against your house isn’t good for the house, the shrubbery, or for you! So keep the following guidelines in mind when planning a foundation planting:

    Locate good-sized shrubs (6 feet tall or higher at maturity) in such a way that their mature foliage will remain at least 5 feet away from the house. You can get away with planting shrubs that stay shorter a bit closer to the house. Where you live also makes some difference. In hot, humid climates, you’ll want more air circulating between the house and the foundation shrubs, to discourage rot. Adequate spacing between the plants themselves, too, is important, to reduce disease and maintenance.

    source: David Beaulieu – About.com:Landscaping

  3. Improper Installation of Swimming Pools

    Swimming pools installed improperly can lead to water seepage into the soil. In Central Texas, the expansive soils will absorb this water and put increased pressure on your home’s foundation. Insure that proper waterproofing has been installed when purchasing a home with a swimming pool

    As swimming pools are always in direct contact with water and the hydrostatic head is very high, the waterproofing of swimming pools has to be considered very seriously from beginning and adequate steps are to be taken to ensure their water tightness.

    source: Swimming Pool Protection System (pdf)

    Diagram detailing pool seepage Pool shells always leak some amount of water from natural percolation through the structural gunite skin. If the pool is close enough to adjacent foundations, the entire building can be lifted differentially.

    source: Damage to Foundation from Expansive Soils (pdf)

  4. Improper drainage

    Proper drainage is an essential part of any home design. Included in this are gutters which deposit the water far enough away from the foundation to prevent it from influencing the foundation. Also a proper grade in which the land around the house gradually slopes downward, away from the house and deposits runoff water on the streets.

    The foundation should always be provided with adequate drainage, and the soil properly prepared to minimize changes in soil moisture and differential movement.

    source: US Department of Defense: Foundations in Expansive Soils (PDF) section: 7-1

    Superior Foundation Repair recommends depositing water from gutters and downspouts 10 feet (or further) from home foundations located in areas with expansive soils. Superior also recommends a grade of 3-5% sloping away from the foundation.

  5. Interior Remodeling

    When remodeling your home, it is important to understand why your home was designed the way it was in the first place. A major remodeling project which shifts the load of the house significantly, can adversely affect the original design of a foundation. Removal of supporting walls can wreak havoc. Also installing add-ons to a house situated on expansive soil can have the reverse effect intended, if not properly desinged for expansive soils. Make sure your contractor uses a design which will not be adversely affected by shrinking and swelling.

    Interior finishing. One of the most costly mistakes a homeowner or careless contractor can make is to defeat the design purpose of a floating floor slab. A floating garage or basement floor slab is designed to move freely. Therefore, any furring, paneling, dry wall, or interior partitions added to a basement or garage must maintain this freedom of vertical movement. Any added walls or wall coverings should be suspended from the existing walls or ceiling, and should not be attached to the floor slab. A minimum void space of 3 in. should then be provided just above the floor slab. This void space may be covered with flexible molding, or inflexible molding attached to the floor rather than the wall. Although these recommendations provide for 3 in. of upward swell of the soil beneath the floor slab, more void space may be necessary in areas of highly swelling clay. source: Colorado Geological Survey: Mitigation and Land Use (Swelling Soil)

Should your house experience foundation problems due to improper maintenance. Contact Superior Foundation Repair immediately for a Free Foundation Repair Estimate on the extent of damage done to your home.

Read our Foundation Maintenance tips for more information on maintaining a healthy home foundation

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an old dilapidated house courtesy of godogo on flickr

  1. Cracks in walls allow water to seep in to sunken areas & basements

    • As a child our house outside of Houston, Texas, had a sunken living room which was built about 3 feet below ground level. Every time we had considerable rain (several times per year in Houston), our sunken living room filled with dirty water, saturating our furniture. The problems worsened year after year, until we hired a foundation repair company to come out and repair our foundation. After the repairs, water seepage was effectively stopped. Water can ruin furniture in sunken areas, damage carpeting and flooring, and cause mold to form, leading to health problems.
    • Is your home experiencing seepage? Read this article for a diy guide to identifying water seepage
  2. The condition of your foundation directly affects the price of your home and oftentimes affects the status of your home’s eligibility for a loan from potenial home buyers.

    • “Foundation cracks and settlement problems are viewed as serious defect to a home. Most homeowners realize this and simply will not purchase a home unless proper repairs are made. In addition, many lending venues (FHA,VA,Conventional) simply will not lend on a home with these defects.” source: www.repairfoundation.net

    • The FHA may categorize your house as a “Fixer-Upper” requiring the purchaser to get a special type of loan, subsequently lowering the value of the house. The VA has special guidelines pertaining to foundation repair this example details guidelines for a loan term of 30 years on a manufactured home:

      “To be eligible for a VA loan term of 30 years, a manufactured home must be

        • classified and taxed as real property

        • properly affixed to a permanent foundation (Section 12.10)

        • substantially conform with VA MPRs (Chapter 12), and

        • conform with applicable building code and zoning requirements for real estate.”

          For more information on the VA and foundations download this PDF (over 600 pages) and search for the term foundation

  3. The longer one waits to repair a foundation, the more repair will be needed in the future

    • Logically, the more a foundation shifts the larger the cracks in walls and flooring become, thus the more the costs of repairing your house increase. Stop foundation problems early to avoid future headaches.
    • Typical repair costs for repairing cracks
  4. 25% of homes across the United States will experience foundation shifting, a higher percentage can be expected in Texas due to the high concentration of expansive soil

    • “Expansive soils are present throughout the world and are known in every US state. Every year they cause billions of dollars in damage. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that 1/4 of all homes in the United States have some damage caused by expansive soils. In a typical year in the United States they cause a greater financial loss to property owners than earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes combined.

      Even though expansive soils cause enormous amounts of damage most people have never heard of them. This is because their damage is done slowly and can not be attributed to a specific event. The damage done by expansive soils is then attributed to poor construction practices or a misconception that all buildings experience this type of damage as they age.”

      source – geology.com

  5. Repairing your foundation and the damage associated with it can help you lower energy costs.

    After reading Superior’s 10 signs of Foundation Problems it is easy to see how repairing shifted windows and cracks in a structure can affect energy costs.

    • Percentage of energy lost from different areas of a home:

      “Heat is lost to infiltration and air loss by over 3 times the amount it is lost due to ceilings. These categories generally stack up this way in terms of % heat loss in a home:

      • Infiltration / Air Leakage: 35%

      • Windows and Doors: 18%-20%

      • Floors and Below Grade Space: 15%-18%

      • Walls: 12%-14%

      • Ceilings: 10%”

        source: About.com

    • Perform an Energy Audit on your home to determine how much energy you are wasting

If you think your house is experiencing foundation problems then contact Superior Foundation Repair today for a free foundation repair estimate, if any are needed.

Further reading:  article about how to properly maintain a foundation

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Photo: Expansive Clay SoilAccording to the Austin-American Statesman, this years El Niño weather pattern could ease the drought conditions in Central Texas. What does that mean for homeowners in the Central Texas area? It means its time for a period of soil swelling.

Central Texas sits in an area of the United States which is highly affected by expansive soils. (source: geology.com)

Expansive soils contain minerals such as smectite clays that are capable of absorbing water. When they absorb water they increase in volume. The more water they absorb the more their volume increases. Expansions of ten percent or more are not uncommon. This change in volume can exert enough force on a building or other structure to cause damage.
source: http://geology.com/articles/expansive-soil.shtml

With the coming wet weather, Central Texas soils will be absorbing moisture, and subsequently expanding which can lead to increased strain on home and building foundations.

In periods of increased rainfall it is important to be cautious when watering your foundation. Ovewatering causes the soil to absorb too much water, thus expanding, and possibly leading to foundation problems. A good tip for watering your lawn/foundation is to water it enough to keep your plants alive and healthy, saturation is neither good for plants nor foundations.

For the time being, however, water restrictions are still in effect, so overwatering should not be an issue until water restrictions are lifted completely.

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An Excellent video on keeping your foundation moist in drought conditions

Article on geology.com about Insurance companies and foundation repair insurance.

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home owners insurance won't cover foundation repair

Home Owners Insurance typically won’t cover foundation repair

In most cases, foundation repair is not covered by Home Owners insurance. Insurance is designed to cover unexpected/sudden problems which may occur, while home Foundation Problems generally occur over a longer period of time. In certain instances, however,a policy may cover home foundation repair.

Instances where Insurance may cover house leveling costs:

  1. Poorly designed plumbing system causes unsuspected foundation problems, normally seen as an unexpected/sudden problem which has to do with the construction of the house rather than the soil it is sitting on.
  2. In cases of earthquake, if a home owner pays a premium for Earthquake insurance, and needs foundation repair due to an earthquake, repairs will usually be covered by the insurance company. (More information on home owners insurance)
  3. sometimes flood insurance covers foundation repair costsIn some cases of flooding, if a home owner pays a premium for flood insurance, policy may cover foundation repair to problems associated with flooding, however, home owners should check their policy and/or contact their insurance provider to clarify the extent of coverage. (FEMA’s National Flood Insurance program)

Home owners should know their policy

In all cases, home owners should contact their insurance company to determine the extent of their coverage, and shop around for the best deals on insurance. Know what types of foundation repairs may or may not be covered by a home insurance policy.

Home improvement financing

In cases where home owners insurance does not cover structural foundation repair. Many home owners opt for home improvement financing to pay for foundation repair/house leveling services.

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According to the United States Department of Agriculture Travis County features a smorgasbord of soil types. Some of which are great for supporting foundations and others of which pose plenty of problems for construction.

What type of soil is your home or potential new home sitting on?

This blog article will examine Austin soil types using excerpts from the USDA’s report on Soils in Travis County.

According to the report:

Foundations Shrink-swell characteristics of the soil need to be considered in designing a building foundation, particularly if piers are not used below the slab. Such clay soils as those of the Houston Black, San Saba, and Ferris series are particularly poorly suited to building sites. They swell when wet and shrink when dry. This shrinking and swelling exerts such pressure that walls and foundations crack unless they are specially reinforced, sidewalks and driveways crack, and streets and sidewalks deteriorate more quickly.

In otherwords, beware of the type of soil your house is sitting on.

The report defines shrink-swell potential as follows:

Shrink-swell potential is an indication of the volume change to be expected in the soil material as the moisture content changes. Shrinking and swelling of soils causes much damage to building foundations, roads, and other structures. A high shrink-swell potential indicates hazards to the maintenance of structures constructed in, on, or with such materials.

Essentially the shrink-swell potential of a soil refers to the potential for the soil to shrink or swell based on water retention rates. Or when there is more water in the soil it has a potential to swell, when there is less water in the soil it tends to shrink. This can obviously cause problems for a foundation in that the soil underneath has the potential to change based on the amount of moisture in the soil.

Following is a list of the main soil types that cause problems for residential and commercial builders:

  • Houston Black

    The main limitations in use of the soils of this association in urbanization are the shrink-swell characteristics, as they affect foundations and streets.

    The soils of this unit present problems when used in urbanization. There are special problems in designing and maintaining foundations, trafficways, other works of concrete and asphalt caused by a shrink-swell potential.

  • Lewisville Soils

    There are limitations to the use of this unit in urbanization. Some of the hazards are a shrink-swell potential that affects foundations and pavements.

  • San Saba Soils

    The use of this undifferentiated group for urban development presents problems. These problems are caused by the shrink-swell potential, as it affects design, construction, or maintenance of concrete foundations and asphalt trafficways.

  • Tarrant Soils

    Soil characteristics that affect urban development are shrink-swell potential, as it affects foundations and paving.

  • Urban Land and Austin soils/Urban Land, Austin, and Brackett soils

    Some soil characteristics that affect urban development are shrink-swell potential, as it affects foundations and pavings.

  • Urban Land and Ferris Soils

    The use of this group for urban development is limited. Some of the soil characteristics that affect urban construction are shrink-swell potential, as it affects foundations and pavings.

  • Volente soils and Urban Land

    Some of the soil characteristics that affect urban construction are shrink-swell potential, as it affects foundations and paving.

Know your soil, and your potential for problems, before buying a house or deciding on foundation repair.

Superior offers a lifetime guarantee on all work performed, call today for a free estimate.

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Foot in the door foundation repair bidsToday we are going to take a look at the practice that some firms use called “Foot in the door” bids.

What is a “Foot in the door” bid?

  • This is a bid in which a firm comes to a house to inspect a foundation, roof, plumbing, or other service and offers a bid for partial repair, which is much lower than any of the other bids a customer receives. For the purposes of this blog we will focus on foundations.

In this example we will use Firm ABC, Firm JKL, and Firm XYZ as our firms offering bids.

  • Firm ABC comes to the house, inspects the foundation and offers a bid of $8,000 with the job lasting 3 days and minimal disturbance to garden or landscaping.
  • Firm JKL comes to the house, inspects the foundation and offers a bid of $10,000 with the job lasting only 2 days and considerable disturbance to garden or landscaping.
  • Firm XYZ comes to the house offers a bid of $3,000 for 1/4 of the house with the job lasting 3 days and disturbance to only the part of the house being repaired.

All needed repairs for a typical house with moderate foundation damage start around $8,000 -$12,000 but can go as high as $20,000 -$30,000.

via Cost of Foundation Repair – Get Prices and Estimates – CostHelper.com.

Many times, a firm will come to a house, inspect a foundation and get a feel for what a customer is wanting to spend. Most people are not going to be ready to pay $8K – $12K for a foundation repair.

Possibly only part of the house is currently being affected by foundation problems. In this case firm XYZ may claim that only 1/4 of the house is currently being affected by foundation problems and that for a much lower price ($3,000 in this case) the problem can be fixed.

Sounds great, right?

Wrong!

Logically if part of a house is sagging or experiencing foundation problems the soil associated with the house is the same all over, and more than likely at some point in the future another part of the house is going to need foundation repair.

Firm XYZ knows that, once the next part of your house begins sagging, you are more than likely going to call them back to do the repairs on that part of the house. This means more disruption to your landscaping several more days of having firm XYZ at your house, and more headache.

Let’s say over 4 years your whole house ends up needing foundation repair, you pay $3000 each time firm XYZ comes out and they are there for 3 days each time. That would be a total of $12,000 dollars over 4 years plus 12 days of repair time on your house. Not to mention the time they spend coming out to inspect the house each time they are called.

Compared to the other 2 bids this would be much more time than necessary and more than both bids.So in the long run the customer would have spent much more than they had planned and would have had much more time dealing with foundation repairs than necessary.

Be smart, if a house is having foundation problems the whole house needs to be fixed, even if some parts of the house are not showing signs. Putting a band-aid on a problem doesn’t heal the wound.

For a free bid on foundation repair in Austin, Texas contact Superior Foundation Repair. Superior also offers a lifetime transferable warranty on all foundation repair work.

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