The Pier and Beam Foundation – Best Ever Design?
There are several designs for a pier and beam foundation. Here is one of the most common:
Without a doubt, at Foundation Repair Pros we love the pier and beam design for a number of reasons:
- Limits the surface area of soil in contact with the home’s structure. Thus, any vertical movement of the soil due to shrinkage or swelling (common in the DFW area) has little to no effect on the house.
- Small shifts in the house can easily be adjusted with steel shims; no piers needed
- Plumbing leaks can be easily spotted and repaired with easy access via the crawlspace
- Wood platform construction is more comfortable for walking, providing some give, making it easier on people with back issues
- Provides maximum internal and external home design flexibility; internal walls are not load bearing which enhances the ability to design an open, contemporary living space
- Easy to inspect and treat for termite or rodent problems
- Easier and cheaper to repair foundation issues because of ease of access when compared to a slab foundation. However, repair jobs require special technical expertise and most repair companies do not possess
Here’s a good video showing the benefits of the pier and beam foundation:
Things That Go Wrong With a Pier and Beam Foundation
Notwithstanding these benefits, pier and beam foundations can have problems during the lifetime of the house; particularly if the foundation has a poor original design or water management/moisture problems.
First, let’s review the obvious clues that you have a foundation problem:
- Noticeable odors coming from your crawl space
- Your wooden floors are bowing, up or down and otherwise uneven
- As you walk across the floors, they are bouncy, sagging or sinking
- You can see gaps between the inside walls and the floor
- Visible cracks can be seen in the inside sheetrock
- You have doors that won’t close or they stick; they are not level
- You look in the crawl space and see wood rot on beams and joists are compressed
It’s not uncommon for us to find all of these problems when we inspect a home built on a pier and beam foundation, particularly an older home.
In 99% of the cases we look at, there are two main causes of structural failure with this foundation:
#1 – Flawed Design
In this situation, the vertical piers are installed too far apart meaning the cross joists and beams are trying to support too much weight from above. They can become compressed, cracked and begin to sag. The optimal design calls for piers on about 6 foot spacing for maximum support.
Another issue with design is the construction of the pier footings. Regardless of the depth drilled for the pier (which should be 15-20 feet in new construction), the width of the footing base is oftentimes too narrow to adequately distribute the load to the ground. The result is that the pier sinks.
Assuming a typical home in the DFW area, with a brick façade exterior, here is the approved width data:
|Load- Bearing Value of|
|Minimum Width of Footings (inches)|
Source: International Residential Code for One- and Two-Family Dwellings, Table R403.1 International Code Council (Falls Church, VA, 2003).
#2 – Damp or Wet Crawl Space
Is your crawl space dark, damp or wet, at least in some areas? This is almost always the main cause of pier and beam failure. Why?
This environment is ideal for those nasty little critters that cause so much damage i.e. termites, fungi and the dreaded black mold. All of these weaken and ultimately destroy your wood beams, joists, posts and girders.
There are several common causes of this water or moisture getting into a crawl space.
- Too many vents which allow high moisture air into the space during the summer months
- Plumbing leaks or HVAC leaks (condensed water vapor)
- Inadequate drainage around the home which allows water to flow beneath the house including improper or clogged gutters and downspouts
Our Approach to Pier and Beam Foundation Repair
At Foundation Repair Pros, the way we tackle a pier and beam evaluation is straightforward yet comprehensive. After the initial interview with the homeowner and inspection of the readily visible signs of distress, we go to work. In addition to detailed level measurements, we thoroughly evaluate outside water management, water and sewer leaks, soil type, the condition of all piers, beams, posts, joists, girders and other structural components.
This allows us to find out exactly what is causing the problems and the specific areas of the foundation that are highly stressed. We then develop one or more corrective action options that are unique using our best technologies and considering budget constraints of the homeowner.
Each situation is different but we have many economical options that may or may not apply to your home. These may include:
- Use of the sistering technique to reinforce weak floor girders or joists
- Totally replace broken or rotted beams with fresh wood or steel I-beams
- Install helical steel piers to a depth of 15-20 feet
- Construct engineered footing bases and piers
- Heavy-duty jacks can be installed to level healthy girders and joists
- ¼ inch steel plate shims where re-shimming is appropriate
- Fix any plumbing or HVAC leaks; install French drains or exterior swales; fix gutters and downspouts; correct tree root problems
- Repair, close or eliminate vents as necessary
Foundation Repair Pros is one of the only companies in the area that are specialists in these repair projects. In fact, there are many foundation repair companies in the DFW area that will not repair these foundations because to do it right, it takes specialized knowledge, equipment and techniques. Don’t be fooled by the many fly-by-night guys with a truck and a cheap jack!
Don’t hesitate to give us a call to schedule a comprehensive, no-obligation and FREE inspection of your home. Foundation Repair Pros is the industry leader in repairing pier and beam foundations and we’d like the opportunity to earn your trust and confidence that we can do the job right the first time. We stand by our work 100%.
Call us NOW to book your appointment!
Foundation Repair Pros Fort Worth
5601 Bridge St #300
Fort Worth, TX 76112