If you’re looking for information about pier and beam foundations, don’t hit that back button because you’ve landed on the right page. In this article, we’ll go over what a pier and beam foundation is, the benefits of a pier and beam foundation, common problems, repair options, and more.
What Is A Pier And Beam Foundation?
A pier and beam foundation is a type of foundation used in construction where a series of concrete piers are inserted into the ground, and wooden or steel beams are used to create a raised platform or subfloor. When the area under the house is enclosed with walls, it’s referred to as a crawl space.
Pier and beam foundations have been popular for decades. They are commonly used in areas with unstable soil conditions, high water tables, or regions prone to flooding, as they provide a stable base for the constructed structure.
A pier and beam foundation also provides easy access to the home’s plumbing and electrical wiring located under the subfloor.
The Benefits Of A Pier And Beam Foundation
The benefits of a pier and beam foundation include the following:
- A pier and beam foundation can adapt to uneven terrain. Because the foundation is raised above ground level, it can be constructed on slopes or uneven ground without extensive excavation. This not only saves time and money but also reduces the impact on the environment.
- Since pier and beam foundations are elevated above ground level, they are less likely to be affected by moisture, which can lead to rot, decay, and termite infestations in traditional slab foundations. Note that this only applies to pier and beam foundations that aren’t crawl space foundations.
- Pier and beam foundations also offer greater flexibility, especially in areas with high seismic activity. Due to their structural design, these foundations can absorb and distribute the energy generated by seismic waves much better than other types of foundations, making them safer for buildings and occupants in earthquake-prone areas.
- Construction costs are lower for hard-to-reach areas, slopes, and low-weight situations.
- As mentioned above, pier and beam foundations allow greater accessibility to the home’s plumbing, wiring, and HVAC systems.
- With crawl space foundations, the area under the home – typically from 1.5-3 feet high – can be encapsulated and used for storing things like tools and holiday decorations.
Common Problems With Pier And Beam Foundations
The most common problems with pier and beam foundations include the following:
- One of the most common problems with pier and beam foundations is differential settlement. Over time, the soil beneath the foundation can shift or compress, causing the foundation to settle into the ground unevenly. (See the infographic below for a visual representation of this.)
- Differential settlement can cause the floors to become uneven and the walls to crack, affecting the overall stability of the building. However, differential settlement is not unique to pier and beam foundations.
- Another issue that can arise with pier and beam foundations (specifically crawl space foundations) is moisture damage. Because they’re enclosed, crawl spaces are susceptible to moisture from the ground, leading to dampness and mold growth. This affects the health of anyone living in the house and can cause significant damage to the wooden structures in the crawl space that hold up the subfloor.
- Poor construction practices can also lead to problems with pier and beam foundations. Improperly spaced or sized piers (or not enough piers) or improperly sized beams can affect the foundation’s load-bearing capacity, leading to sagging floors and other structural problems.
- Pier and beam foundations – especially crawl space foundations – can be affected by pests such as termites, rodents, and other creepy crawlies. These creatures can cause significant damage to the wooden structures in the crawl space, leading to weakness and potential collapse.
Repair Options For A Pier And Beam Foundation
Here are a few possible repair options for a pier and beam foundation:
Over time, the support posts in the crawl space can settle into the ground and become non-vertical. If this happens, a foundation repair contractor can install new support posts or adjustable screw jacks to bring the foundation back to level.
Replace Rotted Wood
The wooden beams and floor joists that make up the foundation can suffer rotting if moisture accumulates in the crawl space underneath. A professional contractor can assess the extent of the damage and replace any affected parts to avoid further deterioration.
Crawl space walls can develop cracks over time. This can allow water to enter the area. A foundation repair expert can perform an inspection to check for any cracks and determine the best course of action. This might include using epoxy or polyurethane foam to seal the cracks.
If the foundation is experiencing differential settlement (i.e., settling into the ground unevenly), the chosen repair solution might be push or helical piers to extend the foundation down to load-bearing soil.
Things You Can Do To Help Prevent Foundation Trouble
Foundation issues can be a major headache and extremely costly to repair. Therefore, preventing foundation trouble should be a top priority for every homeowner. Fortunately, there are several things that you can do to help prevent foundation trouble from occurring in the first place. These include the following:
- Make sure your yard is graded correctly to ensure that water flows away from your foundation. Poor grading can cause water to pool around your foundation, leading to moisture buildup and potential instability of your home’s foundation.
- Using downspout extensions can also make a big difference in preventing foundation issues. By directing water at least 15 feet away from your home’s foundation before release, downspout extensions can ensure that moisture doesn’t seep into the soil around your foundation and lead to structural damage.
- Clean your gutters regularly. Gutters clogged with leaves and other debris can lead to water overflow, leaving water to pool around your home’s foundation.
- Be mindful of what you plant next to the house. Water-hungry vegetation can cause the soil surrounding your foundation to become saturated with moisture, leading to potential foundation trouble.
- Installing a drain tile system can be a fantastic investment in the ongoing health of your home’s foundation. By directing water away from your foundation, a drain tile system can help alleviate any potential moisture buildup around the foundation, keeping the soil dry and stable. For more information about how drain tile systems work, see How A Drain Tile System Can Save You Money.
Implementing these preventative measures can drastically reduce your likelihood of foundation issues. Being proactive in maintaining your home’s foundation can save you from the headache and expense of costly repairs down the line.
If you’re in Chicagoland and concerned about your pier and beam foundation, contact The Real Seal today to schedule a foundation evaluation. If we find a problem, we’ll give you a repair estimate.