Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Real Estate and Foundation Underpinning

C. Sherman Henes and Cassi Henes

Homebuyers frequently call our office for advice or just to have a question answered. I answered a question today that I thought would make an excellent article, so here it goes.

The homeowner contacted us because she is purchasing a new home. She received an engineer's report calling for "foundation underpinning" and wanted to know if I had ever heard of it. As fate would have it, I happen to work for a company that specializes in foundation repair, which includes underpinning!

Foundation unpinning is a class of foundation repair that includes push piers, helical piers, deep foundation piers, caissons, and other support systems. The specific system that I discussed with this homeowner is the push pier system.



When a home is settling or cracking, it is caused by soil movement beneath the foundation. In order to combat this problem, engineers developed systems that move the weight of the home off the unstable soil onto a stable bedrock support. This is accomplished by hydraulically pushing galvanized steel piers down through the ground until they reach bedrock. The weight of the home is then transferred on to the piers by using rugged steel brackets attached to the footing of the home. Each individual pier bracket and pier combination can be adjusted to make the entire home level.

The foundation pier system is guaranteed against movement and fully restores the home to livable, secure condition.



The homeowner wanted to know if this was essential. This is how I put it, "how much risk are you willing to take with your investment?" An engineer has determined that the home has significant enough concerns to warrant recommending a full foundation underpinning project. This means that the engineer has seen indications that the entire foundation is moving, not just a portion of it. The home inspector has determined that levelling compound was utilized at least twice on the basement floor. He also stated that there have been a series of drywall patches and stucco repairs both on the interior and exterior of the residence.

In other words, you have physical evidence that the home has moved in the past and been repaired. You also have an expert telling you the home has moved, is moving, and will continue to move. Do you want to assume the risk to your family and your investment by purchasing the property as is?



This is not the end of the story; however, there is a happy ending to this unpinning question. I told this lovely homeowner that you also can know the exact cost to never worry about this problem again. You may be able to either get money off the home, or cut a deal with the sellers to cover a portion of the costs. Or you may discover that the cost is within your budget to repair the home.

I sent a Structural Specialist out to do a free estimate on the home and he came back to her that day with the repair outline. The home needs approximately 15 piers to go around the entire perimeter of the home and lift it back into stable condition. The sellers and buyer met together and decided to drop the price of the home by the amount of the repair and the transaction is back on track.

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