You probably know that all buildings, from residential homes to commercial and industrial buildings, have concrete foundations. But did you know that all foundations can be at risk of settlement, which compromises the integrity of the entire structure?
We don’t mean to frighten you (much!), but it’s important to understand what foundation settlement is and what you can do to fix or prevent it.
What is Foundation Settlement and How Does It Happen?
Foundation settlement occurs when the soils beneath a concrete foundation shift, creating air pockets between the concrete and the ground called “voids.” The concrete slabs of the foundation above may sink down into these voids, settling into the empty space where they were once supported by the soil.
The risk of foundation settlement varies depending on the type of soil a foundation is built on. Have you ever heard that old adage that the wise man builds his house on the rock, but the foolish man builds his house on the sand? While this parable wasn’t actually referring to literal foundations, it rings true just the same! A foundation built on bedrock is at a much lower risk of settlement than one build on loose soils like sand or even clay.
There are two types of foundation settlement:
- Differential foundation settlement is when settlement occurs at varying rates in different portions of the foundation, usually due to differing soils, loads, or structural elements at different points throughout a building.
- Uniform foundation settlement is when settlement occurs almost evenly across the foundation of a building.
What Are the Consequences of Foundation Settlement?
Foundation settlement can have detrimental effects on the safety and structural integrity of a building. These consequences differ depending on whether the foundation settlement is differential or uniform, but in the long term, settlement of any kind can cause issues for the safety and functionality of a building (just look at the leaning tower of Pisa!).
Consequences of Differential Foundation Settlement
Because foundation settlement occurs unevenly, differential foundation settlement is more dangerous for building safety than uniform foundation settlement. It is also more common, as the most buildings will have more variety in their soil, loads, and structure. The following may occur as a result of differential foundation settlement:
- Distortion of the building’s frame
- Sloping or sinking floors
- Cracking walls and glass
- Doors and windows not opening or closing properly
- Shifting out of plumb (in other words, walls leaning one direction or another)
- Cracks in foundation, structure, or finish
Consequences of Uniform Foundation Settlement
While not as much of a safety issue, uniform foundation settlement can still cause a number of expensive issues for buildings. Here are the eventual consequences of uniform foundation settlement if left unchecked:
- Jamming doors and windows
- Damaging sewer, water supply, and mains
- Disrupting or breaking utility connections
These issues may not arise immediately upon foundation settlement, so you may not notice settlement until it has been happening for a long time. Because it’s harder to notice uniform foundation settlement, it’s a good idea to have your building inspected by a concrete repair professional even if you don’t see any signs of settlement yet. They still may be able to help even if settlement hasn’t started yet—but more on that later!
How Do I Fix Foundation Settlement?
If you notice signs of any kind of foundation settlement in your home or commercial building, don’t panic! There is a fast and lasting solution to the problem, and it’s called polyjacking!
Polyjacking is the most effective and permanent concrete repair solution that will restore your concrete foundation to its original level stability. This occurs by injecting a polyurethane foam beneath the concrete slabs in affected areas, which fills in the gaps, lifts up sinking concrete slabs, and hardens to fortify the foundation and the soil beneath against future shifting and settling.
Can I Prevent Foundation Settlement?
Short answer? Yes, and the solution is once again polyjacking! You don’t have to wait for foundation settlement to occur: polyjacking can be done preventatively. This process is called deep injection, and the process is very similar to reparative polyjacking. Since no settlement has yet occurred with the foundation, the deep injection process eliminates weak underground soil by injecting high-density polyurethane foam into existing voids as deep as 20 feet!
This process is typically done on new foundations as an extra measure of protection against the potential for foundation settlement, but it can be done on any foundation at any time.
Don’t Settle for Unreliable Foundations!
Whether your building is brand new or decades old, actively settling or solid as a rock, give us a call at Pro Polyjacking and we can come assess the situation and recommend how you can level up your concrete foundation!