Foundation Settling Issues With A House – Run Or Buy

A customer recently purchased a house that had some foundation issues, specifically it had severe settling on several outside walls. It was visually evident in several rooms inside the house so it wasn’t a surprise to the buyer when the home inspection company confirmed the settling of the foundation. Needless to say this enabled my buyer to purchase the home at a substantial discount because of the potential costs involved with raising the walls that have settled.

Foundation settling is a common problem in older homes in Florida because most of the state, especially around the coastline requires a building’s lot/land to be properly prepared by excavating and bringing in fill to replace the soft dirt/sand that most of the soil is made of. Newer construction guidelines have helped to correct this problem in newer homes, but occasionally foundation settling still happens.

Correcting the foundation settling is actually a quick, easy and safe process if done by skilled contractors. After a foundation contractor inspects the property and probes for soil compaction they can determine if the settling is caused by loose soil beneath the foundations or if there are other issues. Structures on loose soil, regardless of their age, will continue to settle and additional cracks, roof leaks and plumbing line separation or blockage may result. This is why it essential to correct the foundation and stop the settling.

The fix is to dig several holes just below the footers of the foundation and pour cement pier foundations which is placed beneath the foundation at intervals necessary to properly support these areas. Steel reinforced cement piers are extended through the entire depth of the weak soil to the firm soil below. Hydraulic jacks are placed between the new piers and the existing foundation and the area is lifted as close as practical to its original elevation without causing adverse effects to the structure. To fill the voids beneath the interior floor slab where it was lifted off of the ground, the contractor will “pressure grout” by drilling small diameter holes through the interior slab and inserting grout pipes into the fill material below the affected areas. Pressure grouting consists of forcing cement grout into the problems under pressure. This action displaces the weak soil and increases their load bearing capacity. A good foundation contractor will guarantee the house will not settle more than 1/8″ for up to 25 years, which should leave the home on solid soil.

So next time you see a home for sale that has foundation or settling issues, look at it as an opportunity for a great deal.


2 replies
  1. David B, Structural Engineer
    David B, Structural Engineer says:

    In most cases this type of repair will not solve the problem and only make it worse. Underpinning with shallow piers is only effective if the weak soils are within several feet of the surface. In most situations along the east coast of Florida and especially on waterfront homes the weak soil layer is six to twelve below the surface and shallow piers only add more weight on the weak soil, thereby increasing the rate of settlement. Deeper solutions are available including helical piling, concrete piling, and pressure grouting. You should contact a structural engineer who has expertise in this area.

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