This 1980s one-story ranch in Clermont County was built on a shallow foundation with no basement or crawlspace. Shallow foundations are typically much more inexpensive to build, which can make them attractive for commercial projects. However, shallow foundations are also more inclined to be affected by the expansion and contraction of the soil below.

This home displayed symptoms such as diagonal, stair-stepped, and vertical cracks along the northern portion of the East wall. Settlement was also evident from gaps in the floor and ceiling in various areas.

The homeowners hired structural engineer, Chris Schwartz of Schwartz Engineering to assess the cause and design a solution. The engineer concluded that these issues were a result of the settlement of the rear foundation wall. Poor fill materials used during construction, improper compaction of the fill material, or drying shrinkage of clay-type soils are all common causes of shallow foundation settlement.

 
To address this problem, the engineer recommended underpinning the shallow foundation utilizing helical piers.

 
Helical piers are used for a wide range of applications, including residential, commercial, and industrial projects. Some of the key advantages of helical piers include:
 

  • Faster installation times
  • Minimal excavation and disruption to the site
  • The ability to install in tight or restricted access areas,
  • Immediate load-bearing capacity after installation.
  • Suitable for a variety of soil conditions.

Mr. Schwartz advised against underpinning only the affected portion of the rear wall, as it might lead to future issues with differential settlement. He recommended installing 13 helical piers along the entire east wall to ensure uniform support.

To install the helical piers, we first removed all landscaping and concrete along the foundation wall. And, due to the overhang on the one-story ranch, excavated to gain the clearance needed for installation. During installation, we discovered a uniform layer of impenetrable rock that would not allow us to reach the depth we had planned for. Since this rock is more than capable of supporting the foundation, we left them at that depth and credited the homeowner back the cost of the extensions we did not use.

Initially, we had planned to lift the home, but this was determined to be too risky, so the homeowner opted to leave it be. In 6 months or so they will be able to replace the concrete and repair any cosmetic damage.

Are you experiencing similar problems with your foundation? Please contact us or one of these preferred structural engineers for assistance.