Sagging floors and what to do about them

Sagging floors are often a warning sign of hidden structural damage underneath homes in Alabama. If you notice that your floors are starting to slope, or feel soft or springy in spots where they used to feel solid, it’s a good idea to take a closer look and see what’s going on. Symptoms like this tend to get worse over time.

Depending on the age of the house, local soil and weather conditions, and the relative quality of construction methods and materials, floors above crawl spaces and basements tend to be more at risk for sagging. With the right professional help, you’ll be happy to know that there are affordable ways to repair sagging floors and restore “like new” stability to your home.

To help you find out if you have a problem, especially if you own an older home, we’ve put together a few basic facts about what causes floors to sag or bounce, what to look for, and the steps you should take if you suspect trouble.

Five common causes of sagging floors in Alabama homes:

  1. Have there been any alterations to your house, especially new routing cuts for wires, pipes or heating and cooling ductwork? If any construction best practices were skipped, the support members holding up your floors could be compromised. Notches shouldn’t be bigger than one quarter of the depth of a joist or beam, and you don’t want holes anywhere in the middle third of any load-bearing member.

  2. Is there unexpected moisture or humidity in your crawl space or basement? Over time, accumulated moisture can cause wood posts and beams to break down and lose their load-bearing capacity. Eventually, the house will start to sink and settle around these weak spots causing stress in other parts of the structure, possibly including interior finish materials.

  3. Are there unwanted visitors underneath your house? Where there’s moisture, there may also be pests. Destructive varieties like termites, carpenter ants and certain kinds of wood boring beetles are attracted to damp, protected spaces. Once they find a comfortable place in your crawl space or basement, they can multiply quickly and start doing serious damage to the wooden structures holding up your floors.

  4. Were the structures supporting your floors properly installed by the builder? Pier-and-post supports are a common way to support residential floors, especially in combination with a crawl space home. There’s a right way to build them, and unfortunately there are also shortcuts contractors use to save time and money. Poorly installed posts can rot and weaken before their time, leaving critical beams and joists unsupported.

  5. Was the soil beneath your house properly graded and compacted? The soil holding up your foundation and floor supports could sink, shift or settle because of erosion or hydrostatic pressure around your house, or because of poor construction methods. A related cause might be that masonry or concrete supports were spaced too far apart by the original builder, allowing the beams and joists above to fail.

Any one of these alone, or in combination with other contributing factors could be the root cause behind a sagging floor. A qualified Project Planner can quickly and efficiently help you find the source of the trouble and recommend remedies that best fit your situation and budget.

How to repair a sagging floor

There are several time-tested methods for restoring sagging floors to their original straight and level condition. While they all offer different advantages, some take more time and money than others. It’s also important to consider how much disruption each method might cause to your property and your lifestyle while repairs are underway.

  1. Jacking has been a go-to remedy for many years, but it’s a brute force approach. It also has to be done very slowly to avoid cracking surrounding materials in your house. The bigger the sag, or “deflection,” in your floor, the longer it will take to raise one or more carefully placed jacks intermittently until the floor is stable and level again.

  2. Another approach is to add metal or plywood reinforcements to the damaged area of the support member, after realigning it with jacks or temporary supports. These reinforcing materials have to be placed and installed very carefully, and according to strict engineering guidelines, in order to effect a lasting repair.

  3. Instead of spot repairs, some companies recommend bolting long sections of identical new material along the entire failed beam or joist to restore its original strength and alignment. Again, this can be a risky approach unless you can be sure you’re not replicating the original design fault that may have caused the failure in the first place.

  4. Other repair contractors combine the new material in option three (above) within a sandwich of steel or plywood reinforcements called “flitch plates.” While this approach can often be successful, it may consume a lot of expensive material, take a considerable amount of time, and it leaves you with the same engineering risks as some of the less invasive measures.

The method we use at SouthernDry quickly and cost-effectively restores the strength and alignment of your floor. Our SoDry galvanized steel jacks are easily adjustable and can support a tremendous amount of weight. This approach gives you a more permanent solution for sagging floors, and ensures that your crawl space is structurally sound for many years to come. The SoDry system can also be paired with crawl space encapsulation for a cleaner, healthier crawl space environment.

Alabama homeowners choose SouthernDry over “big box” companies because we’re obsessed with customer satisfaction and quality. This is our family business, so our reputation is on the line with every repair. We give you personalized attention from the initial estimate to final clean-up at the end of the job. We’ll answer your questions and stick with you until the job is done to your satisfaction.

Call us today for a free professional consultation about your sagging floor or crawl space situation.

Not all foundation repair companies are alike – the top 5 questions to ask before you do business with a foundation repair contractor

southerndry project plannerYour home is one of your biggest and most important lifetime investments, so if you’re worried that foundation repair bills might be in your future, it’s important to arm yourself with the right information from a trusted source. Industry authorities estimate that a worst-case scenario foundation restoration for an average sized home needing hydraulic piers installed along the perimeter can cost as much as $35,000. On the other hand, repairs for small cracks or superficial settling may only run you a few hundred dollars.

According to a recent Home Advisor survey of 2,600 customers, the typical Alabama homeowner can expect to pay around $8,500 to get their foundation back in “like new” condition. The national average runs a little over $9,200 according to the same survey, but it’s important to keep in mind that not everyone pays this much. Your actual repair bill will vary depending on the age and location of your home, and your local soil and climate profile.

Regardless of the cost, what matters most is to feel confident that the estimate you get is honest, complete, a good value, and that it includes the materials and methods that make the most sense for the overall condition of your home. You want a repair solution that not only takes care of the immediate need, but also ensures that your house will stay structurally sound for years to come, no matter what happens with the weather or surrounding soil.

Correcting foundation problems

All homes and foundation types will settle over time. The amount of settling will vary, even among houses in the same neighborhood, depending on a few basic factors:

  • The soil types underneath the house, and how much they expand and contract
  • The amount of natural groundwater nearby and how it interacts with your foundation
  • Seasonal moisture changes like rain, runoff, drought, or flooding
  • How the ground was prepared and graded prior to construction
  • The materials and methods used to build the structure

Any of these things (or the wrong combination of them) can put too much strain on your foundation, or cause support to fall away from underneath it. Over time, the results show up as odd structural faults like tilted floors, sagging exterior concrete, irregular cracks, bowed basement walls, or doors and windows that gradually drift out of alignment and start to stick.

If you see any of these classic signs of foundation problems, there’s no need to panic, but it is important to get a professional evaluation sooner rather than later. Although many repairs can be done very inexpensively, things can get worse if left unaddressed for too long. Here are a few of the top corrective measures that experienced foundation specialists use:

  1. Basement repair – When most of the foundation is structurally sound, bowed basement walls can often be straightened independently with reinforcement technology. This not only corrects existing damage, but also helps to resist future shifting and buckling. Options include tiebacks, anchors, carbon fiber straps, epoxy crack injections and wall braces.
  2. Helical piers – For foundations problems that are larger, or more spread out across your property, helical piers are the best solution. They’re preferred by reputable foundation repair companies and recommended by several engineers for their versatility, durability, and cost benefit. Helical piles can be installed along the perimeter as well as interior of the home’s foundation.
  3. Crawl Space Repair – Sagging floors can be recovered by replacing damaged crawl space support stations with stronger, more durable steel posts that can be adjusted.

5 important questions to ask your foundation repair contractor before you sign

Before you sign any repair contract, be sure that the repair expert you’ve chosen can give you satisfactory answers to these important qualifying questions:

  1. How many jobs do you typically have going at one time? You want your contractor to be big enough to demonstrate the experience and skill to do a great job, but not so big that you get lost in the shuffle. Many companies push volume over customer service.
  2. What happens if I have a question or a problem while repair is underway? Companies that are family or employee-owned have a personal stake in your satisfaction. You want a repair specialist who responds quickly to issues and relies on customer reviews to build their reputation.
  3. What repair methods can you offer and which ones do you recommend? Your foundation repair expert should put your budget and long term needs above their sales goals. Make sure they can back up their recommendations with actual field observations.
  4. Do you offer warranty protection? The best foundation repair companies will give you a transferable warranty that will stay with your home if you sell it. This can be a big differentiator in the real estate market, besides the immediate peace of mind you get.
  5. Does your company offer payment plans? Your home is one of the most precious lifetime investments you’ll ever make, and maintaining it should be affordable. Reputable foundation repair companies that are confident that their work will last will have no reservation helping you set up a payment plan for bigger jobs.

Alabama homeowners choose SouthernDry over “big box” companies because we’re obsessed with quality and customer satisfaction. We give you one-on-one attention from the initial estimate to final clean-up at the end of the job. This is our family business, so our reputation is on the line with every repair. We’ll answer your questions and stick with you until the job is done to your satisfaction.

Call us today for a free professional consultation about your individual foundation situation.

 

What’s the bad smell in my crawlspace smell and what can I do to eliminate it?

If you’re like most homeowners, you probably only visit your crawl space when you absolutely have to. People usually go down there only to check heating or cooling equipment, change a filter, or turn an obscure plumbing valve – and normally only when they can’t pay somebody else to do it.

Before we get into solutions, let’s explore the most common causes of crawl space odors.

Common causes of crawl space odors in Alabama homes

bad smell in crawl space

Many Alabama homeowners don’t realize that even when a house is still and quiet, the air inside is always moving. As warm air leaves the attic or vents through windows, cooler air from underneath rushes upward to replace it. This process happens naturally in just about every house, and it’s known as the “stack effect” or “chimney effect.”

Alternating periods of hot and cold weather create seasonal changes in moisture and condensation underneath your house. If your crawl space has never been properly sealed, these conditions can soon lead to mold, mildew, and rot. Pests like insects and rodents can also get in through gaps and vents. The stack effect we described can pull the resulting smells straight up into your living areas and allow them to permeate just about everything you own.

Does “bad” crawl space air raise any health concerns?

Strange smells are one thing, but the picture gets even worse when you consider the potential health risks to you and your family.

In addition to bad smells, as crawl space air moves upward, it can also carry mold spores or toxins that off-gas from building materials or contaminated soil according to the EPA. These can attack your respiratory system or cause other health problems. More than a few mystery ailments have been cured when folks discovered they were being slowly poisoned by their own homes.

Here’s how you can eliminate bad smells from the crawl space

encapsulation helps get rid of bad smells coming from the crawl spaceSo what can you do if your crawl space smells bad, or worse, when crawl space odors are coming up into the living areas of your home?

Crawl space encapsulation technology has come a long way in the last few decades, and the good news is that there are a number of highly effective and affordable corrective measures to choose from. Here are a few that are recommended by the most reputable service providers:

  1. Crawl space encapsulation: Using special purpose lining materials that won’t deteriorate or give off odors of their own, encapsulation surrounds your crawl space with complete protection against unwanted moisture. This can easily be coordinated with other corrective measures like drainage improvements and dehumidification.
  2. Drainage: The right professional or do-it-yourselfer can make sure that excess water is properly drained away from your crawl space with a tailored mix of aggregate, perforated piping, or landscape grading. Also consider sealing cracks and vents to keep water from getting in. And don’t forget to ensure your gutters are clean, free of debris, and include downspout extensions that keep water away from underneath the home.
  3. Dehumidification: For chronically damp conditions, there are dehumidifier units that are specially designed to keep crawl spaces clean, dry, and healthy for your family. These work especially well when combined with crawl space encapsulation.
  4. Sump pumps: Crawl space sump pumps take water management to the next level by forcibly removing any excess water. At SouthernDry, we offer a wide variety of sump pumps, including battery backup systems and WiFi enabled models

When it comes to smelly crawl spaces, your number one enemy is unwanted moisture.

Once dampness begins to accumulate under your house, the stage is set for invasion by mold and mildew, which can cause your building materials to rot and deteriorate. These all come with their own odors, but remember that the same conditions may also attract insects and rodents that create even more offensive smells. It’s important to get a trustworthy professional assessment on all these conditions so you can choose the repair options that are best for your situation.

SouthernDry has been a trusted crawl space and basement repair partner for years in Alabama. We can help you protect your family with affordable and proven preventive measures like crawl space encapsulation, dehumidification, and a complete array of reliable foundation repair services that will improve the living experience for your whole family.

My basement walls are bowing inward. What should I do?

Bowed basement walls can be a sign of serious structural trouble under your home. If one or more of your basement walls is starting to bow inward, it’s important to act quickly before the damage spreads. Here are the most important things you should know right now.

When it comes to basement wall damage, here is what you should look out for

The most common cause of bowed basement walls is excess moisture around your home.

Even natural groundwater can put a surprising amount of strain on your foundation. Added factors like excess storm runoff or improper drainage can greatly increase the amount of moisture in the soil. Structural engineers call this force “hydrostatic pressure” and it’s powerful enough to stress vulnerable parts of your foundation with the weight of an average family car.

This constant (or at least seasonal) pressure can build up against your basement walls over time and cause them to crack, bow and buckle inward. In turn, this can weaken their load-bearing capacity and eventually threaten the structural integrity of your whole house. The damage can range from a few superficial cracks to severe visible inward bowing and separation.

Options to repair a bowed basement wall

The good news is that affordable repair methods are available to get your basement walls back in top load-bearing shape. Several proven technologies exist that can not only restore structural integrity, but also make cosmetic improvements and help prevent future deterioration.

The most important next step is to find a trustworthy technician who can evaluate your basement and give you reliable advice on the repair options that are best for your home and budget. Here are a few of the best approaches they might recommend:

  1. Carbon fiber straps: This is a highly reliable and relatively inexpensive interior repair option that reinforces the wall and helps to evenly resist and redistribute any outside pressure. Once installed, they can be painted to match the wall and are nearly invisible.
  2. Wall braces: Similar in concept to carbon fiber straps, this is an engineered steel option that can be anchored in place and then gradually adjusted to pull the wall back into alignment again. While engineered brace installation is mostly an interior job, it might be supported with some light outside excavation.
  3. Wall anchors and tie-backs: These devices usually come in multi-part kits. An interior wall plate connects to a threaded locking rod, which is in turn attached to an exterior ground plate embedded in the nearest stable soil. The number and spacing of the kits is determined by the severity of bowing. From there, they work mechanically similar to braces.
  4. Epoxy injections: To prevent moisture coming through minor cracks, epoxy injections offer both low cost and high structural integrity. Repair material can be applied from inside with no exterior excavation and little to no interior grinding or surface preparation.

The Force spring-loaded bowing basement wall repair system

In most cases, any of these basement wall repair options can work well with both block construction and poured concrete.

Hyrdrostatic pressure is working against your basement and must be addressed

Hydrostatic pressure is the most common reason why your basement walls might be starting to bow or bulge inward and must be alleviated through exterior grading, gravel backfill and drainage. Other causes, which may or may not contribute to the primary hydrostatic pressure issue could include:

  • Poor construction practices or inadequate grading on your home, or on neighboring sites.
  • Excessive amounts of rain or unusual flood events.
  • Tree roots that are spreading into parts of your foundation.
  • Heavy driveway or patio paving elements that add pressure to basement walls.
  • Hidden plumbing leaks due to poor installation or unexpected damage.

We an experienced basement wall repair company serving most of Alabama

If you see bowed walls in your basement, or if you suspect that any of these other warning signs might be present, you should have a trained technician help you assess the situation. SouthernDry has qualified and experienced technicians who will take a look for free and give you a no-pressure evaluation of the state of your foundation and present you with the best repair options.

SouthernDry has been a trusted basement and crawl space repair partner for years in Alabama. We can help you seal and straighten your basement walls with affordable and proven preventative measures like basement wall braces, basement wall anchors, epoxy injections, wall linings, sump pumps, basement interior drainage options, and advanced sealing techniques that will improve the living experience for your whole family.

Dealing with pests and insects in your crawl space or basement?

Home is a place where everyone in your family should feel safe and comfortable. For our own families at SouthernDry, we want our homes to be a refuge from the pressures of daily life, and that includes freedom from the health and property risks that can happen when you have pests living in your basement or crawl space.

In Alabama, especially around the Birmingham area, the most common pests that can invade your house through the crawl space and basement areas may include silverfish, roaches, spiders, termites, rodents, and ants. Spiders can be a tough call, because a few of them are natural predators that help keep the populations of other pests under control, but that doesn’t neccisarily mean you want to share your home with them.

How do pests get into crawl spaces and basements?

Depending on the seasonal conditions around your home, most of them show up in search of food, water, warmth, or a combination of the three. Many have adapted in amazing ways to get through tiny — sometimes nearly invisible — separations in your foundation or ground floor building materials where you’d never imagine they could fit.

Once inside, crawl space pests can quickly establish nests and reproduce at alarming rates. Many are only active at night, so they can get a head start before you even know they’re there. Pests like silverfish, termites, and carpenter ants can cause serious property damage, but even the ones that don’t physically destroy your house can pose health risks for your family.

What attracts basement and crawl space pests?

silverfish in crawl spaceFirst, know that many of these creatures have been around for thousands if not millions of years and they’re part of the world’s natural order. You can have a perfectly maintained and ordered home and yard, and some of them are going to show up no matter what — that’s what they do. That said, there are some conditions you can watch out for to help minimize your exposure.

Moisture accumulation is a big draw for unwanted crawly visitors. This can show up as condensation around basement or crawl space appliances, leaky plumbing, or improper drainage of exterior water that finds its way through gaps in your foundation or seeps through basement walls. Food sources like exposed wood, spilled garbage, or even things like a forgotten bag of wild bird seed that’s been stored and left to decay can be a pest magnet.

Tips to maintain your basement or crawl space to help prevent pests from making it their permanent home

At least once a year, maybe during your usual spring cleaning or winterizing cycle, it’s a good idea to do a whole-house inspection. Make a quick visual check of all the places you can reach that could hold food or moisture that might attract basement or crawl space pests. Clear out what you can and make a note of any new or unusual signs of water accumulation. These might include building material stains, mineral bloom on block work, or musty odors.

What to do if you think you have a rodent or insect problem in your basement or crawl space

If you think you might have a pest infestation, there are two things you should do right away. First, consult a pest removal professional to make sure that you get rid of not only the visible pests, but also their eggs or nesting areas so that you eliminate their reproduction cycle. Once you know you’ve cleared the immediate problem, it’s time to think about prevention.

The best bug and insect solution? Sealing your crawl space or basement and improving air quality

Crawl Space | SouthernDry WaterproofingOne of the most effective ways to eliminate unwanted moisture is a process known as crawl space encapsulation. It’s a general term for an engineered assortment of vapor and moisture barriers that keep your crawl space clean and dry. Depending on how moisture prone your property is, it’s possible to add dehumidification to help control airborne moisture. In tougher cases with heavier drainage issues, there are sump pumps designed for these kinds of spaces that can remove larger volumes of water that attack your home from outside.

Our team isn’t scared of bugs, rodents or even snakes! We can get the job done right

SouthernDry has been a trusted basement and crawl space repair expert for years in the Birmingham area, and we proudly serve most of Alabama. We can help you “shut the door” on common pests with affordable and proven preventive measures like vapor barriers, wall linings, floor linings, drainage options, sump pumps, dehumidifiers, insulation and advanced sealing techniques that will improve the living experience for your whole family.