By Bob Brown
After a record-breaking summer of monsoon rains, subsidence (sinking land) and swelling clay soil, the Phoenix area has taken a beating.
Now, with summer ending and the soil drying out, the signs of potential foundation issues caused by rising or settling soils will inevitably begin to appear. This includes large cracks in brickwork, floor tiles and the ceiling, as well as windows and doors that no longer open or close properly.
So, when you start noticing possible foundation issues, how can Phoenix homeowners avoid getting overcharged or scammed?
The first way homeowners can protect themselves is to insist on a foundation assessment from an actual engineer, not a “salesman.”
It is a common foundation industry practice to send salespeople with no engineering education, trained only by a single source product supplier, to diagnose the foundation problem, recommend a solution and close the sale in a single visit.
Instead, only a licensed engineer should be responsible for the diagnosis and make remediation recommendations.
It is also important for the remediation company to be familiar with the local soil conditions in your area.
In Arizona, many homes are built on fine clay soil that can become saturated with water. When this occurs, soil either settles after it dries (causing the foundation to drop or sag) or heaves (lifts) as moisture accumulates. For this reason, more than half of foundation issues are misdiagnosed.
Unfortunately, both heave and settlement can cause serious damage that may appear similar to the untrained eye, although their remediation approaches differ significantly.
Given that the vast majority of the industry is oriented to products and solutions that address settling and that there are far fewer solutions for heave, homeowners are often left picking up the tab for solutions that do not resolve the problem.
If heave is the problem, putting in costly support piers won’t solve it. A simpler, less-expensive approach is to essentially accelerate the process of drying out the soil.
To address this, a moisture removal system developed in collaboration with Arizona State University’s geotechnical department and David Deatherage, owner of Copper State Engineering allows natural dry air to be drawn in from outside of the home, where it then passes across the wet soil at the high part of the slab.
The dry air picks up moisture through evaporation and is vented out of the home through gable vents or another convenient spot using a quiet and energy efficient vacuum.
A final way to avoid being overcharged or scammed for foundation repair after the wet summer season is to conduct a thorough online review of any foundation repair company’s reputation. This includes sites such as Google, Yelp, BBB, Angie’s list or any other vetted recommendation and reputation online service.
-Bob Brown owns Arizona Foundation Solutions. Reach him at foundationaz.com or 623-748-5859.