What is Foundation Heaving and How Do You Combat It

What is Foundation Heaving and How Do You Combat It

Much of the foundation repair industry is set up to combat foundation settlement, but there is another problem that can cause almost the exact same symptom in the exact opposite way: foundation heaving.

What is Foundation Heaving?

Foundation heaving is when pressure pushing upward from the soil below begins to damage a building’s foundation. Basically, the soil begins to lift your home, and chances are, it does not lift it evenly.

This heaving effect can spur a variety of foundation problems as the upward pressure is being applied at different levels to different parts of your foundation.

What Causes Foundation Heaving?

Soil Stabilization - Clay Particles Pushed Apart Due To Moisture

While there are several less common causes, including tree roots, most foundation upheaval is caused when two things are combined: water and expansive clay soil.

Most soils have some degree of shrink-swell cycles, which is when the soil expands in the presence of water and then shrinks again when dry.

In many cases, this is a minor issue. Not so, however, with clay soils. Clay soils can absorb a lot of water and when they do, significant expansion occurs. Similarly, as they dry out, the soil shrinks.

This is because there are places along the surface of a clay particle that carry a negative charge. The two hydrogen atoms in a water molecule on the other hand carry a partial positive charge, attracting them to the clay particle. Because of a property known as cohesion, in which water molecules are attracted to other water molecules.

As the number of water molecules surrounding the clay particle increases, it increases the space between it and the other clay particles in the soil. Barring any subsurface voids, as the soil presses outward, there is only one real way for the soil particles to go, and that is up. As more and more water is absorbed by the clay particles, the upward force increases, eventually becoming great enough where it impacts your foundation.

Showing the effects of foundation heaving with a wall pulling away from the floor

What Problems Can Foundation Heaving Cause?

Problems with foundation heaving are hardly rare. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, roughly 1/4 of all U.S. homes have damage linked to expansive soils.

But what damage do they cause? The answer is pretty much the same as foundation settlement: wall, floor and foundation cracks, sticking doors and windows, leaning chimneys, etc.

Why, you might ask, do two opposite processes like settlement and heaving cause the same issues? The answer is that in most cases, the problems aren’t caused by the fact that the soil is pushing up on the building or letting it sink. It is the fact that it is doing so unevenly, and that unequal distribution of support places the foundation under stress. It is this stress that can cause the cracking, the misaligned doors and windows, the sloping floors.

And the damage can become costly. Expansive soils typically cause greater financial losses for property owners than earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes combined.

How Can We Solve Foundation Heaving?

There are several soil stabilization techniques being employed by contractors today. Some fall into the category of half-measures, like those designed to direct water away from your foundation. These don’t address the underlying issue and many, like cut-off walls and aprons, are far more invasive than more minor water control measures like down-spout extenders.

soil stabilization process

Others, like pre-swelling, seem to take the “Let’s solve one problem by creating two more” technique. And lime treatment tends to wash away and has side effects of its own.

The only true way to produce lasting results is to stop the problem where it starts, the attraction of the water to the clay particles. You need to chemically alter the clay soil so it no longer behaves like clay soil.

At Childers Brothers, we use a product that does just that. Our EcSS 3000 soil stabilizer alters the negatively charged ions in the soil, reducing the swell potential to 1-2%. We almost eliminate the shrink-swell cycle. And don’t just take our word for it. Research teams at three major universities have proven that EcSS 3000 can stop soil expansion. And if we stop the expansion, we stop the foundation heaving.

Contact Childers Brothers to Stop Foundation Heaving

At Childers Brothers, we know expansive soils. That’s because our Texas panhandle and eastern New Mexico service area sits pretty much at the meeting point of the two largest swaths of expansive soil in the US, one stretching down the Great Plains and the other following along the Gulf Coast. If you live in our service area and suspect that your home or business has fallen victim to foundation heaving, contact us today and we’ll set up a 27-point analysis of your property to determine what is precisely to blame for your foundation issues and how best to fix them.

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