Some Facts About Pier and Beam Foundations

How Pier and Beam Foundations Work

Image of a pier and beam foundation under renovationNot all homes are the same in Texas, and neither are their foundations. While slab foundations have become more popular over the past few decades, there are plenty of homes with pier and beam foundations.

Pier and beam (also known as post and beam) were the predominant types of foundation used until the slab foundation was developed not long after World War Two. The pier and beam system was considered the most structurally sound at the time, especially since concrete pouring wasn’t as polished as it is nowadays.

While these specific foundations are durable they can still experience significant problems.

Pier and Beam Foundations

Pier and beam foundations remain popular, even though you’ll find more homes built upon slab foundations. Older pier and beam homes may be more susceptible to excessive damage based on the quality of materials from the 1940s and 1950s.

Also, there were different building codes and criteria back then, so your pier and beam foundation may be in need of an inspection, update, and repair if there are problems.

What do Pier and Beam Foundations Provide?

Most pier and beam foundations will rest on joists, or planks, that run the length of your floor in order to reinforce it. The joists are then placed on top of piers made from wood and concrete that rely on the stability of the soil underneath them to help support the weight of your house.

Soil and Stability

Pier and beam foundations have an advantage when it comes to clay soil in Texas. This type of foundation seems to acclimate well with clay soil, allowing for an even weight distribution; the piers are able to move when the soil is moist, nor will they break when the ground is dry.

Having a Crawl Space

In a pier and beam foundation, the joists that help support your house are raised about 18 inches from the ground. This allows easy access, should you or a specialist need to get underneath the foundation to fix any issues, including plumbing problems.

The crawl space allows for easy repairs, and lessens the chance of any major excavation, or digging up the foundation should a pier or beam need to be replaced due to any possible rot.

Pros and Cons of Pier and Beam Foundations

While the pier system works as a generally stable foundation, it can have the tendency to deteriorate over time, especially if it’s an old foundation that hasn’t been maintained for years.

Some of the causes can be the piers improperly rotating and settling improperly, as well as frequent stress cracks. There may also be a needed increase of piers if the weight of your house is adding extra stress on the foundation; in cases such as these, more piers may need to be added.

The good thing about pier and beam is that they’re easier to repair than a slab foundation, as you don’t have to dig up parts of the slab to fix any problems. Pier and beam is also less complicated when it comes to installing and repairing plumbing, so that’s an added plus.

Vulnerabilities of Pier and Beam Foundations

Foundation Settlement

As with any foundation type, the expansive clay soil of Central Texas can cause issues with your foundation. When the weather is extremely dry the ground shrinks, causing damage to any type of foundation. The same can be said for when there is excessive moisture, such as a week’s worth of rain or snow: the soil will then expand.

Without that balance of dry and damp soil, your foundation can experience major settling issues. If you notice the foundation on your pier and beam house shifting, settling, or becoming lopsided, you should seek foundation repair.

Moisture

While pier foundations are durable, they also can allow for certain issues since the foundation is elevated. Moisture is one of the major culprits which can lead to excessive mold, wood damage, problems with your temperature control, sagging, creaking, and the possibility of pooling water. Much of this can depend on the type of soil the home is built upon and how the property is graded to allow water flow.

Insects and Critters

A pier and beam foundation may also attract unwanted critters such as insects, rodents, and a variety of unwanted animals, yet by being elevated, there’s a greater chance of finding them and treating any infestation.

Repair Options

If you do need repair to your pier and beam foundation, there are several options that can help:

Adding Shims to a Pier and Beam Foundation

Sometimes the foundation may need a slight adjustment and not major surgery. Some gaps may appear in your foundation over time, which is where shimming can be used to help reinforce it.

Shims are pieces of wood that are cut to specific sizes to fit any gaps found in your foundation. Small ones can be used to fill in a minor gap, whereas larger ones can help if a wider spread exists between the pier and wood beams. This helps if your overall foundation is in good condition; it may not work if the damage is extensive.

Pier Stacks

The interior piers of your foundation can gradually deteriorate over time and disintegrate and need to be replaced. Your foundation may also not have enough piers to help support your home, which is where a pier stack enters the picture. A foundation repair specialist can add extra piers to help support and distribute weight, especially if you notice your home has uneven floors.

Replacing Damaged Wood

Over time floor joists can gradually deteriorate with rot, as well as warping and breaking, which would need to be replaced. Also, your foundation may not have had enough support in the first place, which would lead to additional joists being needed. The severity of the issue will depend on how much wood will need to be replaced. It can be minor or major.

If you find that wood needs to be replaced, be aware that major renovation will need to occur, since all of the wood is connected in one way or another. If a large portion is damaged, then major underneath support will be needed to reinforce the foundation while it is repaired and replaced, so that the home doesn’t collapse.

Beam and Underpinnings

As a house and foundation settle, the interior support areas of a pier and beam home can be affected if they’re placed in a precarious area and are not properly built and provide limited support. The perimeter support beam can fall victim to settlement and weight distribution issues.

If you find that the perimeter beam needs to be re-elevated, you’ll need to add, drilled bell-bottom piers, or concrete pilings to provide the necessary support to areas where settling has occurred.

If you have a home with a pier and beam foundation and think you may be having issues, Done Right Foundation Repair has constructed and repaired thousands of pier and beam foundations. We’ll assess the extent of foundation damage on your property and develop a strategy for repairing it.

About Done Right Foundation Repair

Locally Owned, Texas Proud

Done Right Foundation Repair was created over 20 years ago by Chris Felsing with the support of his family. He started with a small team and a big dream, learning the ins and outs of foundation repair as he went. He and his team looked for ways to provide a complete solution to all foundation issues and have worked tirelessly for the past 20 years to master their craft. Our Central Texas locations: Done Right Foundation Repair in AustinDone Right Foundation Repair in New BraunfelsDone Right Foundation Repair in San Marcos