The Facts About Concrete Block Foundations

December 5th, 2013 by admin No comments »

These days, builders are more likely to use poured concrete foundations than foundations built with concrete blocks. Poured concrete has become more popular for a number of reasons: wall forms that can be quickly set up and taken down, concrete trucks that can go almost anywhere, and modern admixtures and pumping equipment that make “impossible’ pours almost routine.

Despite all the advantages mentioned above, concrete block still has its place as a viable foundation material. When the foundation is small -for a home addition, for example-a builder can save money by laying up a block foundation instead of subcontracting the work to a foundation contractor. Likewise, crawl space foundations can be quickly and economically built with concrete block. And for a DIYer with masonry skills, this material provides an opportunity to complete a foundation one block at a time.

Before getting any deeper into this “heavy” topic, it’s worth clearing up some terminology. In the building industry, concrete blocks are referred to as “CMUs,” short for concrete masonry units. Beyond the standard 16 x 8 x 8 in. concrete block stocked by most home centers, the vast universe of CMU sizes, shapes and surface finishes is truly amazing. Most of this selection is intended for commercial construction.

Concrete blocks are made from the same ingredients used in poured concrete walls -gravel (called aggregate), sand, Portland cement and water. Lightweight blocks are sometimes called cinder blocks because fly ash (cinders), a waste product from industrial combustion, is used as a partial substitute for heavier ingredients like sand and aggregate. The hollow cores in most CMUs make the block more economical and easier to handle. The cores can be filled with concrete, sand or foam insulation to improve strength, thermal mass or insulation value.

Contrary to popular opinion, a concrete block foundation isn’t inherently inferior to a poured concrete foundation, providing that it’s been properly built. Both types of masonry require steel reinforcement and must be laid on a strong, stable footing. Good drainage and damp proofing details are essential. When expansive soils or other outside forces damage a concrete block foundation, cracks typically appear along the mortar joints that separate individual blocks. » Read more: The Facts About Concrete Block Foundations

How to Handle Your Foundation Repair Project

December 5th, 2013 by admin No comments »

You go into your basement and notice a crack in your foundation. You stare at it, touch it and maybe show others in your family about your newly found home improvement problem. The next step is much more mysterious. What do you do with this crack in your home’s foundation?

It’s nothing a little caulk from Home Depot can’t cure you think to yourself. So you put the caulk in the crack and hope for the best. Maybe it stays put or maybe over time, the foundation keeps moving and the hardened caulk separates from the crack. Foundations can be frustrating and confusing to fix – who couldn’t use a little help (in layman’s terms!) in this seemingly cloistered industry, which homeowners don’t seem to talk much about?

Foundation work is tricky in that it’s what holds your home up, so you want it to be as sound as possible so your home doesn’t come crashing down. Most foundation issues aren’t that dramatic but my point stands nonetheless.

First, mark both sides of the crack width-wise and lengthwise with a marker. You may prefer to tape a piece of paper to the wall so there aren’t permanent marks on the wall. Over the period of a few months, check on the marks to see if they have moved at all. This is some homework or evidence that you can arm yourself with to help be part of your foundation solution.

After you’ve marked the wall cracks, call a reputable foundation repair contractor. The good contractors may be booked out a few weeks in their schedule, but have patience. It’s worth the wait to get a good contractor who everyone else wants to use too because you will rest assured that you’re not getting ripped off and also that your foundation issue will be fixed the right way.

Schedule the company to come to your home to look at the foundation and give you an estimate. Many companies offer free estimates, so it’s an opinion you pay nothing for. Worse case scenario, you get ideas and opinions from another person, which you pay nothing for. You’re not under any obligation until you sign a contract, so make sure you don’t sign anything you don’t understand.

Listen to what the contractor tells you and always have another family member or friend with you if possible. Like buying a car, you may hear one thing and your friend may hear another. Bring a pad of paper and writing implement so you can take notes to help you remember what the contractor says. When you put your impressions together later, you’re likely to have a more information-based and good decision. » Read more: How to Handle Your Foundation Repair Project