Living in North Texas brings a unique set of challenges regarding homeownership. Click to read blogs on Texas’ expansive clay soil and related foundation problems.

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Help, Metal Rod Sticking out of Foundation!

Metal Rod Sticking out of Foundation

The Trials and Tribulations of a Millenial Homeowner

It is no secret that homeownership comes with a learning curve. In fact, when my husband and I moved into our first home we were CLUELESS. Shortly after moving in, the heater suddenly stopped working. It was freezing that day(45 degrees is freezing to southerners), so I quickly called the HVAC repairman. An older man arrived at our house, took a few minutes to look at the system and said, “Ma’am, the heater isn’t working because your gas is shut off.” Amidst the chaos of moving, my husband forgot to transfer the bill into our name. As I mentioned before, we were CLUELESS. To make a long(and slightly embarrassing) story short, I learned the first of many lessons in homeownership; HVAC systems often use gas for heating.

Surprised by my lack of knowledge, my new friend/repairman had a true “dad-moment.” He stopped dead in his tracks and gave me a tutorial on how to operate various appliances, light the pilot lights, etc. Wow, talk about going above and beyond!!

Getting Back on Topic

As homeowners, we have to help each other out and share tips when we stumble upon them. You probably already knew that the HVAC uses gas to produce heat, so I can’t help you there. However, I do happen to know a few things about foundation settling in the Dallas – Fort Worth metroplex. In honor of paying it forward, I would like to share a few words of wisdom that a  wise engineer shared with me when I saw a metal rod sticking out of my foundation…

“If you notice a metal rod sticking out of your concrete slab, that doesn’t mean that you have foundation problems.”

During the construction of a slab on grade foundation, cables are arranged throughout the slab (per the direction of the engineer). Then, a machine is used to apply a calculated stress to each rod. After tensioning, every rod is trimmed and anchored to the slab edge. Finally, the pocket where the anchors are located is filled with cement. This magical process is why your slab can withstand so much weight!

plug for exposed rebar post tension cable in concrete slab foundation

Visible plugs are common in Dallas Fort Worth concrete slab foundations.

Many homes in Dallas – Fort Worth have noticeable patches where the post-tensioned cables have been sealed. In order to protect the post-tensioned cables from weathering and erosion, builders fill in the space surrounding the rods and seal each cable end. It is common for patches to be visible in the end product. The image above shows a typical concrete slab in Dallas – Fort Worth, Texas. In this case, there is no cause for concern but the homeowner should monitor the rods to ensure that they do not protrude any further.

post tension cable rebar sticking out foundation

Post-tensioned cables should be sealed to prevent rust and plugged by a professional.

This next image (above) shows a plug that has deteriorated over time. The post-tensioned rod is vulnerable and should be repaired immediately. Exposed cables are subject to water exposure which can cause the cables to rust and potentially snap. As such, these exposed cable ends should be cleaned and patched with non-shrink concrete to prevent damage. This repair should be performed by a qualified c0ncrete or brick mason. 

cable sticking out of foundation

Metal rod sticking out of foundation. Excessive settling caused this post-tensioned cable to protrude from the concrete slab foundation.

Occasionally, post-tensioned cables break and need to be repaired. If you happen to be nearby when one snaps, you will hear a loud POP! When a post-tensioned cable is severed, it is crucial that you call a Licensed Professional Engineer right away to prevent further damage to your home’s foundation.

“Your house isn’t going to crumble into bits.”

In conclusion, don’t freak out if you see something that resembles rebar sticking out of your home’s foundation. It doesn’t mean that your house is going to crumble. By using the tips discussed in this blog and others on our site, you can be proactive about your foundation’s health.

If you have concerns about your home’s foundation, call one of our Licensed Professional Engineers for a full evaluation. (817)576-1973

Don’t forget to pay it forward by sharing this article with another homeowner!

 

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Understanding Your Engineering Report

engineering report Structural Engineering Dallas Fort Worth

Understanding Your Engineering Report

The best way to get an accurate assessment of your home’s foundation is by hiring a structural engineer to produce an engineering report. For over twenty years, TEC has been spreading the message to the Dallas – Fort Worth metroplex,

“If you suspect foundation problems, refer to an independent, Licensed Professional Engineer FIRST.”

For best results, we recommend using an engineer that remains independent of foundation repair companies. The title “engineer” can be thrown around lightly in the construction industry. As such, be sure to validate that he/she is Licensed by the State of Texas.

Search the P.E. database here: https://engineers.texas.gov/roster/pesearch.html

Is hiring a structural engineer worth it?

Absolutely! A Licensed P.E. applies his/her scientific and engineering education, training,  and experience to determine the cause and extent of any diminished foundation performance. Once he/she has identified the issue, the engineer will draft a remediation plan in an 8-10 page engineering report. Often, the solution recommended by the engineer does not involve foundation repair. Instead, he/she may suggest drainage improvements or installing a foundation watering system.

Engineering Report

At TEC, we perform Level “A” and Level “B” investigations when evaluating a home’s foundation and structure. A summary of the following will be included in the engineer’s report:

Level A Investigations

  1. Interview with the homeowner about the history of the property and performance of the structure
  2. Review provided documents; construction drawings, engineer’s reports, etc.
  3. Visually observe the interior and exterior of the home
  4. Providing a written report with the following information:
    • Site observations, characteristics, and data deemed pertinent by the engineer
    • Discussion of major factors that influence the foundation’s performance such as drainage concerns, interfering trees, and landscape, soil conditions, etc.
    • Field notes and other pertinent data
    • Conclusions and recommendations for further investigation, remedial or preventative measures. Some examples include; plumbing and sprinkler testing, foundation repair, drainage improvements, installing a foundation watering system, etc.

 Level B Investigations

A Level “B” engineering analysis includes a written report with the items listed in Level “A” and the following:

  1. Foundation elevation survey to represent the shape of the foundation or floor levels
  2. A drawing depicting the relative elevations

Once you have your engineering report in hand, you can take it to two or three repair companies for estimates. Remember, lifting your foundation is just one way to remedy foundation settling. Let our engineers find the best solution for you.

Contact TEC for an engineering report. 

Call (817)576-1973

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Best Time of Year for Foundation Repair In Dallas

Understanding Seasonal Moisture Fluctuations

Foundation problems in Dallas – Fort Worth are often caused by shifting soils. Many homeowners notice that signs of foundation settling seem to come and go, depending on the season. The most common complaint is malfunctioning doors and windows. You’ve probably heard someone attribute the jamming to “the wood swelling from all the rain.” The reality is that in North Texas, swelling clay causes the more damage to homes.

Foundation Repair - Warning Signs. House foundation repair. Foundation Repair. Broken Foundation House Brick Wall.

The clay soil in Dallas – Fort Worth experiences expansion and contraction, depending on moisture levels. When it’s hot and dry outside, the clay soil shrinks. Adversely, clay has a tremendous capacity for retaining water. Heavy rainfall leads to swelling soil beneath our home’s foundation. To put foundation settling in a nutshell,

Your foundation becomes weak from the constant movement. Eventually, it cracks under the pressure – literally.

 

The Freeze (December-February)

During the winter, there is minimal rainfall and low, sometimes freezing, temperatures. The soil is relatively stable, leading some experts to believe winter is the best time for foundation repairs. Unfortunately, homeowners are reluctant to live in a construction zone during the holidays. Also, when the signs of foundation settling are less obvious, people tend to procrastinate on repairs. It is the classic, out of sight, out of mind scenario.

Spring Showers (March-May)

Many people plan home improvement projects during the spring. Often times, cracks are discovered during the process of replacing flooring or repairing damaged sheetrock. During this time, existing cracks may appear to grow as a result of swelling clay soil. Some experts suggest that spring is the best time to schedule foundation repairs, especially if you suspect that your foundation problems are worsening.

Monthly temperature and rainfall chart for the Dallas Fort Worth area in Texas.

Dog Days of Summer (June-September)

You will notice that during June through September, high temperatures are accompanied by low levels of rainfall. Contracting soil creates gaps beneath your home’s foundation. As a result, you may see signs of foundation settling.

As mentioned earlier, the clay soil shrinks during these periods of intense heat. Foundation repair during these so-called “dog days of summer” may lift your home too much. However, a Licensed Professional Engineer takes seasonal fluctuations into consideration when making his calculations. Foundation companies offer free estimates but proceed with caution. Only a Licensed P.E can ensure work performed on your home is necessary and correct.

“Fall” in Texas (October-November)

Summer seems to last half of the year in Texas, so there isn’t much of a fall season. Even so, fall is a great time to take a good look at your home’s foundation. Scheduling foundation repairs during this season will leave time to put the house back together before the holidays.

When is the BEST time to fix your foundation?

The answer is NOW! If you suspect that your home has foundation concerns, there’s no time like the present to call a Licensed Professional Engineer for a foundation inspection. He/she will present an 8-10 page Engineer’s Report highlighting issues and recommending repairs – if needed. If you do need piers, the engineer will tell you how many, what kind, and pinpoint the ideal placement.

Stop putting it off, schedule your foundation inspection today.

Call 817-576-1973 or email stephanie@tecdfw.com to get on the list.

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How do I Know if I Have Foundation Problems?

How do I Know if I Have Foundation Problems?

Most homeowners don’t pay attention to their home’s foundation until something goes awry. If you ignore some of these indicators of foundation problems, you could cause unnecessary damage to your home. It is important to take a proactive approach to detecting and repairing foundation settling. This article from Seattle Times mentions that more and more people are suffering from home foundation problems, but how does one evaluate these problems in the first place?

Signs you need to check

Like spotting a disease in its early stages, it’s best to be vigilant when it comes to home inspection and maintenance. The foundation is an important part of your structure, and once it’s damaged, the market value of your house can decrease tremendously. More than that, you’ll spend thousands of dollars repairing what could’ve been corrected if only you spotted the signs. Here are some early signs of foundation problems that you should be aware of:

  • Cracks in the Walls

These could be horizontal, vertical, diagonal, or even come as a pattern following the path of bricks and cement.  However they may appear, cracks are never a good sign. When watching out for cracks, you should pay special attention to the “joints” of the foundation or areas where walls are joined together with other walls, doors, the ceiling or the floor. You should watch out for jagged cracks and vertical cracks especially.

  • Stuck Doors and Windows

If your doors or windows seem to stick out or you suddenly can’t close them as you used to, this could be a sign that your foundation is shifting.

  • Uneven Floors and Floor Gaps

If floors suddenly become uneven, or if you notice a gap between the floor and the wall, then something could be awry.

  • Nail Pops

Many things could cause nails to suddenly protrude from your wall, but this can be caused by foundation problems as well, as it could be a sign that the foundation has shifted.

Calling an expert

Once you’ve spotted any of these signs, it’s best to call an expert right away. Foundation problems don’t just disappear over time. In fact, they get worse and you don’t want the problems to reach a point when it will become too expensive to fix. Like any disease, you will save a lot of money and time by getting the problem evaluated by an expert early on. By being proactive in repairing your home and making that decision today, you can save thousands of dollars and prevent your home from further decline.

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Buying a House in Texas – Avoid This Mistake

Home Inspector Dallas – Fort Worth – Arlington

Purchasing a home can be a stressful process for everyone involved. One common mistake that people make when buying a house is not choosing the right Home Inspector. TEC has worked directly with realtors and their clients for the past five years. We can’t keep count of the phone calls our office receives from panicked buyers, sellers, or realtors needing an inspection “YESTERDAY.” If you are looking for a Home Inspector in Dallas – Fort Worth – Arlington or surrounding areas, you’ve come to the right place.

Good news, TEC has you covered. Here are a few ways we go above and beyond to make your life a little bit easier.

Home Inspection Dallas Fort Worth

Throughout the inspection, we examine more than 600 components, taking images along the way. Each item is inspected for structural soundness, proper function, and code compliance.

UNIQUE TO TEC: Our Licensed Professional Home Inspectors perform foundation elevation surveys on every home, at no additional charge.

An elevation level survey provides two important advantages for the homeowner:

  1. In both new and older homes, the survey gives the buyer a point of reference that paints a clear picture if future settling occurs. * Comes in handy if you ever have to battle with a home warranty company or builder.
  2. The survey pinpoints existing foundation concerns. * Might not be a deal-breaker, but may be grounds for some negotiating.

Our Home Inspectors train alongside our engineer for two weeks before they are allowed to perform an inspection. Therefore, they are better equipped to differentiate between cosmetic and structural flaws. If there is a concern about a home’s foundation, TEC Home Inspectors consult with our in-house engineers. * Most Inspectors will simply cite “refer to an engineer” if they see a crack or other signs of foundation problems. Then the homebuyer has to scramble to schedule an engineer within the option period, leading to more money out of pocket.

Foundation Inspections and Structural Evaluations

If your home inspection report says to “consult with an engineer,” give us a call. We will everything possible to work within your option period. TEC has a solid reputation for providing independent, thorough evaluations for Dallas Fort Worth homeowners and prospective buyers.

BONUS: If you schedule a Home Inspection and a Foundation Evaluation at the same time, we take 20% off the engineer’s fee.

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Are Sticking Doors a Sign of Foundation Problems?

It’s a beautiful day in Texas. The birds are chirping and the kids are happily playing in the yard. You spontaneously decide to open the windows and invite in the fresh air. There is only one problem; the window is stuck. In fact, several windows throughout the house refuse to open properly. Then, you notice a crack extending from the corner of the window frame up to the crown molding. Panic sets in.

foundation problems homeowner cracks in home

Keep calm and call a licensed Professional Engineer for an unbiased evaluation of your home’s foundation.

You begin to ask yourself…

Does this house have foundation problems?

Will I lose the money I invested?

How will I afford to send the kids to college?

What about my retirement?

Maybe that is a tad overdramatic, but we get it! We’ve all heard the horror stories about homes needing $100,000 worth of foundation repair. The good news is that extreme cases like that are rare. However, when it comes to foundation problems, early detection is the key to maintaining your sanity (and home equity).

Sticking Doors, Jammed Windows, and Cracks – Signs of Foundation Problems?

All the above indicate foundation settling, but only a licensed Professional Engineer can determine if there is cause for alarm. Keep in mind that foundation damage is very common in Texas due to the presence of expansive soil.

Dallas is home to Texas Blackland Prairie soils. The clay soils in this region have high shrink-swell properties that require special design accommodations to ensure proper structural integrity.

Structural or Non-Structural?

Concrete slabs such as patios, sidewalks, and garage floors are often the first structures to show signs of foundation settling. So how can you tell if a crack is structural or cosmetic? One of the typical signs of a non-structural defect is that the crack is very thin or narrow, almost hairline. There is also no noticeable broken or dislocated masonry surrounding the crack.

On the other hand, cracks that may indicate structural failure tend to be wide. They often appear in a stair-step pattern and lead to displaced or crumbling masonry. When the concrete or masonry is disturbed, areas nearby begin to shift into the void space. For example, when doors and windows go out of alignment, it is usually the result of shifting exterior walls.

Look closely, your foundation may be trying to tell you something.

Unlevel pavement is a common sign that the soil beneath the concrete is settling.

Notice the frieze board separating from your brick? You may need a foundation inspection.

Detective Work

In the Dallas – Fort Worth metroplex, precipitation levels are generally low so you can rule out the probability of wood bloat causing windows to stick. However, it is highly likely that your home is constructed on expansive clay soil.

Expansive Clay Soil

The hot Texas sun scorches the soil during the summer months, robbing its moisture and causing the clay to shrink. When the clay soil retracts, the foundation moves as well. When moisture levels increase in the winter, the clay swells and the foundation lifts. This kind of back and forth movement stresses the concrete slab and often leads to cracking.

Homeowners tend to notice the most extreme signs of foundation settling during periods of excessive dryness or after a heavy rainfall. 

If you have a combination of sticking doors, wide cracks and displaced masonry, then it’s time to call in the professionals who can best help you deal with your foundation problems.

Schedule a foundation evaluation today at 817-576-1973

Testimonial: Not Every Foundation Needs a Repair

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7 Tips for Home Foundation Maintenance

Foundation Maintenance

You’ve probably heard this before; an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. It’s a cliché for a reason — because it’s true! The cost of foundation maintenance can be minimal and require little time and effort, but a foundation repair can cost you thousands of dollars!

Consider these 7 Tips for Home Foundation Maintenance:

  • If you see minor cracks in your home, don’t ignore them. Write down where you found the cracks, and measure how long they are. Check the length of the cracks every couple of months or so. If the cracks are getting longer, it may be time for you to get a specialist to inspect your home and your foundation.
  • Maintain a constant level of moisture for the soil around your house. The soil you find all over the Dallas / Fort Worth Metroplex can absorb and lose considerable amounts of water. During months of heavy rain, the soil will swell up when it becomes wet. During the summer and other dry months, the soil will shrink. This constant expansion and contraction put stress on the foundation of your home. To prevent possible damage, you may need to use soaker hoses to keep the moisture level steady. Watering your home foundation won’t fix your current foundation problems, but it will slow down the rate of deterioration.
  • Provide drainage away from the foundation perimeter and ensure there is no standing water near the foundation wall or slab. This may encourage even moisture content underneath the slab and reduces soil movement under the foundation slab.
  • Make sure the trees around your home aren’t causing problems for your foundation. Check with a specialist, especially if the trees around your home are large. Be sure to water the trees around your home in the dry season. Don’t be too stingy with the water, as large trees can absorb up to 150 gallons of water. If the trees can’t find the needed moisture, they will venture towards the soil beneath your home’s foundation.
  • Keep the ground elevations of the flower beds around your home 3 to 4 inches below the slab. The flower bed should be sloped away from the foundation for proper drainage. Doing this keeps the moisture from seeping into the wall system or inside the home.
  • Maintain a steady temperature inside your home. This will help prevent (or at least reduce) the tendency of the concrete slab to expand and contract. That means you shouldn’t let too long a time pass when you don’t heat or cool your home.
  • Check for leaks inside and around your home. This includes checking your sewer line, potable water lines, and the plumbing system. Leaking water can cause adjacent areas of the soil to have inconsistent moisture levels, which will damage your foundation.

Following these 7 maintenance tips will go a long way in helping to protect your home foundation from damage and costly repairs. You might also consider an annual inspection as part of your ongoing foundation maintenance program.

TEC Foundation Inspections

Schedule today! 817-576-1973

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Foundation Repair: Key Differences Between Pier and Beam vs Slab Foundation

pier and beam vs slabPier and Beam vs Slab Foundations

When shopping for a home, there are seemingly endless decisions to be made. It can be a tough choice when it comes to where to buy, when to buy, and whether to choose a pier and beam vs slab foundation. The entire process is enough to make anyone’s head spin!

We can’t help you choose the best school district, or select the perfect floorplan, but we can offer a quick lesson on the different foundation types to help you determine the right fit for your needs.

First, let’s make sure that you understand the terminology for the two most common foundation types used in the Dallas-Fort Worth area:


Pier and Beam Foundation

pier and beam foundation Texas

Commonly found in older homes, pier and beam foundations are comprised of several footings with concrete bases to support the home’s structure. A crawlspace is created beneath the floor for easy access to electrical and plumbing lines.

Slab Foundationpier and beam vs slab foundation

A concrete slab foundation, also known as a “slab-on-grade” foundation, is most common in new homes, and those built after 1970. Generally, these types of slabs are reinforced with steel beams known as tension rods.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Pier and Beam Foundation

Advantage: The availability of a crawlspace makes repairing electrical and plumbing issues a breeze. The hard part is convincing someone to crawl under there!

Advantage: The opening in the crawlspace also provides an opportunity to install additional insulation.

Advantage: Since the foundation has individual piers and beams, it is easier to isolate specific foundation problems. This helps the homeowner avoid costly repairs to the entire foundation.

Disadvantage: Rodents often seek shelter in crawl spaces and can build nests beneath your home. Along with those pesky rodents come fleas and other insects too. Yikes!

Disadvantage: Moisture can easily enter the crawlspace, causing creaky floors, mold and rotting. The increase in bacteria can be accompanied by an unpleasant odor as well.

Disadvantage: Pier and beam foundations often cost more due to the added time and expertise involved in the construction process.

Disadvantage: Unprotected water utilities in crawl spaces are more likely to freeze in harsh winter temperatures.

Slab Foundation

Advantage: Slab foundations are generally less expensive to construct and can be erected quickly.

Advantage: In cold weather, water utilities nestled within the slab are more resistant to freezing.

Advantage: It is easier to seal the home to prevent rodents and insects from inhabiting within.

Disadvantage: Slab leaks can cause major damage to your home’s foundation and repairs, in general, are more difficult to access without a convenient crawlspace.

Disadvantage: Concrete slabs can shrink, crack and even sink.

Which foundation type is more prone to settling?

When comparing pier and beam vs slab foundations, concrete slabs are more prone to settling in North Texas. Surprised? Consider that concrete slabs remain in constant contact with the soil. Texas’ severe moisture fluctuations have a direct impact on slab foundations. As such, homeowners are urged to implement foundation watering practices to balance the moisture level around the perimeter of their home.

Is purchasing a pier and beam vs slab home a “bad investment?”

Absolutely not. Pier and beam homes have many perks! The best way to ensure that any real estate purchase is a secure investment is by hiring a specialized professional to perform an independent evaluation.

For information on TEC’s Licensed Home Inspectors click here.

Call 817-576-1973 or click here to schedule your inspection.

Concerned about your home’s foundation? A Licensed Professional Engineer should be your first call. Click here for more information.

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