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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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Home Inspection Checklist: 10 Ways to Prepare

Home Inspector | Dallas Fort Worth Arlington Mansfield 

Joe Bourget, Professional Home Inspector TREC License #22546

There are several challenges that a Home Inspector must overcome to keep the home inspection process running as smoothly as possible. If you are a homeowner or a realtor in the selling process, there are a few things you can do to help your listing shine during a home inspection. We interviewed Licensed Professional Home Inspector, Joe Bourget and he gave us this Home Inspection Checklist, 10 Ways to Prepare:

 

1. Don’t assume that the utilities are still on.

Confirm that the water, electrical and gas services (including pilot lights) will be on during the inspection so the home inspector can determine if the dishwasher, hot water heater, stove, electrical components, etc. are functioning properly.

2. Make sure your pets won’t hinder the inspection.

I love dogs! Unfortunately, they don’t always welcome me. Please remember to alert the inspector if animals will be present during the appointment. It is best to remove them from the premises to speed things along.

3. Check your light bulbs.

I can’t tell you how many homeowners forget to replace old light bulbs with new ones before an inspection. Take the time to replace any burned-out bulbs (prior to your appointment) to avoid a “light is inoperable” comment on the home inspection report.

4. Replace dead batteries.

Don’t forget to replace the batteries in your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors too! A home inspector will do a walk-through of your home and test these items. Any detectors with a missing or low battery will be listed in the report as a deficiency. It might not seem like a big deal, preparing ahead of time can help keep your home inspection report short and sweet.

Dirty or missing filters lead buyers to believe that the HVAC unit has not been properly maintained.

5. Check your filters.

Avoid an embarrassing reveal of filthy HVAC filters in front of a prospective buyer by checking them beforehand. When filters clog, they prevent proper airflow through the vents. Ill-fitting or dirty filters can cause the HVAC system to malfunction and will be noted in a report.

6. Clear debris away from the foundation.

Woodpiles, fallen branches, etc. create an ideal habitat for pests. To avoid a comment on “conducive conditions” for termites in your home inspection, clear a path before your inspector arrives.

7. Remove clutter.

Do a quick scan of the property and ensure that nothing is blocking access to major appliances, the HVAC equipment, all electrical service panels, hot water heaters, and attic entries.

8. Find your keys.

Make sure that you have copies of keys for sheds, attic doors, electric service panels, garages, exterior gates and any other locked areas that the inspector will need to access.

Per TREC standards, all tree limbs within 10 feet of the home must be noted in the inspector’s report.

9. Trim your branches.

Tree limbs should be at least ten feet away from your home’s roof. An inspector will make a note of any offending branches in his report.

10. Tackle small repairs in advance.

If your property has missing doorknobs, locks, latches, window panes, screens, gutters, downspouts, chimney caps, etc., it is best to fix those prior to listing your home. A Licensed Professional Home Inspector is required to note all of the above in the home inspection report.

Selling your home can be an emotional and arduous process. By preparing your listing with this home inspection checklist, you will set the pace for a hassle-free closing. Happy selling!

To schedule a home inspection in Dallas, Fort Worth, or surrounding areas, contact TEC today.

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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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Water and Drainage; Is Your Home’s Foundation at Risk?

Water and Drainage; Is Your Home’s Foundation at Risk?

Water is a powerful force! Proper drainage is an essential factor for homeowners looking to preserve their investment. Here are a few ways that deficient water drainage affects your home’s foundation:

Soil erosion: If runoff from your roof or gutter pours within a couple of feet of your home, the soil surrounding your foundation will erode as water relocates to the lowest elevation in your yard. The movement could ultimately cause your foundation to slip in the same pattern.

Groundwater: Water can damage your foundation by direct precipitation (not just rain) if there is puddling near the perimeter of your home. Groundwater can potentially seep into areas affecting the integrity of your home’s foundation.

Soil expansion: The type of soil you have can have an adverse effect on your foundation drainage. Soil that is heavily composed of gravel or sand tends to create water pooling. On the other hand, expansive clay soil, as found in most of North Texas, swells when it is saturated. That means that your foundation will shift and you could start to see the signs, such as cracks in your home. Changing the basic composition of the soil is impractical for most homeowners. As such, it is best to focus on improving your drainage.

foundation water damage drainage

If your rain gutters are pouring out this close to your home, you might be jeopardizing the integrity of your foundation.

Tips on improving your drainage:

Consider Sloping: To improve the drainage around your foundation, consider hiring a professional to slope the surrounding soil to carry the water away from areas that could cause harm. Next, have the soil compacted with a mechanical compactor. This will press the soil down, making it less likely to move or shift. Loose soil creates water runoff, shifting and changing the rate of settling and eventually resulting in a negative grade. Should this happen, expect the water to drain back to the foundation of the house, which could be disastrous over time.

Modify Your Gutters: While most houses have gutters installed, they are not adequate in foundation drainage. Water from the roof tends to pool right beside the foundation.

Here are two ways to move water away from your foundation:

  1. Extend the down spout by approximately 10 feet.  This could carry the water downhill, or make it flow away from the foundation. Hint: You can bury the extension so it is out of sight.
  2. Use a catch basin. This should be buried where the downspout ends. Start filling the basin with crushed stones and add an underground drain pipe that comes out the side of the basin. This pipe should run above the ground going straight for a drainage ditch. Or, it can just empty up into a dry well.

Landscape with a Purpose: By choosing landscaping that is decorative and functional, such as ground cover plants, liners, rocks or gravel, you can keep preventing erosion around your home’s foundation. Most mulch and bark is not heavy enough to withstand a downpour.

Install French Drains: French drains are trenches designed to pull water down a slope and away from the house. Often, these drains can be disguised within your landscaping and are incredibly effective in low-elevation areas where water tends to accumulate.

When faced with water drainage problems, it’s always best to consult professionals who are experienced in handling such situations.

Thomas Engineering Consultants has over twenty years of experience mitigating the impacts of seasonal weather fluctuations to preserve your home’s foundation.

Shoot us an email to schedule your visit today.

stephanie@tecdfw.com

Related to water and drainage:

Testimonial: “Sometimes proper drainage is the solution.”

Thirsty? So is Your Foundation.

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Protect Your Investment

Protecting Your Investment Means Protecting Your Home’s Foundation

Making the decision to invest in real estate is a huge commitment! Once the closing papers are signed, you’re on your own to repair and maintain your home.

In Texas, maintenance ALWAYS includes foundation preservation. 

Whether you are in the market, or have been living in your home for decades, call an engineer for an independent evaluation if you see signs of foundation movement. An engineer is the ONLY person qualified to detect deficiencies in your foundation and identify the source.

When foundation problems occur, your first instinct may be to:

  • Procrastinate on repairing the issues
  • Attempt to fix the damage yourself
  • Call the repair company

All of these three actions are risky, and potentially costly! If you procrastinate, you could end up with an ever bigger problem in the future. If you attempt to make repairs yourself, you might worsen the situation, wasting hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars in the process.

“Why wouldn’t I just call a foundation company?”

By calling a repair company, you risk overlooking the cause of the foundation shifting. That is kind of like putting a bandaid on a broken leg. The end result could mean more damage to your home. Avoid making a mistake in judgement; get an independent evaluation.

A licensed professional engineer provides a structural assessment of the foundation and surrounding property. He will outline potential concerns and provide proper solutions.

Engineers aren’t trying to sell you repairs. Instead, an engineer provides a report detailing any issues, and highlighting the cause. 

Once  you have your Engineer’s Report in hand, you will be armed with knowledge to help you negotiate repair charges from the foundation company, if needed. Sometimes, the solution is a lot less costly and complicated than our client’s expect.

“We understand that all houses move. It is our job to determine whether the shifting is acceptable and to identify when it is necessary to take action.”                          

– Tommy LaLonde, P.E.

Protect your investment and put your mind at ease, call Tommy.
(817) 576-1973

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Texas’ Shifting Soil — How to Avoid Foundation Problems

Dry soil with cracks is common in Texas.

Texas’ Shifting Soil – How to Avoid Foundation Problems

Geological conditions that prevail in each state differ according to their location. Soil, as a natural resource, has different values depending on the industry that they are being used in. In the construction industry, the stability and/or compactness of the soil, or the lack of it, accounts for many of the foundation issues that arise.

Soil Types

Environmentally, Texas can be called a “complex” state due to the wide range of variation in vegetation, climate, landscape, and geology. Texas recognizes more than 1,300 different soil types, with each type having distinct properties that determine how it can best be used.

Texas Shifting Soil

Most homeowners, realtors, and commercial property owners are aware of Texas’ shifting soil. There has been some level of controversy about the quality of Texas soil, with reference to the construction of residential and commercial structures.  There are those who believe that, more than an inherent flaw in the soil quality, what makes for the number of Texas foundation failures is  sub-standard construction. On the other hand, there many more who maintain that foundation failures are definitely attributable to the soil shifts.

Take Decisive Action

Most experts agree that at the first sign of foundation problems you should contact a professional inspector and have your foundation assessed immediately.

Additionally, it’s also practical to consult foundation specialists who have wide-ranging knowledge and expertise in home foundation repair. These specialists know engineered solutions like the use of cellular concrete, helical piers, and wall anchors, as applicable to your situation, depending on what type of foundation you have (slab or pier and beam), and what part of Texas you are living in.

Moreover, foundation specialists are always in touch with the latest technology to help homeowners, realtors, and commercial property owners avoid home foundation problems.

Best Practices for dealing with Texas Shifting Soil

Here are a couple of best practices to help you avoid home foundation problems:

  • Before purchasing land, consult professionals who will be able to give you an honest assessment of whether or not you can expect to face foundation problems in the future because of the soil.
  • If you have already bought the land, or a structure along with the land, hire the services of foundation specialists or professionals, such as foundation engineers, who can assess your land, foundation and structure, and assess whether or not repairs may be needed. If so, they can also give you the extent of repairs needed, and how much it would cost.

Taking a proactive approach by having your land or property evaluated by an expert foundation engineer now will save you money later. The longevity and integrity of your foundation determines, in a large way, the longevity and integrity of your home or commercial building.

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Foundation Inspection for Buyers and Homeowners

Foundation Inspection for Buyers and Homeowners

New homeowners and prospective buyers should consider having a foundation inspection performed by a Licensed Professional Engineer. Everyone knows to hire a home inspector after making a home purchase, but few people consider the importance of foundation inspection.  No matter how pretty the interior is, or how beautifully done the exterior finish, at the base of it all is the foundation.

If you’re going house-hunting any time soon, or if you’re a realtor looking for gems to sell, you need to know that foundation inspection is one of the critical steps you should not miss. As a homeowner you look for things like perfect location, good neighborhood, or beautiful design, but you should also make sure that before anything else, the foundation is inspected properly.

Foundation Inspections Offer Buyers Peace of Mind

Foundation inspection is best left to the experts, and if you know the right professional to call, then you’ll be fine. Sometimes, a house may look perfect at first glance, but upon closer inspection, many things could go wrong. This article published by MSN Real Estate underscores that there are many things only the eye of the expert can see. When prospective homeowners usually look at a home all they see are the many reasons why this home is perfect for them.  What a professional home inspector sees are the countless things that could go wrong. Homeowners save thousands of dollars in potential repair costs simply by having the home inspected before finalizing the transaction.

In Texas, You May Want to Consider an Annual Inspection

Even if you have your new home inspected before you buy, this is no guarantee that you won’t encounter foundation problems in the future. This is especially true if you live in an area that is known for shifting soils and foundation problems like the Dallas / Fort Worth area of Texas. To protect your investment, most experts recommend homeowners have an annual foundation inspection. Most of the time, if you catch a problem early, it can be a much less expensive repair than if you wait until later.