Cracks in Your Home

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Cracks in Your Home

When talking to people about their homes and foundation repair I have encountered everything from the over concerned to the deniers. It is important to know what to be concerned about, and what isn’t that big of a deal. I’ll do my best to explain what I have found to be the top three warnings and the top three “this might not be as bad as you think it is.”

Problem Signs

Wall Crack

1. Cracks in the Wall

Noticing large or long cracks forming in the ceiling or drywall? If you could fit a nickle in it, then you’ve probably got some issues. If the crack extends for a bit, that too is something to look into. These kinds of cracks will be seen near doorways or sometimes around the corners of your home.

tile cracks

2. Cracks in the Tile (Floor)

Just as before, larger cracks (obviously) reveal larger problems. A small hairline crack in the grout or in a corner isn’t something to get to flustered over. But this one is a little more self explanatory. If you see a crack running through your floor or tile, that too can be a warning sign of foundation damage. Don’t worry about your patio; this is mainly an interior concern, but more on that in a minute.

cracks in brick

3. Cracks in the Brick

Whether it’s straight through the brick, or snaking down through the mortar, if you start to see some cracks in the brick it might be a good idea to get it checked out. Again, hairline cracks are nothing too troubling.

Might Not Be Problem Signs

driveway crack

1.  Cracks in the Driveway

Unless for some strange reason your driveway is connected to the slab of your home (it’s probably not), the cracks in your driveway are no big deal. The same reason the sidewalk or the street has cracks in it, cracks in your driveway are just the results of the changing of the seasons.

garge floor cracks

2. Cracks in the Garage

This is a little different from the driveway, but important to differentiate. Cracks in the garage wall, could be worth your worry, but cracks in the garage floor isn’t a sure fire sign like walls and ceilings are. Cracks in the garage floor could just be like the cracks in your driveway. They were put there by the changing of the temperature.

3. Hairline Cracks

This is a tricky one and requires more common sense than anything. Let me share an actual conversation that I have had with someone that was concerned about their foundation.

Me – “So, what was it that you were worried about?”

Them – “There was a hairline crack.”

Me – “Anything else?”

Them – “No just a hairline crack.”

If you only see one crack. One HAIRLINE crack. You probably don’t have much to worry about. Water your foundation regularly, keep an eye out for other signs, and don’t fret. One tiny crack isn’t anything to lose sleep over. Multiple cracks, longer cracks, or if the width is large enough to fit a coin in, are all things that shouldn’t be overlooked. The point here is that if you only saw one tiny crack and none of the other warning signs like sticking doors, nail pops, or sloping floors, don’t worry too much.

With all that being said, if you ever have any concerns or just want some peace of mind, getting a free evaluation will help. A skilled evaluator might notice something you missed and will be able to measure elevations and produce a detailed site map for you.


Adopt a Highway Round 2!

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Adopt a highway

First and foremost I want to say that April was way hotter than our July pick-up. Not to say I didn’t sweat a ton, (shirt was drenched) but there was a nice breeze this time and April, April was just muggy and humid.

swamp

Dedication at its finest

What made this time different from the last cleaning? Well aside from more forgiving weather I’d say preparedness. Whenever you start on a big project that you’ve never done before, you don’t know what to expect. This time around I had a plan of action. We didn’t just have water bottles, we had COLD water bottles (a cooler with ice helps). We didn’t just start aimlessly cleaning, half on this side of the highway and half on the other (work smarter, not harder). You’d be surprised how quickly the time passed from cleaning and talking. I will say that walking back from cleaning (approx. two miles) with a full bag of trash was a lot less fun than walking with an empty one and picking up trash.

Our next pick-up will be in October. I’d say it will probably be colder than our previous two pick-ups, but it is Texas after all so there is a good chance that it will be hotter as well.


Does Insurance Cover Foundation Repair?

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paperwork

If you aren’t sure whether or not your policy covers foundation repair, it might behoove to do some research. The HOB Home Insurance Policy is one of the most common home insurance policies in the United States. And before 2003 the HOB policy covered damages to a homes’ foundation if it was determined that the damage was caused by a domestic fresh water or sewer water plumbing leak.  Unfortunately due to some lobbying from the insurance industry in 2003 the Texas Legislative Session modified the HOB policy to eliminate foundation damage coverage. In September 2003 foundation damage caused by plumbing leaks were eliminated from the HOB policy.

Post September 2003 homeowners have been under the impression that foundation damage simply isn’t covered by their insurance policy. We are now seeing changes to this. As part of the elimination of coverage in 2003  the insurance companies were to issue a premium credit for the lesser amount of coverage. Some companies did, and some did not. Now insurance companies have started to sell it back  to the homeowners at a premium. This additional premium, it should be noted, was once included as part of the basic policy.

Sometimes insurance agents have included foundation repair in your coverage to increase the premiums and in turn their commission. You might not have even realized that you are covered. It is important to check with your insurance provider to see if your policy covers foundation repair.

Listed below are the names of some insurance companies and the types of homeowners insurance policy forms that are currently being issued in the State of Texas that include at least some sort of foundation damage coverage. Keep in mind that some are based on a percentage value of the home and some are a set purchased dollar amount coverage, much like the selection of a higher or lower deductible on your car insurance. The amount of coverage isn’t going to be the same as it was before 2003, but every little bit helps.

CARRIERS WITH FOUNDATION COVERAGE:

AAA PREMIER , AIG, ALLSTATE FIDELITY & CASUALTY, AMREICAN RISK, APEX LLOYDS, AMEX ASSURANCE, ARMED FORCES, ASI LLIYDS, AUSTIN INDEMNITY, BALBOA, CHUBB, DALLAS NATIONAL, DELTA LLOYDS, ENCOMPAS INDEMNITY, ENCOMPASS INDEMNITY ELITE, FEDERAL INSURANCE, GEOVERA, HOMEOWNERS OF AMERICA, INTERNAL FIDELTY & CASUALTY, LINCLON GENERAL, MIDDLE STATES, NAT. SPECIALTY, METROPOLITAN LLOYDS OF TEXAS PLATINUM (MET LIFE), REPUBLIC UNDERWRITERS, SOUTHERN INSURANCE, SOUTHLAND LLOYDS, STATE FARM LLOYDS//WITH ENDORSEMENT, STONING LLOYDS, TRINITY UNIVERSAL, UNITRIN SFEGUARD, US LLOYDS, USAA/WITH FOUNDATION ENDORSEMENT.


Plano Home Show Recap

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From the Plano Home Show

Just last weekend we were at the Plano New Home & Remodeling Show. There were a lot of friendly people and interesting characters. We got a wide range of questions so I thought I’d take the time to recap some of the questions and answer them today. I will do my best to remember how they were asked.

Q: Every once in a while I hear a “pop” or a “knock” when I’m in the living room. Do you think that is a sign of foundation problems?

A: If you aren’t seeing cracks in the wall, experiencing sticky doors, or slopping floors, you probably don’t have to worry. The sounds you are hearing could just be an older house settling. Until other signs begin to show, you needn’t worry about foundation repair.

Q: I have water entering my house and the wood seems to be cracking on the floor. I can’t tell if it is from the rain or sprinkler system. I think I have foundation problems.

A: It sounds like you could have a leak somewhere. I would have a plumbing (leak) test done to find out the source of the water damage. The wooden floor damage is probably from the water entering into the house. Find the source and cause of the water and you might find your answer. If drainage is an issue, it is important to address it soon. It doesn’t sound like a foundation problem, but leaks and water build up certainly can cause it down the road.

Q: We just moved here. How different is the soil here?

A: Very! We have good ‘ole Houston Black here. You will find this volatile clay to be very response to water. When it rains it swells and during drought it contracts. This swelling and contracting is what shifts and moves your foundation and causes you to need foundation repairs. We can add piers under a house to lift and stabilize your foundation.

Q: Will adding piers stop the movement of our foundation forever? Or is this just a temporary fix?

A: Adding piers under your home will help stabilize the foundation and minimize the movement. It is impossible to prevent movement altogether (due to the soil), but instead of your home moving multiple inches or a foot, it now only moves an inch or two.

Those were some of the questions and concerns we got this weekend that I wanted to share. We got our fair share of off-the-wall questions, but we answered them! That’s what we do! We are always glad to help and answer any and all questions.


Retaining Wall Repair

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broken retaining wall

I think that it needs to be specified first and foremost that before you look into getting your retaining wall repaired a couple of things need to be thought about. Getting a new wall whether through repair or replacement can be an expensive process so a mistake could be very costly. Here are a couple of things to consider when looking into retaining wall repair or replacement:

1. How Big is the Retaining Wall?

If you have a couple of cracked bricks in your garden wall then most likely this article is not for you. Small walls that are meant to be aesthetic and used in landscaping can probably be fixed by you with the right materials and know how. Large walls should only be handled by companies with the man power and means to do so. Unless you are an engineer and have a team with you, leave the large jobs to the professionals.

2. Rebuilding vs Repairing

One unfortunate fact that you might have to face is that if the wall needs repairs it probably needs to be rebuilt anyway. If the wall needs repairs something caused it to fail. Sometimes mother nature (too much rain, improper drainage, etc) can cause failure in a wall. If you try and repair it and accidentally skip a step or use the wrong materials you could risk a catastrophic failure and a collapsed wall. When starting the repair process you might find out that you need new drainage behind the wall or the wall needs to be demoed and replaced.

3. Wall Failure

The top two reasons for retaining wall repair is #1 a lack of proper drainage and #2 poor installation. Some walls don’t even have any kind of drainage behind them. The two reasons almost go hand in hand, but it is also the two reasons why a demo and a rebuild is better than trying to repair a lost cause.

4. Railroad Ties

Railroad tie retaining walls are the worst kind of retaining walls to have. Most railroad tie walls will fail. Sometimes they will begin to rot and fall apart. Most of the time they were built with no drainage behind them. In fact a lot of cities don’t allow them to be built anymore, rendering them as “not up to code.” Railroad ties are not eco friendly. The chemicals that are sprayed on them to keep them from rotting will get into the soil after heavy rains and is bad for the environment. It is highly recommended to not go with railroad ties for a retaining wall, but they can be used as a last resort.

railroad ties

In summary:

1. If the wall is a small garden wall you might be able to fix it. If not, leave it to the pros.

2.  It’s almost always better to rebuild the wall than to try and repair it.

3. A lack of drainage and poor installation are the leading causes for retaining wall failure.

4. Railroad ties are very problematic.