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Different Types of Foundations Part 1

types of foundations kansas city

Live, from the KC Property Guys and KC Pier Studio in beautiful Kansas City, home to over 200 fountains and more barbecue restaurants per capita than anywhere in the nation. It’s the Kansas City Real Estate Industry Leaders Show, a show about industry leaders from the local Kansas City Metro market for Kansas City real estate-related professionals and enthusiasts like you. And now, here’s your hosts, Eric and Lucas Scheele.

Eric Sheele:
Hello everyone. Welcome to another edition of the Kansas City Real Estate Industry Leaders podcast. My name is Eric Scheele. I’m the president of KC Pier, KC Property Guys, and today we are talking types of foundations with KC Pier. We have the project lead and structural consultant for KC Pier in the studio today, Brian Dufour. Welcome Brian.

Brian Dufour:
How we doing?

Eric Sheele:
I’m doing okay. You ready to talk types of foundations?

Brian Dufour:
Yeah.

Types of Foundations

Eric Sheele:
Yeah, right on. We do it every day. We’re KC Pier, so we talk types of foundations every single day. So, we thought we would give it an overview today about the different types of foundations that we see on a day-to-day basis, and we’ll probably start the most recent from concrete poured walls. Then we’ll take it back to even rock walls and some of those issues, and then even talk about the non-structural, or not necessarily non-structural, but the non-full basements, the crawl space, block, rock, and even slabs.

Eric Sheele:
So, we’re going to talk about all types of foundations and give an overview. I think we’re going to cater it since it’s the springtime this year is more towards the spring issues that we’re seeing, but we’ll talk about all of them. Hopefully, those that are watching and listening and reading will pick up on some things that obviously may pertain to you because we’re in Kansas City, and we know our soils. We’ve talked about them a lot, and we see a lot of issues with our composition of our soils when it comes to our foundation. So, we’re going to give a quick overview today. Ready to jump in?

Brian Dufour:
Let’s go.

Poured Foundations

Eric Sheele:
Okay, so let’s start with the first type poured foundations, right? This time of year, specifically in the spring, what types of things are you seeing literally on an everyday basis?

Brian Dufour:
Right now what we’re running into is horizontal cracking and cracks coming off window that are allowing water in basements.

Eric Sheele:
Yep.

Brian Dufour:
That’s the biggest thing that’s going on because we’re obviously in the Midwest. We get flash floods pretty rapidly.

Eric Sheele:
Yep.

Brian Dufour:
So, with that being said, some drains can’t keep up or the drains you don’t have allow water to come in the cracks. A lot of people don’t necessarily focus on the cracks until they get water in their basement.

Eric Sheele:
Of course. And then, of course, we’ve had these rains lately, and in KC Pier’s office, when the rains then the phone starts really ringing. It doubles, triples, quadruples, right?

Brian Dufour:
Absolutely.

Eric Sheele:
Everybody wants a fix when the water is finally coming in the basement. It would’ve come in at any time, but now that it’s actively there, we’d got to do something about it, right?

Brian Dufour:
Yeah, after you’re up all night with the Shop-Vac, it’s like, time is right now.

Horizontal Cracks

Eric Sheele:
Yeah, right? Absolutely. So, relating to cracks because you talk specifically about horizontal cracks, and I don’t know how deep you want to go into that. But you want to talk about the source of what causes that horizontal versus some people are seeing the diagonals or the stairsteps or are fractional, thin spider cracks or some of those difference. Can you kind of speak on that as well?

Brian Dufour:
Yeah, absolutely. Right now, usually what you go through in the Midwest because 80% of the time it’s water.

Eric Sheele:
Yep.

Brian Dufour:
Our soils expand, so you don’t see a lot of houses settling as much as you do water causing the houses to move and the walls to move in.

Eric Sheele:
Yup. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Brian Dufour:
So, with that being said, horizontal cracks are what you see when you have too much hydrostatic pressure and too much water on the exterior. You also get the 45 degree angles off the corners of the walls or off the corners of windows, and those are signs of the wall starting to move inward.

Eric Sheele:
Yep.

Brian Dufour:
You get those, right now we’re talking about poured, but you get those on every foundation that has that much pressure on the outside.

Eric Sheele:
Right. Right, and so to kind of restate that because you’re summarizing it really, really well in terms of the pressure, but the pressure is caused, if we step back a second, from the clay that’s expanding, kind of like a sponge.

Brian Dufour:
Correct.

Eric Sheele:
We like to talk about it like a sponge. And so as that water begins to hydrate the clay, the clay then begins to expand, and if it sits there long enough in an expanded mode that’s pressuring, it’s basically your foundation wall against the earth.

Brian Dufour:
Yes.

Eric Sheele:
All right, let’s have a tug of war. Foundation wall or earth, who’s going to win? The earth is going to win every single time.

Brian Dufour:
Absolutely.

Eric Sheele:
And eventually you’re going to see, if it’s sustained pressure for long periods of time, is what you’re getting at, is that horizontal crack that really starts to show up.

Brian Dufour:
Correct. Usually it starts on the corners because the corners have the other walls help supporting it.

Eric Sheele:
Yep.

Brian Dufour:
So, you’ll see the cracks start from the corners and work their way up into the middle of the foundation.

Eric Sheele:
Yep.

Brian Dufour:
That’s the weakest point, and when your soil expands, it’s Mother Nature versus your wall.

Eric Sheele:
Right.

Brian Dufour:
Mother Nature’s always going to win if it’s not corrected.

Common Fixes

Eric Sheele:
Exactly. So, what do you do about them? All right, you got water coming in your basement. Whether it’s a horizontal crack, diagonal crack, in a corner, in the middle, you’ve got this crack that’s wet. It’s hydrated. What are some of the common fixes that we see on KC Pier as well for homeowners that they can do to, I hope, basically take care of the water?

Brian Dufour:
It really depends on how fast you catch it.

Eric Sheele:
Yep.

Brian Dufour:
If you catch it pretty quick, you can do some exterior drainage. You can do some positive grading. You can get some downspouts away, and it could be something as a simple crack injection to fill that crack. Then once you take care of all the positive grading outside, you could stop it at that moment.

Eric Sheele:
I like your approach already because, and we do this by default with KC Piers, you’re thinking for the homeowner. You may not even recognize you’re doing this, but you’re thinking for the homeowner because you’re thinking, “All right, what’s the least expensive? What’s the things that I can do that are hands-on,” that as long as you catch it soon enough, there are some DIY type of stuff aside from maybe the crack injections, that you can kind of do to help alleviate the issue? So, you’ve already started that, but continue. I wanted to point that out because that’s the way we kind of talk about things. We point out A, Bs and Cs, and so you’re starting with the least expensive and working your way up.

Brian Dufour:
Yeah, absolutely, because depending on how much you use your basement, whether it’s unfinished or finished, sometimes you can’t catch it fast enough because it’s a finished basement. So, with it being unfinished and you do see those cracks, you could potentially stop it and save thousands of dollars.

Eric Sheele:
Right.

Brian Dufour:
Depending on when you catch it, if the wall starts to come in, it starts to have that inward movement, depending on how far it comes in, you might be able to catch it with I-beam braces.

Eric Sheele:
Right.

Brian Dufour:
You still have to do the positive grading outside to make sure the water is getting away, but you could put up I-beam braces, support the wall where it is, prevent it from moving in any further, and then inject the cracks.

Eric Sheele:
Perfect.

Brian Dufour:
So, you don’t have the water intrusion, and you’re also stopping the wall from moving in.

Eric Sheele:
Yep. Yep, so you have grading first. That’s the common sense approach.

Brian Dufour:
Correct.

Eric Sheele:
Anybody can do it, but you can obviously hire someone to do it as well. You got crack injections, which you are obviously using some more specific tools that actually do it right, which is probably that next level, next step up. If the wall is in so far so it’s beyond tolerances… Some movement’s okay, but there are definitely tolerances with which it’s too much. Then obviously the I-beams come into play and the crack injection. So, the two working in combination with each other. We’re escalating the expense, but we’re also alleviating the issue from the inside out. You still haven’t gotten to really taking care of the issue itself, which is the exterior, which is eventually where we’re going. But that’s what you’ve done so far to this point. What’s the next excalation?

Full Excavation

Brian Dufour:
Then depending on what you want to do, at that point is a full excavation.

Eric Sheele:
Yep.

Brian Dufour:
What we call the full-repair plan. Option A is take care of everything. You don’t have to worry about nothing. That is completely excavating the wall out past the footing, taking all the pressure off the wall, and then what we do is we actually lift the house about a quarter inch off the foundation, so it relieves the pressure off the foundation, so when we push, it don’t cause any structural damage to the house.

Eric Sheele:
Right.

Brian Dufour:
Once we get to that point, we push the wall to structural limitations. We don’t ever say level cause we don’t know what the house is going to do or react because it’s also a repair.

Eric Sheele:
What will it withstand? Right.

Brian Dufour:
Correct. Once we get it back, we use a MEL-ROL membrane, and then we seal the wall. We waterproof the wall all the way down past the footing. We want to make sure the waterproofing goes past the footing because you have that cold joint where the footing and the foundation wall meet.

Eric Sheele:
Yep.

Brian Dufour:
So, we want to make sure that’s isolated and sealed so the water can’t find its way through.

Eric Sheele:
Nope. Perfect.

Brian Dufour:
Once we get all that done, we put a brand new four-inch corrugated pipe next to the footing, and we either run that to daylight depending on what land you have or into a pump that we have to install in one of the corners of the wall that we’re digging.

Eric Sheele:
Mm-hmm Mm-hmm.

Brian Dufour:
After that is done, we backfill 85, 90% gravel. The gravel acts as a crush barrier. A lot of people think it’s there for drainage. It helps dramatically, but it’s there for a crush barrier.

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Brian Dufour:
So, that soil that expands and retracts on the opposite side of the gravel hits the gravel, and the gravel absorbs all that pressure. That’s where you get the full-repair plan.

Eric Sheele:
You’re taking away what’s causing the issue in the first place, right?

Brian Dufour:
Correct.

Eric Sheele:
You’re getting rid of the clay. That’s why we’re excavating the exterior of the home. Let’s get rid of the problem. The problem is that clay has been expanding, and it’s pushing on that wall to the point where it’s beyond tolerances. So, now that you can take care of that, let’s get rid of it. Don’t put it back when you’re all done.

Brian Dufour:
Yeah, absolutely.

Eric Sheele:
And we’ve seen that, right?

Brian Dufour:
We have seen that, and usually when you put it back, you can never compact it like Mother Nature has.

Eric Sheele:
Absolutely, yeah.

Brian Dufour:
So, instead of adding the same soil back, you’re adding extra weight because it absorbs more water.

Eric Sheele:
Right.

Brian Dufour:
So, it’s not really doing anything.

Eric Sheele:
Yeah, we’ve seen companies do that because A, maybe the gravel’s not available or maybe they’re cutting costs, and it’s really a critical step. So, bringing in the gravel to alleviate, like you said, absorb the pressure that’s outside that gravel because there is still clay there, and also help with drainage, is extremely beneficial. Most people talk about it as drainage because it’ll percolate through the gravel to the drain that you’re putting in, but you’re also absorbing the pressure so you’re taking less pressure against that wall.

Brian Dufour:
Absolutely.

Eric Sheele:
Which is allowing your braces, if that’s what you’re doing or, or thinkers, which we could talk about a little bit, but any supportive material or procedure that you’re using on the inside of the house is now being able to function that much more efficiently.

Brian Dufour:
Correct.

Eric Sheele:
Right?

Brian Dufour:
It’s basically to function at its full potential at this point.

Eric Sheele:
Perfect, and that is a full excavation where walls have come in beyond tolerances, and sometimes we’ve seen walls in four- or five-plus inches. I mean, even the latest one that we were looking at, a massive investment house in South Kansas City, I’ve heard was closer to 10, 11 inches or so.

Brian Dufour:
Yeah, they definitely neglected it for quite a while.

Eric Sheele:
Unbelievable, to the point where it’s about to almost collapse, so you can recover it as long as it’s still standing. What you’re saying is you’ll push it back to whatever structurally is allowed. We don’t necessarily like to use the word level. Sometimes it works out that way.

Brian Dufour:
Yes.

Eric Sheele:
But we’ll structurally monitor that and take it back to its proper tolerances and then support it accordingly.

Brian Dufour:
Correct.

Eric Sheele:
Right?

Brian Dufour:
The positive thing is, once we get it to where we feel it’s comfortable, it’s not going to move from there.

Eric Sheele:
Right.

Brian Dufour:
So, the main goal is to prevent it from moving and recover what we can.

Eric Sheele:
Agreed.

Brian Dufour:
The positive is, that’s it. That’s where it stays.

Eric Sheele:
Yep. Nope.

Brian Dufour:
So, that’s the main goal, so that way you don’t have to worry about it any further.

Holistic Approach to Foundation Repair

Eric Sheele:
And we talk shop all the time, KC Pier. I mean, it is a passion for us, and some people think of types of foundations issues as a black, gypsy box. They just don’t know what’s inside, and they’ll get five opinions that come in. They’ll get five totally different opinions, both verbiage opinions and financial opinions. They are all over the board. We take our work extremely seriously, and so we want to be able to A, provide people with, not only the correct fix, but also other alternative options depending on the financial variables or the life variables of the homeowner as well. That’s what I really like about our approaches, is we take a real holistic approach to foundation repair.

Eric Sheele:
A, we take it extremely seriously, and we want to make sure whether it’s an investor home or whether it’s a homeowner who’s getting ready to move or whether it’s a lifetime home for a homeowner, and we want to take that proper approach based off the life variables and then produce options, backing away from what really truly is the full fix, what we kind of call the Cadillac fix, and then the one fix that’ll kind of get you by. Then we look at a hybrid in-between, and so we come up with different financial variables for homeowners to make proper choices for the home, which is great.

Eric Sheele:
So, that’s a really good summary. The one piece that we didn’t necessarily talk about is that real intermediate piece that kind of stands between the braces and not digging out the outside, and the braces and digging outside, which is that internal drain system, which we actually use quite a bit, right?

Brian Dufour:
Yes.

Eric Sheele:
The difference… Essentially it’s the same thing. It’s an internal drain system, but I want you to speak more on it than I can. But just as an introduction, it’s an internal drain system. So, it’s essentially doing the same thing that you would be doing on the outside, except it’s more accessible. For one, you’re not taking care of the clay, but it’s more affordable because it is more accessible. Can you talk a little bit more about how that actually works though?

Brian Dufour:
Yes. So, when you do an interior drain system, you need a pump no matter what.

Eric Sheele:
Right.

Brian Dufour:
You put a pump, in my opinion, in the lowest point of the basement, if it’s allowable because that’s where water flows. Once you get to that point, the interior drain system, we come in, we break out 10 to 12 inches, and we still dig down next to the footing.

Eric Sheele:
Yep.

Brian Dufour:
As we do that, we also make positive grade in the trench from the highest point of where the drain is to the pump.

Eric Sheele:
Makes sense.

Brian Dufour:
So, that way the actual four-inch drain isn’t doing all the work. Once we get that in, we put the four-inch drain next to the footing, we encase it in gravel, and then we put in what’s called Dimple Board, which goes over the gravel and goes over the footing. Then it comes up the wall.

Eric Sheele:
Yup.

Brian Dufour:
What that does is it actually acts as two options. The first one is, it’s allowing water to flow underneath the footing and the foundation where that cold joint is.

Eric Sheele:
Yep.

Brian Dufour:
Number two is when we put the concrete in the concrete don’t soak into the gravel and soak into the four-inch drain pipe, and we caused the clog.

Eric Sheele:
Right. Yeah. No, absolutely. So, that’s a barrier between the concrete and the actual drain systems that you’re putting in there, so it can operate and work efficiently. The other piece that you said is that water’s coming through the cold joint. And that’s something we talk about with homeowners a lot that they don’t necessarily realize is that vertical wall and your basement sitting on the footer of your basement floor is not joined, cemented, caulked, grouted, nothing.

Brian Dufour:
No.

Eric Sheele:
It’s weight on weight.

Brian Dufour:
That’s all it is.

Eric Sheele:
Cold on cold, right? So, sometimes when there’s enough hydrostatic pressure, water pressure, it finds the path of least resistance.

Brian Dufour:
Absolutely. What it does is it finds that path, and what a lot of homeowners don’t know is, your slab in the basement is not tied into the foundation. It’s a floating slab.

Eric Sheele:
Mm-hmm

Brian Dufour:
So, by default there’s a cold joint there because of our soils. You can’t tie it into the foundations because of how massive our soils expand.

Eric Sheele:
Yeah, if you did, they’d really be cracked.

Brian Dufour:
Absolutely.

Eric Sheele:
We’d be extremely busy.

Brian Dufour:
Correct.

Eric Sheele:
So, they’re made to move independently of each other.

Brian Dufour:
It’s made to move. Correct.

Eric Sheele:
Right.

Brian Dufour:
So, with that being said, when we get a massive amount of water, and it just can’t keep up with it, that is the easiest path for water to come in.

Eric Sheele:
Yeah, and so that interior drain system is there to capture that water, any other water. We have a wall shield product, so if the wall is leaking, we can push the water down to that drain system.

Brian Dufour:
Yup.

Eric Sheele:
Which is great for finished basements by the way, and you don’t see it with a lot of companies. I love the solution, and it really looks great.

Brian Dufour:
It looks really good. I mean, honestly if you put it up, you just put floors down, and you don’t have to put sheet rock up. It looks very good.

Eric Sheele:
Yeah, it’s solid.

Brian Dufour:
I mean, and it’s keeping the basement dry as a bone.

Eric Sheele:
Right.

Brian Dufour:
Very easy.

Eric Sheele:
Absolutely. So, it’s a great, great product. So, in doing so, you’ve essentially have created truly an internal drain system that captures the water after it gets inside the house, but it’s captured it. It’s sloped effectively. It drains into the sump pump, and out it goes. So you don’t have the musty smells, the mold smells. None of those issues are there because the water is out as almost as fast as it comes in.

Brian Dufour:
Yep.

Eric Sheele:
Right? Great overview of poured foundations.

Speaker 1:
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