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Foundation Inspections Terms
The foundation is one of the most important parts of a building, being responsible for bearing the weight of the home that sits atop it. Unfortunately, as time goes on, foundations often develop problems that leave a home under-supported. This may lead to structural issues that reduce the home’s value, while also making it difficult to inhabit.
For that reason, you should have your home inspected regularly for signs of foundation trouble. Yet many homeowners shy away from this important form of maintenance because they do not understand the language used to describe foundation troubles. This article will help to put you at ease by discussing three common terms used when discussing a home’s foundation.
Structural integrity is a general term used to designate a component’s capability of bearing the weight of the overall structure. This term encompasses such things as the component’s stability, strength, and over soundness. If any of these qualities have begun to suffer, it may place the structure – in this case, your home – at serious risk of damage.
Where a residential foundation is concerned, the signs of poor structural integrity include any of the following:
– Partial collapse
– Material degradation
A trained foundation inspector must carefully look for signs of any such issues. Depending on their severity, these symptoms do not always present a serious integrity issue. For instance, while cracks are problematic in that they may allow water to enter your home, in many cases they will not negatively affect the overall structural integrity.
The concept of deflection comes up regularly with respect to foundation inspections. Deflection refers to the extent of bending observable in a structural element. For instance, the shape of a structural beam that has been loaded with an excessive amount of weight will become distorted. The pressure will cause it to take on a curved shape.
Engineers express deflection in terms of the degree of deviation from a straight line. Deflection is often measured through what is known as a floor elevation survey. This type of survey measures any changes in the height of your floor. While useful, this information can be difficult to evaluate properly without further breaking down the concept of deflection.
Two principal types of deflection exist: overall deflection and local deflection. When evaluating a foundation, overall deflection tends to be much more useful. It gives the best picture of the dimensional aspect of the entire foundation. Changes on this level almost always stem from problems with the foundation. For instance, one side of the foundation may be gradually sinking due to insufficient anchoring.
As you can probably guess, local deflection involves measured amounts of deflection that occur within an area smaller than that of the entire foundation. Local deflection can easily trick less experienced inspectors into believing a foundation problem exists. In fact, the issue often involves only the building materials of the floor – and not the foundation that lies beneath.
Without prior measurements of things like floor elevation, deflection can be tricky to verify accurately. An inspector simply may not have the sort of information needed to prove that a foundation has begun to move undesirably. An inspector will often measure what is known as time-change elevation to get a better picture of a foundation’s stability.
The first step in such a test is to set a fixed number of monitor points, whose elevation is closely measured. After a set amount of time – known as the monitor period – a second measurement is made. Time-change elevation refers to any difference between these two measurements and strongly indicates that a foundation has continued to shift or sink.
To prevent costly and invasive problems, be sure to have your foundation inspected regularly for signs of trouble. For more information about what will happen during a foundation inspection, feel free to call our pros at AAA Foundation Service.
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