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Why You Should Not DIY Repair Your Home’s Foundation

bowing block basement wall

Originally posted 1/21/19, revised 5/24/21

I watch a lot of how-to TV shows, because I like to learn new things: sewing, cooking, painting, gardening, you name it.  It gives you a chance to try something new, flexing those DIY muscles feels good, and if it doesn’t turn out well?  That’s okay!  You can throw away a poorly-knit scarf or buy veggies if your garden seeds never sprout.

Experimenting with foundation repair is a different story.  The repair methods aren’t something that can be easily conveyed through a half-hour program, and if it’s not done well?  You can do very real and serious damage to your home.

Andy Beery founded Acculevel with one goal in mind: he wanted to help people preserve and protect their homes.  Since our start in 1996, we’ve repaired foundations and waterproofed homes for over 30,000 homeowners within our service area.  We believe that homeowners should have access to free and honest information about potential foundation issues, so that they can make the best decisions for themselves and their families.

In this article, we’re going to discuss the importance of a healthy foundation, why you should have professional contractors make any necessary repairs, and give you additional resources on how to proceed if you need to hire a contractor. 

 

Your Foundation is of Critical Importance

Your home’s foundation is the most essential part of its structure, because everything else is (literally) resting on top of it.  I understand that this may sound dramatic to you, if you only have a few hairline cracks in your basement wall.  Those don’t seem very problematic, especially if they’re not letting in water.

But if left alone for too long, those cracks will widen and spread.  Water will start leaking in, allowing biological growth to develop and spread.  Larger cracks can lead to a bowing wall.  And a bowing wall can collapse, taking a good portion of your house down with it.  

This example is extreme, sure.  Yet we all know big problems often start off small.  And if you resolve the problem while it’s still a small one? The solution will be easier and less expensive.  We have an article that presents four different case studies, demonstrating how painful delaying repairs can be. 

bowing block basement wallThis photo was taken by an Acculevel project manager during a free estimate appointment.  You can see a long horizontal crack has formed and widened, as the wall bows inward.

 

Some Repairs Should Be Done by Professionals

I freely endorse a DIY fan’s desire to make aesthetic changes to their home.  Go ahead and install a backsplash in your kitchen, repaint the living room a bold color, or install customized shelving in your bedroom closet.  These are all low-risk ways to improve your home and can improve your everyday living.

But please do not try to DIY repair your foundation.  Homeowners don’t have access to the materials, equipment, or expertise that you need to make significant improvements to your foundation.  Don’t believe me?  Let me give you a few examples.

Materials 

The caulking you use to reseal your bathtub is not the right material to fill cracks in your foundation. The best material- and the one Acculevel recommends- is an epoxy fill.  But you typically can’t find this epoxy material in stores, nor is it sold to consumers. 

Using the wrong fill material can make the cracks worse.  If you caulk a foundation crack and it doesn’t hold (or when it stops holding), you’ll have to remove the material before it can be refilled.  Removing the old caulk will take out bits of the concrete, widening the crack.  Essentially, a DIY repair will add to the foundation damage. 

We strongly discourage anyone who is considering patching or paint over foundation damage.  These are only temporary cosmetic improvements, not genuine repairs.  In the event you are a potential home buyer, be wary of signs that a seller has made a DIY repair or cover, in lieu of an effective professional repair.  

Tools and Equipment

If you need to stabilize a settling foundation, you’ll need helical piers. I don’t know where anyone outside of our industry would be able to acquire solid steel piers. The installation also requires excavation directly next to your foundation.   While it may be possible to rent the large machinery needed for excavation, I would strongly urge you to not try to use this equipment yourself.  Let a trained equipment operator do this type of task (we carry the correct insurance for it- I’m not sure you do).  

While we’re discussing insurance- this is another reason you should not DIY home repairs.  If you damage your joists or sill plate while trying to repair sagging floors, you may compromise the stability of your floor.  If anything should happen and insurance determines your DIY repair is at fault?  They won’t cover your claim, and they may revoke your policy altogether. 

excavation next to wallThis photo was taken by an Acculevel crew member.  The ground next to the foundation has been excavated to straighten a bowing wall. 
(The pipe you see is the sewer line- one more reason to leave excavation to the pros!)

 

Specialized training

As you can imagine, our crews are very well and thoroughly trained in-house, before they are allowed to work on a customer’s home.  In addition to this training, most of our crews do a sort of specializing.  Certain teams are most experienced with pier installations, others focus on waterproofing, etc.  

A good example of this is our slabjacking crew.  We have a team that are experts at using this specialized equipment, and are well-versed in which slabs will lift the best, how much of the polyurethane foam to inject, etc.  

 

Does Your Home Need Foundation Repair?

We have developed a foundation repair guide to address all of the questions our customers ask about their home’s symptoms.  We designed this free resource for all homeowners to use and update it on a regular basis.  I encourage you to bookmark it, read the guide in its entirety, or use the table of contents to select the chapter that best meets your needs. 

link to foundation guide

Ready to Meet with a Professional Foundation Repair Company?

We highly recommend that you verify the company is reputable, insured, and accredited by the Better Business Bureau.  If you’re not sure how to find a contractor that services your area, we have an article that provides some suggestions.  

And if you’re not sure what to ask?  We have you covered there, too!  Our guide to questions to ask a contractor is an excellent resource that walks you through all the major topics to cover with any contractor or repair company. 

If you live in Indiana or the surrounding areas, contact Acculevel.  We provide free written estimates and provide some of the best warranties in the industry..  An experienced project manager will evaluate your foundation condition and recommend the best course of action for you, to keep your home strong and healthy for years to come.

 

Kelly Kater

Over her twenty year career, Kelly has worked in a wide variety of fields: secondary education, nursing, biology, elder care, the postal service, multicultural development, and academia. She has developed a skill for translating industry-specific jargon into everyday language. Her goal is to share the knowledge and experience of the Acculevel team with homeowners, in a way that is both engaging and informative.

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