How to Do Foundational Underpinning in North Carolina


Foundation failure is always a serious matter.

Left unattended, minor problems below often manifest as major problems above.

What might begin as a tiny crack in your basement’s floor can easily lead to:

  • Buckling walls
  • Leaning chimneys
  • Poorly fitting doors
  • Sagging roofs

In some severe cases, foundation failure can even lead to significant water damage throughout the home.

Unfortunately, you can’t tackle any of these surface symptoms until you’ve properly addressed the root cause. Before you can fix that leaning chimney or broken water pipe, the underlying foundation must be prepared.

Yet how exactly do you support something that is already supporting so much already?

Foundational Underpinning — Supporting the Supports

The secret lies in underpinning: a process in which you create artificial supports to prop up compromised portions of the underlying foundation. Once the damaged base reaches its original level and placement, begin making the necessary repairs.

There are many different ways to accomplish this foundational underpinning, some of which require extensive excavations and lots of concrete. Although effective, these methods are costly — in terms of money and time. Some concrete supports take weeks to dry; and once set, these piles and pillars are very difficult to adjust afterward.

Traditional underpinning methods are also dangerous — especially when repairing foundations are set in expansive soil. North Carolina, for example, is notorious for its red clay varieties, which absorb and lose moisture more rapidly than many other soil types. Trying to repair foundations after unusually rainy seasons or dry spells often requires more support than conventional underpinning strategies allow.

This is why many foundation experts in the Carolinas prefer using helical anchors instead of concrete pilings or piers.

Also known as “screw anchors,” helical anchors offer the structural integrity and strength of more invasive underpinning methods — for a fraction of the cost.

With this approach, foundation repair teams bore deep holes at carefully selected intervals along the foundation edge. They then attach brackets along the edge before sliding steel pipes through the brackets into the pre-dug holes. Using hydraulic rams, these pipes go deep into the earth until they hit bedrock.

Once all of these reinforced columns are in place, the repair team then uses hydraulics to raise the entire structure to its “pre-damaged” levels. Then, the technicians can begin whatever repairs are necessary — from filling cracks to replacing entire portions of the foundation floor.

Why Are Helical Anchors the Better Foundation Repair Choice?

There are several advantages that screw anchors have over more-conventional underpinning approaches, including:

  • Speed. You don’t have to wait for concrete to settle. In fact, you don’t even have to wait for the ground to dry after a rainy spell. The helical anchors go deep into the ground until they hit load-bearing strata.
  • Strength. Screw anchors are usually made of reinforced steel, meaning they have an almost unlimited ability to support any stress you place on them. The home will likely continue to settle even after the repair job is complete. However, the underlying supports ensure that the foundation doesn’t shift in the future.
  • Flexibility. Helical anchors come in all shapes and sizes, making it easy to select the most appropriate configuration for even the most “customized” of custom jobs.
  • Aesthetics. Helical piles leave a very small footprint. The installation process is relatively limited in scope, and cleanup is as simple as refilling the affected area with soil and applying some landscaping.

These benefits exist regardless of geography — but in the Carolinas, helical anchors are particularly advantageous, because soil conditions and inconsistent precipitation make foundation damageunusually common — and foundation repair surprisingly challenging.

Helical anchors represent a cost-effective and practical solution for foundation repair teams working in regions prone to erosion, landslides, floods and droughts.

However, these advantages only exist when helical anchors are applied properly. This is why foundation repair is seldom a DIY job. Despite the ease and flexibility that screw anchors provide, you want someone who understands the geotechnical challenges unique to each site.

To learn more about the many benefits (and hidden dangers) of foundational underpinning, contact us today.