Using concrete underpinners to stabilise a home: is it too risky?
Many Australian homeowners use concrete underpinners to keep the foundations and structure of their homes stable and strong.
This is despite a variety of up-front challenges that include —
Potential loss of time: underpinning with concrete can take between weeks and months to do.
Potential loss of comfort: concrete underpinners ask homeowners to leave their residence while the ground underneath their home is hollowed out. Afterwards, concrete is poured in to stabilise the structure.
Potentially high costs: underpinning with concrete can cost between $20,000 and $100,000.
In many cases underpinning with concrete works and homeowners are happy.
But on the other hand, there are also many cases of failure where homes continue to sink and the symptoms of subsidence return. Symptoms can include wall cracks, rising damp, sloping floors, jamming doors and much more.
The complexity of using concrete underpinners begins
When the typical Australian homeowner decides to stabilise their home with the help of concrete underpinners, they’re initially faced with the challenge of assembling a team of experts.
This team can include —
A forensic structural engineer — to inspect the home and determine if there really is a structural problem caused by subsidence.
A geotechnical engineer — to test the soil, determine its condition and why subsidence is occurring.
A design structural engineer — to design the repair solution which will eventually be executed by a licensed builder.
A building certifier or surveyor, depending on your state - to organise building permits and inspect the underpinners work.
A licensed builder — to manage the build and ensure success.
An excavation team — to dig the holes underneath your home and remove the soil from the site.
And concrete contractors — to build the concrete piers.
All of these people required to be a part of the team can be from different companies that have different agendas and all charge independently.
But this isn’t even the real challenge or risk for homeowners.
The real risk of using concrete underpinners
While most states and territories dictate a minimum 6-year guarantee for structural work, it’s still a nightmare for homeowners when failure occurs after work is completed.
Firstly, homeowners need to deal with a minimum of 7 parties to begin the process of trying to work out why failure occurred. Who did what wrong? Who didn’t do what they were meant to do? How did they do it? Why did they do it that way? Everyone will have an opinion and the questions can go on and on, forever.
Secondly, even with the help of the most diligent concrete underpinners, the process of assessing the reason for failure is disproportionately difficult because the structural problems are buried underground. Under the house, where no one can get to.
There’s a high likelihood that by the time someone has dug up the ground to find the problem, they’ve also dug out and eliminated the evidence of what the problem really was.
Is using concrete underpinners to stabilise my home too risky and complicated?
While using concrete underpinners does work, we do believe there are just too many risks and complexities involved if something goes wrong.
At Buildfix, we offer an alternative to the use of concrete. Our resin underpinning solution isn’t disruptive at all and far more affordable. And our guarantee is much longer than what’s required by Australian Standards — it’s 10 years as opposed to 6.
If you’d like to know more, we’d be happy to chat or give your home an inspection at no cost.