What Causes a Pier and Beam Foundation to Fail?

What Causes a Pier and Beam Foundation in the San Antonio Area to Fail?

To keep your pier and beam foundation in great shape, you need to prepare for the worst. Read on for common causes of foundation failure and what you can do.

The classic pier and beam foundation has always been a great option for homeowners, in part because it allows enough space to keep some of Mother Nature out and to let other people, such as plumbers, in.

While it’s convenient for working on the underside of your home, however, other things can get trapped down there as well, including moisture. And much of Texas’ native soil — including most of the San Antonio area — only adds to the problem.

pier and beam foundation failure, San Antonio

Moisture: Destroyer of the Pier and Beam Foundation

If your home’s pier and beam foundation are starting to crack or move because of your native soil, you can at least take some comfort in the fact that you’re not alone.

Half of America’s homes fully sit on the same kind of moisture-rich soil as ours do, and half of those homes will experience some foundation problems because of it.

Knowing how and when your pier and beam foundation can be affected is vital, even if you’re not planning to be there much longer. Your home typically depreciates 20 to 25% in value when it has foundation trouble.

So how does the soil in San Antonio play into all this? And how can you not only identify the problem but fix it?

Here’s a handy guide to the causes and symptoms of pier and beam foundation failure.

Bad Design

It’s always in your best interest to get a reputable foundation expert when building your new home or upgrading it because bad design can easily lead to foundation problems no matter where you live.

It’s definitely not a project for the do-it-yourselfer, either. If inferior jacks are used, or piers are spaced more than six feet apart, too much pressure can be placed on the wrong areas of the foundation.

This will inevitably cause the beams to crack, especially if your home has more than two stories.

In older homes, beams are sometimes spaced too far apart, and not enough piers are used to support their weight. These are also great ways to ruin your foundation.

Bad Repair

It’s unfortunate but true: disreputable foundation repair “experts” will sometimes rig a sagging foundation with exactly the wrong kinds of materials, using wooden or even cardboard shims to put wandering piers back in place.

A really amateur foundation repair team will actually rely on the soil itself to help bear the weight — and in Texas, specifically, this is a very bad idea.

And here’s why:

Porous Soil

Most of the great state of Texas sits on a very porous type of soil that contains a lot of clay.

This soil tends to expand and contract when water gets into it, which will actually push your piers up when swollen with moisture and then return them back down when the soil becomes dry again.

After enough time, just about any pier can be moved even slightly off the beam, and any weakness in the pier and beam foundation will eventually affect the whole system.

It’s important to get under your house every few years and examine your pier and beam foundation to see if it’s still in place. Or better yet, have a professional do it!

It’s much cheaper than the repair will be.


Though the porous soil movement actually causes more damage in Texas foundations, flooding, of course, plays a part. Storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, flash floods — anything that brings unwanted moisture to your crawlspace.

Too often homeowners only think about the water that isn’t getting into their home and not about what it might be doing to their foundation. Wood and water typically don’t mix, and if your beans start to swell over time, that will also throw your foundation off balance.

High Water Table

Texas is also known for having a high water table in most spots, which simply refers to the level that water naturally resides in the soil.

The holes in the porous clay make a lot of this possible, and San Antonio shares much of its problems in this area with its neighbor to the north, Oklahoma. Ever wonder why they don’t have as many tornado cellars as they should? This is why.

Even when the water doesn’t get above ground, the moisture’s still uncomfortably close to your foundation — and moisture tends to multiply in confined spaces.

Know the Warning Signs!

So how do you know if the worst has already started to happen?

The good news is that a sagging foundation typically takes a while to become a severe problem. So if you train yourself to look for the warning signs, you can prevent major damage and a big repair bill.

Something as simple as a door starting to stick can be an early indication. Cracks in the walls or soft spots in floors are always a big red flag.

You should also keep an eye out for floors or staircases that have become slightly unbalanced. Windows can also stick and crack in their glass. Cracked drywall is often an indicator, as is a sudden separation between walls and ceilings.

If any of these problems start to pop up you may want to have your pier and beam foundation checked out.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late

A reputable foundation repair company, like Foundation Repair Pros, will get to work removing the moisture from under your foundation — not just draining water and stopping leaks, but dehumidifying the whole area.

pier and beam foundation repair, San Antonio

Failing shims will be replaced with high-quality steel counterparts. Defective piers can also be replaced. Jacks can be used to push your piers back into place if necessary.

Rotten wood can be replaced or retrofitted with wood or steel beams; mold can even be eradicated.

There any a number of ways in which a trusted foundation repair team with loads of experience and good references can come in and fix your pier and beam foundation problems quickly and for the lowest possible price.

A job this big is definitely one you want to leave to the professionals — and it’s definitely one you want to see to ahead of time because a sagging foundation can cause your whole house to collapse if not treated properly and in time.

There’s no need to wait until your small problem becomes a big one. Call Foundation Repair Pros today and our affordable team of experts will make your house solid again!



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