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Which is Better: ECP Steel Piers™ or ECP Torque Anchors™? Part 2

ECP TORQUE ANCHORSD.J. Clayton, PE is part of the Engineering & Training Team at ECP.  He will be sharing engineering topics on our blog so check back frequently for updates from Don.

By D.J. Clayton, PE

We continue with Part 2 of the discussion to answer the question, “How do I determine which is better: ECP Steel Piers™ or ECP Torque Anchors™?” In Part 1 of the series we said the answer to this question is, “It Depends”. So let’s continue the exploration to see why,” It Depends”.

The structural weight needs to be estimated, architectural details examined and the quality of construction must be assessed. In addition, the soil composition and soil strength must also be considered before selecting the best product for a specific project. By examining the structure and evaluating the soil at the site, a determination of the most economical foundation repair product can be made.

“It Depends” on the Structure:

The architectural constraints of your structure can determine which product is superior for the underpinning repair. It also helps you to verify which product is the most economical for your application. Before one can arrive at a decision, there are questions that must be answered:

“What is the weight of the structure?”

“Are there any architectural details that have concentrated heavy loads?”

“What is the quality and strength of the concrete foundation?

“Will the installation be made from inside or outside of a basement”,  

“How far apart can the underpinning be spaced?” (This can only be determined once the structural weight and the strength of the reinforced concrete foundation beam are considered.),

“What is the amount of overhead clearance available”, etc.  

“It Depends” on the Soil:

The profile of the underlying soil strata and the soil strength relating to each stratum needs to be considered before the best foundation repair system can recommended.  An important questions also must be answered, “What caused the foundation to settle?” Soil questions that must be addressed are:

“Does the soil profile consist of nothing other than layers and layers of soft clay?”

“Is there rock below the soft clay?

“At what depth does bedrock or other stratum exist, which is suitable for end bearing structural support?”  

“Is there a dense layer that seems to be “rock”, but is only a thin layer of “hard pan” that has insufficient support strength for the structural load?”

“Is suitable load bearing rock located at more than 50 feet deep below grade?”

“Is there water intrusion from poor site drainage, underground water or plumbing leaks?”

“Are there weak organic soils at the site?”

“Is the structure situated on unconsolidated fill?  Are there huge rocks or debris in the fill?

“Is the soil corrosive?” Etc.

Hopefully you can begin to understand that research and exploration is required before it is possible to suggest a foundation support product that is the best and the most economical for your repair project.

The Professional Solution:

The way to get answers to all of these questions is to rely upon a professional who has experience analyzing, supporting and restoring structures.  You need a person who has knowledge of the soils in specific neighborhoods. This is why your best source for advice and guidance about foundation repair is a licensed registered professional engineer.  The engineer’s knowledge and experience is used to sort through all of these, and many more, questions and concerns before recommending the best solution for you. A part of the engineer’s analysis and recommendations will be specifications for the best underpinning product to use on your specific application.  The engineer will provide exact locations for placements of the underpinning. The engineering specifications will provide you with the most cost effective repair system for long term support.

Most people’s first reaction is, “I cannot afford to hire an engineer!” Perhaps you need to think this through very carefully.  There are compelling reasons for you to seriously consider hiring a registered professional engineer:

  1. The engineer works only for you and will determine what caused the settlement and how to prevent future soil instability.
  2. The engineer will determine the best solution for stabilization, restoration and long term support.  
  3. The engineer will provide a scale drawing indicating the exact locations of the required underpinning.
  4. The engineer will write underpinning specifications for your house based upon his experience and knowledge.  Because you have the engineer’s drawing showing pier locations and underpinning specifications, all foundation repair companies will have to submit proposals that conform to the engineer’s design layout and underpinning specifications.
  5. The engineer is only interested in presenting the best and most economical plan for repair for YOU!
  6. The engineer is not in the business of selling repair products,
  7. The engineer does not make a commission for specifying more product than necessary.
  8. The engineer may suggest lower cost alternates and/or recommend less underpinning placements than proposed by foundation company salespersons.
  9. You can request that your engineer review all of the repair proposals that you received to insure that they meet specifications.  He can suggest which are the best proposals and/or best companies. Then you can make an informed decision.
  10. As a result of having an engineer’s report and specifications, all foundation repair companies will be providing equivalent repair proposals. You will find that it will be easier to select a foundation contractor simply because all proposals will be “as specified by the engineer or equal”.  You job comes down to checking contractor references and previous projects to determine which company will provide: a.) the best price; b.) has the best reputation for quality work; c.) offers a suitable warranty, and d.) has good customer service.
  11. An engineering review of all contractor proposals gives you peace of mind that the underpinning products proposed by various companies actually meet the specifications.
  12. Finally, if you desire, the engineer is available to check the job site during installation and inspect the final restoration of the elevations before you accept the work and make a final payment.  Part of this engineering acceptance is a review of field load test data or installation torsion logs recorded on site. The engineer can verify from the data that the specified the load capacity was achieved.
  13. Remember that the engineer is familiar with foundation repair companies that work in the area.  He knows which companies are reliable, perform quality work and offer good customer service. Upon request you can obtain a list of these companies.

One of the best things about consulting with a registered professional engineer is that the engineer gives piece of mind.  The engineer removes many of the unknowns about the structure and possible soil issues.  You will get unbiased answers to questions. You will get be able to select the best and most economical repair solution for the money spent on the foundation restoration and repair.  

The DIY Solution:

Let’s say you are a person who prefers to do the research and make decisions on your own.  It is possible to find an excellent contractor on your own. The secret is that you must locate and do business only with established, licensed, insured and well experienced companies.  Some large foundation repair companies have an engineer on their staff to help the company design a support and restoration solution for your project, which is a plus.

The first thing to understand is that these quality foundation repair companies are normally not found by responding to large advertisements on the net, radio, television or by telephone advertising.  These companies do not buy big advertisements to convince you how great and “cheap” they are. The established high quality installers, in general, do not need to advertise. Why? It is because the company has developed a reputation for quality products, excellent work and fair pricing. This reputation brings them sufficient referrals that there is no need for the company to buy advertisements.

You will need to do some research to find these reputable foundation repair companies.  You must select a company that will be around tomorrow. In the future you might need assistance with settlement in another area of your structure or you might need product service.  You need a company who will be there to help you.

You can find these companies by asking for referrals from neighbors, church, better business bureau, professional societies, professional engineers, high end real estate offices, etc.  After asking for referrals from different sources you will find that several sources will recommend the same companies as offering good quality work. This is a good starting point for requesting a repair proposal.  You have put the odds in your favor that you will get good work based upon receiving multiple referrals to the same companies.

“I Want the Cheapest Price!”  

Please believe that in foundation repair, the lowest price is not really the “cheapest”!  So, the question becomes, “If you hire a respected and reputable company to do the work will you have to pay more?” The truthful answer is, “Yes” Please keep in mind that in the long run you will be receiving the best value for your money!”

“Why should I pay more?” “Aren’t these companies a greedy rip-off?”  The answer is, “No, most definitely not!” These companies charge more to do the work for good reasons.  They provide good wages and benefits to their employees; they have highly trained employees on the job, many of the workers are factory certified.  They carry liability and property damage insurance. (It is always important to ask that the company give you a copy of their liability policy before agreeing to hire them.)  These companies carry workman’s compensation insurance, and they supervise their employees to be sure that they work safely on your property, install the product to specifications and insure that all workers use proper personal safety protection.  Remember, the odds are that the cheapest price will likely not provide a long term solution to the caused your settlement problem, or a satisfactory foundation restoration.

Think About This… If the Foundation Company is Not Insured; You Are Liable!

There have been instances at foundation repair sites where the workers were not wearing shirts, were wearing shorts, had flip-flops on their feet, no hard hat, ear protection or eye protection.  

Should one of these workers become injured while on your property and the company is not properly insured, what happens?  YOU will be on the hook for medical and disability costs if an injury occurs to anyone that is working on your property at the time of the injury.  

So, what do your think? Is the cheapest foundation company still looking like a “good deal” to you?  Do you really believe that a foundation company that is working on a shoestring will have full insurance coverage? Do you think that the cheapest foundation repair company has well trained and supervised workers? Do you think the cheapest foundation repair company will still be around a few years from now to service complaints, make adjustments or honor warranty claims?  

“Oh that’s not a problem”, you say!  “The salesperson said that I will get a ‘Lifetime Warranty’ at the end of the job!  

To Be Continued….

Earth Contact Products, LLC:  

ECP is a manufacture of ECP Steel Piers and ECP Torque Anchor™ brand of helical piles. These products are manufactured in the USA from certified quality steel.  ECP has independent certified installers that are trained in underpinning repair, anchor installation, waterproofing and external drainages systems.  

It is very important to choose a qualified and certified installer.  Better yet, consider investing in the knowledge and opinions of a licensed engineer.  If you have a foundation settlement problem, cheap and fast is definitely NOT the way to go.  Eventually you will have to do it right, so why not do it right the first time?

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