Global Manufacturer of Foundation Repair Products

Which is Better: ECP Steel Piers™ or ECP Torque Anchors™? Part 3

D.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

In this third part of the series we continue our discussion, “Which is better? – Steel Resistance Piers or Helical Screw Piles” In Parts 1 and 2 we said that the answer to this question is, “It Depends”.  

If you reflect on what has already been presented, you might be reconsidering the idea that “cheapest” is the best.  At the conclusion of Part 2 the discussion was about reasons to look past lowest cost and seek a reliable, high quality foundation company that you can depend upon.  

What has been presented so far suggests that selecting the cheapest foundation company is not necessarily a “good deal” for various stated reasons.

Also presented was information to consider when thinking about selecting a foundation company that may be working on a shoestring or promoting “homemade” underpinning?  How do you know that this company be in business long term? You might need them in the future to make pier adjustments, handle complaints or honor warranty claims.

If a company offers off-brand or “homemade” products, can they provide documents that certify the quality of materials used? Can they provide laboratory test verification of load capacity? Can they provide product specifications?

We highlighted a concern that the cheapest foundation companies may not have well trained crews and they may not carry full insurance coverage.

You must keep in mind that with any product or service that it is likely that there could be a time when you need customer service.  An established company with a large customer base and good customer service can provide peace of mind.

At the conclusion of Part 2 a term was introduced that is often used by some foundation repair salespersons as a tool to close the sale quickly.  Specifically it is “Lifetime Warranty”.

“Lifetime Warranty”  

“Not to worry”, you say. “The foundation company will give me a ‘Lifetime Warranty’ at the end of the job!”  

Let’s think about ‘Lifetime Warranty’ for a moment:  

  • Just what exactly is a ‘Lifetime Warranty’?  The term is highly arbitrary!
  • Along with the job proposal did the salesperson provide you with an actual copy of their ‘Lifetime Warranty’?  You need to have an opportunity to read and understand all of the terms and conditions of the so-called ‘Lifetime Warranty’ that is being offered before deciding to agree to their proposal.
  • Do you have any idea of what exactly is covered, and what is not covered, by their ‘Lifetime Warranty’?
  • Is their warranty transferable from you to another homeowner should you sell the property?
  • Does their ‘Lifetime Warranty’ document clearly explain the actual length of the warranty?  

For example, do you really understand what exactly their definition of the word ‘Lifetime’?  Think about this for a moment. How many years does this foundation repair company consider to be a ‘Lifetime’?

Is it your lifetime?  

Is it the lifetime of house?  

Is it the lifetime of the pier?  

Is it the lifetime of the installing company?

Is it for some other ‘lifetime’ that has not been explained to you?

There are more questions that need to be answered about the ‘Lifetime Warranty’ service that is being offered to you:

Is there a charge for a Warranty Service Call?  If so, what is the cost of a service call?

Is there a Handling Charge or Service Fee for replacement products or parts?

Is there a Transfer Fee to transfer the warranty to a purchaser of your house?

Does the ‘Lifetime Warranty’ require you pay a shipping charge or labor costs to replace a defective product?

Is there a charge for a pier adjustment under the warranty?

Is there a charge for them to return and correct subsequent foundation settling?”

Unfortunately there are many predators that use hype and high pressure sales to get your money.  Many times the ‘Lifetime Warranty’ is a joke because the company puts so many conditions and costs on the purchaser that the warranty is of no benefit to the purchaser.  

You must be very cautious when you are considering only low price when selecting a foundation repair proposal.  

  • There can be disagreements that surface between you and the company after you agreed to the work and made a deposit.  
  • You might discover that the company installed an inferior product, or installed a different product than specified on the job proposal, or installed an underpinning product with insufficient capacity to support the weight of your house, or installed underpinning using poorly trained workers that resulted in improper installation.  
  • Lastly, you might learn that the company will not honor the claims that were made by their salesperson.

If you learn nothing more from our discussion here about “Which is better? – Steel Resistance Piers or Helical Screw Piles”  Consider the benefits of using a professional engineer to evaluate the structural distress and to design a repair plan; or by you searching on your own for referrals to well established and respected foundation repair companies for the work.

CRITICALLY IMPORTANT!

Please ask this very important question: “What is the estimated weight of my house?”

The response that you receive from the salesperson is a direct reflection of the quality and competence of the foundation repair company behind the estimate.  If the salesperson does not have a structural weight estimate, this clearly demonstrates that the salesperson lacks basic technical knowledge.

If the salesperson cannot provide you with a structural weight estimate, it is strongly suggested that you NOT consider this foundation company’s proposal.  Before you decide to allow anyone to underpin, lift, restore and support your house, you need to find a company that demonstrates to you that they have the knowledge and competence to do the work properly.  

Yes, this is a rather bold statement.  You might ask, “Why should I reject a salesperson that cannot answer the weight question?”  “Why is it so important that the salesperson provide me with a structural weight estimate of my house at the conclusion of the foundation inspection?”  

The following explanation will help you to understand why knowing the estimated structural weight is absolutely crucial to the success of your repair and restoration.  

It is impossible for you to receive a proper foundation repair and determine the most economical repair method without the salesperson determining the structural weight that must be supported.  

Without the structural weight estimate; there is no way for the salesperson to determine any of the following elements that insure you will receive a suitable and economical repair.  A proper repair plan cannot be designed, proposed or installed without knowing structural weight:

  1.  Without knowing the weight, the salesperson cannot determine how many placements are really necessary.
  2.  Without making a careful analysis of the structure, knowing the weight and noting the visible distress, there is no way to answer the question, “Which is better for this application? – Steel Resistance Piers or Helical Screw Piles”
  3.  Without knowing the weight, it is impossible to select and propose an underpinning product that has suitable load capacity to lift the structure and provide long term support.  If the salesperson doesn’t know, or is guessing, the proposed underpinning product could be overloaded and unable to lift the house; or the proposed product could be larger and more robust than necessary. Using a product with overcapacity is more costly to you than properly matching the product to the load.
  4.  Every restoration project must include a Factor of Safety to insure long service life for you and your family.  How can a company even begin to determine a suitable “Factor of Safety” without knowing the structural weight that must be supported?
  5.  Without knowing structural weight and foundation strength, the optimal (most economic) spacing between the piers cannot be determined.  
  6.  The most economical design plan for your structure is when the piers are loaded to near the rated working capacity plus a factor of safety.  This is the recipe for the most economical repair design that gives long term support at the lowest cost.

It stands to reason that there is no way for the salesperson, or the designer, to determine a repair plan without knowing how much weight each pier must support.  The only way to give you a solid, reliable and long term stable support system, at the lowest possible cost, is to start with the structural weight.

This explanation illustrates why there is a difference between

“Cheapest” and “Best Value” foundation repair plans!

Next you will learn that the field crew installing underpinning on you structure also needs to know the load requirement for each pier that they install.  Without the salesperson determining and reporting the estimated structural weight to the office, there is no way for the workers on site to verify that each placement has developed sufficient strength to provide long term support and suitable Factor of Safety.

To Be Continued….

Earth Contact Products, LLC:  

ECP is a manufacture of ECP Steel Piers and ECP Torque Anchor™ brand of helical screw 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 drainage 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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