Dawson Foundation Repair
Dawson Foundation Repair
Dawson Foundation Repair

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The History of Bell Bottom Piers

Posted by on Feb 25, 2013 in General Interest | 0 comments

History of Bell Bottom PiersIt is said that necessity is the mother of invention. It is certainly true with the history of the foundation repair method known as bell bottom piers. Bell bottom piers are shaped like…well…they’re shaped like bell bottom pants of the 70’s. But their success as a foundation repair method has lasted much longer than the pants fad of yesteryear.

It really is an interesting story, the way bell bottom piers came into existence. Though a structural engineer from MIT is credited with the design, it was a country well-digger that inspired it. The engineer was Willard E. Simpson of San Antonio, Texas. The well-digger was Ed Dudersudt. Truthfully, Dudersudt’s mule could claim some of the credit also.

Simpson was born in the Alamo City in 1883. He was educated in private schools and at Texas Military Institute. He then went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with the hopes of becoming a naval architect. But his professors encouraged him to become a structural engineer. He returned home after graduation to take many projects in the large Texas cities.

Simpson’s work in this area soon revealed a problem with the soils. The soils were too unstable to support large structures adequately. Combined with buildings getting larger, skyscrapers becoming prominent and the challenge to build in Texas, general contractors were looking for someone who had ideas how to handle such large buildings and the foundation support needed. At that time, foundations were built a little deeper than they are now and the slab would rise and sink with the changing soil moisture. And they would crack. No one had come up with an answer.

The young engineer, as he was watching a residential slab being poured, noticed a local well-digger—Ed Dudersudt—drilling a well nearby. The way he was doing it caught Simpson’s full attention. Dudersudt had a mule hooked up to an auger. The mule was walking in a circle around the 18-inch auger and the auger was drilling deep into the ground. Simpson talked Dudersudt into working with him on an idea—to use the mule and auger to dig holes into the ground, past the unstable soil to bedrock or stable soil. He then filled the holes with concrete and reinforcing bars. Pouring the foundation on top of these piers, Simpson had come up with the drilled pier system that is the origin of bell bottom piers. The year was 1916.

But there was more. Simpson had the idea to widen the bottom of the pier to give even more support and sure footing. So he lowered a worker down the hole and had him dig out the flared bell and filled that with concrete. The design was complete. Simpson had created the bell bottom pier foundation system. This enabled Simpson to design and build such large structures as the Gulf Building in downtown Houston (1939), the International Bridge over the Rio Grande in Laredo (1921), Baylor University’s football stadium (1950), and many, many other structures that are still landmarks throughout the state.

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The research has shown that bell bottom piers are still the most reliable method of foundation repair. Research data has proven it. Researchers continue to test it. There have been improvements, mostly in the quality and strength of the materials. The design has seen some adjustments. But bell bottom piers, to this day, are the gold standard for foundation engineering and foundation repair. That is why Dawson Foundation Repair has staked its reputation on this reliable method. Bell bottom piers may have made Williams Simpson a structural engineer superstar, but more importantly, bell bottom piers are the best way to ensure your home withstands the stress of changing soil conditions in Texas.

Dawson Foundation Repair installs only Bell Bottom Piers for homeowners and commercial property owners. Bell Bottom Piers have far more advantages over any other method of foundation repair and we feel the homeowner should receive the best option available. Dawson Foundation Repair services homes and commercial businesses all over Texas including Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and other smaller cities. Call us for a free inspection and assessment of your home’s foundation security.

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Dallas Drought

Posted by on Feb 18, 2013 in General Interest | 0 comments

Foundation Inspection Dallas TX (214) 234-8421The National Weather Service has predicted the two-year long drought will persist in North Texas. That means homeowners in Dallas, Fort Worth and other communities around the metroplex will have to take extra care of their foundation in the coming months.

But even with sufficient rain, the Dallas area homes are still extremely susceptible to slab problems. Foundation damage is common in North Texas because of a “very active zone of clay soil running through North Texas up into Oklahoma”, according to structural engineer Ian Ray of Dallas, Texas (“Fend off foundation troubles, home repairs by watering right”, Dallas Morning News, February 24, 2012). This zone of clay acts like a sponge—swelling when wet, shrinking when dry. Can you imagine the stress that puts on your home’s foundation? It’s not good.

The drought is such a problem in the Dallas area that city officials in all the cities around North Texas have approved foundation watering to continue even though there are watering restrictions in place for all residents. Watering the foundation helps keep the moisture levels more consistent. But since a homeowner is not able to measure soil contact under the slab, it’s still somewhat of a guessing game. Nonetheless, homeowners in Dallas, we encourage you to water your foundation, even during the winter months.

As you water, make sure there is no “ponding” of water near the foundation. The water should drain away from the slab. If you are using drip irrigation or soaker hoses, the best method is to place them 3 to 4 feet away from your foundation and not directly next to the concrete.

But frankly, the drought conditions will persist. Your valuable home will be stressed at its very base.

Most methods of foundation repair fail to provide long-term, permanent support for concrete slab foundations. They simply do not have the load capacity, depth, and/or strength to resist these powerful natural forces of soil movement.

When you are in need of foundation repair, Dawson Foundation Repair installs the only proven, reliable, and permanent method to correct the problem. Bell Bottom piers are engineered to provide the stability and strength to withstand the changing soil conditions under your home. This method is so trustworthy that it is used for large buildings, overpasses and bridges. Since 1984 Dawson has used bell bottom piers to restore the security of foundations in homes all throughout Dallas and North Texas.

Dawson Foundation Repair installs only Bell Bottom Piers for homeowners and commercial property owners. Bell Bottom Piers have far more advantages over any other method of foundation repair and we feel the homeowner should receive the best option available. Dawson Foundation Repair services homes and commercial businesses all over Texas including Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and other smaller cities. Call us for a free inspection and assessment of your home’s foundation security.

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Houston Building Codes

Posted by on Feb 11, 2013 in General Interest | 0 comments

When your foundation begins to lose its integrity, cracks or fails in any way, you will eCity of Houstonncounter many foundation repair contractors with almost as many different methods of repair. But there is one method that is proven to be the most effective,  reliable, and PERMANENT—the Bell Bottom Pier method. This time-tested method is considered to be the Gold Standard of foundation repair methods.

In fact, the building codes for the city of Houston reveal something very interesting about foundation repair. (You can read the codes here.) The purpose of the Houston Building code is “to establish minimum design criteria for repairs and/or leveling concrete building foundations in Houston.” In adopting these codes, city officials recognized that certain standards had to be met in order for the repair work to withstand the many factors causing foundation problems in Houston.

So what do Houston city officials deem necessary for quality foundation repair? Why are Bell Bottom Piers considered the “Gold Standard.” Let’s look at the code.

Under the FOOTINGS (section b) the building code requires a soil test boring of 15 feet. Why?  Answer – The purpose of the soil test is to determine how deep to install the new supporting structures (bell bottom piers) so that the base (foot or bell bottom) is anchored in stable soil. If a repair contractor does not perform a soil test then he is simply guessing about a proper depth. As a homeowner, would you rather have your repair contractor perform a soil test or just guess?  Unfortunately for the homeowner, most of the time the repair contractor is just guessing and he is allowed to because he has a “loophole.”  We will discuss this loophole later in this article.

A Bell Bottom Pier is a drilled pier with an expanded (drilled) foot or “bell bottom.” Under the FOOTINGS (section e) the building code it states that “drilled footings shall have a minimum of twenty (20) inches.”  Why? Because the 20 inch bell bottom is the “foot” that supports the weight of the home or building. Other repair methods have a 6 inch or 3 inch foot. You don’t have to be a structural engineer to understand that the 20 inch foot can support much more weight than a 6 inch or 3 inch foot.  In addition, a bell bottom foot helps the pier resist uplift, thus providing additional protection against soil movement for the home or building. Other repair methods simply don’t have this protective advantage.

Under the FOOTINGS (section d) the building code requires the shaft of the drilled pier to be 9 inches in diameter and no less than 8 inches.  Why?  Answer – strength.  Any diameter size that is smaller would not have the strength to support the weight of the home or building. However, the majority of foundation repair jobs done in the Houston area have support structures of 6 inch diameters (pushed piles). And these pushed piles are segmented, stacked cylinders. Again, you don’t have to be a structural engineer to understand that a single piece 9 inch shaft is stronger than a 6 inch shaft of cylinders stacked one upon another.

Under REINFORCING STEEL (section a) the building code requires installation of reinforcing steel rods (rebar) within the drilled pier shaft.  Why? Answer – to provide greater sheer strength and overall strength. Soil movements can be up, down, and sideways – and they can be extremely powerful.  The reinforcing steel gives the Bell Bottom Pier tremendous strength and permanency. Again, you don’t have to be a structural engineer to understand that a one piece 9 inch diameter shaft with steel rebar is far stronger than a column of stacked 6 inch diameter concrete pushed piles with NO steel rebar.

Oh, now the loophole. The reason the Houston building code requires Bell Bottom Piers as the repair method is because it was the best method available at the time. (It still is the best method.) However, the code “opens the door” for other or future methods that may be developed.  The code allows deviation from the “MINIMUM DESIGN REQUIREMENTS.” The exact wording under CONCRETE (section c) is “. . . friction piers or other techniques shall be noted at the time of plan submittal and must be specified and detailed on the plans.” The reality is that a foundation repair contractor can omit a soil test and utilize any repair method he chooses as long as he has written approval from an engineer.  And the engineer does NOT have to be a structural engineer.

So Mr. or Ms. Homeowner, which do you prefer, the “gold standard” that meets or exceeds all “MINIMUM DESIGN REQUIREMENTS” or something that is far less?

Call today and ask for a FREE estimate. Compare the value of a permanent solution, not just the cost. Measure everything against the best. Then make the best decision you can for your valuable home. Dawson Foundation Repair has staked its reputation on the best, the Bell Bottom pier method for almost 30 years. It is the best.

Dawson Foundation Repair installs only Bell Bottom Piers for homeowners and commercial property owners. Bell Bottom Piers have far more advantages over any other method of foundation repair and we feel the homeowner should receive the best option available. Dawson Foundation Repair services homes and commercial businesses all over Texas including Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and other smaller cities. Call us for a free inspection and assessment of your home’s foundation security. 

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The Leaning Tower of Padre

Posted by on Feb 4, 2013 in General Interest | 2 comments

Foundation DisasterThe most important component of your home is your foundation. Keeping the integrity of your slab supports the weight of your home and the great value that comes from what you have made of your residence. So it begs the question, “How well was my home’s foundation designed and built?” Knowing the answer can prepare you for either many headaches or a sense of relief that you have the best foundation that could have been laid for your precious family and your family’s valuable heirlooms.

Here’s an example of why this is so important. We all know of the landmark structural curiosity known as the “Leaning Tower of Pisa” in Pisa, Italy. For 840 years, that bell tower has been leaning. It started leaning during construction. The structure began sinking into the ground when construction reached the third level of the 8-level tower. They noticed it sinking and still added five more levels while trying to modify each level to keep it from tipping over. To this day the top of the building leans almost 13 feet off vertical. Structural engineers have tried many different ways to return the leaning tower to a vertical position. They seem to have done enough to stop the lean from increasing. That’s the best they could do.

We do not have to go back as far as a 12th century structure like the Tower of Pisa to see how much damage a faulty foundation can cause. Nor do we, Texans, have to go very far, either. We have…or, had…our own “Leaning Tower of Padre” in the state of Texas.

In 2006 construction began on a 30-story, luxury, beachfront condominium high-rise on South Padre Island. The Ocean Tower was financed for 75 million dollars and was going to feature five star amenities like infinity pools, granite counter tops, Italian marble floors, stainless steel fixtures and oversized Jacuzzi tubs. It was anticipated that some of the condos would sell for upwards of $2 million dollars.

Two years into construction, everybody on the Island began noticing that the tower was leaning! Something was obviously wrong. Why would a building lean? The culprit was the foundation.

As a result, construction was halted in 2008. More than 100 of the 151 condominiums had already been sold. Engineers scrambled to figure out what to do about the failing foundation. Then, more than a year later, the developer had to do this:

The Ocean Tower was reduced to 55,000 tons of debris. Rubble. Trash. Waste. All because the foundation could not support the weight of the building.

Now, your home is likely not valued at more than $75 million dollars. But whatever you have invested in your home is still probably the largest investment you have made in your lifetime. Poor design, unforeseen shifting of the soil or changing environmental conditions can cause costly damage to your home. It’s important to care for your foundation, look for signs of damage, and have your foundation inspected if you think any damage has occurred.

Dawson Foundation Repair installs only Bell Bottom Piers for homeowners and commercial property owners. Bell Bottom Piers have far more advantages over any other method of foundation repair and we feel the homeowner should receive the best option available. Dawson Foundation Repair services homes and commercial businesses all over Texas including Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and other smaller cities. Call us for a free inspection and assessment of your home’s foundation security. 

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