Houston Building Codes

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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