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Question DetailsAsked on 11/11/2017

Was told my foundation is shifting due to possible tree suck moisture out of the ground.

They recommended pilings (correct term?) but we can't afford that $8000. They also suggested a root barrier at a lower cost but still expensive. Would it be better to remove the tree completely and we will just replant. Or should we install a foundation drip irrigation system? Trying to figure out the best thing to do that we can afford!

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Voted Best Answer

I would really question whether trees can be the primary cause - you will get a LOT more evaporation from the soil surface and any lawn than from a tree, though of course large tree roots growing along the foundation can sometimes damage it (especially if block or stone as opposed to cast-in-place concrete), and the finer leader roots can get into cracks in the foundation and open them up to cause leakage.

Assuming you are in an expansive soil area, generally the issue is the soil cracking as it dries out in the dry season, then the water gets into it during snow melt or rainy season and it expands again - the cracks having partly collapsed and filled in during the interval, so the soil presses against the foundation and can bulge it, and cause a failure in serious cases. The drying rarely cxause cracking unless the soil under thehouse dries out and settles - rare.

So, while a tree pulling soil out of the water does eventually promote drying which can lead to cracking and subsequent water infiltration, that would be a secondary not primary cause. Also, if the tree removing moisture were the problem, the obvious solution would be to remove the tree or to install a watering system for the tree to keep the soil at a constant moisture - a lot cheaper than trying to jack the house up even if that would work in this case - dubious, as discussed below.

For expansive soil issues you really need to talk to a geotechnical (soils and foundations and groundwater specialty) engineer, who normally work for civil engineering firms - no Search the List category for that - Structural Engineers is the closest, who might be able to refer you to one. Generally, tree removal (if thought to be a significant contributor to the issue, which I doubt) or a water control system to stabilize the moisture content of the soil around your house would be the solution.

Or sometimes excavating around the house to replace the swelling soil with densely compacted structural fill to resist the pressure. Using piles like pin piles is generally a solution for weak foundation soils causing settlement, or to raise a house above flood level - unless you jacked the house up entirely on piles and then removed the substandard soil around the foundation and replaced it with soil which would not press on the foundation walls, installing piles would not be an effectvie solution for what your problem sounds like and would be unnecessarily costly.

Sounds like maybe you talked to a foundation repair contractor who does piles a lot (they are generally a high profit margin service) so that is what he proposed. Talk to a foundation dewatering contractor and he would likely recommend a foundation drip watering system and french drains for instance, a tieback contractor would likely recommend tiebacks. That is why you should go to an engineer independent of contractors - not only because most contractors are not engineers and have neither the training nor the professional engineer license to be legally doing foundation designs, but an independent engineer also is not generally going to push a particular solution because that is his forte - he is trained to assess the situation, analyze the forces and foundation strength, then come up with a repair which fits the situation best at a reasonable cost.

Here also is a previous question about foundation drip system FYI, since that seems to possibly be in the potential solution mix:

Answered 2 years ago by LCD

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