Restoring a Historic Building’s Foundation
Historic Building Foundations
Reasons for Foundation Failure in Historic Buildings
Historic buildings, like all structures, often develop problems with a foundation that is sinking or become unleveled over time. There is some special consideration to keep in mind in restoring historic building foundations. Older buildings are particularly prone to foundation failure for several reasons.
Unstable soils – After a period of time, soils beneath and surrounding a foundation may become more compacted, shift, or develop gaps. This may be caused by flooding, removal or addition of trees and landscaping features, or years of changing soil moisture and freezing/thawing patterns.
Improper water drainage – At times, historic buildings are built on old creek beds or new floodplains. Construction on adjacent properties or parking lots may have altered the flow of water toward the property. Over time, even weather patterns may require the installation of improved interior and exterior water drainage systems to prevent foundation damage.
Foundation materials – Many older foundations are built from bricks or stones with mortar that deteriorates over time or develops cracks allowing water to leak and damage the foundation.
Dirt floors – Often older foundations have dirt floors that are more likely to allow water to enter the basement and cause further damage to the foundation.
Signs of Foundation Failure at a Historic Property
Historic properties, like all buildings, often display classic signs of foundation failure:
- Collapsed masonry walls
- Sloping floors
- Cracks in walls, floors, or ceilings
- Misaligned doors and windows
Because historic buildings may be somewhat fragile and have historical value, you must hire a foundation contractor with an established record working on historic buildings.
Overall Guidelines for Restoring a Historic Building
Whenever a historic building requires restoration, there are certain standards which must be followed:
- Retain Original Function – The property must be used in its original function or be given a new use which reflects its original period.
- Retain Original Design and Features – Materials, features, spaces, and spatial relationships from the property’s period will be kept and preserved.
- Retain Original Appearance – Work to stabilize and conserve the property will be physically and visually compatible with the restoration period and documented for future research.
- Use Original Materials – Materials, features, and finishes characteristic from other historical periods will be documented before their alteration or removal.
- Use Original Craftsmanship – Distinctive materials, features, finishes, construction techniques, and craftsmanship of the restoration period will be preserved.
- Repair, Don’t Replace – Deteriorated features from the restoration period will be repaired rather than replaced. If a feature is replaced, it will match the old in design, color, texture, and, when possible, materials.
- Document Changes – Replacement of missing features will be documented to preserve the original history of the property.
- Prevent Damage to Materials – Chemical or physical treatments will be implemented in the gentlest means possible to prevent damage to historic materials.
- Protect Archeological Resources – Archeological resources affected by a project will be protected and preserved in place with as little change as possible.
- Protect Original Design – Designs that were never implemented during the restoration period will not be constructed.
Considerations When Restoring a Historic Foundation
Below are some of the key steps you should undertake when hiring a contractor to repair or replace the foundation on your historic structure.
Hire a Structural Engineer – It’s always a good idea to hire a structural engineer who specializes in historic building foundations or has some experience with historic structures to determine how much of your foundation needs to be replaced. A structural engineer will determine the underlying issues and the best solution to repair the foundation and resolve the problem.
Document the Details – Before doing foundation repair or any restoration on a historic building, it is important to document as many details as possible. Take pictures, do measurements, and write down details of everything you observe. This will ensure that the new foundation will look exactly like the old one.
Hire an Experience Foundation Contractor – Especially with a historic property, it is essential to hire an experienced foundation contractor to restore the foundation. They will know and follow the restoration guidelines and will make certain that you have the necessary insurance and permit. Because of their experience, they will know historic materials and techniques and take extra precautions so that none of the structure collapses or experiences further damage. Polyjacking.com has been a family-owned and operated business since 1978 and has an outstanding reputation in restoring foundations of both residential and commercial structures, including historic ones.
Choose Matching Materials – Often older structures will have a brick or stone foundation, so you want to salvage as many of the original bricks or stones as possible. Even if you replace the original foundation with a concrete one, you can do masonry on the outside to make the new foundation look like the original.
Waterproof the New Basement – As long as you are replacing the foundation, you might want a contractor to place drainage tiles along the perimeter of the foundation to waterproof the basement. Polyjacking.com’s parent company, Pro Foundation Technology does basement waterproofing.
Consider Related Projects – If you have an old staircase in the basement that cannot be used, hire someone to build a new one. It’s also a good time to check and replace any outdated electrical, plumbing, or drainage systems. Replacing the soil around the foundation with a quality black topsoil and grading it to a five-degree angle away from the foundation will provide good exterior drainage.
Why Polyjacking.com is Best for Historic Foundations
There are several compelling reasons why Polyjacking.com would be the first choice to lift, level, and restore a historic foundation:
- Professional Experience – Polyjacking.com has professional experience lifting and leveling historic building foundations, including the historic Memorial Union at the University of Missouri and the 200-year-old Belle Meade Mansion in Nashville, TN.
- Ground Penetrating Radar – Polyjacking.com uses ground penetrating radar (GPR) to detect holes and voids beneath historic foundations.
- Hole and Void Repair – The polyjacking process fills in holes and voids beneath historic foundations, providing a strong and long-lasting solution without doing any excavation.
- Quality Products – Polyjacking.com uses only the finest tools and equipment from Earth Contact Products (ECP), the leading American manufacturer of foundation repair products.
- Quality Service – Polyjacking.com has been awarded for super service by Angie’s List.
Contact Polyjacking.com Today!
The professionals at Polyjacking.com are experienced at lifting and leveling historic structures. We appreciate the extra considerations it takes with working on a historic site and we make the extra effort to preserve and protect the structure’s integrity. Whether you have a historic structure or are making history with a newer one, contact us today.