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The Foundation Term Glossary & Cheat Sheet

A foundation is the supporting layer beneath your home or building. Every structure has a foundation, but most home and business owners are unfamiliar with foundation repair lingo. Reference this glossary of foundation terms as a cheat sheet to help you better understand your foundation and the foundation repair process.

  • Allowable capacity: the ultimate bearing capacity of a pile, also known as allowable capacity, refers to the maximum load it can carry without excessive settlement into the ground.
  • Benchmark: a reference point for determining or comparing elevations.
  • Deflection: describes the bending or bowing a foundation may experience when affected by a heavy load.
  • Elevation: the height of a foundation measured at different points.
  • Fill: the soil added to provide the desired grade when constructing a foundation.
  • Footing: concrete placed below grade that distributes the load of the foundation over an extended area.
  • Girders: wooden members that are often used to support vertical loads, such as floor joists.
  • Grade: the level of the ground surface. It also describes the rise and fall of the soil over a given distance. “Below grade” means underground, “on grade” is at ground level, and “above grade” means aboveground.
  • Heaving: the uplift that happens when wet soil expands as the temperature falls below freezing. This can negatively affect a foundation over time.
  • Hydrostatic pressure: the pressure or force of a fluid, such as water, that is exerted onto an object or surface that is retaining or in contact with that fluid.
  • Kip: abbreviation for kilo pound; a unit of weight or force equal to 1,000 pounds.
  • Piers and piles: long shafts installed below grade. They come in many forms and may be made of wood, concrete, steel, or blended materials. Helical piers, for instance, are often used in foundation construction and repair where typical shallow foundations are ineffective due to adverse soil conditions.
  • Load-bearing capacity: the maximum amount of weight a foundation can support before the soil beneath it starts to shift.
  • Shims: thin pieces of steel or wood that slightly adjust a foundation’s elevation.
  • Torque (also known as moment or torsional force): the force required to rotate a helical pile to advance through soils. Often measured in units of foot-pounds (ft.-lbs.) or Newton-meters.
  • Underpinning: the process of strengthening an existing structure’s foundation. Lack of soil stability or changes in a building’s weight may require the need for underpinning systems.
  • Ultimate capacity: also referred to as ultimate load.
  • The water table: the underground boundary between saturated and unsaturated soil. Locations with a high water table are more prone to flooding and heaving.

If you still have questions about the foundation repair process, or you’re ready to have your home examined by a professional, please contact Carolina Foundation Solutions at 1-(877) 770-7050. We have proudly served North and South Carolina residents since 2002.

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