“Homebuilders have a profitable business model in a market with high demand,” explains Richard Morant, Installation Manager of Sugar Land Foundation Repair, “and I don’t see them changing a thing. The concrete slab has become too thin and the substitution of weaker post-tension cable for steel rebar is a huge mistake.” Located in the greater Houston metro area, Mr. Morant has seen over 2000 residential concrete slab foundations in need of repair during his twelve years in the foundation repair industry.
Talking with Mr. Morant unleashes a torrent of information, most of which is decidedly unfavorable for Sugar Land and Houston area homeowners. In making his case he starts with the clay soils in Texas and the brutal weather. “The soils in this part of the world are about as bad as it gets in terms of building a home. The soils are largely composed of clay and the clay will expand dramatically during periods of heavy rainfall and shrink dramatically during periods of drought. This soil expansion and contraction can and does break ‘under-designed’ and ‘under-built’ concrete foundations,” stated Mr. Morant. The droughts of 2011 and 2013 damaged thousands of Texas homes. During the 2011 drought the city of Houston had over 600 water line breaks it was unable to repair for weeks.
“We are seeing significant damage created by cracked foundations at much earlier time frames. In past years it would take 25 to 30 years for the accumulated annual stresses to create serious damage to the foundation and then the house,” stated Mr. Morant, “and now that time frame is 10 to 15 years. The new timeframe is just long enough for the home builders’ 10 year warranties to expire.” The home builders are not making it any easier for the homeowners by planting oak trees, which become large oak trees, near the foundation. In addition, Mr. Morant has seen an increase in foundation problems that are almost certainly due to poor soil compaction prior to the pouring of the concrete slab. These problems surface very quickly, usually within the first one or two years, and are avoidable if the home builder takes the time and effort to compact the soil properly, according to Mr. Morant.
“This is not rocket science. The structural and geo-technical engineers have known about soil movement for the past 100 years,” continued Mr. Morant, “and the solution is simple. Make the concrete slab thicker and add more steel rebar for reinforcement.” The point made by Mr. Morant is that a thicker concrete slab that is reinforced with steel rebar will resist and overpower all but the very worst of nature’s soil movements. An additional point he made is that concrete foundation slabs for commercial buildings have far fewer problems because they are built with adequate concrete and steel rebar. A multi-story high rise building in Los Angeles was recently built with a concrete foundation that is 17 feet thick. And it used an enormous amount of steel rebar to reinforce the concrete.
“What is the incentive for the homebuilder to build a stronger concrete foundation?,” asks Mr. Morant. “They boost their profits by using less concrete and a weaker post-tension cable system. The homeowner can’t sue the homebuilder because of the mandatory arbitration clause in the sales contract. And everybody in the industry knows that the mandatory arbitration system is a ‘rigged system’ where the consumer loses 90% to 97% of the time,” Mr. Morant sadly notes.
The conclusion left by Mr. Morant is that uninformed home buyers in the Texas market will continue to be stuck with $5000, $15,000 and $30,000 repair bills to stabilize their home foundations. Most of these foundation problems could be avoided with the addition of two or three thousand dollars of concrete and steel rebar during construction. And the current situation is not going to change anytime soon.