January 9, 2012

Dear JES: Help! My Porch Steps are Sinking!

Dear JES:

My front porch is sinking! I've stumbled over the steps a couple of times and you can see that there's a 1 1/2-inch difference between the landing and the steps. How do I fix this? 

Doug W. -Chester, VA
Doug, 

It looks like you have a settlement problem. This could be caused by shrink-swell or problem soils.

Shrink-Swell
Shrink-swell is soil movement caused by the amount of water in the soil. A lot of rain or a very dry season can change how your soil acts around your foundation.

Soil shrinkage occurs when the water is removed from the ground. This can be caused by a drought, heat wave or just an extended dry period. When your soil shrinks it can cause settlement, like you see with your porch. Shrink-swell is a big problem when you have expansive or consolidating soils like clay.

Problem Soils
Problem soils like clay -which is an expansive soil - can react more to shrink-swell or other moisture problems. Expansive soils behave like a sponge. As the soil absorbs water, it expands.  As the soil expands it pushes against anything that's in its way. This can lead to a variety of foundation problems.

When the moisture's removed from the soil, it shrinks just like a sponge. As the soil shrinks away from your foundation it leaves a gap. This extra space can lead to settlement problems, like you see with your front porch. 

This is a problem that's best to have repaired by the experts.  Depending on the soil type and severity, push piers may need to be installed to permanently stabilize your sinking porch.

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This blog is for informational purposes. JES is not responsible for any damage or harm caused by trying to fix the problem yourself. It is always best to consult with a professional before trying to repair a problem. Site Legal Policy.