Value: Food for Thought

When it Comes to Waterproofing & Foundation Repair, Cheap isn’t Always Best

We bid jobs often for foundation repairs, waterproofing, grouting, concrete repair and more. Sometimes Nichols / Grout Tech will be the lowest bid, but not always. This is because we will never sacrifice quality for price. Quality of work should always be the priority, and although Nichols / Grout Tech aims to offer the best pricing, we also aim to do the best work with the best products available on the market today. Be believe that is the best way to do business, and the best way to serve our customers well. Your home or your business, we get that it is your biggest investment, and therefore compromises cannot be made.

So, for today, we would like to share some food for thought. Remember, when it comes to your home or your business, cheapest and fastest isn’t always the best:

LAWFUL PREY
Author Unknown

“There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot do a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are that man’s lawful prey.”

VALUEvalue for foundation repair & waterproofing in Alabama
By JOHN RUSKIN
1819-1900 (English Writer)

“It’s unwise to pay too much but it’s unwise to pay too little. When you pay too much you lose a little money, that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing you bought it to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot. It can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it’s well to add something for the risk you run. And if you do that, you will have enough to pay for something better!”

So if quality is what you seek, as well as value, call Nichols / Grout Tech today. We look forward to give you exactly what you deserve – our best work!

Internal Drainage Information

Internal Drainage Systems: Different than Waterproofing Systems

There are systems which manage the water once it has entered into a crawlspace or basement (home). Sometimes these systems are incorrectly referred to, or sold as, waterproofing systems. Generally, the system will have a series of drains and/or pipe located in the interior space and placed adjacent the foundation wall. More often than not the drain pipe will flow to a sump pump, which in turn pumps the water collected out of crawlspace or basement and into the yard. These systems are sometimes required due to limited accessibility of a site, or sites which do not have terrain that would support an exterior drainage correction. The percentage of homes requiring such systems, though, is quite low. In our opinion, such systems have major flaws when used improperly. In the next series of posts, we will explore the pros and cons of these systems.

The Pros and Cons of Internal Drainage Systems

1) They do not aid in prevention of the excess water entering the home; exactly the internal drainage Alabamaopposite occurs. These systems invite the water to flow under the footing and usually create a path of least resistance. After several years, foundation failure may occur in the direct vicinity of the drains, as water will take the path of that least resistance, flowing under and undermining the footing.

2) Block is porous and, to a lesser extent, so is concrete. By allowing the water to continue to flow against the exterior wall continued damage of the block and concrete footer(s) is still occurring! But, now that such damage is “out of sight” it likely won’t be detected for many years. Typically, once the damage is detected, it is by failure of the foundation or foundation walls.

3) For these internal systems to function correctly, especially in crawlspaces, water must build up in the pipe before flow to the sump pump occurs. This means that sometimes the water never makes it to the pump. So, the water is, again, sitting in the crawl space.

4) Internal french drainage systems typically require a great deal of water to build up in the drainage ditch, and then into the drain pipe, before it begins functioning. As discussed previously, this means that the water never actually exits your basement or crawlspace. The photo to the right shows a cutoff french drain system. As you can see, unless water migrates into the pipe from above, it would take approximately 5 inches of water to build up in the ditch and then enter the pipe. While this drainage system is fine for outdoors, and typically solves the majority of exterior water issues, you can plainly see that the ditch will continue to hold water, which remains in your crawlspace or basement.

5) All sump pump housings (a.k.a. basin, pit, or even drywell) must have a few to several gallons of water in them prior to the pump switching on. If the pump doesn’t switch on, the water sits in the collection cistern where the pump is located, which is, again, in/under your home.

6) All sump pumps fail. While many sump pumps have good warranties, this does not mean they will not fail. And, when do they fail? When you need them to be working! Many times this is when a power failure occurs. Most installers, including GROUT TECH, offer systems with redundant pumps (2 pumps in one housing) so that a second pump will kick in should the first fail. We also offer systems with battery backups should power failure occur. Naturally, these system get more expensive as you add options.

7) YOU are responsible for maintenance of the system, and checking monthly to determine if it is functioning. In most crawlspaces, accessibility to the pump is difficult. At the least, entering crawlspaces is not a pleasant task. Once a sump pump system is installed, though, it will be your responsibility to maintain it. Or the installing company will check it monthly for a fee. Failure of the pump due to lack of proper maintenance typically voids any warranties issued.

8) The upside of these systems is they are usually less expensive than actual corrections to the problem(s). Also, as we stated earlier, there are times when one will have to employ such systems due to the terrain around the home. Those are the only “pros” we can think of for these systems.

As a result of the above factors, GROUT TECH considers all available options for helping to cease or deter the water on the exterior of homes. Many options are available. On and directly adjacent the home you have exterior waterproofing and new drainage being installed (photos here). Away from the home you can simply improve the exterior drainage. Whatever option you choose, keep in mind that your primary goal should be to keep water from getting to your home. No matter what you choose to do to manage the water after it enters your basement or crawl space, and no matter what type of material is used to cover the ground or basement floor and walls so that you cannot see it, damage is still occurring to your home. The old adage, “Out of sight; out of mind,” completely applies in these situations because you don’t see the damage anymore, you naturally do not think it is occurring…until structural issues develop.

Landscaping Drainage 101

Landscaping and Exterior Drainage for Your Birmingham, Alabama Home

Why You Have Water in Your Alabama Yard

Surface Drainage Birmingham, AlabamaBirmingham and all of Alabama have significantly higher average rainfall than the rest of the United States, so water buildup can be a prolific problem for Birmingham homeowners and something that many homeowners will experience at least one. A variety of factors and contribute to water buildup in yards, but a few of the most common include:

Heavy rainfall: When an area of land endures substantial rainfall, the ground becomes heavily saturated and is unable to absorb any more water. Because the water cannot be absorbed further, it collects and pools in the yard.

Septic System Failure: Septic systems are designed to collect liquid waste from inside the home and redirect it. When these systems fail, waste can back up into your home or backyard, depositing large quantities of standing water.

Sloping property: Homeowners with low lying properties often experience extended water buildup as water from nearby properties with higher elevation spills down into their yard.

Gutter Exits: If you notice water collecting near your downspout exits, it is likely because the ground is sloped toward your house as opposed to away from it.

Not only does water buildup in your Alabama yard make it unpleasant to walk on, but it can also cause serious problems for your home and foundation. As we discussed earlier, pooling water means that the soil has been fully saturated and cannot absorb additional moisture. Heavy saturation greatly increases the soil’s hydrostatic pressure, so the soil will begin to push against the floor of your foundation, allowing water to permeate inside. When water infiltrates the home, it often manifests itself in a musty odor, mold and mildew, rotting of wood structures, and even the destruction of the floor and drywall. If left undetected or untreated, you could be facing expensive and time consuming repairs.

Landscape Drainage and Other Exterior Drainage and Waterproofing Solutions for Your Birmingham, Alabama Home

yard drainage AlabamaFortunately, you can nip water problems in the bud and prevent further complications by enlisting the help of Grout Tech, the foundation repair and water management experts in the Birmingham, Alabama area. We can work with you to determine and execute the best course of action in addressing the problem of water buildup in your backyard.
A few of the most common and effective solutions:

Surface Drainage System: This includes properly placed gutters, grading around the house, and drain pipe systems surrounding the foundation and is used to prevent water from pooling around the foundation.

Interior Drainage System: This method is used to redirect water that has seeped inside the house to the outside. If you have a basement, we can install a reliable and high quality basin or battery backup sump pump and ensure that it is properly directing water away from your home into a location that will not cause buildup.

Full Waterproofing: Proper waterproofing necessitates excavation so that all potential issues can be exposed and addressed individually. We begin the process by cleaning the foundation walls and spraying or rolling on a polymer waterproofing product. After this has dried, the coating will be masked with a dimple board product to enable improved downward water flow. We will then install an appropriately sloped drain pipe system to eradicate any future problems with pooling water.

Proper waterproofing is an extensive process that will pay dividends with respect to the elimination of water buildup. If you are experiencing water buildup in your Birmingham, Alabama backyard, do not wait until your foundation becomes affected too. Be proactive and call the Alabama foundation repair and water management experts at Nichols/Grout Tech today!

Epoxy Grouting Procedure: How It Works

Epoxy Injection Grouting for Residents in Alabama

epoxy grouting huntsville, alabamaThere are two facts about poured concrete. One, it will get hard and two, it is susceptible to cracks. Poured concrete is designed to support foundation walls, but over time cracks may develop. This makes structures susceptible to water leakage and floods. In addition, concrete cracks are inevitable and unappealing, creating corroded steel reinforcements and damage to buildings. They can be formed by settlement or over-saturated soil, and can be easily repaired. If you have concrete cracks, contact the professionals at Nichols / Grout Tech. We use epoxy injections to restore the strength of cracked concrete structures.

What is epoxy grouting? Epoxy grouting is one of the most versatile products for structural restoration. It is made to retract water and expand in-place, creating an impermeable seal to prevent water leakage through cracks and joints. It can be used to stop leaks for the following structures:

  • Slab on grade
  • Vertical wall cracks
  • Dams
  • Garages
  • Concrete walls
  • Columns and piers
  • Pillars
  • Posts
  • Overpasses
  • Bridges
  • Reinforced concrete decks

epoxy injection grouting alabamaInstallation techniques may vary due to different types of field conditions; however, there are standard procedures for most epoxy grouting. The installation process involves the following steps:

  1. The crack and surfaces is cleaned out by removing debris, dirt, grease, oil and mineral deposits to allow the material to bond properly.
  2. Rebar is located to prevent damage. Holes are drilled into the concrete. The depth and diameter of the hole are carefully considered. Most holes are 1/2 to 5/8 in diameter, and the width of the cracks help determine the drill hole spacing.
  3. Packers are placed into the drill hole.
  4. To remove debris or dust particles, cracks are cleaned out with water to help react with the grout.
  5. Wide cracks and high water flows are sealed with epoxy gel.
  6. Since epoxy doesn’t bond well with wet concrete, excess water must be removed from the crack. After the surface is completely dry, the grout is injected.
  7. After injecting the grout, the equipment is washed including the pump and hoses. The packers are removed and the drilled holes are patched.

Benefits of Epoxy Injection Grouting in Alabama

  • Reliable material
  • Tensile strength of cured epoxy is stronger than poured concrete
  • Increases structural integrity
  • Prevents water intrusion
  • Corrosion resistant
  • Prevents spalling
  • Cost effective
  • No shrinkage

At Grout Tech, our contractors will make sure your epoxy injections create a rigid, solid seal to prevent re-cracking in the long run. Using the right material and equipment, the injection process is effectively completed. Contact us today to learn more about the procedure. We serve residents in Alabama.

Is Your Alabama Foundation Sending You A Warning?

Foundation Repair Warning Signs in Alabama

Have you noticed cracks in your walls or doors that aren’t closing properly? Maybe youdoor-604085_1280 have experienced uneven and sloping floors in your home as well. These can all be indicators of foundation failure. Distress to your foundation can almost always be attributed to expansive soil. Whenever there is a heavy rainfall, the moisture will cause the soil underneath your house to expand. In contrast, on hot and sunny days your soil will dry up and shrink. This fluctuation will eventually cause your foundation to rise and resettle, creating cracks and openings. An astounding 60% of all homes built on expansive soil experience foundation distress.

Damage to your foundation can cause a multitude of issues in your home, and can seriously damage it’s entire structure. It is important to inspect and analyze your home in search for foundation issues. Delaying foundation repairs will allow the damage to get worse and result in larger costs. There are certain signs you should look out for to keep a watchful eye on your foundation.

Inside Your Home

When inspecting the interior of your home, look for cracks in the drywall, ceilings and floors. Check all of your doors and windows to see whether or not they latch properly and close easily. Use a level on your floors to see if they are sloping or uneven.

Outside Your Homebasement-stairs-347482_1280

You can check to see if your foundation is even by measuring the length of the wall at each corner. If you notice any bulges in your foundation, this is most likely because your foundation has shifted due to soil expansion and structure weight.

Also, look for weak concrete and brickwork. Homes that were built in the 1900’s were not designed to hold a heavy structure weight for long periods of time. This means that a large amount of homes today are prone to foundation depletion. Try to penetrate the brick or concrete in your foundation with a screwdriver. If you are able to chip it, your foundation is weak, and you will most likely need to get it completely replaced.

Your Basement or Crawlspace

Posts in your basement should stand straight and be able to firmly support the beams above them. If you are not sure if your posts are straight, try examining them with a level.

Another thing to look out for in your basement or crawlspace is visible mold and mildew, musty odors, and rot. If any of these instances have occurred, you can be sure that water is seeping into your basement. Moisture can build up around the perimeter of your foundation and leak into your home if you do not have proper drainage. Make sure that your gutters are unplugged. If you need to, redirect your downspouts away from your foundation.

Contact our professionals here at Grout Tech if you are experiencing any of these warning signs. We are pleased to assist you with any foundation repair needs you may have!

Questions to Ask Your Foundation Contractor About Your Foundation Problem

Questions to Ask Your Foundation Contractor in AlabamaQuestions to Ask Your Foundation Contractor

We know that any type of foundation repair can be stressful. The process is hard because it can be risky, time-consuming, and expensive. We here at Nichols / GroutTech want you to feel peace of mind during our time together. Our goal is to offer you the best service possible so that you can rest easy. That is why we are offering you a list of questions to ask any foundation contractor that you decide to hire. Knowing the answers to these questions will make the process much easier for you and anyone involved. Our list of questions include:

Do I really need foundation repairs?

While keeping your home or business up-to-date on repairs is smart and a responsible long-term investment, sometimes businesses will perform unneeded repairs, costing you money. Getting a second opinion never hurts, either.

Are you licensed and insured in my state?

Make sure your contractor is reputable and safe by checking to see if they are licensed and avoid dealing with insurance problems by asking this question. It is okay to outright ask these questions; you have a right to know.

How much, how long, and how to?

How much does it cost, how long will it take, and how will you do it? Knowing these in advance and in writing can help you avoid unwanted or surprise costs. Most of the time, foundation repairs will take anywhere from 1-5 business days, depending on the extent of the damage. Also, ask what they will be doing to repair your problem and how they will do it.

questions contractor foundation repairDo you offer a warranty?

Almost all repairs and repair products come with a lifetime warranty, but make sure before your contractor begins that this is the case. Become familiar with their warranty and take responsibility as a policyholder to find any problems.

What are your credentials?

Ask about past experiences and schooling. Experience matters, and price can be deceiving. You want someone who is knowledgeable and experienced. You also want a company that will be around long enough to deal with any future problems.

Can you provide references or testimonials?

Getting opinions from past customers is probably one of your greatest assets. Most of the time, customers have no reason to lie or exaggerate, so they are going to provide some of the most truthful stories and advice. Ask your foundation contractor for multiple customers. If they can only provide one happy customer, that may be a red flag.

Can you provide advice on how my problem started?

Knowing what caused your problem in the first place really helps. Your contractor should be able to help identify the cause of your problem and provide advice as how to avoid it in the future, as well.

Does your business have a physical address and facility?

This can help you determine if your contractor is part of a serious, full-time business or if it is just a hobby or part time business. This can also help you determine if the contractor subcontracts their work, which we will talk about later. If they don’t have a permanent, existing facility, it is likely they subcontract their work.

Will you have my utility lines marked?foundation repair questions contractor

Make sure your contractor is familiar with where your utility lines are, so they can avoid them during the repair process. Most of the time, the contractor will know someone who will mark the lines. Make sure this is a part of the process before repairs begin.

Do you subcontract your work?

Subcontracted work can incentivize contractors to take shortcuts, which can lead to future problems. Make sure your contractor is dedicated to giving you the best repairs possible. That way, your repairs are guaranteed to last a lifetime.

Do you use/offer more than one repair method?

If your contractor’s business only offers one method of repair, such as only underpinning, this may point to inexperience. Different structures and property require different products and repairs, so having a variety of options to pick from allows you to get the best possible repairs for your specific problem.

We hope these questions to ask your foundation contractor have helped you learn more about what to look for in a contactor. Contact us to ask any of these questions. You can also ask us about our foundation repair and waterproofing options, our service area, or for an inspection and estimate. Do not hesitate to ask us any questions. Give us here at Nichols / GroutTech a call today!

What is Carbon Fiber and How Does it Fix Bowed Walls?

Carbon Fiber Solutions for your Foundation Walls in Alabamacarbon fiber bowing walls

It is likely that you have heard of or about carbon fiber at some point in your lifetime, but do you know what it really is? Carbon fiber is a material made of thousands of small fibers of carbon. Individually, carbon molecules and fibers are incredibly strong, and when they are woven together they are stronger than steel. It is the strongest material that humans have made.

It is a useful and versatile material because it is lightweight, but it does not stretch, and it can be melted and molded into a variety of shapes for many different uses. Fortunately for us here today, carbon fiber is able to be mass produced which makes it more available and cheaper for us and our customers. It used to be much more expensive, but today it is used in hundreds of thousands of products such as motorcycle helmets, bullet-proof vests, cars, tennis rackets, golf clubs, and even jewelry.

Bowing Wall Repair with Carbon Fiber for Birmingham, ALcarbon fiber repairs bowing walls alabama

Because carbon fiber is a strong, versatile material, we use it to repair bowing foundation walls. Our supplier–Rhino Carbon Fiber–has an installation system that we have been trained to use. Our team of experienced and knowledgeable professionals will install the carbon fiber strips by drilling and bolting fasteners into the strong footer of your foundation and the house frame. The carbon fiber strips will be laid taut against the affected wall. This eliminates the pressure from outside and repairs the bowing wall. Carbon fiber repairs actually make your basement or crawl space walls stronger than before.

This option can be better than other foundation repair options because it is less invasive and can be done quickly and easily inside the home’s basement or crawl space. It can be less expensive than other options. Carbon fiber repairs are maintenance-free, so once they are installed, you no longer have to worry about the walls bowing. This option can also repair foundation cracks.

If your home or business is experiencing bowing walls, carbon fiber repairs may be for you, but we also offer helical anchors and steel push piers along with a variety of other foundation repair solutions. We can help you decide which product is best for your specific situation. Contact us today to learn more about carbon fiber repairs, our service area, or for an inspection and estimate. We want to hear from you, so give us here at Nichols / GroutTech a call today!

Can Companies Not Honor Warranties?

Are There Conditions Where Companies Can Get Out of Honoring a Lifetime Warranty?

The answer appears to be yes. It’s hard to believe, and we have posted before about reading the fine print on warranties, but it does appear that some companies do get out of honoring lifetime warranties. This is why, in this day and age, a company’s reputation, reviews, and previous work need to do all the talking. As a consumer, we recommend really investigating the foundation or waterproofing company that you choose to work with. When it comes to the huge investment you have in either your home or business, you can never be too confident in the company you hire.

ICRI_logoNichols / GroutTech believes in the customer and the customer experience. We want to make your foundation repair, concrete repair, or waterproofing experience the best it can be. Call us, talk to us, get that confidence you need before making a big decision about your home or your business. We understand. Look for quality affliations like the ones we have with the ICRI (International Concrete Institute) and ECP (Earth Contact Products) whose products are made right here in the USA!ecp_01ani

People ask us from time to time about the BBB. Our experience was similar to what you can read in the “Criticism” section of this article. Again, we recommend doing all the homework you can prior to making your decisions. Look at larger picture of past work and experience, as well as affliations to make your choices.

Read the article below as it is a perfect example of how companies can get out of honoring their lifetime warranties. Be educated, be prepared, and advocate for your home or business. It is definitely in your very best interest! We have linked to the article below with the permission of WAVE 3 TV. Please let us know if you have any questions!

http://www.wave3.com/story/25247290/closed-company-refuses-to-honor-lifetime-warranty?autoStart=true&topVideoCatNo=default&clipId=10054096#.U1-61JGhMTE.twitter

Common Summer Concrete Problems in Alabama and the Concrete Contractor That Can Help

Common Summer Concrete Problems in Alabama

If you live in Alabama, you may be familiar with some of the more common summer concrete problems. These problems can be a hassle when they occur in your foundation or driveway. Fortunately, the concrete contractors from Nichols / Grout Tech of Birmingham, Alabama know just what to do to restore your concrete to normal. Contact us today for a solution to any concrete problems that you are dealing with in your Birmingham, Alabama home.Concrete Contractor Birmingham, AL Services

New concrete problems related to hot weather are not uncommon in Alabama. Temperatures that are too warm make it difficult for contractors to pour and set concrete. higher temperatures tend to accelerate the setting process of the concrete. As the concrete hardens too fast, it does not grow as strong as it should. Ultimately, the compressive strength of the concrete could end up as much as ten percent lower than normal. Warmer temperatures might also cause the surface to dry, leading to shrinkage and cracks. Another problem is that more mixing water is often needed, lowering the strength of the concrete and often causing discoloration.

Problems with existing concrete slabs can also occur in hot, particularly dry, weather. If there has been a significant lack of rain, the warm and dry conditions may cause the soil under your foundation to shrink, leading to concrete settlement. Dry and hot weather can also cause the roots of nearby shrubs or trees to extend in search of water, pushing on your foundation from underneath. This can lead to heaving, settlement, shifting, or foundation cracks.

Professional Concrete Contractor Solutions in Birmingham, Alabama

If you notice signs of a concrete foundation problem in your home – water stains, foundation cracks, sloped or uneven floors, floor cracks, settlement, chipping or flaking, etc. – contact a professional repair team right away. The concrete contractors at Nichols / Grout Tech in Alabama have the solutions that your home needs to stay safe from concrete problems this summer:

  • Concrete Repair and Replacement in Birmingham, AlabamaConcrete Repair/Finishing: We offer a range of concrete services to effectively repair or replace the concrete in your home to provide a solution for cracks, chipping, flaking, and crumbling.
  • Slabjacking: This procedure involves injecting a high pressure grout into voids beneath the concrete to lift and support the slab. Contact us to learn more about this and our other grouting services.
  • Helical Piers and Steel Piers: These are devices that are installed below the foundation and anchored into deep layers of soil to offer support and allow the weight of the settling foundation to be shifted to stable ground.
  • Helical Tiebacks: This kind of foundation repair method involves installing devices that resemble horizontal helical piers to dig into the ground adjacent to the foundation and pull the shifting foundation wall straight.

These are some of the solutions that our professional concrete contractors provide for residents of the Birmingham, Alabama area. If you are in need of concrete repair or replacement services this summer, contact one of our concrete contractors today.

Lifetime Warranties – Not A Guarantee

Lifetime Warranties Not Always A Guarantee

The following is an excerpt of an article located online.  We attempted to find the originator for full article reprint permission, but were unable to do so.  Therefore, we have removed the personal information, such as names and magazine titles, from the article. We think this is an important article to share, because when you are shopping for a contractor for concrete repairs or foundation repairs, you need to know the facts and be educated so you can make the best decision about local foundation and concrete repair contractors.

Consumers Urged To Read Fine Print Carefully

Many people might think a lifetime warranty will protect against product failure as long as they live, but there are some gray areas when it comes to certain warranties.

Check Fine Print on Warranties in AlabamaThere is no single legal definition of “lifetime warranty,” and that could cause issues for consumers trying to collect on the promise. [NOTE that in the State of Alabama a Lifetime Warranty is defined as seven (7) years.]

When <a customer’s> Craftsman ratchet broke, the Sears clerk made good on its lifetime warranty.  “He went and got me a replacement without any question,” the customer said.

But that’s not always the case, according to <a leading consumer reporting magazine>.

“You should never depend on spoken assurances. You have to read that fine print carefully. And don’t assume that lifetime necessarily means your lifetime; it may simply mean the expected lifetime of the product,” said <a leading consumer reporting magazine’s> money advisor.  The key is to read any lifetime warranty carefully and get oral assurances in writing.

For more information on possible warranty issues, people can check out the web site consumerist.org, which gets a lot of complaints from consumers about lifetime warranties and follows up on them.