Ram Jack Helical Piles Proven in Liquefaction Simulation Test
VersaGrade is a licensed certified Ram Jack Installer, and is happy to provide Ram Jack solutions. Ram Jack recently was able to participate in the very first liquefaction simulation test of remedial Ram Jack helical piles ever to take place in the United States. The shake test occurred on April 2, 2019, at the University of California, San Diego and was sponsored by PEER (the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center), which is a consortium of universities along the west coast dedicated to furthering research and testing just like this one.
This liquefaction simulation test follows the credible large-scale shake table test, performed to quantify the seismic response of helical piles in dry sands. That large-scale test, also performed at UCSD, under the observation of Dr. Amy B. Cerato, Ph.D., P.E., demonstrated that helical piles far exceeded expectations during various, sequenced earthquake shaking. With the outstanding outcome of the test results, piles were once again put to the test, only this time in a liquefaction zone.
The Liquefaction Test
In June of 2018, the liquefaction soil box was fitted with a foundation system and block weights, and then shake-tested as a “control” test to measure the impact of liquefaction in a seismic event on a foundation with no support measures in place. The result was over 11 inches of foundation settlement, which would almost surely cause any structure to collapse.
Testing with Ram Jack Helical Piles
In efforts to find a cost-effective solution to mitigate foundation failure in liquefaction zones, Ramin Motamed, Ph.D., P.E., from the University of Nevada, Reno began researching helical piles and quickly learned about Ram Jack foundation solutions. Dr. Motamed invited Ram Jack to participate in the second round of testing, but this time, measurable results were available by implementing four (4) Ram Jack helical piles.
Ram Jack helical piles were precisely installed under the same loaded footing that was used in the controlled test performed in June. The soil conditions and magnitude of the seismic force were also identical. Once the testing was complete, the foundation settlement was quickly evaluated and measured. Typically, the limit of settlement that a building's foundation can take is between one and one and a half inches; however, Ram Jack’s helical piles proved to perform exceptionally well, resulting in less than half an inch of settlement.
Ram Jack Foundation Solutions
The data obtained from the test will aid engineers and code officials in revising building codes utilizing helical piles in seismic areas not only for new construction but for seismic retrofits of existing buildings. The predictable performance of Ram Jack foundation repair solutions are becoming known around the world. Ram Jack has high hopes of being involved in various seismic projects as building codes continue to become stricter in the future. They continue to lead the industry in research on the behavior of helical piles during seismic events and will continue to do so for years to come.
With the exception of houses built on solid rock, ALL foundations settle over time. Fixing foundation is not uncommon but you should still consult a residential foundation contractor to help. A typical total foundation settlement range is up to approximately one inch. The alternative is to build on soil, which has a tendency to settle or in some cases, depending on soil type and moisture changes, heave over time. The purpose of a foundation is to allow the structure to settle evenly, or uniformly, versus differentially.
The question is “When does foundation settlement or movement become a problem?”
Foundation Problems Caused By Soil Expansion
Soil conditions directly affect how the foundation of your home settles over time. Poor water drainage can leave excessive water in the soil, with this exposure causing many types of soil and clay to expand. When expansive soils shrink and swell, it puts direct pressure on the foundation, causing cracks and water damage. Poor water drainage can be due to many factors, such as plant watering areas next to the foundation that are not diverted away from the house or areas that have not been sloped correctly to avoid excessive pools of water.
Too much standing water or moisture is not good for your home as it can cause foundation movement and cracks to appear in walls.
Differential Foundation Settlement Movement
Even though foundation settlement is to be expected, the purpose of a foundation system is to keep the framing on top of it as plumb and level as possible. Industry standard for a new construction building floor is +/- ½" out of level in a 20’ length. When one part of the foundation settles or heaves faster than another, which is referred to as differential settlement or movement, it creates distress in the framing. This can make it so that your house leans or tilts to one side, causing distress and cracking in the foundation.
Differential foundation movement can create problems. Windows and doors may bind and become inoperable. Drywall or plaster may crack and fall off the walls and ceiling, and floor coverings like tile and hardwood may buckle and bend. In more extreme instances, framing connections may be compromised and cause structural failure. To prevent this, foundation repair should be considered before it gets to that point.
Home Foundation Fixing Experts
Do you have problems with door and window operation, interior and/or exterior cracks in finishes, and sloping floors? These are just a few warning signs indicating that there may be a problem caused by excess differential foundation movement. If you notice these signs, it is best to have qualified residential foundation contractors assess the structure. A residential foundation contractor can determine if the movement is normal or if home foundation repair is necessary.
Give Versa Grade a call at 775-284-1964! We are happy to have one of our residential foundation contractors come out and take a look at your home and let you know if a foundation repair is needed. We will also advise you if a repair is not needed!
Foundation cracks worry a lot of people. Home inspectors may tell you that they need to be repaired, and to consult with foundation repair contractors/residential foundation contractors. Home buyers may see problems that call for your foundation fixing but walk away from a potential transaction or ask for a reduction in the sales price. Truth is, most foundations have cracks. It is the type, size, and orientation of a crack(s) that determine whether or not there may be a problem.
How do cracks form?
From the moment concrete is placed, it begins to shrink via the hydration process. Extensive research has been conducted to evaluate why and where concrete tends to crack. As a result, several standards have been put into place to reduce, eliminate, or control the locations of cracking.
There are several external factors such as temperature (both ambient and concrete mix), water content, humidity, and placement practices that all play a role in how concrete performs.
Controlling the spread: fixing foundation
There are two common means of control done by our residential foundation contractors. The first, Expansion Joints, are designed to permit expansion and contraction of concrete masses. On the other hand, Control Joints are saw cuts or tooled joints in concrete sections to allow it to crack at specified locations. The addition of reinforcement in the pour, such as rebar, will also help curtail cracking.
However, in the end, most concrete pours crack during the curing process. The American Concrete Institute (ACI) spells out the technical aspects here, but the California Department of Transportation adopted an easier to read specification for concrete shrinkage. .05% - .08% for every 12’ feet. This works out to about the width of a dime every 12’.
Warning Signs of Foundation Problems
The question is: “Are the cracks in my foundation normal? Or do I have a foundation issue?”
“Hairline”, or small cracks, are typical in most foundations. They generally are vertical and are not offset. That is to say, that one side of the crack has not moved up or down, or in and out as opposed to the other side. They are also generally the same width from top to bottom. These types of cracks are generally considered normal and are usually of small concern. Water can get into these cracks, and if it freezes, can actually break off pieces of concrete making the crack bigger. The best way to address these cracks is to have residential foundation contractors seal them up with paint, caulk, or a variety of readily available sealers that will prevent water infiltration.
However, any crack wider than ¼” may be cause for concern and a need for fixing the foundation as it can allow for water infiltration. The type of crack is also important. Diagonal cracks & cracks that are wider on one end vs. the other may be a sign of movement. Cracks that are offset, or groups of several cracks are also likely a sign of distress. These types of cracks should be looked at by a professional to determine a cause and remediation. All structures settle over time. The purpose of a foundation is to allow the structure to settle as a unit at a slower rate. If you have foundation problems, you are likely to see interior sheetrock cracks, doors misaligned within the jamb, uneven floors, tile cracks, window frame separation, and even walls pulling away from the house.
To wrap up, here are some warning signs that will need to be evaluated by a foundation repair expert:
Any crack wider than 1/4"
Cracks that are wider on one end versus the other
Cracks that are offset
Groups of several cracks
Interior sheetrock cracks
Window or door frame separation
Walls pulling away from the house
These can be signs of water infiltration, movement or distress in your foundation.
In summary, concrete cracking can be the result of a poor batch of concrete, poor placement and/or curing methods, less than adequate installation of expansion and/or control joints, or the result of non-uniform foundation soils movement. Concrete cracking is generally classified as structural or non-structural. Structural cracking may require monitoring and potentially remediation, while non-structural cracking is mostly cosmetic in nature.
If you start to see threatening cracking in your foundation, give one of our residential foundation contractors a call at 775.284.1964 or send us an email! We will be happy to come out and take a look as your foundation crack repair experts!
Specialty Project Featured In Helical Pile World Industry News - STEP 2
VersaGrade, Inc. Specialty Foundation Design Project
VersaGrade's foundation design specialty project for the 12,000 square foot expansion of STEP 2, a non-profit organization in Reno, NV, was recently featured in an industry newsletter! Read the entire case study, originally featured on the Helical Pile World website and newsletter.
"The soils investigation confirmed the project site would not be conducive for conventional foundation construction. A deep foundation system was decided to be the best course of action; however, due to the soil properties and its inconsistent nature, no one foundation system type could be utilized. VersaGrade, Inc. was contacted early in the design process to help determine the best and most economical approach for this problem site."
--RamJack® 2015 Case Study
5 Warning Signs You Need Foundation Repair
A structure does not have to be older to be in need of foundation repair. The need for fixing foundation can also be caused by construction, soils, and weather. The warning signs which indicate foundation problems are subtle. If ignored, it could turn into a bigger project down the road. It is crucial for your foundation to consult with residential foundation contractors.
Here are 5 warning signs your home or commercial building may need foundation repair.
Windows and doors stick: This is one of the most common signs of foundation problems. If your doors aren’t swinging freely or your windows are hard to open, it may be a sign that a foundation repair is needed.
You see cracks: Inspect your home or building for cracked interior or exterior walls. Plaster, dry wall, and even exterior brick and stucco may crack and your foundation will need fixing and repair.
There are gaps: Take a look at your base boards and crown molding. If you start to see gaps form or separation from the wall, foundation problems could be the cause. This also applies to gaps in caulking.
Areas of the floor are sinking: Sunken living rooms are intentionally sunken. But a sagging floor is another thing. If you notice a dip in your flooring when you are walking, you may have foundation problems and need to seek out someone that is an expert when it comes to fixing foundation.
The patio is uneven or separating: Patios and outdoor steps often separate from the home or building if foundation problems are present. Tilting of the concrete panels may also occur.
Foundation inspections from residential foundation contractors is an important step in maintaining your property. Foundation problems left uncorrected will get worse. It’s important to be aware of the warning signs and head off the need for fixing foundation issues in the future. Keep your eyes open and stay aware of the signs. If you notice any of them, give us a call. You will be grateful you did.
Call us. Our residential foundation contractors are here to help.
Residential homes around Reno Nevada built between the 1920’s -50’s were typically built with unfinished basements for food, coal, & dry storage. A fair amount of these basements were constructed with little or no reinforcing steel. It was not uncommon for the structures that did have reinforcement, to consist of old fence posts, bailing wire, or any other scrap iron a builder could find. Along with added square footage, basement level foundation systems also served as an added layer of protection for structures built on expansive soils. The practice was to support the structure on soils well below finished grade so seasonal moisture change (i.e. rain & snow / summertime drying) would not affect the foundation. The Stoker Project was an excellent example of this type of construction.
Originally constructed in 1954, the Stoker Project was a single story structure built on a basement that extended under the entire footprint of the upper living area. The soils in the area are Alluvial Fan Deposits of Peavine Mountain and consist of gravely to sandy clayey silt with andesite fragments common. These soils are highly expansive and reactive to moisture content. Water intrusion in the basement had always been a problem for the owner, and over time, the swelling of the clays against the basement walls had pushed hard enough to break the walls and cause structural damage to the framing components. No reinforcing steel was observed in any of the concrete breaks, some as large as 1” in width. The rear wall of the basement had a large bow from top to bottom, and was pushing into the interior walls while pulling away from the upper level floor joists. Damage was significant enough to warrant the installation of temporary shoring supports until VersaGrade repair crews could arrive with fixing foundation solutions.
VersaGrade was contacted by the Owner to help design the repair plan, & K2 Engineering was retained as the project engineer. The Owner had constructed a deck and hot tub enclosure along the wall in question that had taken quite a lot of time and effort. This added a surcharge to the wall which contributed to the walls failure and adjacent interior framing. Our goal for fixing the foundation was to support the wall in place without demolishing the deck or hot tub enclosure. As such, all construction operations took place inside the basement. Because reinforcing steel was not present, a whaler system needed to be installed to help distribute the lateral forces. Prior to the installation of the whaler, solid steel Ram Jack 1.5” square bar Helical Anchors were installed through the wall using a hand held torque drive motor. The mid points between the anchor installations were supported vertically by the installation of Fortress Stabilizations ™ – Carbon Fiber support straps. The straps were epoxied to the concrete wall, & Kevlar straps embedded into the epoxy. These Kevlar straps were then connected to the structure framing to prevent overturning of the wall. The final bracing came from the installation of the whaler that consisted of a 10” wide continuous steel channel bolted to the wall & tying the system together. Fixing foundation can be a long and difficult process and even though the space constraints were a challenge, the project was a total success. The wall had been stabilized, and the Owners hard work on his deck had been saved.
VersaGrade used the Ram Jack Portable Hydraulic Pump and 2.5K Hand Held Drive Motor for the anchor installations.
Total No. of Ram Jack 1.5” Square Bar Helical Anchors Installed: 5
Step 2 - New Construction Pile Fixing Foundation 12/23/2015
STEP 2 is a private non-profit organization that has been serving Northern Nevada since 1986. Its mission is to provide comprehensive, coordinated services related to the treatment and recovery of chemically dependent women and their families. The 12,000 square foot expansion project adds a 20 bed residential housing component and storage facility to the already existing Mathewson Family Counseling Center and Transitional Cottages. The design vision of the project is to accommodate the everyday living needs of women and children in distress.
The project site is located north of the Reno / Sparks Area in Nevada on the foothills of Peavine Mountain. The area is predominately made up of Alta Formation soils components that contain hard volcanic rock, highly expansive clay minerals, and corrosive soil properties. The soils investigation confirmed the project site would not be conducive for conventional foundation construction. A deep foundation system was decided to be the best course of action, but due to the soil properties and its inconsistent nature, no one foundation system type could be utilized. VersaGrade was contacted early in the design process to help determine the best and most economical approach for this problem site to prevent fixing the foundation if issues later arose. It was determined that a mix of deep foundation types that included Ram Jack Helical Piles and Contech Micro Piles would be necessary to overcome these problem soils.
HOW WAS RAM JACK INVOLVED?
VersaGrade, Inc. was awarded the subcontract to install Ram Jack Helical Piles and Contech Systems Micro Piles on two adjacent project sites. One site was “The Living Center” and the other was “The Storage Facility”. Both building foundations were similarly designed as a pile and grade beam system. Since the soils were highly expansive, the entire foundation system was designed with a 6” void space under it to allow the clay soils to expand and contract without contacting the foundation system. 6” thick by 10” wide Sure Void was installed along the bottom of all grade beam trenches to provide the separation between soil and grade beam. Lateral stability which is normally achieved by the weight of the building on the underlying soils, was alternately achieved by the use of angled (Battered) piles installed at load points throughout the buildings footprint.
The Living Center foundation plan consisted of 95 vertical piles and 22 angled piles with working loads of 34,000 pounds and 10,000 pounds respectively. Installation depths varied wildly with helical piles ranging from 10’ - 60’ to achieve adequate load carrying capacities. Where helical piles could not be installed due to solid and fractured rock obstructions, Injection Bore (IBO) Micro Piles were installed to a depth of 20’ with a 4’ unbonded length. The Storage Facility foundation plan consisted of 62 vertical piles and 14 angled piles. The grade beam design on both buildings was only 10” wide, which made layout and installation techniques critical. Pile migration during installation of 1.5” was unacceptable.
VersaGrade used a Komatsu PC-160 Track-mounted hydraulic excavator with a Pro-Dig two stage 12K drive motor for the Helical installations and an Excavator Mount TEI 350 Rock Drill and ChemGrout CG600 Batching Plant for the Micro Pile installations.
Total No. of Ram Jack Helical Piles installed: 150
Total No. of Contech Micro Piles installed: 43
New Guy Anchors 5/18/2015
A project for NV Energy required the installation of Helical Anchors for guy wire supports on power poles that needed to be replaced. Access was the challenge for this project as the power poles were in common areas and behind houses with limited space. One of our Compact Excavators equipped with a Hydraulic Torque Drive Motor, was able to access and work within these limited space areas for these installations. 11 anchors were installed in less than 6 hours!
Fixing Foundation of Manzanita 5/15/2015
A residential remodel posed some interesting issues when it was discovered that an enclosed patio portion of the structure had settled over 3". The plan was to underpin two columns that supported the patio and re-level. This proved to be an issue once the footings were uncovered. Fixing the foundation was a task that needed to be done. Both column foundations were different and not of standard construction. One was constructed on a deep drilled caisson, and the other had a massive amount of concrete poured around it. It was decided that the original plan was not feasible, and that supporting in place was the best option. New Construction Helical Piles were installed for fixing the foundation and a new concrete grade beam connecting the columns to the piles was designed and constructed. Though re-leveling was not an option given the existing conditions, we were able to stabilize the structure against future settlement and allowed remodeling to continue.
Humbolt County General Hospital - General Engineering Contractor Reno
General Engineering Contractor Reno
All the way to Winnemucca, Nevada for one pile! The Humbolt County Hospital is on Phase 3 of several planned additions. A section of the existing building needed to be supported so an elevator pit could be safely excavated and constructed immediately adjacent to the existing foundation. To prevent the need of fixing foundation during excavation, the project structural engineer provided us the foundation loads and soils information. We determined that a Helical Underpinning Pile was best suited for the need. Installation went as planned with no issues. We spent more time driving than actually working! It was a nice drive though!
For a general engineering contractor Reno, Versa Grade provides unparalleled service. VersaGrade, Inc. is a Class A - General Engineering Contractor serving Nevada and California. We are a specialized excavating company, we perform grading, underground utility construction, fixing foundation,deep foundation systems and slope stabilization. We utilize top industry technology in our estimating and bidding, earthwork analysis, CPM scheduling, accounting and project cost control, as well as providing substantial equipment resources to meet our clients’ schedules. Our skilled and experienced staff is committed to exceeding your expectations. Looking for qualified excavating companies? We are here to help. Call us for a consultation.
Our success is built upon the simple principles of completing high quality work on time and with integrity. Versa Grade is an equal opportunity employer and is a drug free workplace. Our primary strengths are our people, safety, our use of technology, and our equipment resources. Success at Versa Grade is built upon the simple principles of completing high quality work on time and with integrity. Our focus on customer service is aligned with our Mission Statement of “Providing Construction Services That Exceed Our Customers’ Expectations.” Open positions include CDL Driver, Construction Foreman, and other Pipe Layer Positions.