When building any structure, it is extremely important that the foundation piers are precisely level. Foundation piers provide critical structural support for the entire building above. If the piers are not properly leveled during construction, it can lead to a weak and unstable foundation and cause major issues down the line.
How do I make sure my piers are level? Checking and adjusting your foundation piers frequently with quality leveling tools as you build is crucial for the safety and proper functioning of the finished pier structure.
In this article, we will discuss why proper pier leveling is vital and provide useful techniques for checking and adjusting pier levels as you build.
Importance of Level Foundation Piers
There are several reasons why taking the time to ensure your piers are perfectly level is so crucial:
Structural Integrity - Level piers distribute weight evenly and provide optimal structural support. Unlevel piers can result in cracked walls, sticking doors/windows, and uneven floors as the structure settles.
Safety - A level foundation prevents shifting, cracking, and collapse risks. This means a safer structure.
Functionality - Doors, windows, and appliances require a level foundation to operate and function properly throughout the life of the building.
Cost Effectiveness - Taking the time to level piers during initial construction is far less expensive than having to go back and remedy foundation issues later on.
Aesthetics - A level foundation presents a more attractive, polished look than a crooked or uneven foundation.
In short, the functionality, safety, cost, and appearance of the entire structure above rely heavily on the foundation piers below being perfectly level.
Useful Tools for Leveling Piers
These basic tools are very useful for checking level across pier blocks or pilings:
4-Foot Level - A 4-foot level placed across multiple piers is the best way to identify any high or low spots.
Laser Level - Laser levels project a level line across tops of piers for fast checking.
Transit Level - Transit levels on a tripod allow for extremely precise elevation readings.
String Line - Tight string lines stretched across installed piers make seeing unlevel areas obvious.
Having these tools on hand will make regularly checking and adjusting pier level much simpler.
Techniques for Leveling Piers
Here are some proven methods for properly leveling piers as you build:
Check After Setting Each Pier - After each pier is set, immediately check for level before moving to next one.
Use Shims if Slightly Unlevel - If a pier is close to level, shim underneath with boards or stones to bring it to level.
Adjust With Sledgehammer - For pilings, use a sledgehammer to tap the top and fine-tune to proper level.
Account for Settling - When pouring concrete, account for settling by leaving piers slightly higher than final level needed.
Leave Pier Forms On As Long As Possible - Leaving forms on freshly poured piers will protect them as they cure and allow you to adjust level.
String Lines Identify Trouble Spots - Use string lines constantly as a reference to identify piers that need adjusting.
Schedule Leveling Time - Building in enough time to methodically level piers is key for quality results.
Recheck Entire Foundation at End - Do a complete final level check across all piers when finished.
Consistently following these tips as you build will help achieve perfectly level piers.
Leveling Pier Block Foundations
For foundations using concrete pier blocks:
Check Level On Undisturbed Soil - Confirm building site is level before placing first blocks.
Use 4-Foot Level Across Blocks - Place level across adjacent blocks to identify uneven areas.
Shim Under Low Spots - Use shims or stones under specific blocks to bring them into level plane.
Recheck Level After Shimming - Verify shims adjusted block to proper level before moving to next spot.
Leave Some Blocks High - To allow for soil settling, leave some blocks slightly higher than perfect level.
Taking these steps will provide a sound and level pier block foundation.
Leveling Piling Foundations
For foundations using driven piles or pilings:
Drive Test Piles First - Drive one or two test pilings to gauge required depth and confirm soil is suitable.
Check After Driving Each Piling - Immediately place level across pilings to verify level after driving each one.
Allow Time For Troubleshooting - Have patience and Allow enough time for any needed adjustments to piling height and level.
Shim or Drive Deeper if needed - Use shims beneath pilings or hammer down further to get to level plane.
Leave Pilings Slightly High - Account for settling by leaving pilings a bit above final needed level as you build.
Recheck Final Levels - Do a complete level check across all pilings when finished driving.
Proper planning and repeatedly checking as you go will result in level pilings.
Final Foundation Leveling
Once all foundation piers are installed, be sure to:
Recheck Across Entire Foundation - Place levels, laser levels, or string lines along entire perimeter to verify level.
Inspect Visually - Sight across the tops of piers to look for any obvious unlevel spots.
Make Any Needed Final Adjustments - If any piers are found out of level, adjust them before framing begins.
Allow Curing Time Before Framing - Give concrete adequate curing time before placing weight of structure onto foundation.
Taking these steps will provide quality assurance you have a sound, level foundation for building.
A proper level foundation is absolutely essential for any structure. Take the time during construction using the tools and methods above to ensure your piers are perfectly level. This will lead to a stable foundation that provides many years of optimized performance. Don't cut corners on foundation leveling - the results are well worth the effort.
About Total Foundation Repair Austin
Founded in 2002, Total Foundation Repair Austin is your one-stop-shop for residential and commercial foundation services. We offer affordable rates, FREE estimates, and service with a smile. Please contact us today by calling (737) 204-3003.
How do I ensure my footings are level?
When pouring concrete footings, check for level frequently as the concrete cures using tools like a 4-foot level, laser level, or transit level. Making adjustments to footing forms and shimming as needed before the concrete fully sets will ensure your finished footings are perfectly level.
How do you level a pier block?
To level pier blocks, begin by checking for level across the tops of the blocks with a 4-foot level or laser level and identifying any high or low spots. Once uneven blocks are identified, use shims between the pier block and ground underneath to bring them up to level across the entire foundation.
Should a foundation be perfectly level?
For optimal structural integrity and performance, a foundation should be as close to perfectly level as possible across the entire base. Taking the time to check for level frequently and make adjustments during construction will prevent major problems down the line from an unlevel foundation.
What is the difference between footings and piers?
Footings are the wide concrete bases that support piers which are the vertical structural members of a foundation.