7 Steps to Check the Level of a Pier and Beam Foundation

August 30, 2023

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Wondering how to check the level of a pier and beam foundation? This is an excellent skill to learn if your home has a crawl space. Foundations out of level don’t support a structure as they should, risking cracks and other damage. The longer you ignore damaged foundations, the worse they become!

How to check the level of a pier and beam foundation in seven quick steps:

  1. Choose reference points
  2. Position a straight board
  3. Check the level
  4. Measure the gaps
  5. Compare measurements
  6. Repeat in various areas
  7. Have a professional check the foundation

This is just a quick overview of how you can check the level of your home’s foundation. Also, it’s good to have a foundation repair contractor inspect the structure regularly no matter your findings! Their professional expertise ensures a quality inspection so you can schedule prompt repairs when needed.

how to check the level of a pier and beam foundation

How to Check the Level of a Pier and Beam Foundation, Step by Step

Checking the level of a pier and beam foundation involves assessing whether the foundation has settled or shifted over time. To do this yourself, you’ll first need the following:

  • A long, straight, and level board (a 2x4 or a 2x6 works well)
  • A bubble or carpenter’s level
  • Measuring tape
  • A notepad and pen for recording measurements

Also, remember “safety first!” Wear appropriate footwear, gloves, and eye protection when in a crawl space. Check for exposed nails and other hazards while working. If you feel unsafe in any way, call a professional to perform an inspection for you!

1. Choose Reference Points

Select reference points on the interior walls of your house. These should be easily accessible and representative of different areas of your home. Ideally, choose one point near each corner of the house.

2. Position the Board

Place the board horizontally across the reference points. The board should extend from one reference point to another, spanning the distance you want to measure. Ensure the board is positioned on a stable surface, like a stack of blocks or shims, at each reference point.

3. Check Levelness

Use the bubble level to determine if the board is also level. The bubble should be centered between the two lines on the level. Adjust the height of the board at each reference point until the bubble is centered.

4. Measure the Gaps

With the board level, measure the gap between the bottom of the board and the ground at each reference point. This can be done using a measuring tape or a ruler. Record these measurements.

5. Compare Measurements

Compare the measurements you've taken. If the measurements are consistent and relatively close, your foundation is likely level. If there are significant variations in the measurements, it could indicate that the foundation has settled unevenly.

6. Repeat for Different Areas

Repeat the process in different areas of your home to get a comprehensive understanding of the foundation's levelness. This will help you identify whether there are specific areas that might need attention.

7. Consult a Professional

If you notice significant variations or are unsure about the results, consult a professional foundation contractor or structural engineer. They can provide a more accurate assessment using specialized tools and expertise. They can also note if a foundation out of level needs repairs including leveling.

Keep in mind that small variations in measurements might be normal due to factors like the original construction of the house or minor settling. However, significant differences could indicate foundation issues that might need to be addressed. Regular inspections and maintenance can help you catch problems early and prevent further damage.

pier and beam foundation

Should a Foundation Be Perfectly Level?

While it might seem that a foundation should be perfectly level, that's not always the case. Consider a few reasons why a foundation might not be completely level:

  • Absolute perfection in terms of levelness is often unattainable due to natural variations in the ground. Also, consider that a settling process occurs over time.
  • The soil beneath a foundation can have different densities and compositions, leading to variations in settling. Some degree of settling is normal and expected as a building's weight compresses the soil underneath.
  • In some cases, it might be necessary to have a slight slope to the foundation to ensure proper water drainage away from the structure. A perfectly level foundation might not allow for effective drainage.
  • Some buildings are intentionally constructed with a slight incline or variation in foundation level to accommodate specific structural requirements. These might include load distribution or stability.
  • Older buildings might have experienced settling over time. In these cases, attempting to bring the foundation back to a "perfect" level could cause structural stress.
  • No matter the building’s age, attempting to forcefully level a foundation that has already settled can lead to unintended consequences. These include cracked walls, doors and windows not fitting properly, and other structural issues.

Instead of absolute level, a property’s owner’s focus should be on maintaining a foundation within acceptable tolerances. Also, you should address significant deviations that could lead to structural problems, uneven settling, and the like.

What Is a Typical Height for a Pier and Beam Foundation?

The height of a pier and beam foundation varies depending on building codes, soil conditions, and architectural design. Also, a builder will consider the specific needs of the structure being built.

The height of individual piers (posts or columns) typically ranges from about 18 inches to 4 feet or more. During construction, a builder determines this height based on the desired clearance between the ground and structure’s underside. They also consider the slope of the terrain and the structural requirements of the building.

The structure’s crawl space can vary as well. In some cases, the crawl space might be just a few feet high, while in other cases, it could be several feet high. Larger crawl spaces allow for easier access and potential storage.

New Braunfels Foundation Repair Experts is happy to explain how to check the level of a pier and beam foundation. If you’re near the city, call our New Braunfels foundation repair experts when you’re ready for a FREE inspection. We’ll prepare a comprehensive repair price quote as well, so you know your structure is in excellent condition from the ground up.


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