Geotechnical Foam for Concrete Lifting Saves an Old Tree

Geotechnical Foam for Concrete Lifting Saves an Old Tree
In most cases, after some testing to check the soil density underneath the concrete slab, geotechnical foam can raise the concrete to make it trip-free for pedestrians.
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Spray Foam Magazine – Summer Issue 2022 – Once-upon-a tree, the people in the quaint town of Winder, Georgia, noticed their pavements were sinking. There was also an old tree growing next to one of the pavements that was destroying part of the sidewalk. People of the town hated to cut it down, but was there a solution?

Cities often hire a third party to take care of sidewalks, potholes, and wastewater management issues and it was this third party who contacted Travis Germick and Matt Chittick. They are the owners of Lift it Rite LLC, and they were asked if they could help save Winder’s sidewalks.

Germick and Chittick went to Winder to review the situation and noted that several of the sidewalks around the town were obviously sunken. One of them was next to a very old tree and the roots were impacting the sidewalk. This had happened to another tree in the area, and the town took out the concrete and cut some of the roots of the tree. Once a tree’s roots are cut the tree will eventually die so they cut down the entire tree. After the tree was cut down, the residents of the town clubbed together and had a memorial for the tree. After that unhappiness, cutting down more trees in the future was not an option. There had to be another solution to save the additional old tree.

For 22 years, Travis Germick worked as an installer for one of the largest independently owned insulation companies in the U.S. After a few years in, he became a salesperson and then the company he was working for discovered spray foam. Germick soon picked up spray foam insulating and became the spray foam specialist for that company and trained people on location.

10 years ago, Germick had an issue with his own driveway and had it lifted with the mud jacking method. Within a year and half, it had dropped back down. Soon after that he went to a spray foam convention and met with a guy who worked for a spray foam distribution and equipment company where he was assisting contractors with parts, equipment, training, and supplies. He was demonstrating concrete lifting foam. Germick didn’t realize that this method existed and was enthusiastic to learn more. Germick loved the idea and soon after discovering it, he went into business with concrete lifting expert Matt Chittick and Lift it Rite LLC was founded. They are also proud to be part of the Sprayfoam Annual conferences assisting with field exams as SPFA field examiners. They would also love to see a certificate specifically for concrete lifting in the future. Travis’s wife, Julie Germick, and Matt’s wife, Cheryl Chittick are also owners of the business as well as taking care of the administrative and office work.

A majority of the public are still unaware that concrete lifting using high density geotechnical foams can be done. Unlike spray foam insulation, Geotech foams are designed to lift heavy loads and work in soil and wet environments. Lift it Rite LLC concentrates on educating people via their Facebook posts and home shows. When they get to meet people face to face, they show them how they can solve their sunken concrete issues. Currently 90% of their work is residential.

BEFORE (top) & AFTER (bottom) Germick stated, “At the time of the application, our manufacturer had about 15 people fly in from Europe and Scandinavia. They watched us work. We completed the job in about an hour and a half and we saved a very old tree. Everyone was happy and it still looks great to this day.”

Germick and Chittick have an app from their manufacturer, Alchemy-Spetec, which helps them decide on the amount of foam they require for the job. Germick highlights, “Just say we have a 10x10 slab of concrete and it’s down two inches on one side, I know I must bring those two inches to original pour level. The app will calculate how many pounds of material I’m going to have to use. We have been doing the lifting for a while now so most of the time we will go out and look at the job and I can give it a price. When you do a lot of the same things repeatedly, like lifting a sidewalk, or a driveway that’s down two inches or even pool decks where we sometimes use a jack system to lift the concrete, you know what’s involved and the price. There were about six sections of the sidewalk for this job with five foot by four foot slabs.”

There was no need for Germick and Chittick to wear full PPE due to being outside, the minimal amount of material sprayed at a time, and the fact the foam is sprayed underground. However, they made sure to wear full pants, steel capped boots, gloves, and safety glasses. Arriving onsite, with their 16’ V-nose trailer which included a PMC PH-2 HP Proportioner, ROL Air 9hp gas compressor and CAS 25kw gas generator, the Lift it Rite LLC crew was ready to start work. They commenced by drilling a 3/8ths of an inch hole through the first concrete slab. They then stuck their Alchemy-Spetec MixMaster slab lifting gun in the hole injecting Alchemy-Spetec AP430 concrete lifting foam at 1500psi.

Matt Chittick (left), owner of Lift it Rite LLC, and Travis Germick (right)

The slab foam expands 24 times in 28 seconds and is a little slower than insulation foam. “You want the foam to spread out. If the foam expands too quickly it will end up being a big fat marshmallow, which we don’t want. The foam needs to support the slab. Think of it like pouring another slab underneath the concrete, basically trying to replicate the structural integrity of that. It will then block everything together and will lift everything together in a uniform lift. We spray two to three seconds of injecting foam at a time and then stop. After waiting a few seconds, we assess then spray again. Within 15 minutes, the foam will be 90% cured and within four hours it's 100% cured. The initial chemical reaction and what gives the foam the push, will primarily push into the nooks and crannies and remediate those, then it will start to compact the soil. The soil must be compacted, or it will not lift. Think of it like a solid substrate to push off of.”

There are a few things that will cause concrete to sink, either the soil was not compacted to begin with, there is rotting debris in the ground which causes the soil to settle, or there is an erosion issue caused by water getting under the concrete. Occasionally there may be some animal digging a hole under the concrete causing it to drop down. 

Before starting any job Germick and Chittick check the soil density by probing the soil in the area and sometimes that may require doing a couple of drill holes through the actual concrete. Some jobs may even require the crew to do a ground penetrating radar (GPR) or a penetrometer test which is a method used to determine the geotechnical engineering properties of soils. These tests are an additional way to analyze the soil and what’s going on below the surface of the concrete.

The Lift it Right LLC crew lifted six of the sidewalk sections making this pedestrian sidewalk trip free, while giving an old tree a new lease on life. This all was completed with the power of foam, a vast understanding of the concrete lifting method, and the eagerness to always perform at a top level. The people of Winder are thrilled that Germick and Chittick managed to save the old tree and make their sidewalks safe once more.

By: Spray Foam Magazine Staff on May 31, 2022
Categories: Concrete Lifting
Tags: spray foam magazine, Concrete Lifting, Summer Issue 2022
Issue: Summer Issue 2022

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