What Lies Beneath
Spray Foam Magazine – Summer Issue 2021 – Imagine discovering a sizable gap under the living room floor and the utter horror that would ensue. This particular gap was caused by an eroded sewer line in Shelby Township, Michigan, where a pipe broke and left a cavern in its wake.
Foam All has been in business since the spring of 2015, and they added concrete lifting to their repertoire two years ago. Garry Spencer first launched the company and has recently sold the business to Doug Howard. Garry has stayed on mentoring Doug and helping out due to the volume of work Foam All is receiving.
This story unfolds when the plumbers had been jackhammering the homeowner’s floor and discovered the void under the slab. They immediately stopped what they were doing and were concerned about doing any more work thinking the entire slab would break and this could lead to more damage and potentially harm someone.
The plumbers quickly contacted Dri-Force, a restoration and construction company who have hired Foam All on numerous occasions for their spray insulation expertise. Dri-Force contractors, Dick Christie and Kip Evans, knew that the Foam All crew also lifts concrete, so they didn’t hesitate in calling them to come and look at the project.
The Foam All Team from left to right: Doug Howard, Kristy Buckingham, Garry Spencer
The Foam All crew trained in Kansas at the ECP (Earth Contact Products) and at the time of training had been spraying for several years. They wanted to expand the business realizing that foam lifting would be a fun and worthy addition to their skills. Doug Howard met Aaron Grayham from the engineering and training department at ECP at a spray foam conference and knew ECP would be the best people to train his staff in the concrete leveling and lifting process.
Doug Howard gave the homeowner the initial estimate, explaining, “This was probably less than a third of what it would have cost to tear out the existing concrete and pour new. After the initial estimate, we stopped by to look at it again and to make sure we had the correct course of action before the install date.”
Once the best course of action was confirmed, the Foam All crew showed up in their concrete rig. The rig was equipped with a Graco ExP2 reactor, providing the means for the crew to spray polyurethane foam and polyurea coatings. They used the Graco Gx7 mechanical purge gun to inject the foam.
Garry Spencer and Kristy Buckingham are the concrete lifting installer team at Foam All and very knowledgeable in this skill and other areas of the SPF installing business. Garry states, “The gap underneath was so large that I could actually lay in it and see under the living room. If it had not been discovered, the floor would have caved in and someone could have potentially been hurt.” When Kristy first saw the void, she gasped, “Wow, it’s unbelievable this floor has not yet collapsed; there isn’t anything holding it up. I hope it doesn’t fall in while I’m drilling.”
Garry and Kristy both knew they had to act quickly, so they used the expanding qualities of spray foam to provide emergency support so the plumbers could fix the leaking sewer line. Garry fed a fiber optic camera into a filling hole to better guide Kristy.
The Foam All crew used 21 gallons of NCFI’s TerraThane. This foam is purposely designed for under slab, void filling and under sealing or raising/leveling of concrete slabs. It is specifically formulated to perform in both wet and dry soil conditions, and it is closed-cell by design to reduce or eliminate water infiltration around slab sections, voids, or cavities. It is also ideal for broken or leaking waste or water lines. Filling these voids with a TerraThane system ensures no further settlement can occur.
The injection of TerraThane is less invasive than traditional, heavy cement slurry injection methods where 5/8-inch holes are drilled and used as injection points, compared to 1.5 to 2-inch holes for cement slurries or traditional mudjacking methods. In addition to these key features, TerraThane is lightweight but strong and durable, helping add nominal weight to the existing soils.
The entire process to fill the void took approximately four to five hours, with Kristy and Garry rescuing the concrete and preventing disaster. Kristy concluded, “Jobs like these are rewarding. We were able to come in and help these people out before they had an even bigger problem on their hands.”
Homeowners will sadly have to deal with sinking concrete sooner or later, with every type of concrete flatwork being vulnerable to sinking. Conversely, with the trained skills of SPF concrete lifters, costly concrete replacement is avoided, and the potential for injury and liability expenses is reduced due to hazard reductions and the elimination of uneven sections of concrete. Generally, homeowners would need to replace concrete surfaces every 15-25 years, but this can be prevented by hiring a professional company, like Foam All, to lift, level and fill voids, therefore extending the period of the concrete’s stability.
Foam All’s Doug Howard concluded by emphasizing, “It’s super fun to be able to help the customer and the contractor. We were able to give the customer and the contractor confidence that the job was completed and at a fair price. The customer was concerned it would cost a lot more, so we were able to save them money and resolve the issue. It truly was a win-win-win for everyone.”
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