Wall cracks can be the first scream of a North Texas homeowner’s worst nightmare: foundation problems. The discovery can be terrifying because the cure is often very expensive.
Our area’s clay soils “expand and contract like a sponge,” says Jim Fontaine, who experienced the costly consequences first hand. “(Typical slab) foundations just can’t handle that much movement over time.”
Along the way to remediating his own foundation problems, Fontaine connected with Richardson structural engineer Tony Childress who had invented a commercial slab technology system designed to eliminate foundation problems caused by shifting soil. Fontaine wanted to make the process economically viable for mass market homes and multi-family construction, not just large projects and high end custom homes.
Fast forward to Tella Firma Foundations, the incarnation of Fontaine’s vision. “Our system takes the soil out of the equation,” says Fontaine. Building on the Childress technology, Tella Firma patented a new type of elevated foundation that is close in price to that of slab foundations.
Though at present, Tella Firma technology is pricier than conventional slabs, it is not as expensive as more stable pier and beam. Fontaine compares the pricing this way: Typical pier and beam costs $14 to $16 per square foot, while slab goes for $7.50 to $8.50. Tella Firma rings up at $8.50 to $9.50 per square foot and “reduces the risk of foundations problems to zero,” adds Fontaine.
According to Tella Firma information: “By using a field-tested, patented process of elevating a slab-on-grade foundation, (our technology) creates a protective void between the ground and the foundation itself.” In plain language, according to Fontaine, once the slab is poured, built-in lifters raise it off the ground.
“This application isolates the slab and guards it from damaging soil swells, contractions and unexpected movement,” according to Tella Firma. “(Ours) is a high-tech foundation that provides the strength and protection of a pier-and-beam foundation, yet is much more affordable and takes less time to install compared with traditional suspended foundations.” Fontaine’s goal is to bring the cost even with traditional slab foundations.
And wouldn’t you guess, Tella Firma gets its name from the Latin words meaning “strong home.”