Foundation repair in St. Roch

In 2018, we got a request to repair a foundation at a small home in New Orleans’ St. Roch neighborhood. The house was in poor condition when the owner purchased it, and she restored the home by herself little by little, replacing siding, adding windows and railings, putting in a new fence, and painting the exterior. It was a pretty impressive transformation! But before she worked on the interior, the owner asked us to take a look at the foundation.

For this home, the sills were in good condition, but the piers needed work. The house, which is less than 900 sq. ft. in size, had shifted on its piers due to flooding during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the house no longer sat squarely on the piers. The owner asked if we could shift the house back, or move the piers. In a situation like this, the best option is to make new piers under where the house currently sits.

Richard Earls Construction replaced the piers, as shown in the photo on the right. While it’s easy to see that the new piers look more solid and clean, what isn’t so visible is that many of the original piers were crumbling, and some even included wood pieces. Wood in piers is a big no-no because wood gives ground termites an easy avenue to come right up into your house. The new all-cement piers deter termites, as do the slate pieces on top of the piers.

We jacked up the house and went to work, replacing each pier, including a few piers running down the center of the house. The home’s new piers are part of a solid foundation that will serve the home for years to come. While we’re impressed with how the new owner transformed this former eyesore into a pretty home (and so are her neighbors!) we’re even prouder that when she sold the house in 2019, the home inspection report came back with an A+ report on the foundation. The buyers were a young couple purchasing their first home, and understandably, they were nervous about getting their first mortgage. The clean report on the foundation gave them the confidence to move forward with the purchase.

These are the kinds of happy endings we love to hear. Let Richard Earls Construction take a look at your foundation so we can give you the same peace of mind while adding value to your home.

Home inspections before selling

It’s an exciting time for you. You’re going to sell your house! You tidy up that spare room, touch up the paint, put out some pretty potted plants, and get ready for a stampede of eager buyers. Maybe they’ll even get into a bidding war!

Not so fast. Before any buyer will commit to a mortgage, they’ll get an inspection done. Home inspections are all about checking to see if your house is structurally sound. They’ll check for problems with the roof, your A/C unit, pretty much everything they can see. This includes getting under the house and having a good look at your foundation.

We see this scenario all too often: A beautiful home looks great on the surface, but has serious foundation problems. Rotted sills, crumbling piers, joists spread apart at long intervals–these are all foundation problems that you might never know about until your home is inspected.

After an inspection, we are often asked to give estimates for repairs to such homes. The buyer, naturally, wants to know how serious the foundation problem is, and how much it will cost to make the home as solid as possible.

Why is a bad foundation inspection report a problem? Because there are two ways the sale can go. Experienced buyers, ones who have been through this situation before, will often ask the seller to lower the sale price based on the cost of foundation repair. This is actually the best-case scenario if you have a poor foundation. You won’t end up with the price you wanted, but at least the buyer will stick around and see it through to the sale, if you agree to the price reduction.

But if you’re working with a less experienced buyer, they might simply back out of the purchase, and you’ll be back to square one with finding a buyer. If the foundation report reveals the need for repairs that they just find too daunting, especially if the estimated cost for repairing the foundation is more than a few thousand dollars, inexperienced buyers will often just look elsewhere.

Our friends in real estate tell us that it is extremely rare for a home inspection to come back with no foundation problems reported. Wouldn’t it be great if your home could be one of those rare ones, where the buyer happily sticks around and doesn’t ask for a price reduction?

Your best defense against these issues is to get your foundation looked at before you list the house for sale. Richard Earls Construction can tell you if the foundation needs work, and can do the repairs before the home inspectors come to take a look.

Outdoor stairs repair

We recently got the opportunity to repair a grand old staircase at this stately home near the New Orleans Fairgrounds.


While other parts of the home were in great condition, the staircase to the front door had been battered by weather for decades. The handrails were the first to suffer irreparable damage, at which point the homeowner replaced them with pipes as a temporary measure.



stairs-risers stairs-treads

Then the treads themselves also became weak, forcing the homeowner to step carefully when mounting the stairs. A quick look under the staircase told the homeowner that it wasn’t just the treads that were weak—the risers, which the treads sit upon, had also sustained damage from weather and humidity.

The front steps were fast becoming a hazard not only for the homeowner, but also for anyone visiting the house, delivering packages, or providing utility services. The time was ripe to do something about it.

The first step in the repair process was to remove the existing staircase. Then our team put up new risers made of pressure-treated wood, which is designed to withstand humidity, rain, and other potentially damaging weather. The bottom end of the risers sits on a cement pad to prevent damage from the damp ground.

Next we added the treads and toe-kicks, and painted the staircase to provide further protection from the elements.

We were able to fabricate new handrails and posts by copying from existing ones elsewhere on house and the homeowner had salvaged most of the spindles from the previous staircase, saving a great deal of expense. Homeowners often ask us to incorporate items they already have into a repair or renovation. We’re always happy to do so, provided that the use of these elements won’t compromise safety or codes.

The result was a staircase that not only improved the house’s curb appeal, but is now safe to use.


If you have a staircase that sags, creaks, or just plain feels unsafe, give us a call here at Richard Earls Construction.

Sill replacement in Black Pearl

Sill damage is usually due to water or termites. For this home in New Orleans’ Black Pearl neighborhood, the sill was damaged by a plumbing leak inside the walls. The leak went on for a very long time, unknown to the homeowner, and after some months or years the sill beneath the leak became damaged. The homeowner noticed the problem only when the outer walls of the home began to bulge, a problem that was caused by the damaged sill starting to sink.


A sill, ideally stays straight throughout its life and holds the house’s joists straight, or level. When the sill is no longer straight, everything above it—joists, wall framing, floors, and even the home’s roof—can begin to go off-kilter. But unlike other parts of your home, where you can just “take a look” to see if something is wrong, sills are always hidden under the siding. Often, you won’t know something is wrong with a sill until a professional comes to take a look.

In this particular case, we were able to find the cause of the problem and schedule a sill replacement. A sill replacement requires us to use jacks to support the house while we remove the old sill. Some jacks are there just to support the house, while others are there to jack up the house by a fraction of an inch, just enough for us to pull out the old sill. (You can even be inside the house while we do this, and probably won’t notice a thing!)

Then we put in a new sill, and made sure everything was straight and supported.


Now that the sills are solid again, the homeowner can focus on other things.

Sill repair and replacement is best done by experienced pros with professional-grade equipment. At Richard Earls Construction, we’ve done hundreds of sill replacements for many happy customers. Give us a call if you think you might need your sills replaced.

Spot the signs of a failing foundation

While any homeowner is accustomed to looking for visible problems in and out of the house—broken siding, damaged flooring, a leaky ceiling—problems with a home’s foundation may not be as obvious. It’s crucial to be able to recognize when your foundation is failing, so you can catch a small problem before it becomes a big one.

While most of your foundation isn’t readily visible, you can recognize common problems with your foundation from a careful inspection of what you are able to see inside your home.

  • Sagging floors. When you drop a ball on the floor, does it quickly roll to a specific corner? Is there a part of your floor that squeaks, or seems to have more “give” than the rest of the room? This is a sign of possible damage to your foundation.
  • Bulging walls or floors. Damaged sills or joists will sag, and this sagging can cause a wall to bulge out or floorboards to buckle. If you find you’re suddenly tripping over parts of your floor that used to be just fine, the cause could be your foundation.

Both these problems could be due to joists or sills that have weakened due to water or termite damage, and are now sagging or even broken. Another possible cause is piers that are cracked or sinking, which means they’re no longer adequately supporting the sills.

Fortunately, an inspection by a qualified foundation professional can locate the cause of such problems fairly quickly. You can also easily check your own piers for cracks or other damage. Sometimes a simple repair will solve the problem completely, and help you avoid costly repairs to your floors, walls, and other parts of your home.

Richard Earls Construction specializes in finding the cause of such problems and offering a professional solution. Give us a call and ask how we can help you with your foundation.

What is a foundation?

The foundation of a home is just what it sounds like—the base that keeps the home standing.

Here in New Orleans, a common type of house has a pier construction, where the home itself sits a few feet off the ground. In this type of home, the foundation consists of several layers:

  • At the base is a footing underground. The footing is made of a solid material like concrete or bricks.
  • Sitting on top of the footing are piers, small towers that hold the house off the ground. Piers are made of a solid material like cement blocks or bricks. The piers rise three feet or more above the ground. For a finished home, the piers are the only part of the foundation that often remain uncovered (although some homeowners do cover up their piers with decorative lattices and the like).
  • Sitting on the piers are sills, long pieces of very solid wood. Sills are roughly 6” x 6” square and many feet long. On the outside of the house, sills are usually covered with siding.
  • Sitting on the sills are the joists, which are wood pieces that run across the length or width of the house, from one sill to another. Your home’s subfloor sits on the joists.
  • In the older homes in New Orleans, the framing for the walls tends to sit directly on the sills, whereas in the newer houses the framing for the walls is placed on top of the joists. The framing isn’t part of the foundation, but is provided here to show you how the foundation relates to the part of the house you see every day. The framing relies on the foundation to keep the walls standing straight.

There are countless variations on these basic elements. For example, in older homes, each pier may have its own small footing underneath it. In homes more than 100 years old, there may be no footings at all, which can lead to sagging floors and damaged walls over time. Some homes feature piers that are quite wide, stretching several feet to provide a wide support for the sills.

Whatever the type of your foundation, Richard Earls Construction specializes in foundation inspection and repair, and will explain the process to you every step of the way. Give us a call to find out how we can help you with your foundation.

What is a sill?

When you hear the word “sill,” you probably think of a window sill, that small shelf at the bottom of your window. Some folks use a window sill to display their favorite knick knacks, while others just curse the dust it gathers. But here at Richard Earls Construction, we’re more concerned with a different type of sill—the kind that holds up your house.

In the New Orleans Metro area, the older homes, and the newer homes today, are raised in the pier-and-beam style to allow for flooding. In such a home’s foundation, a sill is a long beam that keeps everything upright. Without good, strong sills, you wouldn’t have a home that could withstand a strong wind. But since these types of sills aren’t visible, you might not know they’re even there.

In a typical New Orleans home, the sills sit on piers, and they hold up the joists that support your home’s floor.  But since the sills are covered in siding, you won’t see them unless you go underneath the house or remove some of your siding.


In a traditional New Orleans home, the sills are made of wood. Newer sills are made of treated wood that resists rot and termites. But in older homes, the sills may have been made of wood that isn’t as impervious to these threats, or may be so old that they’ve sustained damage from decades of humidity, moisture, and termites.


A damaged sill can lead to problems inside the home. Uneven floors, soft or squeaky spots in your flooring, bulges in floors or walls—all these problems might be due to a damaged sill. And until you replace the sill, all your indoor renovations won’t solve the root of the problem.

Before you renovate inside, consider the problems that may be outside, with your foundation. Richard Earls Construction will inspect your foundation and find the cause of the problems you see inside the house.