As a former house mover, it wasn't unusual for Ken Marquardt to come across foundation problems. After working with engineers and trying to figure out how to fix the difficulties he encountered, he decided to give the Ram Jack piering process a try. He's been a dealer ever since.

With offices in Eugene and Portland, Ram Jack of Oregon offers full service foundation replacement, repairs, and waterproofing.

"I was kind of in the business to begin with," said Marquardt, who with brother Scott, runs the business, which became Ram Jack-certified in 2000.

Prior to 2000, Ken Marquardt spent some 12 years as a house mover, known in the area for recycling houses - he even received a local award for his work. But now his focus is on his Ram Jack dealership.

Ram Jack is a family-owned business that began in 1968 in Ada, Oklahoma. Foundation repair back then typically involved concrete piering systems, which proved to be short-term. So the owners ultimately developed a repair system that involves a more reliable and longer lasting fix - a system involving hydraulically deep-driven steel piers. In 1985 the first patent of the Ram Jack system was issued.

The company, which has a dealership network that spans the country, has installed more than 70,000 piers on more than 6,500 residential and commercial buildings.

"Engineering reports estimate the steel in the ground has a life expectancy of 50 to 100 years," the company says.

The leading cause of foundation problems in the Oregon area is expansive clay soil.

"There was no rebar put into homes until seven or eight years ago, when it became required by code," said Scott Marquardt.

Expansive soils can create damaging movements to foundations and structures. These movements originate from changes in soil moisture, which trigger shrinking and swelling.

Poor drainage can be a major contributor to soil moisture gains. Roof runoff should be directed away from the house through the use of gutters. Gutter downspouts should not be permitted to discharge the water next to the foundation. Surface drainage next to the foundation should slope away from the house approximately ΒΌ " per foot.

"You can usually detect foundation problems fairly early when you have bad drainage," said Scott.

As a result of the soil problems common in the Oregon area, underpinning is required to extend the foundation support to depths that provide greater bearing capacity and/or are less affected by climate and soil conditions.

This underpinning, if properly designed and installed, provides the basis to lift the structure to a more acceptable elevation and provides vertical support to prevent the underpinned area from settling.

Meanwhile, another common problem the pair comes across in homes in the Eugene and Portland areas is chimney-leaning.

"Those are fun. Most jobs are muddy, but chimneys are fun," said Ken Marquardt. "We go in there and get it popped back up in a day. The homeowners are usually sitting there with their mouths wide open."

Ram Jack of Oregon also comes across foundations and homes sitting on lots that weren't filled properly.

"We just did a job in Salem - a brand new house," said Ken Marquardt. "It just sank."

Typically what happens in those types of cases is that one section of soil isn't compacted properly or consistently like the others, causing one section of the house to drop.

Ken Marquardt says owners of new homes shouldn't assume that their homes will be free from foundation problems just because the house is new.

"We've done repairs on houses as young as two years old, and many within five years," he said. "Nine out of 10 have bad soil, especially the newer houses."

If your front door sticks and you can't get in and out, then consider yourself warned: you probably have a foundation problem.

"People usually freak out when the door doesn't work and are clued in," he said.

Other common symptoms of an ailing foundation can be found inside your home -misaligned doors and windows, cracked sheetrock, and cracks in the floor. If you look outside your home and see cracked brick, displaced moldings, cracks in the footing, or gaps between the windows and the walls, you should also be concerned.

About half of Ram Jack of Oregon's jobs are homes, and the other half commercial buildings starting at 15,000 feet. The company once underpinned a 200-foot-long-by-20-feet-high block wall that had tilted and sank.

"We underpinned it and lifted the whole thing," Ken Marquardt said, describing one of his most memorable jobs.

Ram Jack of Oregon also offers waterproofing services.

They use asphalt-free Rub - R - Wall, a waterproofing membrane made of non-hazardous, polymeric materials that are nontoxic and noncarcinogenic. The solvent mixture used to apply the membrane onto the foundation wall meets federal, state and local VOC and emission requirements. The material is sprayed on.

Ram Jack of Oregon says independent laboratory tests show a projected life expectancy of more than 100 years for Rub - R - Wall when consistently exposed to water. Conventional asphalt based coatings, such as cutback or emulsified asphalt, are susceptible to leaching.

Meanwhile, the Marquardts receive annual training from Ram Jack to keep them on top of the newest techniques and technologies.

And business is already heating up for the busy spring and summer months.

"We're already getting a lot of bids now for April and May jobs to start," Ken Marquardt said, as he looks forward to the work season ahead. "It's a fun business."

Ram Jack of Oregon
Ken Marquardt Construction, Inc.
Ken Marquardt

P.O. Box 11701
Eugene, OR 97440
(541) 688-7177
(541) 688-4991 FAX
Send Mail Now - Click Here

Michele Dawson writes each week on one of the contractor members of The Concrete Network ( She has written about the home building industry for several years and was on the public affairs staff of the California Building Industry Association.