For Ryan Beckley of TerraFirma Foundation Systems, his first home-foundation job launched a lifetime of projects.
In early 2005, Ryan Beckley and his wife had just started diving into repairs on their new Roseburg home, a 1972 split-level home in the west Harvard Hills. They had bought it for under market value because of a compromised foundation that would swell and shrink with the seasons, a seemingly fatal flaw that had scared off other prospective buyers. But not Beckley, a self-starter who grew up in construction, in both his grandfather’s and his father’s rock-crushing businesses.
“I’m by nature more of a Mr. Fix-It, MacGyver type of a guy,” said Beckley, 43, founder, owner and president of TerraFirma Foundation Systems.
Where some saw a disaster, Beckley saw a great opportunity not only to restore a property for his family, but to launch a new and ambitious foundation repair service, with himself as his own first customer. He hit the ground running, studying what he needed to learn to enter the industry and honing his craft while his company grew. Fourteen years later, TerraFirma Foundation Systems now employs over 150 employees. Based out of their home office in Roseburg, the company serves all of Oregon, from the California border to Seattle, inspecting upwards of 14,000 properties annually and taking on about 3,500 projects per year.
“There was a lot on the line if you will, [and] that’s a lot of risk to put under one umbrella,” Beckley said, “but I take calculated risks and I’m not afraid to take them and we stepped into it and made it work.”
TerraFirma handles everything that matters to the foundation of a home. They are experts in structural stabilization, waterproofing, crawlspace encapsulation, concrete leveling and earthquake retrofitting. Each of which can play a vital role in the safety, appearance and value of a home. Although the company also takes on commercial and public-sector work, over 90% of of their projects are residential properties.
According to Beckley, TerraFirma is one of the few companies anywhere that provides an all-encompassing, integrated foundation service. It’s their single focus that makes the company such a valuable ally for a homeowner.
“We’re experts at it. We are the largest company in our industry in the Northwest, [and] we’re one of the largest in the country,” he said. “The list of things we don’t do is incredibly long; the list of things we do is very limited.”
That focus has enabled TerraFirma to prosper in the industry, with an annual average growth rate of 42%, according to Beckley. Rather than grabbing for a whole range of unrelated jobs by being the lowest bidder, TerraFirma serves as a one-stop shop for homeowners who need help with their basements, crawlspaces and driveways.
“You can’t lead with ‘We’re going to be the cheapest,’” Beckley said. “People do, but you get what you pay for in that scenario.”
Beckley saw an opportunity to set his company apart by providing really good customer service and a really good warranty. He has found that homeowners have a lot on the line when they call on him, and it’s a feeling he knows well. For him, every job is personal, and limited scope has meant a better customer experience all around.
“What we’ve come to learn is that there is a unique emotional experience that a homeowner has because this is their home, this is one of the biggest investments,” he said. “We bring these values to the table as a company—and as employees, we find that our customers really show an incredible sense of appreciation for how seriously we take our commitment to provide great service.”
Seeing that appreciation is what makes the difference for Beckley. “That’s when this became much more of a passion and less about being just ajob,” he said.
Top Signs Your Home’s Foundation Needs Repair
1. Sticking doors and windows
2. Gaps around window or door frames
3. Cracks in the dry wall
4. Countertops and cabinets separating from walls
5. Sloping floors
6. Cracked, bowing or leaning foundation walls
7. Crumbly foundation According to Beckley, typically homes are built on expansive clay hydric soils, or soils that expand with water. “That’s a type of soil that retains water and expands as it retains more,” he said. “Think about it like a dried-out sponge.”
When you have variable moisture content and expansive soils, “the hydraulic capacity of that soil is virtually unlimited,” Beckley said. “It can lift just about anything that’s on top of it.” A house on a hillside, or on an uneven foundation may be more likely to present these symptoms.
“Windows and doors, and the framing around them, create a natural point where the structure will give,” he said. “Most of the time we see that later in the summer.”
For those who see any of these symptoms, it is critical to address them right away, according to Beckley: “They do not go away on their own.”
For more info, visit GoTerraFirma.com