Ram Jack of Mid-Missouri - In The News
Ram Jack of Central Missouri
Mom and Pop Service Combines With Newest Techniques, Training
by Michele Dawson
The Concrete Network Website
Randy Gibbs grew up on a Nebraska farm. Whenever neighbors needed help building or repairing a house, Randy was right there to pitch in. So now it’s only natural that his spirit of lending a hand has become such a strong element of his company, which includes a Ram Jack dealership.
“This is more of a hands-on, people business,” Gibbs said.
Together with wife Kathleen, Randy operates Gibbs Company’s Inc., which specializes in concrete restoration and repair, new concrete and concrete impressions, replacement windows, decks, additions, waterproofing, foundation repair, and solving drainage problems. One of the units of the company is Ram Jack of Central Missouri — one of only two Ram Jack dealerships in the state.
Growing up on the Midwest farm, Gibbs knew early on he didn’t want to be a farmer. Instead, he pursued his degree in architecture and then spent about 90 percent of his career working for himself as a general contractor and remodeler.
He did a lot of residential work outside Omaha, and then he moved to Missouri to work for a local contractor. During that time he learned about the area’s soils and how they relate to building and foundations.
In 1993 he and his wife decided to forge their own company. He began with mudjacking — a way to restore sunken concrete slabs to their original grade through raising or stabilizing faulty concrete pavement, performed on cracked and sunken concrete slabs like driveways, steps and sidewalks, concrete pavement floors and other slab-on-grade surfaces.
He then added waterproofing to his repertoire and five years ago, foundation repair joined the roster of services. In January 2001 Ram Jack scouted him out; he is now an official Ram Jack dealer who offers piering services.
Piling or piering is the technique of driving steel pipe pilings to remedy failing building foundations and to correct foundation settlement.
Ram Jack’s patented lift system is used to recover settlement in homes. High-carbon, steel pilings are driven vertically by 70,000 lbs. of hydraulic power to an average of 22 feet below the home to anchor the structure and prevent future settlement.
A hydraulic pump uses a synchronized lift to raise the affected areas of your home simultaneously to maximum practical recovery.
“And we’ve been growing at an astounding rate ever since (we became affiliated with Ram Jack),” he said, saying he has seven employees and expects to have nine by the end of the year to keep up with all the leads. Kathleen handles everything from accounting and leads to data entry and quarterly reports. But she’s also helped install and mud jack in some situations.
When it comes to foundation repair, one of the common problems homeowners combat in the Missouri area stems from the clay-based soil found there.
“There’s a lot of shrinking and swelling,” Gibbs said. “Homes built on this type of soil experience constant movement. You hope to have the house move evenly, but that’s not always the case.”
Homeowners can also experience foundation problems when they plant trees too close to the house or water doesn’t drain far enough away from the house. About 70 to 80 percent of houses end up with partial settling or heaving at varying rates.
“The best preventive measure is water management,” said Gibbs, saying that can mean reshaping yards so water runs away from the house, controlling water runoff, regarding, extending downspouts, installing drain tiles or retaining walls, and not planting trees too close to the house.
A young tree may not seem like a problem now, but in 10 to 20 years it will be. Gibbs said a huge amount of water is drawn from a full-grown maple tree. If planted too close to the house, that portion close to the foundation will dry out more than the rest of the slab, resulting in uneven shrinking or swelling.
Gibbs said he is seeing an increasing number of new homes with foundation problems.
“It’s not necessarily that it’s built incorrectly,” he said. “Sometimes there are misunderstandings over soil analysis.”
So Gibbs is working on educating and promoting preventative measures to builders, which would ultimately save money compared to what repairs could cost down the road.
“They’re becoming more and more interested,” he said.
Meanwhile, one of the first signs of foundation failure is usually a crack. Water penetrating the cracks and joints will collect in the open spaces. As the moisture cycles through freeze and thaw cycles, the crack widens. Additionally, the water will seep into the concrete through the unsealed inside walls. This damaging cycle will continue, eventually leading to undermining, settling, and even complete disintegration.
Gibbs treats the problem by thoroughly cleaning the cracks and joints by hand or using a high-pressure cleaner. He then applies a urethane-based caulking to seal the cracks and joints. Urethane is used because it is very sticky and will maintain adhesion to the concrete while still remaining flexible.
And remaining flexible and open to new ways of doing things has been one of the contributing factors to the success of Gibbs’ company, particularly in staying active in Ram Jack’s ongoing training and educational programs.
A field representative — a third-generation pier installer — visits Gibbs each year giving updated information on driving piers and lifting houses.
“Every year he comes back out, checks on the crew, and brings along new information,” Gibbs said. “It’s why Ram Jack has a less than 1 percent call-back rate. It’s phenomenal. It shows the strength of the system.”
And for Gibbs, one of the best parts of the job is getting out there and connecting with the people in his community.
“It’s almost second nature to me — growing up on a farm and helping the neighbors build whatever needed to be built and figuring out what to do next,” he said.
You could say he has come full circle. He pursued his love of architecture, which he developed in junior high school, and then, of course, went into remodeling and general contracting work.
“But I’m still a people person,” he said. “I like being out in the field and figuring out the solutions to the problem.
He considers communication key in this business, particularly because homeowners tend to get anxious and are unsure what to expect.
“I like to prepare the customer for the disruption that will occur, walk them through it so there’s not so much shock involved,” he said.
“It’s a rush to be on the fix-it end,” he said. “People are trusting you to take care of their homes — their largest investment.”