Looking for accurate cost information related to bowing foundation walls?
Perfect, you’re in the right spot. In this guide, you’ll learn:
- How to identify bowing basement walls
- Causes of bowed walls in your foundation
- How to fix the issue and maintain structural integrity
- How to save money on bowing foundation walls
Your home’s foundation walls have an astounding amount of pressure applied to them constantly. They support and offer structural integrity to your entire house, and they hold back soil and water from entering your home.
Whether you have a crawlspace or basement foundation, the inward bowing of foundation walls is usually indicative of severe issues that should be corrected immediately. This kind of movement is often caused by hydrostatic pressure from the ground around your foundation, and it can lead to significant damage and even house collapse.
Below, I’m going to discuss the easiest and most reliable ways to identify bowing foundation walls, the options to fix them, and how you can save money in the process.
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What Are The Signs Of A Bowing Foundation Wall, and How Do You Identify That There is a Problem?
Foundation damage, especially the inward movement of your walls, is a serious problem and can lead to massive home damage if not found and corrected as quickly as possible.
Therefore, you need to know what to look for to identify signs of inward movement in your foundation walls. I recommend carrying out self-inspections about once every six months or so, during which you should monitor your foundation for the below signs of damage.
If your crawlspace or basement walls are bare and unfinished on the interior, your first step to identify signs of bowing is to check for cracks in the concrete foundation walls.
Check out this video below for how to inspect foundation cracks:
Constant pressure from the soil outside commonly causes horizontal cracks or stair-step cracks to form in your foundation walls. These are very severe issues that require professional attention. Diagonal cracking is often less severe but should still be assessed by a professional.
Your next step should be to look for cracking on the exterior of the foundation walls. Without extensive excavation, you won’t be able to see the entirety of the wall. However, horizontal cracking can appear on the visible portion. Cracks this high up on your exterior wall often indicate tilting foundation walls, which you’ll want to check for next.
Your concrete block walls can tilt inward in response to enormous pressure from the outside soil. If you have a finished basement, you may notice cracks in the drywall, often near the top of the wall.
If you have an unfinished basement or crawlspace, measure the angle between your wall and the floor and ceiling. It should be close to 90 degrees, if not exactly perpendicular.
Bowing in your foundation walls occurs for the same reason as tilting, but it indicates that the hydrostatic pressure is being applied further down your wall. As such, there likely won’t be any signs of cracking from the outside. Bowing can usually be seen on bare foundation walls or drywall.
You can test for bowing using a level or long straight edge to ensure that the vertical walls are flat. Alternatively, you can measure from any wall to the opposite wall at the top, middle, and bottom. The three measurements should be equal.
Uneven floors can be good indicators of foundation wall failure and the soil issues that cause them. You may notice sloping in your basement or any other floor of your home, as bowing in one side of your foundation lowers that same side of your home. The slope may be very slight, but it can usually be detected by long levels.
Doors & Cabinets Not Shutting Properly
Because your foundation supports your entire home, bowing issues can cause unevenness in walls, floors, and ceilings. This instability can cause doors or cabinets to swing opened or closed by themselves. Additionally, multiple stuck doors on your home, especially those leading outside, can indicate bowing in your foundation wall.
Lastly, you should check for bulging in the walls in your basement as well as others throughout your house. When foundation walls bow inward, the load-bearing walls above often bulge outward in reaction.
What Causes A Bowing Foundation Wall?
A bowing foundation wall is most commonly caused by hydrostatic pressure or expanding soil around your home. Expansive clay soil expands most readily given the amount of moisture in it naturally, but any type of soil can put enough pressure on your foundation to cause major damage. This pressure is often a result of flooding, frost heaving, rapidly changing temperature conditions, improper drainage, improper grading, excessive rainwater, or arid conditions.
Excessive weight on top of the land around your home can also compact the soil and create pressure on your concrete block walls. Additional weight from machinery, vehicles, and patios or driveways can lead to problems.
Lastly, large tree roots can cause bowing if they continue to grow into the side of your foundation wall.
How Do You Fix Foundation Walls Suffering From Bowing?
Below, I’m going to detail how to go about fixing wall problems in your foundation, but I first must stress the importance of getting this work done by a professional. Foundation problems, especially bowing, are serious, and they require adequate and permanent solutions.
Place Earth Anchors
First, the placement of earth anchors needs to be determined for maximum efficiency. Sections of grass will be removed for replacement later, and an auger is used to drill for earth anchor placement.
Prepare Foundation Wall
Next, holes are drilled in your foundation wall from the interior, and thick rods are inserted through the hole and out to the spot where the earth anchor will be placed.
Attach Earth Anchor
Once the steel rod has been fed out to the augered hole, it gets secured to the earth anchor.
Mount Wall Plate
Steel wall plates are then slipped over the support rod from the inside of your basement or crawlspace. The threaded ends of the rods attached with a nut and tightened to create tension. The wall plate distributes the clamping pressure to a larger surface area of the wall, adding the most support possible.
Restore The Landscaping
Next, all areas of your landscaping that were disrupted during the process will be restored. The earth anchor holes will be filled in, and sections of grass that were removed before are replaced.
Tighten Wall Anchors
Lastly, the nut is tightened on the foundation wall anchors to create tension between the anchor and the wall plate, adding extra strength to your wall and potentially pulling it back to its original position.
How To Save Money When Repairing A Bowing Foundation Wall?
Foundation repairs, especially those as severe as bowing walls, are usually very costly, so most homeowners will want to save money wherever they can in the repair process. I recommend getting a free quote from a few different repair specialists to find the best price for a comprehensive fix.
I first have to mention that, although proper fixes are expensive upfront, the best way to save money on the repair is to get it done correctly the first time. A solution that restores your foundation’s integrity will be costly, but not nearly as expensive as a collapsing home or additional damage that is likely to occur if left untreated for an extended period of time.
Although many foundation wall repair experts will fix your problem correctly, a great way to save money on future repairs is to choose a warrantied wall anchor system. If you do run into recurring problems in the future, your warranty will cover the cost of additional repairs.
There are other solutions for repairing bowing walls, like reinforcement using carbon fiber mesh and high-grade epoxy, or I-beam systems. These options can be cheaper than old school techniques and offer good stability. However, you should always consult a structural engineer before choosing an alternative to earth anchors, as very extensive damage can’t always be repaired using other methods.
Another thing that will save you money in the long run when repairing a bowing foundation wall is to fix the underlying problem first or in addition to the installation of earth anchors. Ensure your soil is properly graded, install gutters and downspouts to redirect roof runoff, apply waterproofing to your foundation, and consider adding a French drain or another external drainage system to prevent hydrostatic pressure problems from recurring.
Lastly, speak with your structural engineer or contractor about anchor placement that doesn’t disrupt patios, decks, or other expensive landscaping. Excavating these outdoor features will add cost to your repair when placing earth anchors, and there may be other options for placement that offer just as much strength to your foundation.