There are few things in your home as important as the basement foundation wall. It helps ensure the structural integrity of your home and fights against the tide of moisture and soil pressing against your basement interior. If it fails, it can devastate your home.
Foundation wall failure typically happens slowly over time, and there are signs that you can see. But only if you know what to look for! Learn how to spot the signs and identify what’s going wrong with your wall before it fails completely.
How Do You Know If Your Foundation Wall is Leaning, Bowed or Bulging?
Fortunately, there are several indicators that can help you identify when your basement foundation wall is compromised. When looking for structural issues, they can present themselves differently depending on the type of inward movement your walls are experiencing.
Here are some of the most common signs of problems with your basement foundation wall:
- Cracks in your walls more than 1/8 inch wide
- Angled cracks from the corners of the wall or across the center
- Unleveled flooring
- Water seepage
- Walls sliding inward at the bottom or leaning in at the top
Distinguishing Between Types of Basement Foundation Inward Movement
Not all foundation damage is the same. If you think you’ve identified the early signs of failure, it can help to distinguish between leaning walls or bulging walls. The difference may not seem important, but it can help with locating the source of the problem and deciding on a solution.
Bulging walls often have horizontal cracks, as the pressure is closer to the center of the wall and will cause it to fold in from the center. You can measure for a bulged wall by using a plumb string attached to the ceiling and measuring the distance of the wall, bottom to top. If the wall measures longer than the plumb line, it indicates a failing wall that is likely to be bulging.
Leaning foundation walls will angle slightly. Most homeowners expect leaning walls to lean in from the top. In some cases, the inward movement comes from the bottom instead. Make sure to look for both.
What Can Cause a Foundation Wall to Fail?
Inadequate drainage is one of the most common ways that foundations suffer damage. As moisture drains into the foundation, it builds up against the side of your home and can cause soil heaving. Hydrostatic pressure is also a typical cause of water leaking into your basement.
You can prevent drainage problems from occurring. In addition to ensuring your home’s grading provides moisture with a path away from your foundation, gutters and spouts that direct water far away from your foundation is important. If your gutters are damaged or clogged, they will leak water into your foundation and increase your risk for foundation wall failure.
Shifting Clay Soil
Clay soil around your foundation is very responsive to the amount of moisture in the ground. During dry periods, the clay in the soil becomes dehydrated and shrinks. When it begins to rain and moisture seeps below the surface, the clay absorbs the water and expands. This expansion puts inward pressure on your foundation and over time can cause cracks to form.
Like moisture in clay, frost heaving is the shrinking and expansion of soil as it thaws or freezes. During the colder months of the year, moisture in the soil will freeze and expand and apply pressure to your foundation. The thaw doesn’t help the problem, either; thawing soil shifts and moves which applies uneven pressure to your foundation.
Frost heaving can impact the stability of your foundation and even cause cracking. Learn more about frost heaving and how to spot it.
Solutions for Failing Basement Foundation Walls
If you act quickly when a basement wall shows signs of failure, there are solutions that can restore its stability. Here are the most common options:
For common bowing or leaning walls, heavy duty wall anchors can help reverse inward movement and restore stability. These anchors are installed into the soil outside of your foundation wall and are connected to a plate on your wall. The heavy-duty steel helps stabilize the wall. It can also straighten the wall back into place.
Versatile anchors are effective for most wall repair situations. The biggest drawback is that they require a large space outside of the home for access. In areas with homes that are built close together, the anchors can’t be installed.
When wall anchors are not appropriate or possible, steel beams are a popular option. The installation is very straightforward: steel beams are set vertically along the failing foundation wall. While they can’t reverse the bowing, they will prevent any further inward movement.
Steel beams come with a significant downside: their bulk. The beams are large and steal space from your usable basement area. Many homeowners find this undesirable and opt for more modern options.
Carbon Fiber Wall Braces
You can achieve the bracing effect of steel beams without the bulk by using carbon fiber, the strongest man-made material on the planet. Carbon fiber is a modern marvel that has become accessible due to more affordable mass production methods. Previously, it was only used for applications like space shuttles and bridge repairs.
Carbon fibers are woven together into a sheet that’s resistant to stretching. Attached to the wall with epoxy, the sheet will not only prevent the wall from shifting inward, it will actually reinforce the wall to make it stronger than before.
In addition to its exceptional strength, carbon fiber sheets are extremely thin. Unlike steel beams, this option will be practically invisible. You’ll lose no noticeable space in your basement!
EverDry Toledo recommends StablWall™ carbon fiber for weak walls and aging foundations. This permanent solution can extend the life of your foundation by years and becomes unnoticeable when painted over.
Schedule Your FREE 20-Point Inspection
With the large amounts of rain and snow in the northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan regions, EverDry Toledo is no stranger to repairing basement foundation walls. Contact us for a FREE 20-point basement inspection! We’ll help you find out if your home is at risk and which solutions will be serve you.
Contact us online to schedule an appointment or give us a call at (419) 469-5833 and schedule your inspection today!
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