Compromised Basement Walls: Cause & Effect

If your foundation walls begin to fail, there are many possible outcomes affecting your home – and none of them positive!

The open pathways created in the walls by foundation cracks can be used as an interstate highway of sorts for such unwanted elements as water, pests, odors and humidity. Bowing walls can create these cracks, causing such problems as the loss of property value or even the potential collapse of the structure!

If you have noticed foundation damage of any type, don’t hesitate! Over time, foundation problems will only worsen and complicate potential solutions. Foundation problems never correct themselves. Call or e-mail us today to find out how you can preserve the value of your home and restore your peace of mind!


What Does Dirt Have To Do With Foundation Failure?

When the external pressure on your foundation walls becomes greater than the capacity of the walls to resist it, the walls have no option but to shift. Walls will can bow in the middle, may tilt inward along the top or slide along the bottom. Foundation walls most commonly fail for two reasons: DIRT and WATER.


Improper Drainage

In adequate drainage around the foundation of a building can cause water at the surface to leach away slowly, increasing the amount of water infiltration near the foundation. The more water near the foundation, the more likely it is to develop problems. Higher amounts of moisture in the soil will increase hydrostatic (water) pressure on basement walls.

When the combination of hydrostatic pressure and the pressure of soil surrounding the foundation exceed the wall’s maximum load-bearing capacity, the wall can bow, lean, shear or crack. It is possible to reduce this type of pressure by grading the soil properly, ongoing maintenance of gutters, and increasing the length of downspouts. However, if any foundation damage is noted, it should be professionally inspected as quickly as possible. Implementing these precautions after the damage is done will not correct the underlying problems.


Changing Clay Soils

The term “expansive” is used to describe clay soils that have the ability to expand or contract substantially when the amount of water in the soil fluctuates. This may happen frequently during exceptionally rainy seasons or in times of severe drought.

Expansive clays swell when exposed to excess water and shrink when dried. While in their swelling phase, expansive clays pushing against basement walls can exert substantial pressure on the walls of a foundation, at a magnitude of several tons per square foot! As this cycle is repeated, the resulting damage to the foundation will only worsen. As it becomes weaker, the wall continues to disintegrate. The longer a repair is put off, the more difficult it is to complete and the more expensive it will be. It is best to deal with foundation problems during the earlier stages.


A Red Flag…Horizontal Wall Cracks

The appearance of horizontal cracks in a foundation is an indicator of a serious problem that can signal the possibility of complete failure of your foundation walls. Horizontal cracks occur when pressure builds against the foundation’s walls and pushes them inward, toward the center of the foundation. Over time, the continued pressure can snap these walls along the cracks, making the home unlivable.


The Progression of Foundation Wall Cracks

Cracks in the foundation walls can worsen if left untreated, especially when cinder block wall foundations are used. A crack or opening of any size in the foundation can allow water to enter the foundation, causing the rift to spread. When the foundation wall widens and cracks pass straight through, the walls move and the gap widens under the influence of soil and water pressures from the outside.

Like dominoes falling, one crack in a foundation wall will lead to another, setting off a chain reaction of ever-worsening gaps and breaches. Foundation cracks will never improve on their own. All cracks that allow the passage of water should be repaired as quickly as possible to minimize damage, and even the smallest hairline cracks should be examined by a trained foundation repair expert to determine if they could be the sign of an underlying larger problem.


Free Quotes For Foundation Repair

Inspect your basement walls regularly for the appearance of cracks or tilting walls. If you notice any changes, call the experts at BL Bennett Structural Solutions as soon as possible for a free professional inspection and a free estimate for the recommended repairs. There are many ways to repair bowing foundation walls – methods that can not only reinforce the wall and prevent continued inward movement, but can also redistribute the weight of the surrounding moist soil to prevent the recurrence of the problem.