Horizontal cracks found on foundation walls are indications of a very serious problem, and over time, they can lead to a complete foundation wall failure. Brick walls are just as vulnerable to cracking and bowing as other walls, and they're also susceptible to crumbling mortar.
Poor drainage and grading of soil around a structure can cause water to drain slowly. This water will saturate the ground around the foundation walls, causing an increase in hydrostatic (water) pressure. As the combined forces of hydrostatic pressure and the natural weight of the soils surrounding the foundation bear down, it can exceed the weight-bearing capacity of the walls, causing them to crack, bow, or shear.
When homes have clay soils that expand and contract dramatically with water (known as "expansive clays"), these soils can do even more damage. The lateral pressure against the walls can be as much as several tons per square foot!
Signs of Foundation Wall Failure
It can sometimes be difficult to detect bowing foundation walls in their early stages, as the visual difference can be very subtle. However, there are some red flags you can keep an eye out for, such as the following:
- Foundation cracks are wider at the top than the bottom
- The foundation walls are not level
- The doors, cabinets, and windows are not shutting properly.
- Cracking is appearing in the walls, plaster, or drywall.
- You can fit a dime into the wall crack
If you notice bulging in your foundation walls due to area flooding, contact a foundation contractor immediately. Your foundation may be in danger of collapse, and it's vital that you consult with a trained professional.
If you can fit a dime into the crack in the wall, get a professional opinion from a foundation contractor. There are many options available for fixing bowed walls, such as braces, foundation anchors, and reinforcement that can repair your wall, add strength, stop the inward movement of your walls, and redistribute the weight on your basement walls.
While there are several ways to repair a foundation wall, the best by far is to install foundation anchors. Unlike braces and reinforcement that merely stabilize the foundation, foundation anchors will also offer the opportunity to straighten your walls over time.
Foundation wall anchors provide a cost-efficient method to repair foundation walls without disrupting or replacing the original foundation. The installation can be completed in a single day, and these installations can be completed year-round.
During the installation, a small area of lawn is removed, and the space underneath is dug out. Then, a sturdy earth anchor is placed inside the hole. A steel rod is driven through a small hole in the foundation wall, and it's pushed out to be fixed to the earth anchor in the yard. A wall plate is attached and tightened to the steel rod on the inside of the foundation wall, and the wall is tightened. Over time, periodic retightening of this anchor will pull the wall back to its original position. Once the installation is finished, the hole is filled in, and the removed portion of lawn is carefully returned. Foundation anchors should only be installed by a licensed and experienced professional. Click to learn more about foundation anchors.
If your home is experiencing settling or vertical movement, then foundation anchors are not the answer. Settling foundations will need support underneath, where the strata is failing to support the weight of the home. This is an extremely serious foundation issue, and as such the repairs should not be done by anything less than an experienced professional. Click to read more about foundation piers.