When Are Bowing, Buckling Foundation Walls Damaged Beyond Repair?

General Article

A damaged foundation can be very alarming to homeowners – particularly when a wall is bowing, buckling, or appears to be in danger of caving in.

Given the appearance of the foundation walls, many homeowners assume that the only safe and effective solution for their home is to remove the damaged wall and have it replaced with a newly constructed one. However, even in extreme cases, a homeowner may have several options for repairing their foundation – including options that do not include foundation replacement.

The Case Against Foundation Replacement

Generally speaking, foundation replacement involves a long, expensive, and invasive process for your home. First, the original foundation will need to be completely excavated to expose the foundation walls. Then, the house will need to be “jacked up” on temporary supports, while the floor slab and foundation walls are removed. The new foundation is built, the floor is poured, and then, finally, an attempt may be made to restore the landscaping.

The worst part about this problem is that with all this time, disruption, and cost, you’ve never really addressed the problem that caused the damage in the first place – that being the soils around your foundation. Without solving this issue, it is very possible that your new foundation will be damaged by the same issues that damaged the first one.

Four Foundation Wall Repair Solutions

The good news is this: if the wall is still standing, there’s an excellent chance that it can be repaired – without the need for wall replacement. Repair options are as follows:

Carbon Fiber Strips: If your foundation walls are bulging in the middle and do not tilting along the top or inwards movement along the bottom, this may be the best solution for your home. These strips of carbon fiber fabric can be epoxied along the foundation wall quickly and easily by a foundation contractor. They’re many times stronger than steel, can be installed year-round, and are ideal for reinforcing bowing foundation walls.

One major advantage to carbon fiber strips is their low-profile design. If you’re planning on painting or finishing your basement after repairing the walls, this is a reliable and inexpensive solution for preparing the walls for wall board and studs.

Foundation Wall Anchors: If you have access to outside of your home and would like the opportunity to straighten your foundation walls to their original, straight position, this is the solution you’re looking for. Wall anchors are a three-piece system, including a wall plate that’s mounted on the visible side of the basement wall, a wall anchor that’s located in the soil, and a steel rod that connects the plate to the anchor. The wall plate grips the foundation wall, and the anchor sits in the soil to hold it in place. Then, each wall plate is tightened on the connecting rod, pressing against the foundation wall to halt all inward movement.

Over time, this option can be used to not only brace the foundation wall, but to gradually straighten the wall back to its original position. They can also be painted over or used in conjunction with basement finishing, as the thin wall plate can easily have studs and wall board installed over them. And, unlike carbon fiber strip installations, wall anchors can be used to brace walls that show signs of tilting along the top or inwards-sliding along the bottom.

I-Beam Systems: If you do not have access to the outside of your home, but you need to repair a wall that’s tilting along the top or sliding inwards at the bottom, this is the system you’re looking for. This system consists of steel “I” shaped beams that are span the distance between the concrete floor and the floor joists along the top of the basement. These steel braces are installed at intervals along the walls, halting all inward movement.

Most I-beam systems will only halt the movement of the walls, although a rare few can be adjusted to straighten the walls as well. Additionally, these systems are the least compatible with a finished basement, as they will take up space along the walls. The best systems are designed with corrosion-resistant galvanized steel, so they do not become an eyesore as the years pass.

Shotcrete Sister Walls: If the wall is crumbling, collapsing, or showing extreme damage, there’s still a good chance that foundation replacement is still not necessary. Instead, a sister wall can be built in front of the original wall, using a spray-on concrete known in the industry as shotcrete. This sister wall works best when combined with a wall anchor system, which will help to ensure that the new wall doesn’t also crumble from the pressure that damaged the original wall.

This system installs year-round and is much faster than a foundation replacement would, with no disruption to landscaping. It’s cheaper, easier, and you can count on a good contractor to provide a warranty with the finished installation.

Hiring A Professional Foundation Contractor In California

If you’re planning on selling your home in the future, being able to tell the prospective buyer that your foundation was repaired by a reputable contractor can be a major selling point for your home. If that contractor is still in business and your installation includes a written, transferable warranty, this will also provide a selling advantage.