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What Causes Bowing Foundation Walls & How It Can Be Corrected?

Sam Smith Foundation Repair Consultant

Problems with a bowing foundation walls

If you’re in search of accurate costs to correct bowing foundation walls, you’ve come to the right place.

Here’s what you’ll learn by the end of this article:

  • How to tell if your basement walls are bowing
  • Why this damage may be occurring
  • How to correct bulging walls
  • How to save money when fixing bowing walls

Your concrete foundation walls support the immense amount of weight of your house. Still, the most potential for foundation damage is from the constant pressure from the dirt around your concrete block walls.

The soil becomes most heavy and dangerous when it gets wet from rainwater or groundwater. The added weight of the water creates hydrostatic pressure and pushes against your home’s foundation.

The walls can only resist so much and end up bowing inward if they can’t hold the amount of pressure being placed on them. Bulging walls often lead to hazardous cracking and loss of some of your foundation’s structural integrity.

Every homeowner should know how to identify and correct bowing basement walls. In this article, we’re going to discuss warning signs and solutions related to this issue and how to save money when implementing a fix.

What Are The Signs That You Have A Problem With A Bowing Foundation Wall?

Bulging walls in your foundation are usually an indicator that severe damage has occurred or is about to happen.

This type of foundation problem needs to be addressed immediately so that structural integrity isn’t compromised.

It would help if you familiarized yourself with all of the warning signs below so you can have the issue fixed as soon as it’s discovered.

Interior Cracks

Cracking on the inside of your crawlspace or basement walls can indicate that your walls have bulged in response to enough pressure from the outside.

Cracks that run vertically or diagonally are often from normal concrete settling and usually aren’t related to structural problems. Stair-step and horizontal cracks can be serious and should be inspected by a foundation wall repair expert.

Horizontal cracks are the most hazardous and are almost always caused by too much pressure coming in from the exterior.

The concrete walls flex inward until a fissure forms to relieve the stress from bowing, resulting in foundation wall failure.

Exterior Cracks

Cracks on the outside of your foundation wall are sometimes easier to see if you have a finished basement.

You need to check for the same things as on the inside. Vertical and diagonal cracking is common and usually not a sign of bowing basement walls.

Stair-step cracks and especially horizontal cracks should be checked by a structural engineer to see if they result from bowed walls.

Tilting

You may notice a tilting concrete wall under your home instead of a bulging one. Tilting usually happens when the pressure on the outside is very high up on the wall. Your foundation wall can crack near the top and lean inward instead of bowing.

You can check for tilting with a visual inspection or by making sure your wall is perfectly vertical with a square.

Bowing

Bowing or bulging happens before the pressure on the outside causes your wall to crack.

Your concrete or drywall in your basement will show visual signs of inward movement.

This happens most often in the middle of your wall and can be tested using a straight edge.

Uneven Floors

Your entire house relies on your foundation to provide a level surface for structure and rigidity. Bowing foundation walls means that one side of your home will be slightly lower than the other.

Since the floors above your foundation rely heavily on a level concrete surface, you may notice uneven floors in your home due to bulging foundation walls.

Doors & Cabinets Not Shutting Properly

Your foundation provides structure to the walls in your home, just like it does to the floors. Bowing foundation walls can lead to flexing studs and framing in the rest of your house.

This flexing can be seen in how your doors and cabinets shut.

You may have difficulty closing doors, or the doors may swing open or closed by themselves.

Bulging Walls

The loss of structural integrity that happens because of bowing foundation walls can translate to movement in the walls on other floors of your home too.

Walls above will often flex outward or inward to compensate for the unevenness caused by the foundation wall movement.

What Causes A Foundation Wall To Bow?

Foundation walls usually bulge inward because of hydrostatic pressure in the dirt outside. Roof runoff from rainwater or too much groundwater soaks the ground and makes it much heavier.

Your foundation may be able to withstand the pressure of dirt alone, but the added weight of the water is sometimes too much for the concrete.

The foundation walls bow inward if they can’t hold back the added weight successfully. Any type of soil can create this movement. However, expansive clay soil is the most dangerous given the amount of moisture it can hold.

Frost heave is another cause of hydrostatic pressure. Cold temperature conditions can cause the water in your soil to freeze and place additional pressure on your concrete walls.

Hydrostatic pressure is the most common cause, but any undue pressure can create this dangerous movement.

Large machinery like backhoes, excavators, or bulldozers used for landscaping projects can add too much pressure to the land and create inward movement on your crawlspace or basement walls.

Even something as simple as a tree root growing into your foundation can cause bowing.

How Do You Fix Bowing Foundation Walls?

Bowing foundations need to be fixed immediately because of the damage they can cause if left without a solution. There are permanent fixes like using carbon-fiber mesh, installing an I-beam system, or sealing with high-grade epoxy.

These solutions can strengthen your walls and prevent future wall problems. We will describe a different old-school fix that is still common and generally more effective.

Install Earth Anchors

Earth anchors are large, stainless steel beams that are sunk into the ground several feet away from your bowing foundation wall.

A section of grass is removed in a sheet for replacement later, and a large hole is dug to accept the foundation wall anchor.

Drill Through The Foundation Wall

Holes are then drilled in the bulging foundation wall in line with the earth anchor placement. The hole is drilled from the inside of your crawlspace or basement all the way out to the anchors.

I must stress here that drilling holes in your foundation can damage your home severely. This process should only be done by a professional.

Attach The Earth Anchor

A steel rod is then fed through the hole out to the earth anchor and connected.

Mount Wall Plate Inside

You’ll now need something on the inside of your foundation wall to attach to the steel rod. A large steel plate is affixed using a nut on the threaded steel rod.

Severe damage can be caused to your foundation wall if a large enough plate isn’t used.

Creating tension on the steel rod without dispersing the force on your wall with the plate can crack or collapse the concrete, causing additional structural damage.

Restore The Landscaping

Any area of your yard that was disrupted by the holes for the earth anchor should be fixed. The holes need to be backfilled and tamped, and the sheet of sod will be replaced.

Tension The Wall Anchors

Tension is then placed on the steel rod by tightening the nut inside your foundation wall.

The clamping pressure will pull your flexing concrete wall toward the stationary earth anchor, adding stability to your foundation. This can move your wall back to its original position too.

How To Save Money When Fixing A Bowing Foundation Wall?

Many homeowners look for ways to save money when going through foundation repair because the solution can be very costly. There are some things you can do to cut down on costs throughout the process.

First, you can save potentially thousands of dollars by getting a permanent solution carried out by a professional the first time.

Some homeowners do their best to find a more affordable solution than the one I described above. However, temporary fixes are indeed temporary and require more money spent down the road on a permanent fix.

Save yourself time and money by getting an adequate solution right away.

Even though getting a professional fix is best, you can save money in ongoing repairs by solving the core issue yourself. Hydrostatic pressure is the most common cause of bowing foundation walls and can be reduced by implementing sound drainage systems.

Installing gutters, downspouts, a French drain, or other waterproofing systems will help prevent soil saturation and added pressure on your concrete walls going forward. These solutions can be DIY projects and can make a big difference in the cost of ongoing repairs.

You can also save by getting a warranty from a concrete repair specialist.

Warrantied solutions may cost more, but foundation problems can recur and require more wall repair after a period of time, even if they were done correctly to begin with.

Which is why we recommend connecting with one of our foundation specialists to evaluate your unique situation and needs.

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Sam Smith Foundation Repair Consultant
SHORT BIO: Hey, I'm Sam Smith. I'm one of our service techs here at Regional Foundation Repair. I'm here to help you learn more about your home's foundation. I've been doing this for a while, so I have a few insider tips and tricks to share!

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