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Question DetailsAsked on 3/3/2015

Typical price for beams to support a bowing wall?

I have a 20 foot wall, one side of the wall is bowed by 0.25 inch, basement guy wants to place 3 beams to support the wall for $2400. Sounds really high to me. It's about 2-3 guys a single day's work, materials are cheap. I'm having an engineer evaluate the job ($295 for that).

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2 Answers


Definitely have engineer assess it - because "walers" or "wales" (the horizontal beams contractor is proposing to put in) are sort of a bandaid - they are bracing the wall (assuming properly tied back into the soil) but are not addressing the issue at all, which is a weak wall or excessive soil/water pressure from outside - and actually by restraining the movement, can increase the load on the wall over time.

Cost sound low to me by about half, to do the job right - because this calls for the beams (assume 3 like he said) running probably at least 15-30 lbs/LF to provide any significant rigidity so that is on the order of $500-1000 of steel cost alone, anchors probably another $500 in materials - so that is up to half the estimated cost alone. Simple steel strapping bolted to the wall itself does nothing, even though many contractors claim this is a valid fix - there are a lot of scammers out there doing this and claiming it is a "fix". Some even push fiber strapping with no beam-action capabilitiy applied to the wall claiming that will work. The beams, to be strong enough to take the load that is bowing the wall, generally need to be deep enough for strength that they stick out from the wall 6-12 inches and have long tieback anchors into the ground well outside the house - making an eyesore and reducing available space.

Certainly the engineer should be looking at the cause and the proposed support - because unless the beams are strong enough to serve as "strong-backs" - basically carrying (with the tieback anchors) all the load themselves, otherwise they will just bend with the wall as it deflects inward and may distribute the load a bit, but not stop further deflection - or resultin the wall breaking up into sections due to uneven support.

The "right" way to solve this in a shallow (residential) situation is almost always to excavate along the outside of the wall, determine the cause, eliminate the water or soil pressure causing the failure and take the excess load off the wall, then do what is needed to resolve any damage to the wall to this point, then backfill with proper materials and method to minimize the load on the wall - adding waterproofing and french drain at the same time if needed.

I presume it has been determined that this issue is not from ground movement - landsliding towards the house, for instance.

One thing to definitely keep in mind is that putting in internal beams like that is, to a potential buyer and his/her inspector, equivalent to putting a sign on the house that says LEMON. It is adveartising that there is a significant foundation issue that has been (hopefully) restrained but NOT fixed, so even if the cost is possibly somewhat higher, generally for resale value solving the problem and not putting internal bracing on the wall would be the preferred solution, Talk to your realtor (maybe the one you bought the house through ?) about the resale issues (percentge of potential buyers it might scare away immediately upon walkthrough) and house value consequences - I have seen a number of houses with similar foundation or similar severity structural problems that consistently take a year or more and many tens of thousands of listing price reduction to sell every time they turn over.

Answered 2 years ago by LCD


One thing I did not mention and sort of took for granted - 1/4" is not much of a bow in a wall. Of course whether it has always been there or is a new bulging makes a tremendous difference. I would imagine you could find a 1/4" out-of-plane condition somewhere in probably half or more 20' long foundation walls, so it might be an original condition, unless you have noted this occurring just recently.

A structural/geotechnical engineer would be looking at the general alignment of the other walls (workmanship), type of construction, and any crack patterns to determine if they thought this was serious or not, and also to decide whether to recommend an inmmediate repair, or perhaps a wait and see approach to see if it progresses over time. A great many houses have a half inch to inch or even more of foundation deflection and stand for 100 or more years without issues as long as it is not significantly increasing over time.

One other thing - I was presuming, maybe falsely, that this is a foundation wall, but I see from your description you said a "basement guy" proposed beams, but did not actually say it was a basement/foundation wall.

Also - I presumed you meant a bare foundation wall - not a wood studwall built up against it, which out-of-plane condition might or might not be a reflection of foundation issues behind it. Basement wall studs commonly bow quite noticeably due to differential accumulation of dampness from the foundation, causing high moisture on one side of the wall but lower on the other, causing the studs to bow. If you are talking a facade wall, you could not really tell what is going on behind it without digging into that section.

Answered 2 years ago by LCD

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