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Question DetailsAsked on 3/12/2015

Basement Foundation Leaking Wall Cracks and Basement Foundation Wall Bowing

I am really needing some from experience advice on people out there who have had cracks in their basement foundation walls with bowing of the walls and have had this repaired. I really do not know where to turn. I am researching the different options to repair the leaking foundation cracks and the bowed foundation walls and it is very overwhelming. Anyone I call into my home to give me an estimate I feel I cannot trust because it all seems like a big sales pitch instead of giving me honest common sense advice.

So between, the foundation wall braces, and carbon fiber wall repair which do you feel is best.

And for crack filling........epoxy, hydrolic cement or other choices. Which do you feel is the most effective.

Any and all advice would be greatly appreciated. If you have actually had this done and can give some advice that would help immensely.

Tired and Frustrated :(

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3 Answers


One of the biggest mistakes homeowners make is thinking "what works for one person will work for them as well. NO TWO HOMES ARE THE SAME. There for, no two solutions are the same. The biggest, most costly mistake and waist of time homeowners make is searching for a solution to their problem without determining the CAUSE of the problem.

If you live in Wisconsin I will be able to provide you with specific answers to your questions. Any other part of the country all I or anyone for that matter can only provide you with a general opinion.

First off, avoid any of the national companies. Most, if not all are basicly in business to convince you their method is best for you when in fact their goal is to do what is most profitable for them. Your best bet is to only work with local foundation repair contractors. A local contractor is familiar with the soil conditions and type of problems in your area. The longer they have been in business the more experience they will have in solving your type of problems. Never take advice on how to solve your problem from anyone who's not from your area as soil conditions play a major role in foundation problems.

Most homeowners, like yourself, don't trust a repair contractor to provide answers to your concerns with your best interest in mind. You would be surprised that most contractors in this field are honest and trustworthy. The problem for homeowners is not knowing if they are working with a honest contractor or a preditor. Sadly, many homeowners think a structural engineer is their best and only option for independent, unbiased solutions.

Most engineers only see a handfull of residental foundations in their career. Because of this they may not be aware of the current guidelines or solutions that have proven track records. They are able to provide a solution which is often so complicated, dramatic it becomes cost prohibitve. The next issue is finding a foundation repair contractor who will provide any type of guarentee on a repair that was desined by another person.

Another option for you is to search to see if there are any independent foundation consultants in your area. They are less expensive than an engineer and since they deal with foundations on a daily basis and are familar with current standards most contractors will provide you with a guarentee.

If there are no consultants in your area another option would be to get recommendations from home inspectors and realtors on foundation contractors they have worked with and trust. Contact the owner to see if they would be willing to allow you to hire their project manager for a side job. You would pay him to evaluate your foundation and provide you with a report you could use to obtain bids from other contractors other than the one he is currently emploied by.

I hope this helps you, please excuse spelling imperfections as this is longer than I allowed time for.

Answered 5 years ago by chuckster


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Answered 5 years ago by chuckster


My recommendation - after many decades of foundation experience, including a LOT of jobs reworking and fixing botched "repairs" by foundation contractors or foundation "consultants" how tried to design a fix themselves, is to go with a Civil Engineering firm that has both Structural and Geotechnical engineers on staff - or one engineer who is qualified in both fields.

Foundation "consultants" are an oxymoron - they work on designing fixes to structural or foundation failures but almost always without the engineering license required by law to perform that work so are generally operating illegally, and in my experience are almost always marginally or totally untrained in the structural, soils, and groundwater basics and analytical techniques to evaluate what is causing the problem, and are needed to determine a feasible remedy. I have run into a number of homeowners who have gone through "fixes" with several foundation contractors or consultants without getting the problem solved.

And just because someone has been in the business a long time does not mean he knows what he is doing - there are a LOT of contractors and vendors out there who reached their level of incompetence decades ago and are still in business. Remember, practice does not make perfect - only perfect practice makes perfect.

There are also a lot of consultants and contractors out there that sell systems that flat out do not work, or are contrary to the basic principles involved. Examples are contractors who apply basically glued-on reinforcing tapes on the inside wall surface - which because they have no bending or "moment-resisting" capacity do about as much good as fiber box strapping tape. Also drainage schemes that penetrate the foundation wall to bring outside groundwater into the basement for drainage, reinforcing "beams" that are so light duty that they do not have a chance of resisting external forces causing the walls to bow, even drilled-in anchors that will supposedly hold a bowing wallup but are onluy installed a few feet into the soil outside so they have no holding capacity, etc.

Do yourself a favor - you can talk to contractors about ideas for solutions, but get a competent experienced engineer to assess the cause of your problem. Also, do everything you can to avoid sinking massive amounts into "repairs" that will have limited service life or are unsightly (like interior beams) so come resale time they inhibit sale of the property, when a true remedy of the cause can commonly be done nearly or as cheaply and leave so sign of the problem - like regrading the yard or putting in waterproofing membrane and french drains on the outside of the wall instead of trying to seal the inside, using low-density or highly compacted/reinforced structural fill outside the foundation to relieve loads on walls, replacing bowed/badly cracked wall sections instead of trying to bandaid them, etc.

On the crack filling issue - I don't have any doubt that proper urethane and epoxy resins like Sika makes are the strongest and most waterproof fix, but are much more costly and generally require 2-component injection equipment so takes a specialty contractor. Epoxy-modified cementatious grouts are commonly used to save on cost and can be injected by normal contractor equipment - work well but do not really provide near the bonding strength of the proper epoxy resin, if a structural fix is the goal. Hydraulic cement is basically just a modified portland cement, so it will fill the crack but generally is just a filler, not providing a lot of actual strength at the crack, so is normally properly used for water infiltration control only. The trowel-on or paint-on surface coverings can limit water vapor coming through the wall - the "wicking" of water to the surface, but if you have high water table on the outside so there is pressure behind it (or will be after you seal the inside face and the foundation wall becomes saturated because of the interior finish) they generally perform poorly at actually stopping water infiltration.

The right way to stop water infiltration is to first eliminate the outside source through proper guttering and drainage away from the house, then waterproofing the "positive" or wet side of the wall, and using french drains if necessary to keep the outside water level low. FAR more effective than counting on interior drainage systems (which in high groundwater conditions may still be needed to control water welling up under the slab), and exterior drainage cut down on the chances of your interior drainage system and sump pump being overwhelmed. I have seen houses with the interior drain systems connected through the wall to the outside water source - just a plain dumb thing to do - pouring water into the basement faster than half a dozen sumpp pumps could remove it, when after grouting off the connections the sump pump was only running intermittently. (Do have an engineer evaluate it first to be sure the wall can take the external water pressure before cutting off drainage, though - or replace with proper external drainage).

BTW - in the interest of disclosure I think if you check the past comments you will find "Chuckster" is a foundation consultants, out of southern Wisconsin as I recall. And further disclosure - on my side of the argument, I started in contracting, construction and engineering about 50 years ago, with much experience in civil and foundations work, particularly on remedial design and construction.

I think I mentioned it before, and will not help much with respect to bowing foundation walls, but you can find a lot of prior comments on related issues in the Home > Basement Waterproofing link in Browse Projects at lower left.

BTW- below is a link to a question with similar issues to yours FYI - and an article (click on the Bowed Walls tab then click through the slideshow using the white right arrow in the diagram) which explains the normal causes of bowed walls quite clearly - though the last item pushing carbon fiber strapping has the usual problem of promising a fix when in most cases little bands of this material will NOT stop the bowing because it has basically zero bending resistance, so it is about like trying to use a steel cable to prevent bending o the wall - and definitely will NOT straighten the wall up or eliminate the cracks. thing in the rhinocarbonfiber presentation - what they call the "bowl effect" is actually because the in-place soil is generally naturally compacted over time and has good stiffness in most cases, so it puts a lateral load at any point on the wall that is typically around 1/8-1/2 the vertical soil pressure from the weight of the soil above that elevation. If you disturb the soil (dig and backfill without compaction), then that lateral force will commonly about double - can be more if it also gets saturated because of improper outside surface water control because heavier soil (wet) equals more weight causing the pressure. If it is clayey and expands, then that force can as much as doubled or more AGAIN. Except in seriously expansive clay soils this problem is largely avoided if surface water is controlled and the backfill outside the wall is properly compacted - which is almost never done by contractors because there is no inspector there to enforce it, and compacting it in thin layers can easily quadruple the cost of placing the backfill around the house. You will note the presentation also says the backfill is the soil that was dug out of the hole - generally true, regrdless of whether the soil is actually suitable for use as structural fill, so MANY houses have needless issues like yours because of sloppy initial construction practices.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD

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