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Question DetailsAsked on 12/14/2016

Where do I find basement bowing wall support beams for purchase?

I have someone to do the work. I just need to purchase the beams. I live in Milwaukee WI

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2 Answers

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There is nothing special about basement support beams - they are normal structural beams or column or channel or tubing sections (depending on design) from steel supply companies, sized appropriately to carry the design load - though should be painted at least with rust preventative paint to limit rusting, which while seldom bad enough to compromise their strength in interior applications, in addition to being unsightly can also cause failure of the tieback connection bolts due to concentrated rust at the connection points. Any competent foundation repair or general contractor will know where to get them. While you can install them "blind", without a proper assessment and design by a structural or civil/geotechnical engineer specializing in foundation repair, they may not accomplish the desired result or can allow the wall to fail in that case due to imporper design or detailing.

Generally speaking, just putting in beams bolted to the wall is NOT a satisfactory solution unless they are objectionably large because without intermediate support from tieback anchors they have to be quite "deep" to contribute significant structural support to the middle of the wall over a typically 14-50 foot or so span - especially if the ends are not bearing in proper load-bearing pockets in the crosswalls at the ends (almost always installed horizontally). Generally, they have to be supported by grouted or deadman or screw type earth anchors installed through the beam and wall into the soil outside the wall, and commonly have to be at least about 20-25 feet and at times up to 30-40 feet long to get into "intact soil" far enough beyond the "active" wedge of soil (which is located right outside the foundation and 5-10 feet wide commonly) which cannot provide any support or carry any additional lateral load because it is itself supported laterally by the foundation wall.

MANY foundation repair contractors do not fully understand these concepts, and either do not use tieback anchors into the ground at all, concentrate the loads too much in small points in the wall and end up cracking it up, or do not go far enough away from the foundation with the anchorage to avoid just pulling a wedge of soil with the wall as it fails. It is not rocket science, but it is not off-the-cuff rule of thumb work either, and a lot of people waste their money by not having the repair engineered properly.

The engineer (civil/geotechnical, not structural) can also assess what the cause of your foundation failure is - outside water or soil pressure, inadequate foundation wall design strength or poor construction, materials failure, ground movement or settlement, expansive soils, foundation overload, etc - so you don't put money into a remedial support system that might not halt and permanently control the condition. I have seen a number of foundation failures, including ones leading to condemnation of the buildings and in one major case total foudnation collapse, where a stopgap measure was installed without first determining the cause of the failure. This is especially common with unreinforced foundation walls (whether planned that way or because the contractor skimped and left out specified grout and/or reinforcing) and also in expansive soil or landslip areas. Failure to identify that sort of issue and just doing a stopgap measure like beams can sometimes result in losing the critical time window of opportunity to properly cure the problem before it gets too severe - and a foundation repair contractor is generally, unless also a licensed professional engineer specializing in foundations and soils (a geotechnical engineer), NOT trained or qualified or legally allowed to make that determination.

Also, if your wall is bowing significantly, you need to understand it has essentially already "failed" structurally even if it is still standing and supporting the house, so just shoring it up may or may not (depending on soil conditions) stop continuing cracking and settlement of the house. It also is likely to have cracked enough that if you ever get water buyildup in the soil outside the foundation you may have water problems in the future even if you have not in the past, or more severe problems if you already have moisture/water infiltration issues. In that sort of instance it is commonly better to rebuild the failed wall or reinforce from the outside, simultaneously providing a new waterproof barrier on the OUTSIDE of the wall as applicable. In less severe cases or less advanced stages of failure sometimes just digging out around the foundation and waterproofing it, in some cases as applicable putting in a french drain to reduce water level (and hence also reducing load from the water), and putting in properly compacted structural fill can resolve the issue, without expensive or unsightly structural wall reinforcement. Many such "bowing wall" cases are caused by foundation walls that presume proper compaction of the backfill around the foundation, but the contractor just dumped the fill back in loose, resulting in higher soil loads and greater water absorption than it was designed to handle. This is especially common with CMU (concrete or cinder block) walls. Things like stacking a lot of heavy material alongthe foundation or parking a heavy vehicle close by it (like in a carport alongaside the house) can also be the cause.

You can find a number of discussions about the alternative remedies for your issue, and also some other commentary and warnings about scams involving "reinforcing tapes" and "carbon fibers" and "structural epoxy coatings" and such in previous answers to questions in the Home > Foundation Repair link in Browse Projects, at lower left.

Also, one thing to address, is that exposed anchors or foundation support beams are a major detraction come sale time even if they do not dramatically infringe on usable basement space or the ability to finish the basement with normal walls (as they commonly do) - so even if they may be the cheapest immediate solution in a particular case they are not necessarily the best over the long run, because a very significant percentage of buyers will walk away as soon as they see them. Talk to your favorite realtor about the impact of that, because especially in a buyer's market they can make a home essentially unsaleable - I have seen otherwise market comparable homes sit for more than a year without an offer in a 1 month typical sale market because of this, then end up selling at a distressed price anyway just to be able to sell it at all.

One other consideration - though even discussing it with your insurance company may result in policy cancellation so be careful. If you do a visible beam or anchor foundation repair and the insurance company ever is in your house for a renewal condition assessment or to adjust a claim for another reason, the presence o exposed anchors or beams can result in cancellation of your policy and future inability to get homeowner's insurance from ANY carrier (because insurance fraud cases and cancellations for cause go into an industry "blacklist" database) even though earth movement and foundation failure is almost always excluded from policy coverage anyway - the carriers just don't want to be involved with a house which is experiencing a structural failure or has had one "repaired" rather than the offending part replaced. Ditto on the buyer side - many realtors will tell buyers to shy away or advise they first talk to their planned homeowner's insurance carrier about coverage availability before making an offer or during the contingency period, which can lead them to walk away when the carrier says they will not cover it or says they will exclude any structural failure for any reason. For that reason, in many cases concealed tieback anchors or totally rebuilding the foundation wall is selected to avoid that risk. Your engineer may be able to give some limited input on that subject based on his experience, but a realtor or maybe a proiperty appraiser might be the best source for input on that factor.

Good luck

Answered 3 years ago by LCD


BTW - here is a link from the referenced Browse Projects cagtegoryo which might be of interest -

Also - while connecting shorter beams (using a full-moment and shear capacity connection) is possibly if needed due to access issues, generally the beams (if used) need to be full length for minimum cost - so almost certainly an item for the contractor to pick up and haul, or have delivery from the supplier. Not something that will fit in a pickup or SUV or small trailer unless an awful small basement room with the problem. Plus weight likely about at least several hundred pounds on up to as much as a half to full ton or even a bit more ballpark per beam for full-basement wall (no intermediate supporting cross-walls) lengths.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD



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