From time to time we get questions about how to repair a foundation wall that is failing. Sometimes the wall is cracking because of settling and other times it is collapsing in on the basement because of water pressure in the dirt that surrounds the foundation. Unfortunately in some areas with clay soil where moisture is a very big problem you will find that a concrete block wall will fail and sometimes a poured foundation will also have problems.
To correct this situation is nothing less than dramatic for the average home owner. You can get to the point where you think you are probably going to have to move but you really should not get to that point unless the problem is extremely severe such as homes that are positioned near a sink hole or ones that might be in an area where mud slides occur. Other than that if you are in a normal residential area the problem can almost always be fixed in place without losing the house and without too much drama.
The first thing you want to do when you see larger cracks in a blockwall foundation over a half inch that are expanding relatively quickly or that expand in one season and retract during hot summer months or if the foundation is leaning is call a foundation expert that has access to a building engineer or call an engineer on your own.
They will come out and evaluate the problem and they might need to dig a few holes around the home to check for soil quality and the amount of moisture.
Moisture buildup in your soil can be thought of like blowing up a balloon. When the soil is dry the balloon is normal size and when it is wet it will expand and push on your basement wall.
Soil moisture can come from runoff or it could come from a natural spring.
Most homes built after 1995 even when a problem is not expected will have a sump pump installed with a drain tile. A drain tile is a tube that runs around the exterior of the foundation to remove water buildup around the foundation wall. If you find that your sump pump is running all the time or continuously during the rainy season you might have a serious water problem in the soil.
To reduce problems some companies might backfill around your foundation with gravel and sand however all of this might not be enough and cracking and heaving will occur.
Repairing A Heaving Foundation Wall
Once the damage has happened and the building engineer has devised a plan to reduce the moisture in the soil around your home your foundation will need to be repaired.
If it is not beyond help you can normally stabilize the foundation with a variety of methods.
Foundation Tiebacks are when an anchor is placed in the foundation wall and then a steel cable is run out away from the home and anchored in the ground.
Steel IBeams can be placed along the interior of the wall
Carbon Fiber Strips can be applied on the inside face of the wall to stabilize it.
Carbon Fiber Strips For Foundation Stabilization
The application of Carbon Fiber in Foundation Wall Remediation is relatively new but it is a promising technique that can be use when the wall is saveable and is in good condition. You would never want to apply this to a foundation where there is spalling or deterioration of the wall and I would think that a stone foundation wall would be very unlikely as a candidate because of the way they are built.
In the right situation this job is quick and it will last many years. Contractors say it is guaranteed for the life of the foundation but what exactly does that mean when the wall is in disrepair. I would ask for a minimum of 25 years as this is a normal life of most materials in residential building.
To apply the material all surface coatings must be removed so the wall will need to be prepared with a diamond grinding wheel.
Next a mixed epoxy is placed on the wall to accept the carbon fiber strip.
Finally a second layer of epoxy is applied to completely cover and embed the carbon fiber strip.
At the top of the wall tiebacks are used to attach an anchor point and this may be done at the floor too.
This job may be a job that a home owner could physically do but for insurance reasons you would never want to attempt it. Having a licensed contractor perform the work that is insured and can pass on manufacturer warranties is probably the most important part of this work. Next would be certification that the wall is stable especially if you wanted to sell your home.