How to straighten bowing basement walls
Many people lately have been asking me how to straighten bowing basement walls. Let’s start by looking at what causes bowing basement walls. There are a few likely causes for the horizontal cracks that lead to a basement wall bowing in.
One is right after construction of the foundation the contractor could have put the dirt back around the basement walls too soon, too fast or without properly bracing the walls first causing a hairline fracture. As this dirt piles up against the foundation it creates pressure against it. When rains come or snow melts the settling soil gets heavier and expands creating even more pressure and can cause minor movement to major issues with these cracks. It can take several years or even decades for these cracks to become structural concerns. Or one simple event.
Another possibility is heavy machinery along the foundation. Trucks and equipment driving next to the foundation push the soil downward and can cause pressure against the foundation resulting in cracks.
Negative grade of the soil, driveways and patios against the foundation can allow water to run towards the foundation causing major swelling of the soil and decay of the foundation resulting in weak points cracking and bowing in.
Large trees too close to the foundation can cause all kinds of problems including large root structures pushing against the foundation casing horizontal cracks that bow in over time.
So back to how to straighten bowing basement walls. First you should eliminate any obvious contributing factors such as the ones mentioned above to prevent future issues. To properly straighten a wall you must excavate the soil away from it on the outside relieving the pressure and giving the wall the room it needs to go back into proper position. I hear people asking me about wall anchors and they have been told the wall anchor will straighten the wall without excavation. They usually have a perplexed look as they even say it and I tell them their suspicions are right on. You cant push a wall back into place against the soil and straighten it up which is why wall anchor installers never guarantee the wall will be straightened at all. Wall anchors are giant clamps that clamp the wall to the dirt outside. As the dirt moves through normal expansion and contraction the homeowners are to adjust the giant bolts coming through the wall to be sure they have correct tension. I have seen these anchors cause wavy walls / indentations due to the focus points of the clamps…not good.
So back to the proper technique. After the soil is removed a system of jacks and brackets can push a wall back into place all at once. NOTE…you cant straighten a wall back to original position that has had the open crack filled in. These fillers stop the wall from closing back up.
Once the walls have achieved the best possible position you must stabilize the wall to be sure it doesn’t open back up after the soil is put back. We use Fortress Stabilization straps for a lifetime structural guarantee, a permanent solution that doesn’t need maintenance.
All that being said there are other factors such as foundation material type and condition of the mortar joints which may limit the possibility to straighten your foundation etc… We offer a no obligation no sales pressure consultation and can evaluate your specific needs fitting you to the best possible options. We are not a one size fits all company, we offer all solutions.
Contact us today to learn more about how to straighten bowing basement walls