How do you know when you need foundation replacement?

I looked at two foundations today where the homeowners had concern that it was time to replace a basement wall or two. The question is how do I know if it can be stabilized or if it is time to replace the foundation / basement wall… what dictates foundation replacement?

There are several types of foundation cracks and different concerns with each. You can have bowing basement walls as a result of a horizontal crack…walls that belly in towards the middle.  These bowing basement walls are more prone to open up and come in as a result of the hinge type of nature of the basement wall crack.  The expanding and contracting soil outside develops pressure against the basement wall that pushes in towards the basement or relaxes it back through dry conditions.

There are cracks that are what we call a vertical tear, cracks that go in a stair stem pattern, or simply straight down towards the floor through the basement wall.  These are settling cracks that occur due the footer below having a crack in it and actually sinking down.  This activity causes the wall crack or separation at the mortar joints in a stair step fashion.

And there can be cracks where a row of block has slid off of the row below it (shear movement). This is typical if the second row up since the floor holds the bottom row in place.

You typically need a rebuild of foundation / foundation replacement when the bottom two rows have separated from each other, or when the bottom row seems to kick or tilt inwards towards the floor.

bottom row of block buckled

bottom row of block buckled

If the bottom row appears to be kicked in or bowing, it can be an indication that there is no footer.  This is more common with clay based basement wall foundations.  In this scenario dirt has washed away from below, mortar has rotted from between the blocks and the basement wall has bowed in as a result.

Again, there are several scenarios and factors so please give us a call for a free consultation with a foundation expert to help inform and guide you towards the best possible solution for your basement foundation problems.