Let’s be honest, repairing your home’s foundation—albeit incredibly important— is not nearly as fun as redoing your kitchen or even upgrading your garage. Similar to a new roof or new vehicle tires, you can add foundation repair to the long list of ‘adulting’ chores that are necessary but certainly not fun. Since foundation repair is an easy, out-of-site, out-of-mind problem, it’s common for homeowners to let the problem go longer than they should. No judgment!
However, Groundworks does want to stress the importance of tackling foundation repair before you may want to. After all, any other new work you do on the home can be seriously damaged if your home’s foundation isn’t repaired first.
For example, instead of repairing your home’s bowing basement walls, you use the money to remodel your kitchen. Sure, family and friends will be collectively jealous of your new backsplash and fancy countertops, but problems still lurk below and can ruin the new kitchen you so enjoy.
How, you ask? When your foundation isn’t supported, it shifts, often unevenly. Imagine the floors under just half of your brand-new kitchen island sinking. Your new countertop and the supporting beams underneath can’t withstand this movement and crack under pressure. Meaning your beautiful new marble countertop now has a large crack in it—what a disappointment.
It’s not too late. Not only can Groundworks repair the foundation damage done to your home, but educate you on the reasons why it’s essential to care for your home from the ground up. In this article, we’ll discuss the four stages of wall failure and give you an idea of what to expect, price-wise, for each repair.
Level 1: Horizontal Cracking (Repair Cost: $)
A crack that runs horizontally across the wall is often the first sign of a foundation problem. This crack could be hairline or a bit wider but typically starts small and grows more prominent with time. This specific type of crack occurs when pressure from the soil outside the wall pushes inward, causing the wall to crack and bow. At this stage, it’s not always possible to see the wall inflection with your untrained eye, so the crack should be a red flag to take action. A foundation professional can use a laser to show you the wall movement, so think of the crack as a sign to have a professional investigate the problem.
This type of crack is common for both homes with block foundations and poured concrete foundations, and since the main cause is the soil surrounding the structure, it affects new and old homes equally.
The good news is when foundation damage is identified at this stage, repairs are both less invasive and less expensive than if you had waited. Walls that have cracked and bowed inward less than two inches don’t need a heavy-hitting solution. Instead, your walls need support from the hydrostatic pressure outside, causing them to move in the first place. Carbon fiber wall reinforcement is the best solution for walls that are minimally damaged.
This solution uses strips of carbon fiber that are ten times stronger than steel, epoxy, and metal brackets to reinforce the wall and resist further movement. Carbon fiber reinforcement is long-lasting and safeguards your walls for the future.
The key to this solution is catching the problem as soon as it presents itself and acting quickly to have a foundation professional in your area diagnose the problem.
Level 2: Stair Step Cracking (Repair Cost: $$)
Stair Step cracking is the next level of foundation damage visible to your basement walls. When stair-step cracks occur, it’s usually an indication that the problem is getting worse. But why does this specific pattern occur?
As the walls continue to battle hydrostatic pressure, bowing them inward further, the walls on either side fight to keep the affected wall stable. Cracks often begin from the corner of the adjacent wall and follow the mortar joint because it is the weakest point and the easiest to crack. This results in the familiar ‘stair-step’ pattern. At this stage of damage, you can typically see the bowing easily and, with the help of a professional, can notice if it is bowing more than two inches.
When your walls have reached this level of damage, a more serious solution may be needed. Do not delay in seeking professional advice. If the problem is caught in time, solutions like the SettleStop IntelliBraceTM Wall Repair System can restore your home’s structural integrity and repair peace of mind.
Since your walls are severely damaged, the repair process is done in steps. When the IntelliBraceTM Wall Repair System is initially installed, the main goal is to hold the wall in place and resist further damage. Over time, the wall braces are tightened, and your walls can begin to see movement. When the process is performed slowly, the outside soil has time to adjust, making the process more successful.
One of the significant benefits of this system is it can be performed on nearly every basement since it doesn’t need access to the land outside the wall. This means homes with shallow property lines or areas like driveways or landscaping do not need to be disturbed. The IntelliBraceTM Wall Repair System is installed inside the basement without having to dig and attach anything to the outside soil. Because of the less invasive installation, repair costs are considerably less expensive than repairs needed if the damage continues.
Level 3: Severe Bowing (Repair Cost: $$$)
When this level of wall damage is achieved, not only are the repairs more extensive, but you are also opening your home up to numerous other secondary issues. With cracks this extensive, water has easy access to your basement, not to mention pests and rodents. Water damage causes its own costly problems and may require additional work to repair. This level of wall bowing is easy to spot without tools or a trained eye.
Another possible symptom at this stage of foundation damage is bottom shear. You may notice the bottom row of blocks closest to the floor begin to move in towards the middle of the room. Typically, this row is held in place securely by the flooring. When bottom shearing is noticed, the connection to your home’s footing, or the ability to distribute the weight of your home, has been compromised. Wall failure is almost always next. A foundation expert must be contacted as soon as possible.
At this point of wall damage, your only option is foundation repair with wall anchors. If your home has a shallow property line, meaning any outside wall work would be on your neighbor’s property, a combination of wall anchors and IntelliBracesTM may be the solution.
While wall SettleStop Wall Anchors are more invasive than Carbon fiber wall reinforcement and SettleStop IntelliBraceTM Wall Repair System, the job can typically be installed in one to two days depending on the damage and basement size.
SettleStop Wall Anchors work by harnessing the tension between a steel panel installed on your wall and an earth plate installed outside in stable, virgin, undisturbed soil. A cable rod connects the two plates; when tightened, not only is the wall reinforced, but it is an effective way of straightening even severely bowed walls. Similar to IntelliBraceTM , an expert should tighten the connection over time to allow for smooth movement and avoid causing additional damage. As you may understand by now, both the problem and the solutions are highly complex and require the expertise of professionals with years of experience specializing in this type of repair.
Level 4: Failure (Repair Cost: $$$$$)
If the issue is not addressed, wall failure is imminent. Not only is this type of foundation damage the most expensive repair—by far—it also is a major inconvenience to your family as your home is inhabitable when the problem reaches this stage. The structural integrity of your home is completely eliminated, and unfortunately, that’s not where the problems end.
Even if you spend up to $100,000 to have your home’s foundation lifted, removed, and then rebuilt, additional costs still lurk. All this movement most likely allowed water to enter the basement, as well as cracks in the drywall in the living areas of your home and uneven floors or wall gaps. Repairing these secondary symptoms of foundation failure is another reason why repairing damage before it gets worse is the best choice.
Foundation Problems Repaired
Regardless of the stage of foundation damage your home is currently at; you now know how essential it is to repair foundation problems before the secondary issues occur, especially to any new upgrades or remodels. A good rule of thumb is always work from the ground up. Since your home’s foundation is responsible for keeping everything else in your home in place, your basement walls or crawl space must be in good health before additional work is tackled.
The good news is you’re not alone. A foundation specialist can help you access the level of foundation damage your home is experiencing and offer helpful tips to ordering your home repairs. Our foundation solutions come with long-term warranties and the confidence that we have repaired thousands of homes across the country. Our depth of knowledge comes from both the homes repaired and the exceptional products designed in-house. Since our repair products are designed by us, we can customize them to fit the needs of your unique home.
Contact us today to discuss your foundation repair options.