Recognizing Types of Foundation Damage
Bowing Foundation Wall
Basement and foundation walls will often begin to bow before any cracks are present. The bow in the wall pictured below is minimal. However, the fact that there is even a bow at all signifies a weakened structure. Over time, this bow will become even more pronounced, eventually resulting in the need for a rebuild.
As is the case with this wall, there may be a wall that has begun to bow, but no cracks have formed. This does not mean that the wall is still structurally sound. With a bowed wall, there is a large amount of downward pressure on the exterior portion of the blocks, resulting in the cracking on the exterior. It is only a matter of time before the cracks begin on the interior.
Bowed Brick Wall
Here we see a bowed brick wall. Although brick foundations are not as common as concrete, they are just as susceptible to bowing & cracking. Similar to concrete, slight bows in brick foundations are not easily noticed. Only upon closer inspection do you see the “belly”. Often, some crumbling of the mortar will be an indicator.
As is the case with concrete, once a bow has occurred in a brick wall, that wall is no longer structurally sound. Tremendous pressure is being put on the wall, not only from the top, but just as likely from the exterior. The cracks that typically follow a bowed wall are not far behind. If StablWall is applied in this condition, then no additional work will be needed in the future to repair the wall.
Step Cracks in a Concrete Block Wall
Step cracks are very common in concrete block walls. Notice how this wall has not only a step crack below the window, but there is also a horizontal crack running to the right of the window. It is not unusual for cracks to originate as horizontal cracks, and over time, begin to step down, or up, along the mortar joints.
Typically, there is a tremendous amount of pressure pushing from the outside, whether it be expansive soil, tree roots or other catalysts. If there is no pressure coming from the exterior, sometimes the wall bearing the load of the house simply cannot handle the weight, and begins to fatigue.
Unlike horizontal or vertical cracks where the opposing sides of the crack are pulling away from each other, in a step crack your wall is pulling apart from itself in all four directions and needs to be stabilized accordingly. At this point, there is very little structural integrity left in the wall, and it needs to be stabilized as soon as possible. If bowing of the wall has not already occurred, it will most likely begin soon thereafter.
Bowed Poured Concrete Wall
This is an example of a poured concrete wall with multiple cracks. Here we see two separate cracks that originate from the same point at the top of the wall. While the one crack is vertical, the second crack has followed a diagonal path towards the footer. Most likely, the neglect of the first crack resulted in a second crack with equal, if not more serious implications.
Cracks in New House
It is not unusual for cracks to be present in brand new houses. Here we see not only horizontal, but vertical cracking in a new house. In an attempt to get houses built while saving the most time & money, foundations are always backfilled long before the concrete has had time to harden & settle. The result is the formation of cracks within days of the house being built. These cracks vary in severity from small, hairline cracks to the more obvious ones seen here.
The most common misconception amongst homeowners is that, because the house is new, the foundation is strong. Once the cracks form, no matter how small, that means that the foundation is no longer as strong as it was prior to the cracks forming. The pressure that forced the cracks is still present, and a weakened structure is attempting to counterbalance that pressure. All the while, the weight of the house is now sitting on a foundation whose structural integrity has been compromised.