The purpose of basement walls is to provide a solid support structure for a home. When they start to display symptoms of bowing, it is a sign that they may no longer be able to support the structures above them and need to be reinforced. Essentially, they are designed so that they can provide some resistance to the lateral pressures of the earth. Clays, frost and hydrostatic pressure can all put a significant amount of stress on the walls causing bowing. Sometimes, the pressure of the soil from the outside is too much for the walls to resist and they subsequently start to bow inwards. The symptoms of bowing basement walls obviously vary depending on the way in which the basement was built in the first place. That is, they vary depending on the construction of the basement.
If you have a block foundation for your basement, symptoms of a bowing basement wall can include any of the following:
- Stair step cracks may be noticed in the outside corners.
- Tipping may be noted at the top of the wall.
- Horizontal cracks may be apparent in the mortar joints.
- Horizontal shearing at the very bottom of the basement wall.
In very extreme cases, you may notice that your wall displays all of the symptoms described with cracking and bowing throughout the entire wall. If this is the case, your wall may be on the verge of collapsing and you would be advised to seek expert help as a matter of urgency.
If you have a poured foundation, the symptoms of a bowing basement wall can include any or all of the following:
- Horizontal or vertical cracks in the wall.
- Tipping of the wall.
- Diagonal cracks in the outside corners of the wall.
- Wall anchors.
- Helical anchors.
- Wall reinforcement beams
Wall anchors can be made from a range of materials, including steel and carbon fiber and are structures which are embedded in walls and anchored into the foundation or the ground to confer stability.
Helical anchors are very similar. The system is made up of a shaft with helical blades attached. The blades are mechanically anchored into the soil, while gripping the wall to confer stability.
Wall reinforcement beams are beams that are installed inside the basement walls to provide reinforcement to the walls, preventing further bowing. Some companies use carbon fiber beams which are reportedly 10 times stringer than steel and are specifically designed for basement walls. Some brands of carbon fiber wall reinforcement beams claim to use the same technology which is used by the US department of defense for bomb shelters, bridges and skyscrapers worldwide.
If you notice any of the symptoms described here in your basement wall, it is important that you contact an expert as soon as possible to recommend a suitable solution to the problem for obvious health and safety reasons aside from anything else. In addition, bowing walls can devalue your home and detract from its usability.