When to Straighten Your Bowing Walls

Bowing Walls

There are two popular types of foundation walls in modern residential construction. These are the poured concrete walls and the concrete block walls. These are used widely because they are easy to install and offer great strength to the foundation of the home.

However, these foundations can be damaged severely when put under extreme pressure by the soil that surrounds the foundation. Horizontal pressure on the foundation walls can result in horizontal movement when the pressure is greater than what the foundation wall is designed to withstand. This movement results in inward leaning or bowing walls. This is manifested by cracks on the foundation walls that can result in seepage.

Repairing Foundation Walls

The repair method you choose for your walls will depend on the extent of damage to the walls. You can choose to provide the walls with extra support by installing carbon fiber strips or steel beams. You can also choose to straighten the walls.

When you should straighten your bowing walls

  1. Straightening poured concrete walls

The strength of poured concrete walls lies in the fact that they consist of a single continuous block as opposed to many small individual pieces. They are therefore much stronger than concrete block foundation walls. However, they too succumb to the horizontal pressure from surrounding soil.

The most common signs that these walls are bowing are severe cracks especially around the corners of the walls. Cracking beams are also a sign of failure.

As a rule of thumb, you should consider having your walls straightened if the wall bulges into 30% of its thickness. E.g. if the wall is 10 inches thick, the walls should be straightened if it bulges in more than 3 inches. If it bulges in less than this, the wall can be reinforced.

  1. Straightening concrete block walls

Concrete block walls consist of small blocks that are joined together with mortar. Because these walls are not as strong as poured concrete walls, they need to be straightened much sooner. Signs of weakness in the wall include horizontal cracks along the mortar joints.

As a rule, concrete blocks should be straightened if the bowing is more than 2 inches inward. The wall should also be straightened if the blocks in the wall shatter or if a block in the wall shifts more than 1 inch laterally.

It is important to have your basement inspected by a professional and licensed contractor. This will ensure that you are provided with a long term solution.