Bowing Basement Walls

Basement walls are notorious for bowing and cracking. Hydrostatic pressure is the most common reason, and the best fixes offer maximum protection.

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Bowing Walls

Signs of a Failing Basement Wall

The symptoms your basement walls experience help determine what kind of repair is most appropriate. Keep an eye out for the following in and around basement walls:

  • Inward bowing or buckling
  • Cracks in brick or concrete block
  • Water leaks around bows or cracks
  • Basement wall windows out of square

If you’re seeing horizontal bowing, this indicates you need reinforcement to help hold the walls in place laterally.  If you’re seeing cracks without bowing, it could indicate vertical movement (settlement).  Each case requires a different approach.

Why Basements Bow

When a basement wall bows inward, this almost always is due to hydrostatic pressure, or more easily understood as the weight of the water-drenched soil pressing against your wall.  With precipitation, whether rain or melted snow/ice, your underground basement walls are not only supporting the vertical structure of your walls–they’re also resisting horizontal pressure.

Imagine digging a hole on a typical day with soil that’s barely moist.  Now imagine digging the same hole after it’s been raining for 3 hours.  The weight in just one shovel increases to a surprising degree.  This holds true to a more extreme degree when soils around a basement wall are saturated.  The weight can become too much for a basement to bear.  Now imagine the same soil begins to freeze in the cold Indiana winter.  Not only is there weight, there’s additional soil expansion.

How to Fix a Bowing Basement Wall

There are two main methods to address a failing basement wall.  An experienced professional should be consulted to make the best recommendation.  A basement wall may need to be reinforced with carbon fiber strips, which can add a surprising amount of stability.  It’s also possible your wall may need a wall anchor system, in which steel is driven into the soil next to the wall and used to build up resistance to pull against plates that are attached to the wall.  This offers a high degree of protection and the greatest likelihood for possible recovery to return the wall as close to its original position as is safely possible.