Technical Papers

The Stages of Foundation Wall Failure - When to Repair Your Foundation Wall

Tuesday, July 19th, 2022 by Emily Wallace

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Have you noticed cracks forming in your foundation wall? Or your foundation wall bowing inward? These issues are no small matter. Foundation cracks and bowing walls are a telltale sign that your home's foundation wall is starting to fail and it needs to be addressed as soon as possible. DBS has foundation wall repair solutions that will solve your foundation wall issues and provide you with a healthy, safe, and comfortable home. 

What Causes Foundation Wall Failure?

The main cause for foundation wall failure is the inward pressure from the outside soil on the foundation wall. The pressure from the outside soil varies with the type of soil around the home. Three common reasons for soil pressure build-up are:

  • Expansive Clay Soil
  • Frost
  • Hydrostatic Pressure

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These all cause the soil to expand and exert more pressure on the foundation wall. Because there is no counter pressure coming from the inside of the foundation wall, the wall begins to fail. 

In addition to the added pressure against the foundation wall from the outside wall, foundation settlement can also factor into foundation wall failure.  

What Causes a Foundation to Settle?

The main cause for foundation settlement is the soil changing below the foundation. Underneath your home, there are different layers of soil. These different layers of soil come with different soil types and moisture content. This can cause the various layers of soil beneath your home to compact and loosen over time due to the pressure of your home.

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There are three common causes for changes in the soil:

Cause #1: Drying and Shrinking of Soil

The drying and shrinking of soil can be due to periods of drought or from maturing trees near your home drawing much of the moisture from the soil. When the soil dries out, it shrinks and forms voids that your home settles into. 

Cause #2: Wetting & Softening of Soil

Heavy rains and wet seasons can cause the soil to become very soft and weak, leading to your home sinking down into the soil. 

Cause #3: Compression of Poorly Compacted Soil

Often in newly developed neighborhoods, the buildable land is leveled with fill soil. If this fill soil is not well compacted, it can compress under the weight of your home, causing settlement.

The Stages of Wall Failure

Foundation wall failure looks different depending on the type of foundation your home has.  

Concrete Block Wall Foundations

1. Horizontal Cracking

  • One of the first signs of wall failure you will see in a concrete block wall is horizontal cracking near the middle of the wall. These cracks often start small and increase in size over time.

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2.  Stair-Step Cracking Along the Wall

  • The second stage is stair-step cracking, beginning at the corners of the bowing wall. As the middle of the wall begins to further bow in, the corners are being held up by the adjacent walls, thus creating this stair-step cracking effect. 

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3. Shearing at the Bottom of the Wall

  • The third stage of wall failure occurs as the wall pushes in more severely. Shearing at the bottom of the wall occurs when the bottom row of the blocks is held in place by the basement floor and the rest of the wall slides in.

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4. Total Wall Failure 

  • Total wall failure occurs when the block foundation wall begins to lean in at the top.

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Poured Concrete Wall Foundations

1. Leaning in at the Top of the Wall

  • Poured concrete walls are more likely to lean in at the top when the soil outside creates inward pressure against the wall. Because the poured concrete wall is more rigid than a block wall, the inward pressure from the soil caused the top of the wall to break free.

2.  Diagonal Cracking

  • The second stage of wall failure is diagonal cracking at the corners of the wall. As the pressure builds on the already leaning poured concrete wall, the wall begins to form diagonal cracks coming from the corners.

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3. Total Wall Failure

  • When the poured concrete wall continues to lean and the cracks expand, that wall has reached total wall failure. 

How do you repair a failing foundation wall?

Stabilizing your home's foundation wall is extremely important to prevent your home's foundation from total wall failure. At DBS, we offer multiple different solutions to permanently stabilize your home's foundation wall.

DBS Foundation Repair Solutions

  • PowerBrace® System

    • Our PowerBrace® System is designed to permanently stabilize your home's foundation. The system supports and stabilizes the wall by reinforcing the wall joints and distributing the load evenly across the wall. The PowerBrace® System also allows for the straightening of the bowing wall over time. 
  • GeoLock® Wall Anchor System

    • The GeoLock® Wall Anchor System consists of an anchor embedded into the soil away from your foundation wall and a wall plate connected by a steel rod to the anchor. This system is then tightened and permanently stabilizes the foundation of your home.
  • CarbonArmor® System

    • The CarbonArmor® System uses carbon fiber-reinforced polymers to stabilize the foundation wall. The material used in CarbonArmor® System is 10 times stronger in tension than steel. This system stops the foundation wall from further inward movement.
  • EverBrace™ Wall Restoration System

    • The EverBrace™ Wall Restoration System is our solution for severe foundation wall failure cases. This system will permanently stabilize failing foundation walls by transferring the weight of the failing foundation to the new steel system.
  • Foundation Piers

    • In cases where the foundation is failing due to foundation settlement, our foundation pier system is used. These piers are driven down onto the bedrock of the soil and provide the opportunity to lift and support the weight of the foundation.

When should you repair your foundation wall?

Do not wait to repair your foundation wall, foundation issues only get worse with time! The longer you wait to address these foundation issues, it typically means more damage and higher costs to fix the foundation wall.

Fixing your foundation issues as soon as possible will save you money, protect the value of your home, and give you peace of mind in knowing your home is healthy, safe, and comfortable.

How much will it cost to repair my foundation?

Each foundation experiences unique problems, meaning a unique solution is needed for each project. Our Design Specialists are highly trained in diagnosing foundation issues like bowing and cracked foundation walls. At DBS, we offer free, no-obligation estimates! Call us today at 218-525-0720 or fill out a Free Estimate Form to get started!

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