Long gone are the days in which a bowing foundation wall makes a homeowner spend an excessive amount of time and money on repairs. A failing foundation wall is something you should only have to repair once, especially given how important it is as a part of your foundation. A buckling foundation wall is only the beginning; as soon as one part of the foundation fails, the house begins to experience structural damage.
Wall anchor systems are a permanent solution to the bowing wall problem. The reason a basement wall bows in the first place is due to hydrostatic pressure. This pressure, caused by an accumulation of water against the wall, is what causes the wall to bend. If the walls are bending due to a force pushing up against one side, then the only way to stabilize the wall would be to apply equal force on the other side. This is what wall anchors do:
The anchors are connected to a steel rod that clamps down on the wall plate. The pressure from the anchor pushes back against the wall and creates a force large enough to fight against hydrostatic pressure. Unlike other wall bracing methods, wall anchors do not rely on the strength of the brace itself. With other stabilizing methods, such as wooden or concrete supports, as soon as the hydrostatic pressure proves to be too much for them, they will break and bow along with the wall.
Wall anchors do not rely on the strength of the anchors themselves, rather on the strength of the load-bearing soil on your property. The anchor is placed on stable soil outside your home, and as the rod is tightened, it stabilizes the wall so that it doesn’t bow anymore and can even return the wall to its original position.
How Wall Anchor Systems Are Installed
Our specialists will inspect your yard and your basement to calculate the best places for the wall anchors to go. Once that has been determined, a hole is excavated in your yard where the anchors will be placed. After anchor placement, a hole is drilled in your basement wall and the steel rod is pushed through it until it extends through a hole in its respective anchor.
Once the rods are successfully attached to the anchors, the holes dug outside are filled in with the soil that was excavated earlier and the work outside is finally finished. In the basement, the experts will bolt the wall plate to the protruding rod and begin to tighten it with a bolt. As the bolt is tightened, pressure is applied to the wall until it begins to stabilize.
Wall anchors have the ability to straighten out walls over time. It doesn’t have to happen immediately upon installation, but it is possible because of the bolts that attach the plate to the rod. These bolts can be tightened over time so that the wall slowly returns to its original position. The reason you want this to happen slowly is that you want to make sure that the wall is strong enough to handle the pressure exerted by the anchors. If a cracked, weakened basement wall experiences more pressure than it can handle, then it will break; so, it’s best to give it time to adjust the wall anchor system.
The Advantages of a Wall Anchor System
Wall anchor systems are one of the most reliable fixes for bowing basement walls. They have many advantages over other wall stabilizing systems, especially the system we offer here at AFS. Our wall anchor system is beneficial because it:
- Can straighten walls over time
- Has a 25-year warranty
- Is galvanized to fight off rust
- Can stabilize very weak walls
- Can raise the property value in your home
- Can stop basement leaks and flooding
- Doesn’t take up space in the basement
The steel anchor system is specially made to last over a hundred years. Because a sizable portion of the anchor system is placed underground, it needs to be able to combat all sorts of erosion.
Our installation process also opens the door for us to work on walls that are extremely debilitated. When working on a weak concrete wall, the last thing you want to do is weaken it further by drilling holes in it. Luckily, the holes we drill for the rod to go through are only 1” in diameter, so it’s minimally invasive and doesn’t compromise the wall. Speaking of minimally invasive, unlike other stabilizing systems, our wall anchors do not take up space, so they leave the basement with a clean look.
What Not to Do If Your Basement Wall Is Bowing
As a homeowner, it’s difficult to know what the right thing for your property is. There are a lot of different solutions for the same problem, so choosing the right one can be overwhelming. What does help, however, is understanding what not to do if your foundation wall is bowing. By knowing what the wrong choices are, not only will you understand what the best course of action is, but also you will understand why the best solutions work so incredibly well.
- DIY Braces
Today, homeowners feel confident in their ability to repair things themselves. After all, many DIY guides can be found online that go into detail on exactly what you need to do and buy to do the job. While DIY repairs can work for small fixes around the house, they should never be used for something as important as your basement wall.
DIY wall repairs don’t work for two reasons: The materials used aren’t good enough, and they ignore the true problem at hand. Many homeowners try to deter their basement walls from bowing further by bracing them with a wooden beam. This isn’t enough because the pressure exerted from the water outside the foundation is often too much for a simple wooden beam to handle. With this DIY solution, the wall will continue to bend, and the wood will eventually bend with it.
- Foundation Replacement
Many homeowners’ first thought when discovering that something in their home is damaged is to replace it. While this mindset should be applied to certain household items or appliances, it should never be used to confront a structural problem with the house itself.
Replacing your foundation is not necessary if you’re dealing with a bowing wall. Not only is this process incredibly invasive, but also it is very costly at the time of rebuilding and in later years. A foundation is replaced by lifting the house up, tearing the foundation apart, building a new one, and then setting the house back down. With all this going on, you wouldn’t be able to live in your home for a few weeks or months while this is being done.
Replacing your foundation is a futile effort because it doesn’t solve the actual problem: the groundwater pressuring the wall. With a new foundation, things will be alright for a while but, eventually, the groundwater will accumulate and the hydrostatic pressure will damage the wall yet again.
What Contributes to Hydrostatic Pressure?
Bowing walls are caused by hydrostatic pressure, and hydrostatic pressure is caused by an accumulation of water against your foundation wall. There are a few things that can lead to an excessive amount of groundwater surrounding your basement, such as:
- Your Soil Type
There are certain types of soils that will cause hydrostatic pressure more than others. Soils with substantial amounts of clay in them can retain a lot of moisture. Because of this, you are more likely to see basement walls bowing if your property has clay soils. In Alabama, Huntsville is a city with red, clay soil, so homeowners in this area should keep an open eye out for bowing walls.
- Heavy Rainfall
Heavy rainfall saturates the soil on your property. This water gets absorbed by the earth and slowly flows towards your foundation. Even if you have an excellent yard drainage system, if there is excessive rain, it could overbear said drainage system and cause water to accumulate in your yard. Alabama is the third rainiest state in the contiguous United States, so heavy rainfall is a major cause for concern for Alabaman homeowners with basements. In Tennessee, things can get really wet during May, which is the rainiest month of the year.
- Yard Grade
Your yard grade indicates how water travels around your home. If you have a negative yard grade, then it means that water will flow towards your home. If this is the case, then every time it rains or snows, the water will flow towards your foundation.
Snow contributes to hydrostatic pressure when it begins to melt. The biggest problem with this is that snow doesn’t always melt evenly, so you’ll sometimes see puddles surrounded by a ring of snow. Even if you have an excellent yard drainage system and your yard grade is positive, if the water is blocked off from flowing because of the snow, it will sit there and the earth will absorb it.
Wall Anchor System
The word “hydro” means water and “static” is a synonym for still or steady. The term hydrostatic pressure perfectly illustrates the effects still groundwater has on your foundation and why it is so important to keep an eye out for it.
Hydrostatic pressure is something you might not know you need to watch out for as a homeowner, but once you know about it, you’ll be more vigilant. It’s the kind of problem that many don’t think about until it affects their foundation significantly. Knowing what it is and what it does to your basement walls will allow you to understand why your walls are bowing and what the correct action to take is.
- What It Is
The soil underneath your home isn’t completely dry, even if the topsoil on your lawn is. The ground below is almost always saturated with water, especially in places like Knoxville and Nashville, TN and Huntsville, AL, which have clay soils. Clay soils are able to retain water very well. Other places, like Chattanooga, TN and Mobile, AL, have sandy loam soils, which drain incredibly well, so hydrostatic pressure isn’t a big concern in these areas unless the yard drainage is especially terrible.
When groundwater begins to flow towards your home, it stops once it means resistance in the form of your basement wall. It accumulates against the wall and the weight of the water begins to put pressure on the wall. No matter how tough a concrete wall is, it will begin to bow inwards once that pressure becomes too much. In the simplest terms, hydrostatic pressure is the weight of water against a basement wall.
- What Hydrostatic Pressure Does to Your Foundation
Hydrostatic pressure is a serious threat to your entire home. Even though its effects are mostly seen in the basement, it does affect the structure of the entire house. As the basement wall bends inwards due to the pressure of the accumulated groundwater, it begins to crack. The cracks allow the water to seep through the concrete and infiltrate your basement. Flooding is most common in the wall-floor joint, which is where you’ll see most of the water come from.
Your basement wall is a part of your home’s foundation. The second a foundation begins to have structural problems; the effects will be felt elsewhere. You might notice your floor begin to sink closer to the wall. Any columns that relied on the walls to support the ground floor will begin to fail, which means that the walls above will also experience issues with cracking, bending, and breaking.
The most problematic forces and elements that affect our homes are those that we cannot see. Hydrostatic pressure is one such force. It’s a problem that develops underground, and it doesn’t announce itself until the basement wall is already affected in some way. That said, there are things you can do to prevent it from happening.
- Outdoor Prevention
If you haven’t placed much thought into perfecting the drainage system around your yard, then you should move that up in your priority list. Making sure that excess amounts of water don’t accumulate around your home is the most effective way of preventing hydrostatic pressure. You can do this by hiring a landscaping company to check if your yard has a positive or negative grade. A positive grade means that all water that lands on your property, be it from snow or rainfall, naturally flows away from your home and into the streets. If the grade is negative, then this can always be changed with some landscaping work.
Next would be to extend the downspouts or position them in a way that makes sure the water is drained as far from the foundation as possible. Any inflatable pools or sprinklers close to the house should be moved away. If you have any plants or flower beds next to the house, then make sure that you do not over water them so that the excess water doesn’t accumulate next to your foundation.
- Indoor Prevention
Indoors, installing a sump pump is the best change you can make to prevent hydrostatic pressure. A sump pump will not only collect the water that makes its way into your basement and pump it away, but also it will do the same for the water that accumulates outside of your foundation. If you already have a sump pump, then making sure that it’s properly maintained will ensure that it does its job efficiently and keep the water away.
If you live in a rainy state like Alabama, then you might want to consider getting two sump pumps. With the number of tropical storms that hit Alabama, flooding is so frequent that one sump pump will not do. Two sump pumps will ensure that water is constantly drained from the foundation. Having a backup will also make sure that your foundation soil will stay dry even after one of the pumps malfunctions.
Wall braces are one of the most reliable solutions to bowing walls. Their only downside is that some space is required for their installation. If you and your neighbor’s property lines are too close or there simply isn’t enough yard space for the job to be completed, then AFS has the solution: IntelliBrace™ Wall System.
- Wall Braces
SettleStop is a wall bracing system that stabilizes bowing walls and even straightens them over time. The steel beams have a rust-resistant coating of zinc and are guaranteed to last for the rest of the property’s life, making it a long-term solution to bowing basement walls.
One of the best things about wall braces is that they don’t require any kind of excavation. No yard disturbance is necessary for installation, making it a perfect solution for homeowners that want minimum disturbances while the wall is being repaired. It’s also perfect for those that don’t have the space for wall anchors, since the bracing system is all installed indoors.
- How They Help
The wall braces are first cut to fit the height of your basement. The braces are then attached to brackets at the top. The contractor then makes sure that every beam is in place using a level ruler and finishes setting the beams so they are perfectly spaced out.
At the bottom of the beams, at the floor joists, bolts are used to tighten the beams against the wall. Because the I-beams used for the IntelliBrace™ system run along the entirety of the wall, tightening the bolts forces the wall to straighten out to its original position.
How Can I Tell If Hydrostatic Pressure Is Affecting My Basement Walls?
If you are unsure about whether your basement wall is bowing inwards due to hydrostatic pressure, take some time to look for problem signs. When a basement wall is bowing because of hydrostatic pressure, it will begin to display the following:
- Inwards bulging and bowing
- Wall leaning at the top
- Wall sliding at the bottom
- Leaking coming from the wall-floor joint
- Wet wall
- Stair-step cracks along the wall
Call AFS For Basement and Foundation Repairs In Alabama and Tennessee
Since 2000, AFS has been helping homeowners keep their homes stable and secure. We specialize in all sorts of foundation repair methods, and we have multiple solutions that fit every kind of unique problem you may have.
Give us a call or use our contact form online to schedule a free, no-obligations inspection with one of our field experts. On the day of the inspection, we’ll provide you with a detailed rundown of the cost and repair timeline. With your home’s structural integrity in our hands, you can rest peacefully knowing it will get the best treatment available.