Chances are your basement is made of concrete. If so, do you know if your basement walls have any problems? Better yet do you know the solution? Find out here just what problems your basement walls may have.
If you have a basement, you likely have walls made of concrete. There are two hard and fast rules that you can count on from concrete. One is as it cures it gets hard. The other is as it ages, it cracks. There’s rarely any exceptions to these two rules. And you can bet a dollar to a donut that if your basement wall is made of concrete and it has a little bit of age on it’s side, you will find some cracks somewhere along that wall. There are two main issues that you’ll have to deal with and look at when inspecting a basement wall for issues prior to remodeling that we’ll talk about now.
Types of Basement Walls
Really there’s only one type of basement wall that you’d want to have and that’s made of concrete. Now these concrete wall can be built one of two different ways though. One way has them being made of concrete blocks mortared all together to form a solid wall. The other is a wall that’s actually poured concrete like you would pour for a foundation to form a solid concrete wall. It doesn’t matter if you have a block or poured basement wall as they can both suffer from the problems listed below just the same. They can both crack and they can both bow.
If you are fortunate enough to live in a very old house it’s quite possible that you have stone basement walls. If you do, you won’t experience some of the problems associated with them listed below.
Cracked Basement Walls
There’s quite a bit of difference in the way these two walls will crack. A concrete block wall will tend to crack along the mortar joints and follow that path. In a poured concrete wall they can be just about anywhere. If the cracks have stopped moving they are typically of little concern. What you will find sometimes is there is quite a dispute between newer home owners and builders when these cracks are discovered. The problem with this is you’ll typically have a hard time with resolution from the builders side simply because of the nature of concrete. You will sometimes find though, that you have a better leg to stand on if you wall is a block type and the crack is more than a quarter-inch wide. These should definitely in my book be considered as a must fix builder item for a newer home under some kind of warranty. The big thing to remember is that it’s ok to have some acceptable cracking in your basement walls, provided you are going to do some minor repair work before remodeling. The main concern with them is that you absolutely must make certain that no water is leaking into your basement through these cracks.
Cracked walls are often an indication of past or possibly current water drainage problems and is something that should definitely be corrected before the basement remodel begins. You can do this but it’s going to take some time like a few months or a season or two to see whether or not the cracks are active or stable. Winter and the corresponding thaw can be absolutely brutal to a basement wall. If you discover that a crack is still active and spreading you should first turn your attention to the cause of the problem and correct that first. You might find that there’s simply too much water pressure against the wall causing it to crack. Or it could stem from a season cycle where the ground freezes and then thaws that is causing the wall to move and crack. It might even be something as simple as a big tree who’s roots have decided to invade your basement walls space. Whatever it is, fix the problem first. After that’s fixed, clean and caulk the crack. This will help with any seepage and give you a chance to remeasure to see that it’s not active anymore.
Bowed Basement Walls
If you have a bowed basement wall, what you’ll usually find out is that it’s due to the same reasons they crack. There is some outside force creating enough pressure or more likely water pressure to push them inwards. There is kind of a general rule that most contractors go by and that is if the wall isn’t bowed in more than an inch and is no longer moving inward than it’s not a problem. It can be quite expensive to straighten one out but it’s really not that necessary if it’s less than an inch and not moving anymore. Being not bowed very much makes them pretty easy to hide when you do your remodel behind a framed wall. But if it does happen to still be moving you’ve got to check it out to get it fixed. Again, if you’re not comfortable getting dirty and getting to the source of the problem unmistakably, you might see some professional help just to be sure.
Now, if your basement wall is actually bowed in more than an inch, you’re more than likely going to need to have it straightened back out. After they reach that point, there’s definitely a better probability that the walls will eventually cave in. Not a pretty sight and something that will end up costing you a lot more money than just getting them fixed. It just doesn’t make much sense when you are investing your time and hard earned money into a basement remodeling project to improve the value of your home and building it all in front of a questionable wall that you really have no idea when it might give way.
There are times where you end up with a bowed basement wall for no good reason at all. There’s nothing that’s really causing it. The water pressure on the wall from the outside is fine. There’s no tree’s digging in it’s roots. The ground saturation is fine and the slope is streaming water away from the house. In these cases the only real reason for you having this bowed wall is due simply to some poor construction work. The builder may have been a bit sloppy leaving you with this. It happens. Problem is it’s hard to tell that it is actually a cause of poor construction without the help of an individual qualified to spot it.
There’s quite a few different methods that can be employed to correct a bowed wall, it just really depends on the circumstances surrounding the situation. It could call for anything from wall anchors, tiebacks, tuck pointing of mortar joints, to installing some reinforced rebarb to strengthen it. Actually fixing the bow in the wall may be a little more than you might want to take on and it can be a little tricky so it could be in your best interest to employ the work of a good professional for that.