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jpenns 06-20-2011 12:23 AM

horizontal crack in foundation
Hi there. Thanks in advance to anyone who can help me out!

I recently bought my first house, an old 2 1/2 story house with an unfinished basement. I observed some horizontal cracking in the foundation but didn't fully appreciate how critical this was until later, and by then I unfortunately had the basement insulated, so it's a tad harder to access the walls. But I remember the details, I have horizontal cracks along the inside of the basement in the front corner, about seven feet long on the front, and about 15 feet on the side. The crack is up at the top of the basement wall, but there is also a hairline crack at around grade level, just a few feet along the side. At this point the wall is bowed in a bit. Sorry, I don't have a measurement of how much, but it wasn't much. Below that crack the wall is yellowed, I'm guessing from moisture. Outside that wall there is a sidewalk up against the house that is caved in towards the house, and I'm guessing this cracking and moisture is due to this. Outside the front foundation wall there is a front porch. The porch roof does not have eavestroughs.

You should know that the house has no weeping tile. The basement is very shallow, it is only 3 feet up until the grade level. From basement floor to the floorboards above is 8 feet. I recently did some measurements to do some house leveling, and this corner of the house is about an inch lower than the rest of the house. I don't give a damn about water in my basement but I want to make sure I'm taking care of my foundation. I do get water in the basement but the rest of the house doesn't appear to need weeping tile to keep the foundation intact, so can I fix this problem by taking out the sidewalk, installing proper drainage material (if so what would that material be?), and installing eavestroughs at the front?

Thanks again.

bob22 06-20-2011 05:42 AM

I'm not an engineer but IMO a bowing foundation wall with cracking doesn't sound like something I would cover and forget. I'd get an engineer in to look at the wall as it may be failing. All the water coming at the wall is not helping things especially in your location with freeze-thaw cycles.

stadry 06-20-2011 07:04 AM

you don't mention the wall's mtls but i'm guessing its masonary block,,, you'll probably need some strengthening w/wall pins ( invisible or steel beams ), exterior waterproofing, &, perhaps, a french drain either inside or out.

' I don't give a damn about water in my basement but I want to make sure I'm taking care of my foundation. I do get water in the basement but the rest of the house doesn't appear to need weeping tile to keep the foundation intact, so can I fix this problem by taking out the sidewalk, installing proper drainage material (if so what would that material be?), and installing eavestroughs at the front? '

interesting statement as most people do care including the people who write the building code,,, your bsmt wasn't designed to be a swimming/wading pool

jomama45 06-20-2011 08:09 AM

You either need pictures of the situation, or an actual measurement of the walls deflection and preferably both, to get a decent answer here.

A 6' level, or shorter level with a straight edge, or a plumb bob would tell you how much the wall is bowing in.

Canucker 06-20-2011 08:37 AM

You're most likely built on clay and have a high water table, being in Mantoba. And it gets cold. You say the basement floor is 3 ft below grade? Your area gets really cold, I would think the footings would have to be a little deeper than 4 ft to begin with? Is a river nearby? I have read about bowing foundations being repaired with steel supports in that province. It sounded like it was a fairly common problem with block foundation in some areas there. I found it while looking for info on closed cell spray foam, believe it or not. There are experts on here that know better than me, and a couple of them have already commented. Itsreallyconc is one of them and probably gave you the most likely solution you're going to hear from a GOOD contractor.

jpenns 06-24-2011 05:20 PM

Thanks everyone for your advice. I am going to take out some insulation and get the measurement of the bowing, and some pictures. I'm currently in the process of finding a local engineer to examine it too if necessary. Will write again soon.

Oh, to answer Canucker's question, I really am only about 3 feet deep. At the very most it's 3 ft, 4 inches. It's clay, and the nearest river is about 1km away.

ccarlisle 06-25-2011 01:14 PM

You didn't specifically reply to the question relating to the foundation walls being made solid or of concrete blocks...I tend to think it's solid concrete - but tell me if I am wrong.

If you had block walls, the hoizontal cracks you see might be in a zig-zag pattern, but if you had solid walls, the cracks that come from the outside (bowing the walls in) would be straighter and go around corners. Either way, you should have had this inspected when you bought the house, and an inspector should have reported on this...if you didn't have an inspection done, you'll pay for that oversight now.

An inspector would have checked to see if that cracks is, on the off-chance, static or active ie. growing or not. He would report on how wide the crack was and if the wall was displaced at the crack level or below. He would also tell you if the crack was a surface crack only - not piercing the wall itself and told you not to worry.

Walking around the outside, he would have noticed cracks there, in one or several corners and told you that your footing may have failed.

From the inside, he might see cracks along the frost line (if you do have concrete blocks) and have told you there's a grading and/or water run-off issue. If he sees larger (> 3/8") then a structural engineer should be called in because a structural failure may be in progress.

But if you say the sidewalk is sloping towards your house, that's a likely culprit. Next, rain downspouts from your roof, then downspouts from the porch. Hopefully, it'll be minor - but there is a chance it's not.

It may be a bit too late to call in a home inspector now because he can only inspect what he can see; but the outside is still visible, but if you're spending the money once might as well be on a structural engineer at this stage.

jpenns 07-05-2011 02:14 PM

Ok I've pulled off some insulation to measure the bowing and take pictures. The bowing is 1" at its greatest. The cracks are fairly thin. Pictures to follow. Oh, and the wall is solid concrete.

aleary 07-28-2011 11:19 AM

Bowing walls are definitely not something to take lightly. There could be serious issues with the structural integrity of the foundation and walls, which means they could fail in the future. I would agree an engineer should be asked to look at your problem. He or she will be able to tell you if the wall can be fixed and if there is additional work that needs to be done outside of the house. Steel supports are one solution, but steel corrodes over time and needs to be replaced. It also doesn't look very good. I know that carbon fiber is something that is used to fix bowing walls as a permanent fix - and it can be painted over. is a web site that has information about fixing basements with carbon fiber.

I hope everything works out for you. Also, moisture in a basement is not a good thing, also because it can lead to mold, which can potentially cause health problems.

Good luck!

Jackofall1 07-28-2011 12:23 PM

Just a thought

Bowed walls are not uncommon in poured foundations, that is if the forms were bowed at the time of installation, I would think if the wall bowed post installation there would be vertical cracks as well as those present horizontally.

I am not saying that the horizontal cracks are not of some concern, and moisture stains indicate the cracks are through cracks, fix the drainage issues, have it evaluated, you may have to excavate below the crack and reseal externally.


jpenns 07-28-2011 12:32 PM

OK, big update. A foundation contractor who came recommended from some friends and is very familiar with the area and these 100 year old homes inspected the basement and determined that although I thought it was poured concrete, the basement is actually stone that has been covered up in concrete. His thoughts: the horizontal cracks are merely in the concrete covering, and are not the serious warning signs that you normally associate with horizontal cracks. Obviously the bowing is a concern, but he advised to just care of the water problem with eavestroughs and sloping, and keep an eye on the situation, watch for further bowing, cracking, etc.

I'm inclined to trust him because he seemed very knowledgable and correctly diagnosed the fact that it's a stone foundation, which other experts completely missed. Also, this recommendation put him completely out of work at my house, so it's not like I suspect his motives. Thoughts?

AGWhitehouse 07-28-2011 01:46 PM

Sounds reasonable. Definately deal with your site drainage issues to get water away from the foundation and keep an eye on it. If things change, then call him back.

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