Foundation Wall Failure: Causes, Signs, & Solutions

What causes foundation wall failure? 

The soil around your home puts a lot of pressure on your foundation walls. How much pressure it puts on your walls depends on the type of soil, the amount of moisture in the soil, and how deep the foundation is under the ground.  

When the pressure becomes greater than what your wall can handle, your wall will begin to bow, crack, or push inward.  

There are three common causes of wall failure  

1. Expansive Clay Soil  

As the amount of moisture in the ground increases and decreases, clay expands and contracts. Clay soil shrinks when it’s dry, and expands when it’s wet. As clay expands it puts pressure on your walls.  


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2. Hydrostatic Pressure 

If water is allowed to accumulate within the backfill soils, it will exert pressure against the basement walls.  

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3. Frost 

In cold winter climates, frost can put pressure on walls.  It can be powerful enough to lift shallow foundations up out of the ground, causing significant damage to the home.   

Common Signs of Wall Failure 

Horizontal Cracking 

One of the first symptoms of a bowing wall will be horizontal cracking near the middle of the wall. These typically start our small and increase in width over time as the outside soil continues to put pressure on the walls.  

Stair-step Cracking at Corners  

Another common sign is stair-step cracking at the corners of a bowing walls. This means that the problem is getting worse.  

Pushing-in at the Bottom of the Wall 

You may notice the wall sliding inward near the bottom of the wall if your basement walls begin to push in severely.  

Sliding-in at the Top of the Wall 

A sign that your problem is becoming more severe is when the wall begins to lean in at the top. This means that the connection between the foundation wall and the framing of your house has been compromised.   

Solutions to Basement Wall Failure: 

Total Foundation Replacement:  

After excavating the soil from around your foundation walls, the house is jacked up. Then the floor slab and foundation walls are removed and the foundation is rebuilt and the soil is replaced.  

This may seem like a logical solution; however, it doesn’t work. Unless your wall is caved in, replacing it won’t solve the issue. This is because the foundation isn’t the problem, the soil is. This is why you can expect the same problems to arise.  

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Steel Beams: PowerBrace 

The I beam is stood up against the basement wall, then it’s connected to the wood floor joists at the top of the wall and the concrete joist at the bottom.  

This is a great repair option as it can improve the condition of the wall over time. It does this by providing a tightening system to the beam.    

If you have any issues with your basement, but aren’t sure how bad they are and what to do about them, then give Midwest Basement Systems a call at 1-515-289-1606!

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Midwest Foundation Repair
9850 Douglas Ave Suite 100
Urbandale, IA 50322