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    boards.hgtvremodels.com    HGTVRemodels Message Boards  Hop To Forum Categories  Best Practices  Hop To Forums  Foundation    First Time Home Buyer needs advice on bowing basement wall
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First Time Home Buyer needs advice on bowing basement wall
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posted
Hello,
I am a first time home buyer who just had his first "Inspection". We were excited to get our offer accepted and be in this stage of the game with a house we adore. Unfortunately the inspection went the wrong direction quickly when our pro pointed out the angle, or the bow in the basement wall. He explained what it was probably from, and the two expensive solutions, and then suggested that I get the opinion of a structural engineer. The rest of the house was in wonderful shape, and is a special place in the right neighborhood on a corner lot, etc....

We love the house but understand the seriousness of the situation. I am planning on getting the advice of the structural engineer, but from talking to more than of of them for quite some time, sounds like I can either replace, or support.

Am I in over my head? Should I run away? Is it worth moving forward? will the house ever be sound? Money Pit?

Any advice is appreciated as well as suggestions on solutions.

Thanks so much......


JMS
 
Posts: 4 | Location: Portland, OR | Registered: 12 January 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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It all depends. How's that for an answer? But it depends first on whether the wall is continuing to bow or not, and to find that out, you would need to have constant access to the house over a period of, say, a month, to take periodic measurements and record the results. For a contract purchaser, that is not likely to be possible.

Then it depends on the amount of the bowing...how far out of plumb is the wall?

Then the exact location of the bowing...is the top of the wall bowed or is the middle of the wall bowed?

Then, which wall is bowed, relative to the direction of the floor joists? Are the joists parallel to the bowed wall, or perpendicular to it?

Is the wall poured concrete or concrete block? How thick is the wall? What is the height of the earth outside the bowed wall, measured from the basement floor? Has only one wall bowed? Is there any construction, or a driveway, directly adjacent to the bowed wall? Is there any sign of water entry from cracks in the bowed wall? Are any cracks visible, or is there evidence of recent patching of cracks in the wall?

As with all foundation issues, before a solution can be suggested, a cause must be determined. The possible causes of a bowed wall are:
1. Hydrostatic (water) pressure outside the wall
2. Earth pressure outside the wall, which usually becomes a problem if the the thickness of the wall, or the reinforcing of the wall, are insufficient for the height of earth outside the wall, measured from the basement floór. Another cause of earth pressure could be expansive soils outside the wall. These soils are common in certain regions, such as the southwest.
3. Tree roots outside the wall.
4. Some other construction such as a porch, outside the wall, the footings of which do not extend to the same depth as the main foundation.
5. Heavy equipment operated too near the wall during construction, or after.
6. Backfill of the foundation with unsuitable materials such as large rocks.

The wall in the house you're interested in may have bowed all it's going to bow, and if the bowing isn't great, it's possible that nothing need be done. That's why the first step should be to measure the bowing over time and record the results.

If the bowing is progressing, then remedial action must be taken. In this case, simply replacing the wall, without first identifying the cause of the bowing, will, guess what, leave you open to more bowing of the new wall.

The wall can be braced in a couple of ways. Often one sees steel beams placed against the wall and anchored to the framing above and the basement floor. Another possibility is to construct masonry pilasters on the wall. Even if the cause cannot be determined, these measures can resist whatever force has caused the bowing.

The best course of action is to first determine the cause of the bowing, if possible, and also to measure the bowing and keep track of its progession, if any. Then a solution can be selected. Is it a money pit? If the correct solution is implemented, no, not at all. Should you run from this purchase? As a seat-of-the-pants guess, if you can afford to put up to $5,000 into repairs, you might consider purchasing the house. If not, and if the answers to the questions I have asked above are unfavorable, then perhaps you ought to keep looking.


Architect (NY) and Home Designer (PA)
 
Posts: 2870 | Location: Tobyhanna, PA | Registered: 24 October 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Hmmmm...if the wall is poured concrete and there are no cracks, it leads me to think that the forms might have shifted when the wall was poured (wet concrete is VERY heavy), BUT I'm not certain that poured concrete was very prevalent in 1906. It was a little before my time (not much, but a little...lol).

The absence of cracks and water intrusion suggests that the wall is not failing. Do you have any idea how much the wall is bowing? And where it is bowing? Can you see any evidence of bowing on the outside?

All this speculation is OK, but by all means have a design professional look at it, and make sure he or she addresses all the questions I have raised. Don't let them just jump to a solution without a solid explanation of what caused the bowing (if it can be determined) and why the proposed solution is selected.

Some will simply say, "oh, the wall is bowing, let's just brace it." No doubt, that may be a solution, but it may also be unnecessary. From what we know now, it's possible that nothing is wrong, and as my Dad used to say, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Keep us posted!


Architect (NY) and Home Designer (PA)
 
Posts: 2870 | Location: Tobyhanna, PA | Registered: 24 October 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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My pleasure. Well, now it's time to have a good local design professional look at it. If it is truly the result of bulging forms when the concrete was poured 100 years ago, then there's nothing but cosmetics to worry about. If there has been another cause...heavy equipment too close to the wall, tree roots, pressure...then maybe you'll want to rebuild that part of the wall, but that's a lot more difficult with poured concrete than it would be with block.

Braces would be a red flag to any prospective buyer, as they would have been to you. They may be unavoidable, but let the local expert advise you.

It's the absence of cracking or water entry that leads me to be optimistic, but don't forget, I can't SEE it. If the wall were failing, especially in the rainy northwest climate, I can't imagine that there wouldn't have been water...and cracks.


Architect (NY) and Home Designer (PA)
 
Posts: 2870 | Location: Tobyhanna, PA | Registered: 24 October 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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studioj: I would suggest having a NAWSRC[ National Assoc. of Waterproofing and Structural Repair Contractors] affiliated contractor look at it. They will be able to evaluate the type of foundation and best fix, if any is necessary. You can find one at www.nawsrc.org F/X Repair and Remoldling does this type of work in the Portland area. You can link to thier website from the www.nawsrc.org website. Respectfully, Frank O'Pinion
 
Posts: 66 | Registered: 04 January 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I would strongly advise AGAINST having any contractor look at the wall, because what you need is an opinion from someone who is (1) trained and (2) impartial, meaning selling you nothing. That's where you'll get an unbiased professional opinion of both the cause and the remedy for the bowed wall. Any so-called waterproofing or structural repair contractor can CALL himself an expert, but that doesn't make him one. But if you do go that route, be sure to check BBB ratings for any contractor you plan to talk to.

IF the wall is bowing simply because the wooden forms shifted 100 years ago when the wall was poured, and it shows no cracks, and no water is coming in (in THAT climate!), then there is a CHANCE that nothing at all is required. And if that's so, and you consult a professional, you'll have a report to show any prospective buyer in the future.

If you talk to a contractor, he may have no clue as to WHY the wall is bowing, but he'll be quick to suggest a remedy, you can bet on that, and you might end up with steel beams or masonry piers or some other cockamamie "fix", any of which would become a huge red flag to any future prospective buyer.

Find out WHY first, and THEN remedy the situation, and if you have a professional recommendation, you'll have a basis for getting competitive bids for the work, and you can be sure the bidders are all bidding on the same thing. NEVER let a contractor write a specification for work to be done. The specifications should be written for YOU by an unbiased professional who has nothing to sell. BEWARE of anyone who tries to convince you otherwise.


Architect (NY) and Home Designer (PA)
 
Posts: 2870 | Location: Tobyhanna, PA | Registered: 24 October 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Rich: Don't "design professionals" architects, and structural engineers, "sell something" A homeowner gets a professional opinion from Me! and I DON'T CHARGE A DIME, plus they get an opinion from someone who has actually "hands on " fixed poorly designed foundations! Respectfully, Frank O'Pinion
 
Posts: 66 | Registered: 04 January 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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