Foundation Issues

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1HandyWoman

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I have some block walls in the basement under my front porch that are starting to crack badly and bow in. These are not walls that support my house but they support my front porch (cement) and the posts that support the roof over my front porch.

Is this something that can be fixed? I assume IF it can be fixed it is probably not a do it yourself job but I have no idea what it will take or how much it will cost or if there is a fix that is DIY.

Anyone have any ideas on how or if it can be fixed, how much it might cost (the wall is 34 feet long x 8 feet tall) and is there a DIY method to fix this (I don't have much income or ability to pay).
 

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bud16415

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There is always a way to fix it and I’m pretty sure this won’t be a DIY job.



Could you post some photos from outside depicting what you described about the porch and such?



Just need to get an idea of the lay of the land and how much structure is above the wall.

It sounds like your basement extends out under the porch. Is that correct?
 

1HandyWoman

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Ok here is a picture of the front of the house. The porch is cement and runs across the full house. The bricks you see on the front right behind the plants is the wall that is cracking (below the ground). That is the wall that needs attention.

I fugured this is not a DIY but had to ask just in case.
 

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Jeff Handy

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Not DIY, but don’t put this off much longer.

You need a foundation repair company.

Maybe you will qualify for a low income grant to fix it.

Inquire at your city hall or county clerk about any grant programs for home repairs.

Or google “low income home repair grant assistance” and add your zipcode.

Some companies will pour a whole new wall in front of this bowed wall.
Others will excavate along the outside to relieve the soil pressure pushing it in.
Then they install long steel beams across the bowed area inside the basement.
They connect these to pylons or similar anchors buried in the ground outside, well away from the wall in stable soil.
 

bud16415

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Few more questions.



Is there another foundation wall under the front door? In other words is the basement under the porch a long skinny room with a door entering from the main basement.



When was the house constructed? Is the upper roof a truss design?

I may not be the person to answer all your questions but these questions should help the pros when they get here.
 

1HandyWoman

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Yes that is exactly what is happening there is a second wall under the house holding the house up. This two walls creates a long narrow room under the front porch. The wall holding up the house is in excellent shape (no soil up against it).

The house was built in 1988.

Yes there are roof trusses.
 

bud16415

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Thanks for all the additional information.



I’m not a professional builder or in the construction field just a retired homeowner that wouldn’t want to be ripped off with this repair any more than you do.



Like Jeff mentioned I also feel this is a serious issue and like you mentioned it is going to require outside help. At this point you are ok but if that wall comes in it likely wont destroy your home but it is going to be a much more difficult fix for sure.



Just thinking out loud here. How important is all that basement space to you? If you lost some of it say 3’ would that be a problem? What I’m getting at if there is an inside fix would that work better for you than a lot of digging in front?



What will happen when you call people out is they will have a solution in part based around what they do best, and as Jeff mentioned there may well be more than one fix.



All we know for sure is something is causing a lot of pressure on that side and the wall wasn’t constructed strong enough to take it. Normally a block wall that long would have a couple of pilasters built into it to strengthen it. That may have helped or thicker blocks or better drainage or less compaction with heavy equipment at the time it was filled in could have started the cracking.

One last question before hopefully some pros come along and comment. How long has it been like this? Is it in a state of movement? Getting worse each year after winter? Etc.
 

1HandyWoman

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"I also feel this is a serious issue " Yes I realize that it is serious. I called many foundation companies yesterday and today and they are all booked solid and can't even come to my house to look and give an estimate until THE END OF JULY! It seems (so I have been told) that with all the rain we have been getting (almost everyday for months well for the last two years) than many homes are experiencing this same problem.

"How important is all that basement space to you? " NOT AT ALL. THis is a long narrow room that I use mostly to store junk that could easily be thrown away or relocated elsewhere.

"If you lost some of it say 3’ would that be a problem? " 3' on the total lenght of the room or 3' on the width? YES I AM ALL FOR doing something on the inside versus digging up the lawn and plants on the outside if that is possible.

"as Jeff mentioned there may well be more than one fix. " I agree. What I found out today is that many companies will NOT even come out and give me an estimate UNTIL I hire a structual engineer and get a "recommendation". That makes no sence to me because as you say there are probably many solutions so an engineer picks one and I am stuck with that solution????? That sucks. Plus then I am in for $$$$ just to get someones opinion where I may or may not be able to find a reasonably priced company that is willing to execute that "solution".

"How long has it been like this? " Well the blocks had hairline cracks for many many years probably 10+ years but with all the rain the last couple years it started getting worst. I don't know how long since it got this bad since I never really even go into that room. BUT I did go into it recently (late winter 2019 early spring 2020) and saw the present situation. SO bottom line I don't know how long its has been this bad but probably not this bad until this past fall/winter if I had to guess.

"Normally a block wall that long would have a couple of pilasters built into it ". No idea what those are, but my feeling is that the soil behind the wall has gotten so wet with the constant rain that it has gotten so heavy (unusually heavy) that is what has caused the problem. Are pilasters something that can be built into the wall now?

I talked to a friend today who has some building knowledge and he said what I need are anchors that go through the wall and extend out into the yard behind stable soil and that I need about 7 of them and they cost about $1,000 a peice so he said I am looking at a $7,000 repair. Oh god I hope not I don't have that kind of money and I don't even have any credit since I have not used credit for years and years so I fell off the credit bureaus lists (I no longer can be rated since I haven't used credit for so long!)

I though (in my neive mind) that maybe a second block wall could be built on the inside next to the existing wall but then thought maybe that would not work. Anyhow, I would love to hear about any options or ideas - inside or outside.
 

bud16415

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A pilaster is where a long block wall has a bump out every so many feet where the blocks are laid interlocked such that the wall is double thickness in those spots. The time to build them is when the wall is being built but a skilled block layer I have seen put them into an existing wall by removing every other block and then inserting special large blocks. I don’t know how viable that is with the damage that is already there.



Your friends suggestion sounds like something he has seen done and sounds pretty extensive. This type of work is always going to be expensive.



I don’t think a simple second block wall would help much but I would think a second poured wall inside would be an option. Again I’m not a contractor. If say wood forms were built across the full width of your basement providing for a pour say 14”-18” thick against the bad wall and judging by the width of your house and average basement depth that would take about 10-12 yards of concrete at say $110 per yard that might be under $2k with trucking etc. then it would require some sort of rebar cage inside the form maybe another $1k and then labor that maybe you could find volunteers to help you. There would have to be access holes cut into your porch floor to pour thru that could be repaired later.



But anything you do would require an engineer to make the plan and then possibly you could get friends and family or a church group or something to aid in keeping labor cost down. That would even be if an interior wall was deemed a viable solution. Of course a poured exterior wall would be another option to ask about.



I actually think your friend’s estimate will be low if you just go out on the open market.

Have you talked to your homeowners insurance about it? If so what have they said?
 

1HandyWoman

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After I replied yesterday I looked up what a pilaster was (yes I should have done that before replying). Anyhow, I found some videos put out by stone masons that show they can be built to shore up or repair a block wall and they do NOT show tearing out existing blocks but tie the pilaster into the existing wall with rebar hooks or other metal ties. Here is a video of one guy doing it..



The other thing I came across was a wooden wall (2x8s) that is shimmed between the wood and the block wall at least 3 places on the wall (I would do more). IDK this looks too good to be true and I am not sure of the lateral strength of a 2x8 over 8 feet. The one problem I see doing that with my basement is I have no joists to tie the tops of the wall into I would have to run a joist from the existing house wall to the outside wall and not sure that would be sufficient to hold the force on the wood wall. Here is a 5 min vid of a guy doing this....


The last idea I came across was using steal I beams cemented to the walls and buried into the cement floor but again no way to attach it at the top because I have no floor joists to tie into. Here is a web page of a guy who swears his repairs using this method work excellently, no call backs and hold up over the years.

 
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Get them stabilized with I beams. That will work until a permanent fix can be completed. You put 4 or 5 pieces of steel from floor to ceiling anchored at both spots tight against the wall. I have also seen horizontal supports between the verticals for extra holding power.
 

1HandyWoman

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"Get them stabilized with I beams. That will work until a permanent fix can be completed. "

Ok so you do not consider a steel I beam a permanent fix? Why not? So what would be a permanent fix?
 

bud16415

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Another reason pilasters are built is to support a beam above. In the first video that is what the guy is building and it is not to add support to the wall. He is calling it a pilaster but it really is a column that is attached to the wall.



The second video IMO has some merit as they are actually building a new supporting wall that would take the full load even if the block wall wasn’t there. They are locking it in top and bottom and shimming it to make contact with the failing wall. The theory is ok IMO, but no one knows how much force the outside push is causing. We could figure out the strength of the new wall but without knowing the force it is just the guys experience that tells him what he needed to make the wall from.



The third guy is quite similar to the second video as he is placing vertical beams locked in top and bottom to try and hold back the inward movement of the wall. In his case he isn’t trying to use those I-beam posts to hold the load up, just to stop the inward movement.



Your big problem is you have nothing above except the corrugated metal the concrete floor above was poured on. You would have to build the wall up tight to the corrugated metal and then install something like beams that go back to the main houses rim joist. Depending on the direction of the floor joists behind the rim joist the rim joist may have to be supported from pushing back. Doing this would make the weight of the house and the houses basement wall now take half the load from outside. Then you would have to figure out if anchoring the bottom into the floor would be enough or if you need to go down with deeper footings.



It would be a DIY project if you have the skills for all that.



The bottom line is there is still a lot of unknowns, but that wouldn’t bother me too much as much of the construction I have done over the years requires doing some math and then taking an educated guess. I often take my best shot at what I think will work and then double or triple it to account for what I don’t know.



It would still be a big job to take on.

Hopefully some with more experience will come along and tell us where we are wrong.
 

1HandyWoman

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"Another reason pilasters are built is to support a beam above. In the first video that is what the guy is building "

Yes I included the wrong video but I have seen another one of his where he is specifically repairing a CMU wall using that method. And I have also found a few web sites that show how to build such a structure to repair a wall (not hold a beam).


"The second video IMO has some merit "

Yes it seems that way to me too, but I don't have any structual engineering knowledge, so I don;t know.


"The third guy is quite similar to the second video '

Yes but I have done a fair amount of framing and working with wood and I am waaaayyyy more comforable working with wood than metal but I see the merits of both (I just don't know what loads that can material each carry ).


"Your big problem is you have nothing above except the corrugated metal the concrete floor above was poured on. "

Agreed. This is the BIG problem with doing any inside fix. BUT I think it is doable. The rim joist on the house is slightly set back in on the house block wall so there is an actual ledge created that could help support the beam coming off that rim. Also the floor joists on the house are running the same direction that these joists (beams) would be run so the new beams (joists) would butt into the existing joists so I think that would be what I would want.

"you would have to figure out if anchoring the bottom into the floor would be enough or if you need to go down with deeper footings. "

Agreed that is why I need to hire a structual engineer. I have an acquaintence who is a structual engineer. Up until this scamdemic hit I was working with a guy who has a handyman, home improvement company and he and I were gutting and renovating a 80 year old mill house for this engineer. When the scandemic hit, my friend (the handy man business owner) decided he wanted to keep all his work for himself so he "let me go". Anyhow, I have a call in to the engineer acquaintence and I hope he can fit me into his busy schedule.


"It would still be a big job to take on. "

Agreed, but I have all the time in the world and little money so..... this is the kind of solution I need, something that I can AT LEAST put some sweat equity into to reduce the price or hire a helper to help me do the whole job.

thanks for your input.
 
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I would consider something tied into the footer as permanent. I suppose the i beam route could be permanent, but it isnt my field so just having a guess. I would assume your climate location comes into account on what the permanent fix would be. Good luck
 

68bucks

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I helped my BIL with a similar problem and we cut holes in the floor then but an I-beam into that vertically against the wall then jacked the top of it to force the wall outward. We excavated outside first though. Once pushed out into position we secured the top and poured concrete around the bottom to fill the hole. Worked pretty good actually. We did it I 2 spots then he framed and drywalled to hide the beams. Think they were 6" beams if I remember correctly. It was a lot of work though and without framingunder the porch you would have to figure out how to pin the top of the beam in place.
 

1HandyWoman

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Wow I just got a second opinion on my situation and this guy from **** foundation services says that the situation needs addressing but is not "too bad" or under threat of iminent collapse. All he recomended was the installation of carbon fiber strips. I looked into these things and I could do this myself, if it is a good idea.
 

68bucks

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I did a work project a couple years ago that involved concrete wall and roof restoration and we used carbon fiber in places to reinforce the wall. They described it as rebar on the outside of the wall. Basically it's woven carbon fiber material saturated with an resin. Think fiberglass.
 

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