Bowing Foundation Walls? Get Structural Engineer
LESLIE: Stewart in New Jersey, you are on The Money Pit. What can we do for you?
STEWART: Hi. I have an old bungalow-type house. It’s about 100 years old. And the cement foundation is buckling outwards on about one-and-a-half sides of the house. But only half of the house is sitting on half of the foundation. Is there a way I can fix it myself?
TOM: Hmm, that sounds like a pretty serious problem, Stewart. Is there a basement associated with this foundation or is it a crawl space?
STEWART: Nothing. Neither.
TOM: So somehow – so is it a slab?
TOM: Alright. So somehow, the foundation wall has twisted and the house is inside of it?
TOM: That’s a pretty serious issue. Normally what you have to do in a case like this is you have to rebuild that part of the foundation. But before you can do that, you have to support the roof structure and the weight that’s being applied to it using a technique called needle beaming. Basically, what happens is there are beams that are put through the load-bearing portions of that side of the wall that take the weight off the foundation so that the foundation can be dug out, straightened out and then basically repaired.
Is it the foundation that’s bent or is it the walls that are bent?
TOM: Alright, then it has to be replaced. That’s the right way to do this. It’s a pretty complicated job, I have to tell you.
LESLIE: So how is that done? Is the entire home then lifted off the slab?
TOM: Not the entire home; just the area where it’s attached to the foundation you have to take the pressure off so you can replace that area. Because imagine what’s involved here. You have to dig out the area deep enough to be able to get a footing in and then get the wall rebuilt so it comes up perpendicular under the wall where it’s supposed to be. And the only way to do that is to temporarily contain the weight of that exterior wall.
STEWART: So a professional would have to do this work?
LESLIE: Oh, yeah.
TOM: Way beyond the do-it-yourself. Unfortunately, Stewart, it’s a job for a pro and you want a pro to do it. And if you’re smart, you’ll have a structural engineer design the repair because if it ever – if you ever want to sell this house, it’s always better to have sort of the pedigree certification of someone who’s licensed to do this. And a structural engineer can prescribe the exact type of repair that you’ll need here and then inspect it after it’s done and you’ll have that documentation in case there’s any question about whether or not it was done correctly. You can be rest assured it will have no negative impact on the value of your house if you have an engineer involved.
Stewart, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.