What Causes Basement Wall Failure

When external pressure builds in the soils surrounding your foundation, the walls of your basement will eventually exceed the capacity to resist. Once this occurs, you will begin to see foundation wall damage in the form of bows. These bows may be found in the middle, tilts along the top, or slides along the bottom of your basement wall. Although there are numerous causes of failing foundation walls, the two most common are attributed to improper drainage or expansive clays.

Improper Drainage

Whether a heavy rainfall, flood, or leaking pipe, if your home or building’s drainage is poor, water will begin to build in the soils surrounding the foundation. Excessive moisture in the soil will lead to an increase in external hydrostatic (water) pressure on the foundation or basement walls. If the hydrostatic pressure combined with the Earth’s pressure (exerted by the surrounding soil) exceeds the wall’s design capacity, the wall will crack, bow, lean, or shear.

Expansive Clays

With fluctuations in water content, expansive clay soils hold the capacity for extreme volume changes. They swell when wet and shrink when dry. During rainy seasons, expensive clay soils can swell against basement walls. In extreme cases, this external pressure can exert several tons per square foot.

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As your foundation continues to buckle under the pressure of it’s surrounding soils, the damage will only get worse. This is why it is most cost-effective to have it professionally inspected at an early stage.