Originally posted 1/7/21; updated 12/15/22
We’ve discussed bowed basement walls in our blog before. We reviewed what causes a wall to bow in this article, and we explored repair methods and costs in this one. But lately we’ve been hearing a different question about bowing walls from customers: what if I want the wall straightened, not just repaired?
You see, dear reader, when a bowing wall is repaired, the goal is to stabilize it and prevent it from moving any farther. There are repair methods that will hold it securely in place, exactly where it is. These methods are preferred because straightening a wall adds to the costs of the repair, and many homeowners don’t want to spend extra money on a space that’s not a focal point. However, if you plan to finish your basement or dislike the appearance of the bowing wall, it is absolutely possible to straighten it.
Acculevel is a family-owned company that has specialized in foundation repair and waterproofing since 1996. We understand that our customers want to be budget-conscious, but we also know your home is often your largest investment. Restoring stability to your foundation is of critical importance; but you may gain more resale value if the basement looks strong and healthy.
So in this article, we’re going to guide you through the process of straightening a wall. We’ll give you an illustrated tour of the steps, provide approximate costs, and explain why a bowed wall still needs to be secured after it’s been straightened.
Why Is This Basement Wall Bowing?
The number one reason a wall bows is hydrostatic pressure. When there is more moisture in the ground than the soil can absorb, the excess water spreads, looking for a drainage point. If this oversaturation happens on your property, it means the water can end up pushing against your foundation.
Over time, the foundation will start to crack from this pressure, and that’s when the bowing will start. In the photo below, you can clearly see the long horizontal crack that formed from hydrostatic pressure.
FYI: all photos in this article are from the same home, and were taken by Acculevel employees during the repair process.
How to Straighten a Basement Wall
Before the wall can be straightened, we need to reduce the pressure against the wall.
- The first step is to protect your home, by installing jacks and braces to help support the house. Once the jacks and braces are holding their own, we move to step two.
- Excavate the ground outside the bowing wall. This reduces pressure on the wall, while also giving it room to move back into place.
- Now the wall can be pushed back into place and held there. To accomplish this, steel rebar is drilled into the floor. This rebar works as the anchor for the wooden braces that are used to straighten and support the wall.
- Wall straightening costs $300-325 per linear foot. If the wall is 24 feet long, that would be a price range between $7200-7800. This price does not include the carbon fiber straps that you’ll need to reinforce the wall and prevent future movement. (We explain the need for reinforcement later in this article.)
This is the inside view of the supporting jacks and wooden braces. The basement stairs & water heater are on the other side of the far wall (behind the shelving). That unshown portion also has jacks and bracing.
This is the excavated area outside the wall. You can see the wall is still leaning inward at this point in the process. (The pipe you see is the sewer line, in case you’re like me and don’t know what one looks like!)
This is inside view of the tieback under the stairs. Jacks and bracing were also needed on this side of the basement wall.
Why Did We Need a Helical Tieback?
Generally, we use helical tiebacks to correct a bowing wall, if the wall is bowing more than 2 inches inward. In this instance, we’re using a tieback because of the location. This portion of the basement wall is critical, as the stairs are resting directly on top of it. To insure the stability of the home, we believed a tieback was the best and most efficient solution in this spot. The rest of the basement wall is reinforced with carbon fiber straps (next photo).
Why Do We Need Carbon Fiber Straps?
Straightening a wall does not repair it. It returns the wall to its original position. If this wall has bowed once, it is likely to do so again in the future. That is why the wall is being reinforced with carbon fiber straps. Think of the bowed wall like a badly broken bone. In that metaphor, straightening the wall is resetting the bone, and the straps are the cast. The difference is that a bone will re-grow and heal, allowing the cast to be removed- your wall will need the straps permanently.
These are pictures of a carbon fiber strap. It’s anchored at the top against the band joist. The bottom of the strap is secured against the foundation itself; the floor was broken up to give us access to this.
This last photo shows the job after the installation is done. You will notice the rebar and braces are still in place. Until the straps are completely set, we will leave these items in place. The carbon fiber straps require at least 24 hours to fully cure and set. After a few days, we will return to the job site to remove the bracing and repair the holes left by the rebar. At that point, the homeowner can paint over the straps if they like, using a regular indoor house paint.
This photo shows the wall after straps have been installed. The jacks and bracing will be taken down once the straps have “cured.”
Want to Know More about Bowing and Straightening Walls?
We’ve referenced other articles as we’ve reviewed the wall straightening process, to further explain the products and installation services. These articles tackle specific issues and questions that we have been asked by other homeowners.
But I also want to encourage you to check out our comprehensive foundation guide, which is meant to be used as a resource for homeowners. Bookmark it, read it from start to finish, or jump to the chapter that speaks to your needs.
Do You Have a Bowing Wall That Needs Repair?
If so, you should find an experienced foundation repair company and schedule an in-home appointment. We strongly recommend that you verify the company is reputable, insured, and accredited by the Better Business Bureau.
If you live in our service area, please call Acculevel. One of our knowledgeable project advisors will evaluate your home, review the options with you, and provide a free written estimate.
Not sure how to hire a contractor, or what to ask? We have additional resources available to you:
- A detailed checklist of questions you should ask a contractor
- 3 steps to getting the best price for home repairs
- Advice on how to safely meet with contractors under difficult circumstances (like the COVID-19 outbreak)