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When is a Foundation Too Damaged to be Repaired? An Illustrated Guide

decaying concrete foundation

Your home’s foundation is critically important.  It’s the base of your home that everything relies on to stay strong.  It is essential that you make repairs as soon as you know there’s a problem.  But sometimes, a situation gets away from you.  If drywall is covering your walls, or you have storage tubs blocking your view?  You may not see cracks forming until it’s too late.  Or maybe you’re buying a home as-is, and you’re planning to remodel and sell it.  

Whatever the case may be, you’re in a difficult situation.  You’ve learned that the foundation is in need of significant repair, and you need an expert now.

Acculevel has been waterproofing and repairing foundations since our start in 1996.  We understand that home repairs can be stressful and overwhelming, and that you want someone to resolve the problem for you as efficiently as possible.  We genuinely want to help you preserve and protect your home; our goal is to treat each customer’s home as if it were our own.

The fact is that we are a repair company, not a builder.  If your foundation problems are too damaged for Acculevel to repair, we want to help you recognize this as quickly as possible.  We don’t want to add to your frustration by making an appointment with you, only to tell you we can’t help you!  We know your time is valuable, and delays only make your foundation problems worse.

To that end, this article will provide examples of foundations that we cannot repair.  All of these photos were taken by Acculevel project advisors during home assessments.   Hopefully, your foundation is not in this dire condition, but if it is, you’ll need to contact a builder, concrete contractor, or general contractor for assistance. 

Poured Concrete Foundations That Need to be Rebuilt

This first image is of a badly cracked foundation.  You can see that some of the sections are beginning to break apart. 

decaying concrete foundation
Photo #1

There are so many cracks in this wall (photo #1) that the stability of the wall is compromised.  When a crack needs to be repaired, the edges have to be smoothed and prepped for epoxy.  If we tried to use that repair method with these cracks, it is likely we would actually create additional cracks.   The wall is too badly damaged for repair; this section needs to be repoured by a professional concrete contractor. 

decaying foundation wall
Photo #2

In this example, you can see the wall (photo #2) is actively decaying.  You can see how the top layers of the concrete have broken off and exposed the center of the wall. Right now, this wall is incomplete- it’s no longer the width needed to properly support the home.  It should be repoured as soon as possible.  

long horizontal crack in block wallPhoto 3: A poured concrete wall that can be repaired. 

For the sake of comparison, the poured concrete wall (in photo #3) is cracked but otherwise intact.  We were able to repair this wall with carbon fiber straps.

 

Block Concrete Foundations That Need to be Rebuilt

At Acculevel, we use repair methods that work on concrete; it doesn’t matter if the foundation is concrete/cinder block or poured concrete.  But if your foundation is made of concrete block, it needs to be properly mortared and the blocks must be intact.  If either of these conditions are not met, our methods are not going to be applicable. 

There may be instances where we can help with repairing the underlying cause of the damage, however.  In the following example, the broken cinder blocks were strained by the uneven settling of the foundation.  We could stop the foundation from shifting any farther (and compounding the problem) and replace a few blocks.  But if the wall or a large section needs to be rebuilt, this is outside our scope of work.  

While we want to help every homeowner we can, we don’t want to waste your time.  In many instances, we need to do a site visit to make an accurate evaluation and recommendation.  If you would like our input, but are unsure if Acculevel is able to repair your foundation issues, please take pictures of the foundation damage and send it to us at [email protected].  We would be happy to have one or our experts evaluate your project and respond to your inquiry.

broken foundation blocks
Photo #4

The crawl space foundation (in photo #4) is literally coming apart.  The sill plate (the wooden base of the home’s flooring structure) does not appear to be attached to the concrete wall.  The mortar on the top row of blocks is missing, and the block in the second row has broken in half.  This section of wall will need to be removed and rebuilt.  

block foundation without mortar
Photo #5

In photo #5, you can see the previous repairs were made improperly.  When the foundation was compromised, the blocks were replaced without any mortar.  Mortar is the concrete mix that holds the blocks together, in a single cohesive unit.   Without mortar, the blocks can all shift and move in any direction.  This foundation corner will need to be taken out and rebuilt.  

crack in block concrete wall, wall bowing inward
Photo 6: A concrete block wall that can be repaired. 

Again, for the sake of comparison, we’ve provided a picture (photo #6) of a concrete block wall that can be repaired.  This repair required both carbon fiber straps and waterproofing, to prevent further damage from occurring.  

 

Brick Foundations Require a Masonry Expert

We mentioned earlier that our repair methods are effective on concrete walls.  Bricks are not concrete; bricks are actually made of compressed clay.  Foundation repair companies can’t repair clay; it’s a softer material and won’t withstand the pressure of concrete repair methods.

If you have a foundation made of brick, you will need to contact a bricklayer or masonry company for repairs.  These tradespeople specialize in brick and mortar, and the repair methods required for those materials. 

Brick is often partially or completely covered with stucco.  This can be misleading to homeowners, because stucco is a thin layer of concrete applied as an exterior coating to brick.  In the example below, you can clearly see the foundation is brick; only the lower portion has been covered with stucco.  

stucco and brick foundation
Photo #7: a brick foundation with stucco applied.

Any brick structure, even those covered in stucco, will need to be repaired by a masonry company.  If you have more questions about brick repair, we have a blog with additional examples and details. 

 

Need to Learn More About Foundation Repairs?

We have written a comprehensive Foundation Guide that is a free resource for all homeowners.  It reviews everything you need to know: what can cause foundation problems, types of issues from cracks to settling, the repair options for each problem and related costs.  

Foundation Repair Guide

If you need help hiring the right company to replace your concrete foundation, or the best masonry professional in your area, please use our Questions to Ask a Contractor.  This guide includes a free downloadable copy of the questions, which can help you determine if a company is right for you and your home. 

 

 

Kelly Kater

Over her twenty year career, Kelly has worked in a wide variety of fields: secondary education, nursing, biology, elder care, the postal service, multicultural development, and academia. She has developed a skill for translating industry-specific jargon into everyday language. Her goal is to share the knowledge and experience of the Acculevel team with homeowners, in a way that is both engaging and informative.

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