Basement foundation wall a little bowed -- should I consult an engineer?

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doss
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Basement foundation wall a little bowed -- should I consult an engineer?

Post by doss »

Looking at possibly finishing my basement. However, I got this old house built in the 1920s and it looks like one side of the foundation wall is a little bowed. I put a 5' level a few places around and the bubble is about half way off the plumb mark. I don't know if the wall has been like this forever or if it was recent. You can't tell by looking at the wall that it is bowed and I don't see any major signs of stress. It looks like the type of wall is poured concrete (not concrete blocks, see note below).

Any cause for concern? Should I have someone check it out? Would a reputable basement repair company be able to give me some good info?


Note: For the building construction experts out there, it seems that the walls were only partially poured on one day and finished the next and there is a "cold seal" where the second pour rests on top of the first pour; typically a horizontal line runing along the wall. I just mention this for added info in case it means anything.
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Re: Basement foundation wall a little bowed -- should I consult an engineer?

Post by Jack FFR1846 »

Get a structural engineer to look at it. I would expect that he's going to have the experience to tell you what's going on.
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lthenderson
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Re: Basement foundation wall a little bowed -- should I consult an engineer?

Post by lthenderson »

Bowed walls if fairly common and I wouldn't be too concerned unless there was large cracks forming or you notice settling issues like windows and doors that shut easily not shutting easily up above. Especially with concrete, it could very well have bowed out the forms when it was poured (if not done right to begin with) and it has been that way every since.

The joint line doesn't mean the basement walls were poured on two different days nor that the seam is a cold seal. When pouring basement walls, concrete exerts a tremendous force on the forms pushing out. To offset some of this force, they will pour the forms about half full all the way around and let it slightly set up before pouring the forms full to the top. This will result sometimes in a line showing up on the finished wall if they waited until the lower set up fairly solid. This doesn't indicate a problem other than aesthetically in most cases.
RudyS
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Re: Basement foundation wall a little bowed -- should I consult an engineer?

Post by RudyS »

Seems that you could pay the engineer what should be a small amount to buy you peace of mind.
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gr7070
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Re: Basement foundation wall a little bowed -- should I consult an engineer?

Post by gr7070 »

lthenderson wrote: Thu Oct 10, 2019 9:03 am Bowed walls if fairly common and I wouldn't be too concerned unless there was large cracks forming or you notice settling issues like windows and doors that shut easily not shutting easily up above. Especially with concrete, it could very well have bowed out the forms when it was poured (if not done right to begin with) and it has been that way every since.
This!

How many stories is this house? How deep is the basement wall?

It's possible that line is a cold joint, though it doesn't matter.

If it's not something that seems to have changed recently or you're not noticing other potentially related issues no way I'm paying an engineer to get involved.
FI4LIFE
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Re: Basement foundation wall a little bowed -- should I consult an engineer?

Post by FI4LIFE »

If concrete is bowing, it is cracking. No cracks means it dried that way when poured. Half a bubble was close enough in the 20s.

A basement repair company is going to want to repair your basement so will not be impartial. I would not call an engineer unless there were large cracks.
3feetpete
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Re: Basement foundation wall a little bowed -- should I consult an engineer?

Post by 3feetpete »

I would avoid the engineer. His fee for looking at it will only be the start of your costs. He has every incentive to over sell the problem in order to minimize any liability and maximize his services. I would watch the wall for further movement. In order to do it accurately, mark some spots on the wall and measure across to the opposite wall. If you think it's been there a long time and not moving, then don't worry about it.

Also take some photos of the wall so if a crack pops up you will have a photo of the area for reference.
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fortfun
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Re: Basement foundation wall a little bowed -- should I consult an engineer?

Post by fortfun »

My house was built in 2005 and some of the basement walls are slightly bowed. I believe this is fairly normal, as others have posted, due to the weight of concrete and the forms buckling a bit in places. I framed my basement walls about 3/4" off of the concrete for this reason. I had to cut some concave curves on a few of the studs that hit the concrete walls, after I had already glued and nailed the pressure treated sill plates to the floor.
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gr7070
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Re: Basement foundation wall a little bowed -- should I consult an engineer?

Post by gr7070 »

I would not worry about a structural engineer making engineering decisions based upon their own best interests. They are not similar to insurance salesmen.

Engineers, especially those like structural engineers, who make daily decisions to protect the public have legal ethical requirements to make decisions solely in the best interests of the public and then their client.

I've known hundreds of structural engineers. Not one would violate this legal code of ethics. Not that there are none who exist, but they'd be the absurdly extreme minority.

Not that one can make any engineering judgement from minimal information provided in this post, but it doesn't sound warranted. Only an engineer who makes a personal site visit or other investigative techniques could determine. A few hundred dollars for a site visit may set your mind at ease, though.
dsmil
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Re: Basement foundation wall a little bowed -- should I consult an engineer?

Post by dsmil »

I have a basement wall that is bowed by 2 inches, with a horizontal hairline crack accompanying it. I chose to go the cheaper route by having a foundation inspection done rather than bringing in a structural engineer. We also had a couple of masonry guys come over, take a look, and give quotes to put in some rebar support ($4-$5k). The consensus was that we should monitor the wall/crack for movement and get the repair done if anything changes, or before finishing the basement. I believe that tree roots caused the issue, and that tree has been removed.
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doss
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Re: Basement foundation wall a little bowed -- should I consult an engineer?

Post by doss »

Thanks! Good points.
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HoosierJim
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Re: Basement foundation wall a little bowed -- should I consult an engineer?

Post by HoosierJim »

I would check that all gutters are functioning properly and moving water AWAY from the house. Improper fill (which was many times was used on older houses) around a foundation can build up wall hydrostatic pressure and bow a wall. See this for modern backfill/construction. The most important thing on an existing house is to get the water out of there. If you sure it's dry - ex: you live on the top of a mountain, then it may have been there for 50 years and you want to make sure it doesn't move more.
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