Your home isn't falling apart, bowing walls and cracking in brick or concrete walls doesn't put you in imminent danger. However, these are very serious issues to the longevity of your home. If you discover signs that your walls are failing, it isn't because your house is a "lemon," this is just something that happens to houses over time. Not sure what the symptoms of wall failure are? Keep reading to learn what you should be on the lookout for.
Symptoms of Wall Failure
- One of the first symptoms of bowing walls will be horizontal cracking near the middle of the wall. They typically start out small and increase in width over time.
- Another common sign is stair-step cracking at the corners of bowing walls, which typically means that the problem is worsening.
- You may begin seeing the bottom of the wall sliding inward if your basement walls begin to push in severely.
- Another symptom that your problem is becoming more severe is when the top of the wall begins to lean/push in. This means that the bond between the foundation wall and the framing of your house is compromised.
What Causes Wall Failure?
The soil around your home puts a large amount of pressure on your foundation walls. How much pressure it puts on your walls depends on the type of soil, the amount of moisture in the soil, and how deep the foundation is under the ground. When the pressure becomes greater than what your wall can handle, your wall will begin to bow, crack, or push inward.
Expansive Clay Soil
Expansive soil, or shrink-swell soil, is a common cause of foundation problems. Clay soil shrinks when it’s dry, and expands when it’s wet. Depending how much moisture is in the ground, shrink-swell soils will experience changes of volume up to thirty percent or more. Expansive foundation soils will “heave” and can cause lifting of a building or other structure during times of high moisture.
If water is allowed to accumulate within the backfill soils, it will exert pressure against the basement walls. Hydrostatic pressure increases in proportion to depth measured from the surface because of the increasing weight of fluid exerting downward force from above. This means that the more absorbent the soil and the less soil there is will cause greater hydrostatic pressure.
In cold winter climates, frost can put pressure on walls powerful enough to lift shallow foundations out of the ground, causing significant damage to the home.