Foundation Repair – When You Have a Broken Basement

Do you need extensive foundation repair with cracks similar to the one in the video above? We are going to attempt to describe how scary this looked before we spent considerable money on a foundation repair.

Signs of a Bad Foundation

When we first visited this house in Independence, we knew the foundation was not the best and was in need of repair. Our first look was on our walk around the house on the outside. If you look at the photo above, the area where the box out around the main iBeam that holds up the entire house is buckling. From the outside of the house, that iBeam that holds up the house has pushed through the concrete wall at the top of the foundation and was poking out the side of the house.

That was our first sign that this was a really bad foundation.

Then we walked through the house upstairs. And as we walk through rooms above all of this mess, there were a few stress cracks, and windows and doors were not opening and closing very easily.

This was our second sign of a really bad foundation.

Then we went into the basement and we still had to look for signs of a bad foundation because all those cracks were covered by a wall. All we could really see was that the windows in the walls were a bit crooked and off and that the drywall and framing around the iBeam was coming apart. We really could not see the bad stuff.

Get an Engineer’s Report on How to Repair the Foundation

Normally at this stage, we would take a wild guess at what the foundation repairs might costs to negotiate a purchase price on the home. Then once we had come to an agreement with the home seller to buy the house, we would write a purchase contract with the seller. This contract would be contingent upon us getting a structural engineer’s report and a foundation repair bid. If our guess on repair costs was close, we would proceed. If our guess was not quite high enough, we may have to renegotiate with the seller.

Normally we are able to guess fairly close as we have fixed quite a few broken basements.

For the house in the photo above, we were lucky. The homeowner had already had an engineer out and had already received a couple of bids from foundation repair companies. The owner in this case wanted to sell their house but did not have the money to actually make the needed repairs. So he called us to see if we would buy the house “as-is”, and let us deal with all the updates needed as well as the repairs to the foundation and the patio.

Once We Took Away the Drywall, the Fun Started

After we purchased this house and cleared it out. Our next step was to actually remove all the drywall in the basement so we could see just how scary the foundation looked. If you watched the video above, you can see that some of these cracks were really wide. You could stick your hand into some of them.

Making Foundation Repairs

The first step to any foundation repair is the engineer’s report, from a third-party structural engineer. We don’t want to use the engineer that works for the foundation company. Sure they might be free, but the repairs might be more than needed and the cost from the companies with the free engineers are usually quite steep. So we have a list of 3 or 4 engineers we always turn to that are independent in that they don’t work for any foundation company and will give us their honest educated opinion on exactly what we need to do.

Typically, we need to figure out what is pushing the foundation out of place, usually water that is not draining away properly. Then we need to address the water and or whatever the cause and at the same time make the needed repairs to the foundation.

Issues Affecting the Foundation at This House

Positive Slope

Ideally, the entire yard would slope away from the house, so that when it rained the water would drain away – a Positive Slope. But here and in most houses with foundation issues, the yard slopes toward the house – a Negative Slope. So the water drains toward the house and can’t get away.

We quite often buy houses that while their foundation does not look like this one, could in short order if the slope issue is not addressed. It’s fairly a simple fix of bringing in dirt and making the yard higher up against the house with a natural slope away from the house. But once the damage to the house happens, we first have to make repairs to the house and then address the slope.

Gutters & Down Spouts

When things work properly the gutters have nice downspouts on them that empty away from the house. That’s why if you have ever gone through a home inspection, the home inspector always talks about extending downspouts and having splash blocks. All of these items work to drain water from the roof and the gutters, into the downspouts and away from the house.

Drainage Around the Foundation

If you watch the video you will see a few shots of the foundation people digging all the way down to the bottom of the foundation. To make sure there were no future water issues, the repair company installed drainage around the bottom of the foundation on the outside and they installed drainage from under the basement floor in the form of a sump pump on the inside. They all worked to pump water out from under the foundation and away from the house.

Putting the Wall Back Together.

In the case of this house, where the wall was buckling in, the foundation company was able to push the wall back upright from the inside. There are many different ways the wall can buckle and quite a few different systems for pulling the wall back in place. In this house, they used pressure jacks to push the wall. We have also seen huge systems that are essentially giant screws that they put through the wall and into the ground outside to pull the wall back in place. If you ever attended a Home Show in Kansas City in the past 20 years, one of the major foundation companies has a model of this they often set up.

Holding The Wall in Place

The most common foundation repair we have foundation companies do is to put special Beams in place to hold the wall upright. These may be installed early on as the wall just starts to buckle. Or after a major repair with walls pulled back in place. They are usually installed every 3 to 4 feet and are designed to stop the wall from buckling in.

We found a great video that explains how these work

Sealing the Cracks

Once you have taken steps to get proper drainage and have the wall put back into the proper position, the next step is to seal the cracks. It is very important in this step to use the right product to fill the crack to make it waterproof. Using the wrong product could further damage your foundation.

Do you have a Foundation in Need of Repair?

Since you are reading this blog post about foundation repair, do you have a bad foundation? If you are planning on selling your house soon, you will probably need to get the issues repaired before you sell. And if you are not planning on selling, the longer you put off the repair, the worse and more costly it will become. So the sooner you repair your foundation and address the underlying cause the better.

Do keep in mind that should you decide to sell, we buy houses with bad foundations all the time. We would be happy to talk with you about your house and foundation issues. Just fill out one of the contact forms here on our website or give us a call to get the conversation started.

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