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How to Repair A Basement Wall

Block Basement Walls – or CMU walls – are concrete blocks, stacked together with mortar connecting the blocks.  These walls are one of the most common types of building foundation walls in the southeast.  Other common types are poured concrete walls, brick walls and stone/granite walls.  This article is specific to the repair options for block basement walls:

We will use two main decisions (pathways) for the discussion.  Water is present inside or no water present.

Main Options:

  • Steel Walers/Soldier Beams
  • Framed Wood Walls
  • Plate Anchors
  • Carbon Fiber Reinforcing Straps
  • Helical Tiebacks

 

Repair Option Description Pros Cons Cost Can Pull Wall Back Warranty
Steel Waler/Soldier Beam I-beam, Steel Tube, or Channel installed vertically every 4ft on center.  Anchors to the framing at the top and to the concrete slab below.
    • Inexpensive
    • Easier installation
    • Multiple Contractors can do work.
    • Been used for a long time.
    • No outside disturbance of landscape.
    • Ugly/very visible
    • Straight beam on a curved wall – must use grout behind beam to make full contact.
    • Weak points are connection at top and bottom.
    • Not easily hidden
    • Uses inside force to support wall
    • May need to be adjusted over time.
$600-800/per placement.

Spaced every 4ft on center.

Typical 40ft wall – 8ea – $4,800-6,400.

Not likely.  Would need to excavate outside.

**Note – in expansive soils (not found around Atlanta) this method may be able to pull/push walls back.

2 year workmanship or longer. Cannot warranty steel itself.
Framed Wood Walls Framed 2×10 or 2×12 wood walls.  Looks like a traditional framed wall but generally has reduced space between studs and more studs in general.  Anchors to floor and framing as a traditional wall.  Generally has been engineered by a structural engineer for the specific application.
    • Easily built
    • Can add sheet rock to wall to finish.
    • Multiple Contractors can do work.
    • Has been used for a long time.
    • No outside disturbance of landscape.
    • Using wood to support a masonry wall.
    • Wood can split, bow, bend or be damaged over time.
    • Must be engineered.
    • Straight wood supports on curved wall – must have shims or support to make full contact.
    • Very dependent on anchor points at top and bottom of wall.
Typical 40ft wall – $2,000-3,000 No. 2 year workmanship warranty is typical.  Cannot warranty wood itself.
Plate Anchors Two plates connected by a threaded rod.  One plate is installed on the inside of the wall and the 2nd plate is installed outside into the ground.  The plates are tightened so the soil provided an outside support for the inside plate.
    • Engineered system
    • Easily Installed to the outside.
    • Minimal space used on wall.
    • Inexpensive
    • Very dependent on soils.  If soils are loose then system needs to be maintained often and may not work.
    • Causes some landscape disturbance.
    • May need to be maintained several times a year.
$800-1200 per placement.

Typical 40ft wall spaced 5ft on center. 7ea – $5,600-8,400

Yes – in some cases. Varies.  May be liftime but wording may specify homeowner needs to maintain tightness of nuts inside.
Carbon Fiber Reinforcing Straps Vertical carbon fiber installed every 4ft on center using epoxy.  The best system anchors to top of wall and slab/footing.  Often these systems only install on the wall itself.
    • Engineered system
    • Minimal inside disturbance.
    • Strongest inside solution (depending on carbon fiber – would be stronger than steel).
    • Can be painted and will only show 1/4″ bump on wall.
    • Conforms to the shape of the wall.
    • Can only be used when bowing is less than 2″ out of plumb.
    • Does not pull wall back.
    • Very dependent on manufacturer and type of installation   Many systems do not anchor to top and bottom which can cause more issues down the road.
    • Very dependent on epoxy used.  Strength of carbon fiber is totally dependent on surface prep and epoxy type used.
$600-800 per placement.

Typical 40ft wall spaced 4ft on center. 8ea – $4,800-5,600

No.  Stabilization only. Lifetime Warranty
Helical Tieback Anchors Helical Screws installed horizontally into the soil on the outside of the home.  Can be installed from the inside or the outside of the home.
    • Engineered system.
    • Only system where the load or force is known at installation.
    • Uses an outside force to support wall.
    • Can have a vertical waler installed to distribute load.
    • Considered the “Cadillac” approach to wall repair.
    • Can create landscape disturbance when installed from outside.
    • Needs a lot of room if installed from inside of home.
    • Cost can vary depending on the length of the anchor (generally a depth clause).
    • Rock can make this solution impractical.
    • Expensive.
$1200-1400 per placement.

Typical 40ft wall spaced 5ft on center. 7ea – $8,400-9800

Yes.  If soil is removed from outside. Lifetime Warranty.

 

When Water is present:

 

Repair Option Interior Drain External Waterproofing Notes/Things to consider:
Steel Waler/Soldier Beam
    • Can create issues with how soldier beam and interior drain tie together at base of wall.
    • Steel can corrode when in contact with CMU Walls that are wet.
    • No Conflict.
    • Can help push wall back if exterior is dug out.
    • When used with interior drain systems special care needs to be made on how the soldier beam ties to floor.  If the wall is wet then special consideration for rust.
    • Most technology and engineering has moved to carbon fiber over soldier beams.
Framed Wood Walls
    • Can create issues with how wall anchors to floor.
    • Wood in contact with wet wall in some cases can create long term issues.
    • No Conflict.
    • Wood against a wet concrete wall will cause issues over time.  In most circumstances other methods provide better long term options.  Very few companies will warranty wood.
Plate Anchors
    • Would require patching holes on inside where rod has to go through wall.
    • If vapor barrier or other board is present on wall as drain board then holes and workaround may be required.
    • If soils are excavated then plate anchors may not be as effective as part of soil mass has been disturbed.  Soil mass may move easier.
    • In expansive soils and some parts of the country this is the preferred method.  In a cut/fill situation (like Atlanta and most of the southeast) these systems have lots of drawbacks for a long term maintenance free system.
Carbon Fiber Reinforcing Straps
    • Special care on existing interior drain systems on how to anchor to footing.
    • No conflict with new interior drain systems.
    • No conflict.
    • Carbon fiber is only as good as the epoxy and the installation.  This is not a do it yourself solution.  Any system that does not tie to top and bottom of the wall is not a complete solution.
Helical Tieback Anchors
    • Can affect tying the waler to the floor if a vertical steel waler is used.
    • If vapor barrier or other board is present on wall as drain board then holes and workaround may be required.
    • No direct conflict although special care needs to be taken around the helical tieback penetrations.  
    • One of the best and strongest methods available.  
    • When using with interior drains or exterior waterproofing special care must be taken for a complete solution.  Find a company with experience in both if you have a water issue.

 

Additional methods may include excavating the exterior and pulling the wall back with mechanical methods.

Jonathan Maguire is the Owner and Systems Engineer for Foundation Worx, LLC. Atlanta's full service foundation repair company.

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