What Causes Cracked & Bowing Foundation Walls?

Last updated 1 month ago

Homeowners are naturally alarmed to see cracks in their foundation walls.  After all, those walls are holding up their house!   Some minor cracking is normal and poses no immediate threat, but others are a telltale sign of a larger problem.  Basement wall cracks should be closely monitored to gauge whether they are getting longer or wider.  If left unattended, cracks can become very detrimental to the structural soundness of a home.

Tell-tale signs homeowners should look for:

  • Horizontal or stair-step cracking along the foundation walls
  • Diagonal cracking at corners of poured concrete foundation walls
  • Inward bowing or bulging along the walls
  • Walls sliding inwards on the bottom
  • Walls leaning in at the top
  • Wet, clay soils around the home coupled with damaged walls

Failing foundation walls will crack for many different reasons, but the most common reasons are improper drainage and expansive clay soils.

Improper Drainage:

Both older and newer homes experience wall cracking issues due to inadequate landscape sloping and an improper drainage system.  Soil surrounding the foundation should be properly sloped to direct water away from the foundation.  A recommended slope is 1 inch per foot for a distance of 3 to 4 feet from the foundation.

Also, gutters and downspouts must be working properly to avoid large volumes of water collecting in the soil around a home.  Improper drainage will raise the moisture content within the soil and create hydro-static pressure against the basement walls.  The more pressure applied to the walls, the more likely they are to crack. 

Expansive Clay Soil:

Another contributor to basement wall cracks is expansive clay soil….and in Michigan, we have a lot of clay! The soil surrounding your home plays a huge role in the health of your foundation. While sandy soil will remain stable as water passes through, soils rich in clay undergo significant changes with the presence of water.

Clay is incredibly porous and will increase in size when water seeps in and then contract when it dries up. Because clay soil can absorb so much water, it expands during wet weather. The expanding soil can put enormous pressure on your basement or foundation walls. When the pressure becomes more than the wall can handle, the wall will begin to push inwards.

Basement wall cracks, if left unattended, can become immensely detrimental.  Some walls will eventually cave in, causing complete foundation failure.  And usually, putting off repairing a basement wall crack will lead to a lot more substantial and pricey repair than addressing the issue as soon as possible.

Foundation Systems of Michigan has many different solutions for cracked foundation walls.  Our experts can recognize and diagnose these problems, offering a proven, warrantied solution.  Call us at 877-DRY-MICH for an inspection of your problem area.