A property’s basement is often one of the most overlooked areas of the home, especially if it has not been converted into a usable living or sleeping space. You should not ignore your basement, however, as it is subject to huge amounts of strain and is often the first place that damage instability shows itself. Bowing walls are just one of many different issues that can arise in a basement that is facing a huge amount of pressure and struggling to cope. Of course, this issue can be a secondary form of damage caused by deeper, unseen issues.
Whatever the underlying causes and connected issues at work in your home, there are many different solutions available. Carbon fiber basement wall reinforcement is one of the most common and popular solutions for walls facing minor deviation and bowing in and around Charlotte, NC.
Why Choose Carbon Fiber Basement Wall Reinforcement?
Carbon fiber basement wall reinforcement is just one option out of many – finding the right choice for your home is something that requires careful consideration and advice from an expert. The decision as to whether carbon fiber reinforcement is best for your home should be made by a professional but knowing the benefits and limitations can be incredibly useful.
How Carbon Fiber Reinforcement Works
Carbon fiber reinforcement is a relatively new solution for bowing, leaning, and damaged walls that have deviated by 2mm or less. In the past, the first option would have been steel I-beams. These are effective but bulky and potentially expensive. Carbon fiber reinforcement, however, uses carbon fiber straps that are much easier to disguise. These straps are incredibly strong and durable, despite their dainty, lightweight nature.
These straps are laid across damaged sections of the wall to prevent further deviation and bolster the walls against the lateral pressure that is causing them to buckle and bow. As such, they are an excellent option for walls that have only started to buckle recently. Because carbon fiber straps are virtually indestructible, this is also a permanent solution.
How is Carbon Fiber Reinforcement Installed?
If you decide (after thorough inspection and consultation with a professional) that carbon fiber basement wall repair is your best choice, you will be pleased to hear that the installation process is fairly straightforward and non-invasive.
Like all structural repair products, carbon fiber straps require certain steps before they can be installed. First, you should have your home inspected by a professional to ensure that it will be suitable and to identify any co-occurring issues that could disrupt its installation. At this point, professionals will also plan the placement of straps. Once this has been successfully completed, the walls should be prepared for the installation of the straps.
In order to effectively install carbon fiber wall straps, professionals will need to clean and roughen your basement walls. This will be done by grinding the walls in order to create a texture that is ideal for epoxy application and setting. Epoxy is the substance used as an adhesive for the carbon fiber straps, because it too is lightweight, durable, waterproof, heatproof, and generally tough enough to treat bowing walls.
Once the placement of straps has been decided and the walls have been properly and fully prepared, it is time for the installation process to start. Firstly, a small amount of resin will be placed onto the roughened wall in order to allow the straps to be firmly placed. This will prevent them from moving as the installation progresses. Once the straps are placed, small steel brackets are attached to the sill plate on top of the wall. This will anchor the strap in place.
Once all the straps have been securely placed and anchored to prevent slipping, they will be fully covered with epoxy resin to prevent them from peeling away from the wall over time. This will also help the straps to blend into the surface of your basement wall. The resin will need time to cure, but once it has, the wall will not move any further. This is a quick and relatively simple process that gives wonderful and permanent results in homes that are affected by small shifts in their structure.
The Pros and Cons of Carbon Fiber Reinforcement
Pound for pound, carbon fiber is actually stronger than steel. It will not crumple, stretch, fray, or tear, even when put under immense pressure. As such, despite being very small and thin, carbon fiber reinforcement straps offer the same support and stabilization benefits as steel I-beams. They also offer a far less messy and invasive installation process than most other solutions for bowing, leaning, or deviating walls. Better yet, they give a more seamless finish and can be disguised very easily, unlike beams, which are almost impossible to hide unless you install drywall paneling in front of them.
The most obvious downside of carbon fiber reinforcement is that it is not suitable for walls that are dealing with advanced deviation, leaning, or bowing. Once a wall has deviated by more than 2mm, carbon fiber straps will cease to be a viable option. The other main downside to carbon fiber reinforcement is that it cannot be used to straighten a damaged wall over time. If you want to straighten bowed walls, measures like wall anchors and I-beams are far better options.
Of course, no matter what your basement walls look like, you should get an expert opinion to make sure that you are getting an effective solution for your home.
Why You Shouldn’t Wait to Fix Bowing Walls
To put it simply, bowing or leaning in basement walls is a sign that the structure of your home is either being impacted by excessive lateral pressure or by serious instabilities that are causing the whole structure to shift. The main question for you as a homeowner should be whether the cause of leaning and bowing is isolated or widespread throughout your home.
Here are the most likely contributing factors to bowing basement walls in any home:
- Soil saturation
- Poor drainage
- Expansive soils
- Foundation damage
- Design flaws
- Concrete defects
All of these things are issues on their own, of course, which means that bowing walls may not always be the worst of your worries. They could just be the most visible, and by acting quickly, you could well identify more serious, underlying issues like foundation damage and head-off issues before they become hugely problematic.
If you look for warning signs of damage during annual maintenance, you will give yourself more opportunities to act quickly and, as a result, that could save yourself from secondary and tertiary issues like:
- Spreading cracks
- Dampness and humidity
- Mold formation
- Visible unevenness and sagging
- Floor and wall gaps
- Pitting, flaking, and staining
As well as being forms of damage, these are red flags for other issues around your home. So, as you can see, it is better to act quickly and save yourself a world of trouble, as well as keep your repair costs fairly low in the long run.
Carbon Fiber Wall Reinforcement
Bowing walls can be recognized by spreading cracks, cosmetic damage, and visible unevenness in the surface of the walls themselves. This issue can be caused by a number of different factors, but the most common and likely are issues with a property’s foundation and issues in the soil.
Your property’s foundation is hugely important to its entire structure. Any damage to your foundation, no matter how slight, can cause serious issues throughout the structure, health, and safety of your home. As such, bowing walls are just one example of secondary damage which can occur as a result of foundational issues.
The most common foundational problems are subsidence and settlement. Both issues include sinking of some kind, either widespread (the entire home) or localized (just one portion of your home). Subsidence, for example, is a process by which the whole property, or a large portion of it, sinks into the ground while settlement is a process which causes chunks of a foundation to break away and sink into voids beneath the property. Either way, the main issue tends to be in the soil.
Most of the main structural issues in a property tend to be caused by problem soil in some way or another. Expansive soils, for example, contract and expand depending on their water content. Settlement is most often caused by dehydration of expansive soil, but can also be caused by soil washout and erosion.
Bowing walls, however, can also be caused by excessive soil saturation and the hydrostatic pressure which this can cause. The weight and pressure exerted by very wet soil, especially expansive soil, can overwhelm any wall over time, especially if it is made of poured concrete which has very low tensile strength in comparison to its compressive strength.
Bowing walls are a serious issue that you should not ignore. They will only get worse over time and can lead to the total collapse of a wall when left to grow and develop unchecked. Thankfully, there are many different solutions available to homeowners struggling with this issue.
If your basement walls have only just started to deviate from their intended placement, you will find that the repair process is much quicker and cheaper. In some cases, professionals may be able to stabilize and correct the walls in question without excavation or serious disruption to your property and life. Of course, this is dependent on the underlying causes of damage and buckling in your basement walls.
For walls that are being impacted by lateral pressure from expansive or oversaturated soil, carbon fiber wall reinforcement is a very efficient and cost-effective undertaking that can be completed in less than a day (on average). Of course, this process won’t straighten damaged walls, but it is not suitable for badly bowing walls, anyway. Instead, it is best for walls that have started to crack but have not yet developed an immediately visible lean.
If your property has walls that have started to seriously deviate from their intended position, carbon fiber reinforcement is not likely to be a suitable solution. If it is used, it will likely be deployed to support other, more robust solutions. The most likely solutions are wall anchor installation and I-beam installation, as these are both capable of straightening damaged walls and stabilizing them in order to prevent further deviation or collapse.
Other structural repair measures are more expensive than carbon fiber reinforcement and will take longer to install. They are also more invasive. Wall anchors particularly need a daunting amount of excavation and require you to have a certain amount of outdoor space to install them. They are also much harder to disguise than carbon fiber straps. So, while they are very useful, it is also preferable to not use them unless totally necessary.
Bowing walls are structural issues that require complex and specialist attention. As such, we recommend that you avoid DIY when it comes to structural repairs. There are simply too many things that can go wrong.
Simple Doesn’t Mean Easy
If you think that this installation process seems very simple, you are absolutely correct. This is a straightforward process, but that doesn’t mean that it is easy or safe for those without the proper skills and training in the field of structural repairs. Identifying the severity of damage to a basement wall needs to be done by a professional, using safety precautions. They will be able to accurately diagnose your home’s issues and apply the right solution. Self-diagnosing structural issues in your home can be harmful if done wrong—especially if you take the solution and installation into your own hands.
If you miscalculate the severity of your wall damage, fail to place the straps properly, or use too few straps, you could face disaster in the near future. Likewise, if you mix the epoxy resin incorrectly, or fail to roughen the walls properly, the straps may not stick. This could lead to them peeling away and cost you more money in the long run.
Professionals Are Best Placed to Help
The problems with DIY repairs to bowing walls are many, but the largest and most serious is the very real likelihood of injury to you or anyone helping you. For example: the grinding equipment needed for roughening the walls is not only expensive to rent, but can be dangerous when handled by someone without the needed training and experience. Secondly, when you are dealing with a bowing wall, you have to consider the health of the structure. Serious disruption to the wall could destabilize it further and actually lead to a collapse in very serious situations.
This is not just dangerous, but could actually be fatal if there is anyone directly in front of the wall when it happens. So, as you can see, DIY repairs are less effective. They can be more expensive and even dangerous to your home and well-being. As such, it is better to put your trust in a trained and experienced professional. Professionals not only have access to the best training; they have all the tools they need to hand and will have the process done quickly and effectively. Furthermore, you get a guarantee of a certain standard of work when you hire professionals. This is something that no DIY enthusiast, however skilled, can guarantee.
Other Solutions for Damaged or Bowing Walls
If you have noticed damage, cracking, and unevenness in your property’s basement walls, there are a number of potential solutions a professional might suggest. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks, of course, and will be differently suited for different types of repairs. Any basement or foundation repair specialist will be able to talk you through your choices, but here are a few repair options that you can learn more about.
Wall anchors are a fairly invasive but incredibly effective repair and stabilization method for bowing, buckling, leaning, or otherwise damaged and unstable walls in a property. Wall anchors stabilize walls by applying equal but opposite force and can even be used to straighten walls over time. If you opt for wall anchors in your home, you will have to call in a professional to adjust the wall anchors at regular intervals.
Wall anchors use metal plates, cable, and earth anchors to apply this pressure and as such, require a fair amount of excavation (or digging into the earth around your home) to ensure proper installation. This means that they require a certain amount of outdoor space and are generally only useful for installation in foundation walls. For properties that have no real outdoor space, or spaces above ground level, other options will be needed.
I-beams, or wall braces, are steel bars that perform basically the same function as wall anchors but require no excavation and no exterior space for proper installation. These steel beams can be adjusted to suit almost any space, and brace against the ceiling and floor of the property in order to create a barrier that prevents further deviation and buckling within the damaged walls.
Like wall anchors, I-beams can be adjusted to gradually straighten the damaged walls over time. This can be done with a special tool, but we do recommend that you call in a professional to assess the wall and make an appropriate adjustment rather than doing it yourself. This will prevent further damage as a result of inappropriate or overzealous adjustment.
Helical tie-backs are a unique mix of wall anchors and helical pier that exert opposing force to bowing walls in order to stabilize and straighten them. They’re installed by rotating the anchor of the tie-back into the earth beyond the bowing wall. This process requires some excavation, of course, but is relatively non-disruptive in many ways. The benefits of tie-backs are many, but the most important is the fact that they perform relatively well in most soil types.
Furthermore, they are cost-effective and offer a long-term solution to a bowing wall. The drawbacks are few, but the most pressing is the fact that helical tie-backs focus the pressure they are exerting into one place. This can make them unsuitable for walls that have also experienced a high level of fragmentation and cracking as a result of the process of bowing. Improper installation could result in more damage to your basement wall.
Choose Dry Pro for Quality Basement Wall Repair
If you have noticed damage, leaning, bowing, or buckling walls in your basement, do not hesitate to contact Dry Pro Foundation & Crawl Space Specialists. Our free inspection appointments come with a written estimate for all repairs. Since opening our doors in 1999, we have helped thousands of homeowners to repair and rectify bowing walls in their basements.
We can also address underlying foundational concerns and damage, as well as any co-occurring issues that may have been the result of dampness, humidity, and structural instability. No matter how widespread the issues in your home are, you can rely on our team of experienced and skilled specialists to restore your home quickly and efficiently.