Four Stages of Foundation Wall Failure

Friday, September 11th, 2020 by Jay Liebenguth

Foundation Wall Crack Bricks Exterior

Your home's foundation is arguably the most important component in a series of systems that work together to keep you and your family safe. It is literally what supports your home. So, when you see a symptom of potential foundation failure, it's important to address it as soon as possible. To help you know what to look for, here are the four stages of foundation wall failure to pay attention to.

Stage 1- Horizontal CrackingHorizontal Crack Wall

Horizontal cracking near the middle of the wall is one of the first symptoms you'll notice when it's bowing. Horizontal cracks usually start small and increase in width and severity over time.


Stage 2 - Stair-Step Cracking Stair Step Cracks

You may notice some stair-step cracking near the corners where the walls meet. This is the most common place for stair-step cracking to start, indicating a wall that is beginning to bow in. This typically indicates that the problem is getting worse. As the walls bow more severely in the middle, the corners are held up by adjacent walls, resulting in a familiar stair-step crack pattern.

Stage 3 - Bottom ShearBottom Wall Shear Foundation

You'll often see the second to bottom row of your block wall start to 'shear' and begin to slide inward. The bottom row is generally held in place by the flooring. Another example of a stage 3 symptom is a wall that is leaning inward at the top. When you see that a concrete block foundation wall is beginning to lean in at the top, you are dealing with a very serious structural problem. It means the connection of your foundation wall to the framing of the house has been compromised. Complete wall failure is imminent. At this point, you must contact a foundation repair specialist to correct the issue.

Stage 4 - Foundation Wall Failure Foundation Wall Failure

When the issue has been neglected for too long, you now have what they call in the industry an "indoor garden." Total wall failure. Not only does wall failure pose a safety risk and potentially further damage to your home and property, but it is also a more expensive problem to fix than less severe wall issues.

How Did We Get Here?

Cassius McClintic, a System Design Specialist for Thrasher Foundation Repair, wants you to know it's not your fault. "Foundation wall issues are caused by clay-based soils, hydrostatic pressure and heavy rains," McClintic pointed out. "A single gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds. So, imagine hundreds of gallons of water plus dirt or clay bearing down on your foundation wall and the pressure it can create."

As a homeowner, you should be checking your foundation for any new cracks or other signs of foundation wall failure as often as you change your furnace filter or the batteries in your smoke detector.

Cassius went on to say that while "block walls" have four stages of failure, poured foundation walls have only three stages of foundation wall failure. "Because poured concrete walls act as a single unit rather than a group of mortared blocks, they often fail at the top instead of cracking and bowing in," McClintic said. Stage 1, you'll still notice cracks in the corner. Stage 2, you'll start to see it tilt in, leading to Stage 3, complete wall failure."

Time is Not on Your Side

How long can you wait before you have someone come out and check to see if a large crack in your foundation is Stage 2 or Stage? The bigger question might be, "Why would you wait at all? "Often customers want to know how long do I have before I move from Stage 2 to Stage 3. I tell them it's not a function of time as it is a function of contributing events, like an unexpected amount of rain causing the expansive clays to swell up and put additional pressure on your walls," McClintic explained. "It's the minor movements that go unnoticed. But all those minor movements add up to a major movement. And that's when we get the call."

Why fix your foundation problems now and not later?

Foundation problems only get worse over time. Hoping, praying and putting them out of your mind won't reverse the symptoms and make the situation better. Foundation problems will never be less expensive to fix than they are today. This is your home's foundation we're talking about. It supports your house and everything in it, including your family. Can you afford to let it deteriorate?

If you're planning to sell your home

The Real Estate Seller Disclosure Act requires foundation repair needs to be disclosed to potential home buyers. Realtors tell us they are forced to discount homes with foundation structural defects 10-20% to make a sale. What is your home worth in today's market? Imagine losing that much money from your home's value by not permanently fixing your foundation!

How do you fix a failing wall?

Thankfully, most foundation problems caught early enough, can be repaired using the latest technology and techniques. In many cases, your home's foundation can be stabilized permanently, so you can restore your home's value along with your peace of mind.

Thrasher Foundation Repair has several foundation wall repair solutions to solve most any problem. They range from:

Geolock Wall SupportGeoLock(R) wall anchor systems consist of galvanized steel Earth anchors that are embedded into the soil out away from your foundation wall. They are connected to steel wall plates with galvanized steel rods. Once installed, wall anchors will hold walls in their current position.


Carbon Armor Foundation WallCarbonArmor(R) and ArmorLock(R) systems use carbon fiber reinforced polymers - a type of carbon fiber that is 10 times stronger in tension than steel and designed specifically for basement walls.

PowerBrace System WallPowerBrace system is designed to permanently stabilize your home's foundation. It supports basement walls and allows for straightening over time. This is done with brackets that are anchored to the basement floor and floor joists.

If you suspect that you might be seeing the effects of foundation wall failure, it's time to call in an expert like Thrasher Foundation Repair. In 45 years of business, we've seen it all and fixed it all. We are the local experts for all your foundation repair needs in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri. We offer warrantied solutions that permanently repair foundation issues. Contact us for a free, no-obligation foundation inspection today! By the time we're done, you'll know exactly what is causing your cracks, exactly what it will take to repair them permanently and exactly how much it will cost.

To schedule your free inspection, call us today.