Download the PDF version of this article. (2.23 MB)
Working for my company, Great Lakes Builders, is never boring. We are called in to do just about any kind of structural repair you can imagine, and foundation problems are common among the projects we do.
Recently, we were called in to reinforce the foundation on a home built in the middle of the last century—before soil analysis, concrete reinforcement, and engineering became commonplace. The foundation on this home was unreinforced poured concrete from grade down to a footing below the basement floor. Above grade, a brick masonry wall extended up more than 2 feet to support the framing for the first floor.
The poured foundation was solid, but over time, one wall had rotated inward more than 3 inches at its maximum. In plan, the foundation was plumb at the corners and bowed in at the middle. To stabilize the foundation wall, we installed six vertical I-beams, anchored in concrete footings at the base and bolted to the first-floor framing above (see Reinforcing a Bulging Foundation, illustration above). After securing the I-beams in place, we filled the tapered gaps between them and the existing wall with high-strength structural mortar.
Structurally, we needed only five vertical beams. But adding one more beam and changing the spacing kept the beams away from the basement windows. In addition to calling for the vertical structural members, the engineer specified that we install a 24-inch-wide by 4-inch-thick steel-reinforced concrete slab along the entire length of the bulging foundation wall.
JLC contributing editor, Jake Lewandowski is a construction manager with his family’s business, Great Lakes Builders (greatlakesbuildersinc.com), which specializes in structural repairs in Greater Chicago. Follow him on Instagram: @jakemlewandowski