When it comes to foundation stability, wall anchors are often touted as the go-to solution. But are they really necessary? Are they installed correctly when contractors sell them to homeowners? In this article, we'll explore more information about wall anchors and whether you actually need them to protect your home.
Understanding Wall Anchors
Before we dive into the necessity of wall anchors, let's first understand what they are. Wall anchors are typically installed to stabilize foundation walls that have been pushed laterally into the basement space by external forces causing a bulg. They consist of the following components:
An interior wall-formed steel plate with typically 2 ribs. Dimensions typically vary by the manufacturer, most commonly seen as 11 inches x 18 inches or 12" x 28 inches.
Flat plate washer, part of the interior wall assembly.
Threaded rod, typically 3/4" in diameter cold-rolled round bar, hot-dip galvanized.
Beveled washers and nuts on either side of the rod.
Threaded coupler to allow splicing of the threaded rod.
Exterior soil anchor, typically made from 2 formed hot-dip galvanized steel plates. The system is installed by inserting the steel rod through the wall into the outside and running it to the appropriate distance where a hole is dug out, and the exterior soil anchor is attached to the rod. Calculations must be performed based on the geotechnical data to provide spacing of the anchors, how far the rod needs to run away from the wall, and how deep the plate for the reinforcement should be considered acceptable.
The Problem with Unnecessary Wall Anchors
The installation of wall anchors can be an expensive endeavor, costing homeowners thousands of dollars. But what if the wall anchors aren't actually needed? Then you now have reinforcement in your basement, and every future potential buyer and likely lender will require its verification that it meets the engineering standards. Not to mention causing water to fill up the hollow, unreinforced concrete blocks due to creating an entry point at the holes drilled to run the threaded rod.
One common reason for the unnecessary installation of wall anchors is misdiagnosed cracks. We have seen few incidents where the foundation repair salesman misdiagnosed the problem and end up selling the client either an unnecessary product or the wrong product.
Lack of Structural Significance
In many cases, minor movement of foundation walls does not pose a structural risk. Even if there is evidence of movement, it may not be necessary to intervene with wall anchors. The extent of movement and the absence of ongoing movement should be carefully evaluated by a licensed professional engineer before considering structural reinforcements.
The Cost of Unnecessary Wall Anchors
Aside from the potential lack of need for wall anchors, there are other factors to consider, such as the cost and the impact on the resale value of your home. Houses with visible wall anchors installed can be more difficult to sell, as buyers and, lately, some lenders may have reservations about them. It's essential to weigh the cost of installation against the actual need for wall anchors to avoid unnecessary expenses and potential complications in the future.
Signs That You May Need Wall Anchors
While it's important to be cautious about overselling wall anchors, there are situations where they may be necessary. Here are some signs that indicate you may need wall anchors for your foundation:
Visible Inward Displacement
If you notice visible inward displacement of your foundation walls, such as bowing or cracking, it's crucial to have a professional assessment. Significant displacement can compromise the structural integrity of your home and may require the installation of wall anchors or other approved products to stabilize the walls.
Ongoing Foundation Movement
If you observe ongoing movement or shifting of your foundation, it's essential to address the issue promptly by having an engineering assessment.
Professional Engineer Recommendation
When in doubt, it's always best to consult with a licensed Professional Engineer. They can assess the condition of your foundation and provide expert advice on whether any reinforcement type is necessary or if alternative solutions may be more suitable. Sometimes, alleviating the root cause may be sufficient to prevent further movement.
The Importance of Proper Installation
If wall anchors are deemed necessary for your foundation, it's crucial to ensure they are installed correctly. Unfortunately, many companies do not adhere to the requirements set forth by testing agencies, resulting in improper installations. Improperly installed wall anchors can be ineffective and may not provide the intended stability for your foundation.
To avoid such issues, it's recommended to choose a reputable company with a track record of proper installation and adherence to industry standards. Don't hesitate to ask for references and verify the qualifications and experience of the installation team. More importantly, always require the contracting firm to provide you with a stamped letter from a reputable, licensed, and local professional engineer approving the methods and certifying the installation.
Alternatives to Wall Anchors
In some cases, there may be alternative solutions to stabilize your foundation without the need for wall anchors. It's important to explore these options before committing to wall anchor installation. Here are a few alternatives to consider:
Carbon Fiber Straps
Carbon fiber straps can be an effective solution for stabilizing foundation walls. They are lightweight, extremely thin, durable, and can provide the necessary reinforcement without the need for extensive excavation, penetrating your wall with holes, or installing anchors. Carbon fiber straps are particularly useful for minor wall cracks and can be a cost-effective alternative to wall anchors.
Installing Steel I-beams or other equivalent shapes such as tubes can be an alternative solution, so long reviewed, designed, and engineered also approved by the local municipality where you live.
In conclusion, the necessity of wall anchors for your foundation should not be taken for granted. It's important to carefully assess the condition of your foundation and seek professional advice from a licensed engineer. Avoid falling victim to unnecessary installations and overselling of wall anchors. Explore alternative solutions and choose a reputable company that adheres to industry standards. With the right approach, you can ensure the stability and longevity of your home without unnecessary expenses or complications.
Written by Firas Abdelahad, P.E.
Firas Abdelahad has been a practicing structural engineer since 2005, collaborating with a diverse range of professionals, including consultants, architects, investors, homeowners, contractors, and subcontractors. Together, they tackle the various challenges that can arise during the design and construction phases of projects.
Firas has reviewed, evaluated, and assessed thousands of properties across the state of Pennsylvania, spanning from State College to Erie and throughout Western PA.