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Signs and Solutions for Bowing Foundation Walls

Updated: Dec 24, 2023

Exploring Basement Challenges in Pennsylvania Homes

Living in Pennsylvania often means residing in older houses, many of which come equipped with basements. It's highly likely that your home, if it's an older one, has a basement. Unfortunately, basements frequently face issues such as water infiltration, and those with water problems in the foundation walls often experience additional structural concerns like bowing, cracking, or leaning.

The construction of these foundation walls varies widely, ranging from materials like sandstone, terracotta, split-face concrete, concrete block (some reinforced, others not and hollow), brick, unreinforced coarse concrete, and reinforced concrete. Additionally, some walls have concrete footers, wood footers, or gravel bases, among other variations.

Given this diversity in construction types, it's our responsibility to offer homeowners the right guidance when they seek solutions for foundation-related challenges, whether it's addressing water problems, structural movements, cracks, or bulging and bowing walls.

In the image below, we measured a wall's bowing at 1.375 inches, using a high-quality laser self-leveling device to confirm the measurement. The homeowner had been informed by a foundation representative that it was bowing over 3 inches and that it was on the brink of collapse around its pivot point if the water problem wasn't addressed and anchor plates weren't installed.

Let us clarify that during our visit in January 2023, the foundation wall was far from collapsing.

Cracked Foundation wall
Cracked Foundation wall

The photo below show the side wall of the same house with a bow that measured to be around 1.25"

Horizontal Crack in Foundation wall
Horizontal Crack in Foundation wall

In the next two photos, you'll notice the same corner of the house—one taken from the interior and the other from the exterior. The interior photo clearly depicts the buildup of mold, while the exterior picture reveals the root cause, as you might have already guessed. It's the disconnected downspout that channels roof rainwater directly toward the foundation wall. This issue is quite common in many houses, and homeowners are often unaware of the need to address it.

To resolve this issue, it's imperative to repair the downspout and redirect the rainwater away from the foundation walls. This preventative measure is essential in preventing further structural damage. Moreover, addressing this repair is highly likely to eliminate the need for a French drain installation.

water damage Foundation wall
water damage Foundation wall

Downspout improperly draining
Downspout improperly draining

Frequently, when homeowners reach out to us, they discover that they can save a substantial amount of money on unnecessary expenses. Additionally, they receive expert guidance on the correct reinforcement methods that align with engineering standards and code requirements.

There's a clear advantage to consulting with professionals like us rather than contacting a salesperson. Our aim is not to sell you a product or service but to empower you with knowledge. We're here to help you gain a deeper understanding of your structure and make informed decisions.

If you require further assistance, please don't hesitate to contact us at 724-949-0004 or visit our website at We're here to assist you.

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.


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