Wall Braces and Why We Don’t Like Them
We’ve talked before about how the application of wall braces is a not very good repair solution. Here’s a story about a real-life run in with a wall brace repair and the disastrous results that we were asked to look at in the Birmingham area.
The picture below was taken about a year before this homeowner’s wall collapsed.
About one year later, this is what happened. The collapsed wall was the result of the “repair” by another contractor.
The homeowner hired another company and the contractor suggested they install the squared steel tubes that you see next to the foundation. In addition, the contractor painted the walls with an “interior waterproofing” paint. Paint will do nothing to stabilize the wall against hydrostatic pressure. Hydrostatic pressure is caused by the soil on the outside of the foundation getting oversaturated. The soil and water mixture pushes against the wall with extreme force.
It’s difficult to see in the photograph, but buried in the rubble, is a squared steel brace. This brace failed because the wall collapsed from the top, ripping the brace out of the wooden floor joist that it was secured to. According to the owner, the company that installed this “repair” said it would be at least three months before they could have anyone available to look at the damage. A lifetime warranty is worthless if the company doesn’t offer the customer service to back it. The homeowner then turned to Nichols/Grout Tech to take a look at the problems.
Repairs Done Right by Nichols/Grout Tech
It was easy to see that this mess couldn’t wait three months to be repaired. First, the floor would need to be strengthened with floor jacks. Our structural engineer determined how many floor supports we would need and the best place to put them.
The next step would be to clear the soil away from the exterior to alleviate the pressure against the foundation wall. This would reduce the chances of another wall collapse.
Next, we had our structural engineer design the correction. Seems simple, but if the original contractor had used a structural engineer licensed in the State of Alabama, this whole mess could’ve been avoided. If, for whatever reason, you don’t choose Nichols/Grout Tech, always ask the engineer if he is a licensed structural engineer before hiring them. Make sure they answer the question directly, stating that they are a structural engineer. There are a lot of bait and switch scams out there.
Lesson NOT Learned
Nichols/Grout Tech offered to do the repairs, including removing the squared steel tubes that remained. The homeowner decided to go with another company (the third one) for the repairs. The said they went with them because the other company said they could fix the wall, provide a lifetime warranty, and would leave the support beams.
The repair by this company was to rebuild the wall and fill it with concrete. This is better than the previous repair, but not the best solution. In addition, we wonder if the homeowner was told the lifetime warranty only applied to the rebuilt wall and that in Alabama and over 40 other states, a “lifetime” warranty is only good for seven years.
We wish this homeowner the best and hope that they don’t have any further problems. If they do, we’re here to offer our help again.
Steel Wall Braces Are Not A Good Option
Most reliable foundation contractors know that steel braces are not a good solution and have discarded their use as a viable option. There are several reasons why they are a poor choice for foundation repair:
1. Steel wall braces are a passive system. The braces don’t hold the wall until the wall leans even more. You can see how this is not an effective solution since the goal of the repair is to prevent the wall from moving at all.
2. The movement that is allowed is usually drastic. Even after the steel wall braces are installed, we have seen up to 2″ of movement in the concrete blocks.
3. We have two better solutions for leaning walls. One is carbon fiber straps, the second one is helical tiebacks. If the wall has less than one inch of lean, we prefer to install Rhino carbon fiber straps. Rhino has an unprecedented ZERO failure rate on their strips when they are installed correctly.
Trust Your Contractor
As much as we enjoy foundation repair, we really only want to do a job once, so we do it right the first time. We’ll make the best recommendations for repairing the damage and from keeping it from occurring again. And, most importantly, we use a licensed structural engineer, ensuring that the solution will be 100% effective.