04 October 2014

Fixing the foundation

We had another contractor come to look at our gaping crack in the basement wall, and again we were assured that it looked much worse than it actually is. He told us it would be absurdly expensive to hire him for such a small job (his company is located several hours away and he has to pay his employees just as much for travel time as for actual working time) but told us how to fix it ourselves.

I built a second wall out of concrete block in front of the brick knee wall and in the doorway, then filled the gap between the two walls with mortar. This basically makes the knee wall twice as thick and much stronger for resisting the lateral force of the dirt. Now if that brick wall wants to bow outward, it will push against about 1200 pounds of (reinforced) concrete. Access to the coal room through the doorway is restricted somewhat, but we can still get back there if we need to (which is very infrequently).

No, it's not a thing of beauty, but whaddaya gonna do?

I had an idea to mount a jack sideways in the doorway to push the bricks back to where they ought to be, but that unfortunately didn't work. Both contractors indicated that the wall was still OK to remain stepped like it was as long as it didn't get any worse, so this fix should be alright. Ideally I'd like to get a steel beam installed on each side of the brick wall (for other reasons, but that would also alleviate this issue somewhat), but I am content with this as a solution for the time being. It was only about $150 for the block and concrete mix plus a few days of work. I still need to fill in the crack with new mortar, but it's not really a pressing need.

I'm almost convinced that the root of the whole problem was the termite guy. He said he pumped an outrageous amount of solution into the ground (I don't remember exactly, but I want to say it was something like 1300 gallons), and that amount of fluid pressure behind the knee wall could have caused the damage. Thanks, Terminix!

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