Why are foundation issues so prevalent in Western New York?

Friday, January 4th, 2013 by Rebecca Poynton


Foundation cracks and shifting homes are prevalent in the Western New York area. People experience little cracks in their basement walls and are dismayed when they see them grow and start leaking. Some cracks are even signs of shifting and bowing walls. Why is this a common problem?

There are many contributing factors. One major factor is that we have heavy clay soil in our area and the extreme weather conditions don’t always mix. All soil expands and contracts with wet, cold, and heat. Here we sometimes see a softer "fill soil", which is less dense than the original clay, which tends to be extremely compact, and cracks when there are changing temperatures, such as our extreme heat in the summer and cold in the winter. The two together tend contract and cause gaps between the soil and the ground, leaving your homes structure less secure.

Why are foundation issues so prevalent in Western New York - Image 1

When the clay moves away from your basement wall, the separation between the wall and soil can fill with water and create a pressure against the surface of your house. This pressure can cause wall leaking through small cracks in the cement, which can lead to an unsafe, and sometimes, bowing wall. Ultimately, this can lead to structural damage of your entire home.

Here is a diagram of what a bowing wall looks like.

Why are foundation issues so prevalent in Western New York - Image 2

When a wall needs to be rebuilt. The home can be stabilized and the wall is gutted and reconstructed.

Why are foundation issues so prevalent in Western New York - Image 3

That is not to say all cracks are as bad as they appear. With the proper supplies, provided by a foundation specialist, like Frank’s Basement Systems, these can often be protected with little or no demolition to your property. Below is a photo of a wall crack being repaired with a Carbon Fiber Band, an extremely thin and strong enough to keep the structure of a bowing basement wall from caving in, without construction.

Carbon Fiber re-enforcement

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The key is to catch it early and have it looked at by a trained professional before it turns into a major project, sometimes requiring us to stabilize your house and replace the foundation wall completely.

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