A structural engineer has indicated that I need to replace part of my basement wall due to water damage, bowing and cracking. The house was built in 1924 and the concrete used back then is full of sand. The basement floor is dry, but the basement support wall is buckling. We need to either shore it up or tear it apart from the outside, and repour concrete using rebar reinforcement. The section of wall is about 36-40 sq feet and is in a corner of the basement. My question is generally what does this cost for this size of a job? How long does it take? What are the inconveniences to the owner during the repair process?
Margaret E. ~ Portland, Oregon
Hi Margaret, The main inconvenience for the owners for this type of repair is having to pay the bill. Just kidding, but this kind of old house repair can cost quite a bit. What you need to find out from the structural engineer is what your other options are; it seems to me that they have suggested the solution that is going to cost the most to do.
The first thing is to determine what is causing the water damage to the wall. There is no sense in making the repair if the damage is just going to repeat itself. It could be a grading problem, a roof issue, a broken water line, or even an underground spring, but the issue should be corrected before proceeding with the basement wall repair.
You don't mention if you have a finished basement, but if you don't and have no plans of finishing it in the future, you may want to look at options for the repair from the inside of your home.
Doing the repair as suggested means excavating a portion of your yard large enough that a crew can work safely next to your basement wall. They will need to temporarily support that side or corner of your home from the inside and cut out the failing section of wall. Then they will install forms, pour a new wall, and then backfill the wall when finished.
Due to the time of year it is and the weather in Oregon the whole process could take about two weeks, but it could be delayed with very cold weather or rain. This isn't a very good time of year for a repair like this, especially in Portland, Oregon. I could see the costs of the whole repair being in the range of $8,000-$12,000, but they could vary depending on job site conditions and the labor rates around Portland.
I suggest you talk to the engineer about injecting the cracks in the existing wall with epoxy and building an inner block wall in that section of the basement to carry the weight of the home. Depending on where the existing wall is sitting on the footing and how wide the footing is, they may not have to do anything with a footing and be able to just place the block on the slab.
If the block wall is reinforced, it should prevent the existing wall from moving any more and the epoxy injections should prevent water from ever coming through those cracks. The cost for a repair like this would be far less than the suggested repair and wouldn't cause your yard to be torn up or be delayed due to bad weather. The whole repair would only take several days and could only cost $1,000-$2,000, again depending on jobsite conditions and the local labor rates.
Even if you have a finished basement, it might be worth giving up about a foot of your space in that area of the room to get the repair done quickly and keep costs down.
I'm not an engineer, but I think it would be worth it to have your structural engineer explore some other repair possibilities before going ahead with their initial suggestion. There may be some involving beams that could cost even less than the inner wall repair. I believe something could be designed at less cost, with less disruption, and still have the same results as replacing a section of your old house's basement wall.