Ask the Architect

That all-important foundation


Q. My basement and first floor were flooded and the concrete walls around my basement are now cracked. We removed all the wallboard and see that the cracks are very long across the wall, and pieces of the wall have even fallen to the floor. There are black metal rods inside the cracks. Is my foundation still OK?

A. No, your foundation isn’t OK. It’s a real problem that needs serious attention. To give you a more thorough answer would mean seeing the conditions, just like any medical professional would tell you before making a diagnosis. In lieu of seeing the damage, I can tell you, from recent experience, that I’m seeing conditions like the ones you described and am appalled to see workers, on their hands and knees, loading cracks in the walls, big enough to put your forearm in, with various types of cements, from hydraulic cement to epoxies. True, it saves a lot of money, but will not protect you from the slow and continuing earth movement and internal degradation of the black metal rods you described.

If we get more flooding, the only rationale will be that you will abandon the repaired foundation walls as FEMA steps in and requires that homes, in future flood events, will need to be lifted and the foundations removed. I know this also sounds alarmist and extreme, kind of like telling people we could actually get a flood that few really thought would happen. One client, from 1992, thanked me for, well, sort of arguing/advising her and her husband that they should avoid flood damage by putting their heating system on the second floor. They listened, and 20 years passed before they needed hot water and a warm home as the flood waters inundated the lower level. They wanted a laundry room near the bedrooms, and I suggested the heating units and electric panel be on the upper floor.

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