How to Fix Foundation Stem Wall Cracks (Carbon Fiber and Epoxy)

Noticing you have a crack in your stem wall can look scary. They can cause you to question the integrity of your foundation. You’ve gone through your horror movie crawlspace, brushed off cobwebs, and you find a crack the monsters can get through.

Note: Stem wall cracks usually won’t be wide gaps for creepy crawlies to get through. 

You want your stem wall to stand long and strong like the great wall of China. Your wall isn’t looking so great with those cracks. You’ll want to know about stem wall crack repair. That way you’ll know how it will once again work as good as new. 

Dalinghause Construction has done foundation repair on over 2,000 homes in Southern California, Arizona, and Nevada, repairing hundreds of stem walls along the way. We have over 100 years of collected experience, working on all types of foundations you can imagine. We’re no strangers to repairing stem walls. We have our fair share in inspecting and repairing stem walls. We want you to know how stem wall repair is done.

What is a Stem Wall?

Usually, a stem wall is a raised (usually concrete) footing around the perimeter of your home typically used for crawlspaces. You will also find stem walls in your garage since the footing goes above grade in that part of your home. There are also interior stem walls inside of a crawlspace. Regardless, they raise your home above the ground, keeping it above flood level. 

Read What is a Stem Wall Foundation? (Definition, Problems, and Repairs) for an in-depth look at stem wall foundations and their repairs. 

Causes for stem wall to crack

Foundation settlement or heave

Cracking is usually caused by movement, whether through foundation settlement or heaving. Both phenomena are determined by the amount of moisture present in the expansive soil under your home. Either way, you can expect damage to an area of your home.

Foundation Settlement – Your home is gradually sinking into the ground due to a lack of moisture, causing expansive soils to contract and shrink. This is far more common in Southern California, Arizona, and Nevada.

Foundation heave – Expansive soils soak up water, causing expansion and thrusting your home upward. This is less common but does happen, especially if there has been an unnoticed pressurized water leak. 

For foundation settlement or heave, you want to look for the common signs and symptoms

Common signs and symptoms 

  • Drywall cracks
  • Stucco cracks
  • Concrete slab cracks
  • Ceiling cracks
  • Tile cracks
  • Chimney cracks
  • Leaning chimney
  • Sloping floors
  • Doors and windows are hard to open and close
  • Water leaks

If you find more than one of these signs, you likely are dealing with a problem with your foundation. 

Deterioration

If you’re seeing your stem wall starting to flake, there may be excessive moisture causing deterioration. When you have ponding or excessive moisture sticking around like that one patron who won’t leave the bar after closing, you will see more damage over time.

The deterioration might remind you of the “Thanos Snap” from Avengers: Infinity War. You don’t want a wall telling you it doesn’t feel so good. 

The mortar in the concrete mixture breaks down when exposed to water, which is why you’ll see concrete spalling.

If there is a crack in your stem wall, the moisture can cause the rebar in the concrete to oxidize (rust) and expand. You’ll see your stem wall start to blow out.

Seismic activity

Mother nature likes to make her voice heard. And she is powerful enough to cause cracks in your stem wall.

How stem wall repair is done

Any debris in your crack will be cleaned out so there isn’t any loose material. We then crack chase it, using a diamond blade to open up the crack. If it’s gravity-fed epoxy, injection ports will be made by drilling a hole, followed by applying the epoxy. Since it is gravity-fed, it will go through the crack.

If carbon fiber staples are used, the crack will be routed out to counter-sync the staple into the stem wall. Once they are in, epoxy is applied to hold everything together.

Think of this like gluing the concrete back together, except it’s using super-ultra-incredible-fantastic gorilla glue. Or if you get a large wound, you need stitches until the wound heals.

Repairing foundation cracks is similar to repairing a stem wall. Read How Are Foundation Cracks Repaired? (Ways Foundation Repair is Done) to learn more about how epoxy and carbon fiber staples are applied for foundation crack repair. 

Cost of stem wall repair

The epoxy crack repair will be $125 per linear foot.

You should have a specialty contractor address your stem wall

The problem is with your foundation. It needs to be addressed by a foundation specialist.

If you were to fix the stem wall on your own, the overall issue isn’t being addressed. It will be nice to have the crack filled in now, but the foundation settlement and heave will come back to haunt you later. 

Depending on how much movement your home is experiencing, you might need push piers or helical piers to stabilize your home and prevent further movement.

Push piers are hydraulically driven into the soil using the weight of your home until they reach bedrock. From there, they’re attached to brackets that have been installed on the footing of your home. 

Helical piers use helices on the lead pier that is hydraulically screwed into the ground, similar to how you would put a screw into a piece of wood. They’re driven into the ground until they reach competent soil.

In Southern California, Arizona, and Nevada, soils are always moving. Your home is on expansive soil that naturally expands and contracts. Certain areas are more prone to movement, especially with certain soils having more elasticity. They can expand and contract at further distances.

There is always movement. How much is what determines if your home needs a push or helical pier underpinning.

You know about stem wall repair. Have your foundation evaluated to see if you need a foundation specialist

You’ve learned about stem walls, what causes them to crack, about the repair, and why you should have a specialty contractor do foundation repair on your stem wall. You want multiple foundation specialists to evaluate the foundation of your home to determine if you need more than a stem wall crack repair.

Fixing a stem wall is easy. However, addressing the bigger issue isn’t something you’ll be able to do on your own.

You want to go to multiple specialists for this issue. That way you can get their opinions, costs, methodology of repair, and can see if you have a good feeling from the company you talk to.

Read the article Should You Get Multiple Foundation Repair Bids? (How You Benefit) to see how receiving multiple bids works in your favor.

You can start by having one of our project design specialists from Dalinghaus Construction come out to your home for an evaluation. 

For any questions, call Dalinghaus Construction at (877)360-9277, or click the button below to schedule your free foundation evaluation today!

WRITTEN BY

Brian Dalinghaus

Brian is one of the Co-Founders of Dalinghaus Construction. He has been in the foundation repair industry since 2005. During his career, he has been associated with helping over 4,000 homes and structures throughout California and Arizona.

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