finishing a braced basement wall

16 Replies

We are rehabbing a nice brick ranch in Milwaukee, WI and are planning on finishing the basement. As you can see on pictures one of the walls is braced. We don't know when the braces were installed, but I would guess at least 3-5 years ago. A lousy paint job has been applied in the last couple years (not recently) The wall seems stable, the mortar between the steel and the block does not show any signs of cracks. It also looks like the drain tile has been redone.

We are debating if we should frame right against the wall or if we should leave some sort of crawl space to allow access.  I like the idea of having access and not "covering up" a potential issue. About a third of the wall is in the laundry area and will not be finished, so the braces will remain visible there. At the same time that means to loose about 100 sqft of rec room space, so that would speak for framing right against the wall.

The basement seems reasonably dry, but (not much of a surprise) the pitch outside of the braced wall is negative, which we will correct in spring. The other question is if we should put rigid insulation behind the studs. Technically the right way to do it, but I have never actually seen it done in a house, probably to save cost. I would really appreciate your comments and thoughts!

I am not a construction expert, but I am sure someone here will be more knowledgeable than I am, however here is my take on this.  The braced wall was at one time determined to be un-sound, meaning that the outside dirt was causing the wall to cave in.  There is only 2 ways to fix that problem, rebuild the foundation wall (stupidly expensive), or install steel braces that anchor the braces to the foundation floor and the main structure so that the only way the wall could collapse is if the whole house collapses.  After the wall is reinforced you can frame and drywall over the beams.

HOWEVER, I would highly recommend that you get an experienced professional to inspect the reinforcement to make sure it was done right and that there are no issues BEFORE putting drywall over the reinforced area.  A basement reinforcement specialist should be able to advise you better and at little to no cost. 

If this is a rental, the wall that is there looks OK - paint it fresh if anything. If a flip, you still have the gas meter there, and unless you have some egress you should not finish the basement. The window in the picture does not meet egress requirements. 

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Steve is 100% right.  OK for rental.  Most homes don't have the egress required. Also if I'm buying something with a reinforced wall I want to see the wall not drywall.

@Steve Babiak   we dont have egress window requirements here for rec rooms, only for legal bedrooms.

@Jim Peret   I am with you and I'd rather see what I buy. Personally I have no concerns with a proppertly braced wall, but a first time buyer might get scared, because they don't understand. The word foundation issue comes up in the inspection report and they might just run for the hills. Leaving some space to access the block wall will allow for future inspections and I feel it's maybe not the smartest way of doing business, but at least it's honest.

Hi Marcus,

If your plan is to fix and sell (sounds like that is the case) I would recommend paying for an engineering report from a reputable firm addressing any issues you have with the work that has been performed.  It is difficult to tell from the picture but if the wall is still fairly straight and the proper size beams and spacing were used you will most likely be okay.  Having a report is a fairly inexpensive way to help ease most concerns that potential buyers may have.  Foundation issues are fairly common in Milwaukee and the surrounding areas.  Often times realtors and buyers are aware they exist and should not be too scared if properly mitigated and documented.

As stated above, having proper pitch and drainage are the most simple and effective ways to help avoid foundation issues.

Originally posted by @Marcus Auerbach :

@Steve Babiak  we dont have egress window requirements here for rec rooms, only for legal bedrooms.


Interesting. In my area, it used to be only for basement bedrooms, but a few years back it changed to be egress required for any basement living space. 

@Steve Babiak  I have a feeling that the further east you go the tighter all kinds of regulations get. Really appreciate your comment though, now I am thinking again about egress windows for a fourth bedroom on another property. I think I can ad one for about $2500 and wonder what that would do to adjusted values of an appraisal.

Any idea if there is water getting in the basement?  There appears to be some stains indicating seepage.

We just did this kind of foundation repair on a house with steel beams 6 ft oc with an interior moisture barrier and an interior drainage tile with a sump.  Everything was done according to an engineers report and recommendation.

We finished the basement and have had no water issues to date...We are planning on fixing the slope/drainage in the spring to be safe...

I just had this done on my home about a year ago. I bough the house and immediately tore down the old garage and driveway and built newer and bigger. Unfortunately the cement truck got too close to the house on the old asphalt driveway with a poor base and pushed he wall in about 3/4" in the center. The contractor's insurance picked up the cost to go with the remaining drain tile and sump pump i had to install anyway. They dug up the new driveway, dug down to the footing on the exterior of the house and pushed the wall back into place and braced for extra measure. They installed exterior drain tile on  that wall to tie into the interior drain tile on the remaining 3 walls. Dimple board installed on the exterior wall, clean gravel up and new cement driveway. I framed in the vast majority of the basement to add a bathroom and make more useful space. I put up vapor barrier, fiberglass insulation and drywalled. I am confident it was done well and will hold and no problems for a year. I would not leave access as it doesn't really serve a purpose. You might want to call the local basement repair companies o find out who did the work and see what information you can find from them. That might provide all the answers that you need to reassure a buyer. 

@David Robertson  and @Kyle Hipp  thanks for sharing your experience. I am sure its shocking to find out that your basement wall just had been crushed. Did your wife almost have a heart attack when she saw it? Glad to hear the insurance picked it up.

We actually made a decision last Sunday. I have to say after hearing everyone's opinion, reading online and just thinking about it making a taking a decsion quite easy, especially once back on the job and looking at everything.

We gave up about 20% of the square footage by framing about 3 feet in front of the walls and leaving a crawl space. The big advantage is that all mechanics and pipes like gas meter, water horn, sewer lines and clean out are now outside the finished area and accessible from the unfinished part of the basement. This way the drywalling is pretty easy, just straight walls and we have 100% of the block wall accessible and well ventilated, although it's dry anyway. We will have an office room and a TV room with a built in nook and shelfing for the components. In front of the landing we have a storage closet. About 30% remain unfinished and include the laundry area as well as furnance and water heater. Just the usual paint job battelship gray and white. Granted we have not maxed out the potential squre footage, but I feel thats a fair trade of. Hope it turns out the way we want it.

I didn't even notice it until a day or two after the driveway was poured. It was right behind the washer and dryer so I guess my wife must not have noticed it. We didn't really freak out but knew we had an issue on our hands.

My wife is pretty awesome. When we were dating we lived in the lower of my first duplex and I learned a lot fixing that place up but also made enough messes. The duplex was converted from a single family home in the late 1970's. The back entry opened right into the stairs to the basement and above that was the stairs to the upstairs. The stairway was closed off at the top so  was just stairs to nowhere that  was used as a closet. This made for little head room going down the basement. I got done with work one day and she worked until later. I had all the treads and risers out, with lath and plaster all over the basement. She walked in the back door and could see through to the front of the house. She just smiled and asked what I wanted for supper. That's when I knew she was the one :)

Unfortunately you will NEVER find an answer to your problem by seeking solutions here or on any other venue. Even if you had millions of suggestions how would you know which one will work for you? Like most homeowners who have overcome their fear of making the wrong decision about how to fix their basement problem. When you ask anyone who repairs foundations how to solve a basement problem they provide you with their most profitable solution.

Foundation Repair Contractors sell foundation repairs, that's their job. After all, how long would they be in business offering "free inspections" if they didn't?

The reason homeowners hire Structural Engineers is because they believe that is their only option for an unbiased opinion of their foundation. They don't realize that most engineers only see a handful of residential foundations in their entire career. Keep in mind that they don't teach anything about residential foundation repair in engineering school.

In S.E. Wisconsin there are two Independent Foundation Consultants you can hire to provide you with a site specific evaluation of your foundation. Because I am one of them, at the risk of sounding self serving I am not providing my name unless you request it.

Fortunately your home is located in the first and only place in the country that has developed specific foundation repair methods that have been adapted by all the municipalities of S.E. Wisconsin.

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Cover it up, the wall is stabilized, in most cases it is considered a permanent fix, most contractors use I-beams with a 3 1/2" web so a 2X4 can sit next to it, I have installed beams, and have much experience with these, as long as there doesnt appear to have additional movement, (sometimes stabilized walls will move the house around in severe situations)then I see no issue with putting rock over it, just use Basement board, dont have the drywall contact the concrete floor, leave a gap, and cover it with trim, the rock will wick up any moisture. Your good on this one. 

Chad, you are right. It does appear that way. Yesterday was my first time on this site, that I'm aware of. What you see here was not intended for this thread. When I completed this reply to the thread intended I was unable to post it. Apparently my reply was saved as a draft. I spent way to much time looking for that draft as well as the thread. All I remembered was it was from someone in CA. who owned a home in Milwaukee and that it was posted within the last 3 months. 

I'm embarrassed to admit that I spent several hours attempting to reply to the thread. I decided that rather than wasting more time on this I posted my reply on anything I found from WI. Had I taken the time to read the threads I would not have wasted your time and for that I'm sorry.

Fix the grading now rather than waiting until spring! Grading is a cheap but important fix! The good thing is that with the cooler weather the grass seeds will stay damp and will grow well this time of year.