Bowing foundation wall on 120+ year old house
I am asking this question for my Mother, who is living in an old house (at least 120 years old, probably older) with a field stone foundation. The foundation was also covered with a cement wall at some point (more than 40 years ago) in order to strengthen the foundation, we suppose. The cement wall has been bowing for some years and lately, there are cracks around the foundation (between the house and the ground) that are widening on one side of the house. The gutter system on one side of the house is old and not functioning correctly, so water may be dropping near the foundation. There is a sump-pump for big rain events, but the basement does smell musty.
My questions are:
1) Is there any immediate danger? I mean, does a house ever just quickly collapse? (This is her worry)
2) Is there such a thing as a relatively inexpensive and suitable fix, such as strengthening the wall with another layer of cement? Can doing such a thing actually cause more damage?
She does not want to spend $20K on a big job since that is a lot of money... But if she wants to sell the house in some years, what would be best to do?
If anyone has any advice, I (and she) would really appreciate it.
Re: Bowing foundation wall on 120+ year old house
I can't answer your most pressing questions. It sounds like you need someone to come and do an assessment, but a permanent fix is very likely to cost you more than $20k if contracted out.
The point of my post is that you might be able to implement a cheap stop-gap measure to buy some time. You could use temporary adjustable steel columns to support the house. It sounds as if the foundation is deteriorating. There are both temporary and permanent supports available. You can pick these up at various home improvement stores. These could help support the house until a complete and proper fix is put into place.