Your house’s foundation is essential and the reason your home sits level and firmly in place. Part of its structure is the stem wall that connects the foundation and walls.
“All homes, if you walk around the outside, you’ll see a concrete area about 6 inches tall, and that’s part of an 18-inch tall concrete member that’s called a stem wall,” Arizona Foundation Solutions owner Bob Brown said in an ABC15 interview.
That stem wall is so important that you should address any damage right away. Fortunately, being proactive about damage means your home can still protect you and your family for years to come.
To help, here are three warning signs that your house has a stem wall issue — and what you can do to fix it.
The concrete that makes up your stem wall is porous, as all concrete is. As it absorbs moisture, the rebar inside can rust, which may lead to yellow-brown or red patches on the surface.
Unfortunately, many stem wall repairs don’t address this issue.
“Most stem wall repairs systems have serious problems,” according to Arizona Foundation Solutions. “Most notably they too will rust and oxidize, eventually nullifying their benefits.”
Another issue you may notice is the concrete on your stem wall flaking. This is called spalling and, again, happens when the rebar inside the concrete rusts after being exposed to moisture. As the expanding rebar puts pressure on the concrete, pieces can come off the wall.
“Iron oxide, even though it’s weaker than iron, takes up more room and so it puts pressure on the concrete, cracking it and eventually knocking chunks out,” Brown said.
Beyond flaking, a serious sign of a problem is a horizontal crack in your stem wall, which can lead to a loss of structural integrity. As the rebar expands, “it’s going to break the concrete into pieces and have chunks fall out and eventually have failure,” Brown said.
When you first notice a horizontal crack, it may not seem like a big deal, but you should not ignore it.
“While they might start small, they are usually the result of the rebar oxidizing and will eventually spall and split if ignored,” according to Arizona Foundation Solutions.
What you can do
Whether you’ve noticed rust, flakes, or cracks, Arizona Foundation Solutions has experts who will recognize signs that indicate a bigger problem.
With engineers working alongside installation teams, the company focuses on moving beyond simply patching your stem wall. It offers a permanent fix with its NeveRust stem wall repair system, which uses a composite material that does not rust over time.
“The idea is to not use the same materials that went in,” Brown said.
Because NeveRust is rust-free, it not only lasts longer but it is more environmentally friendly than other solutions that, over time, leach rust into nearby water and soil.
“Most homeowners, they’ll hire a handyman or a contractor, and they’ll just put steel back in there thinking that they’re good, but it actually deteriorates in a very short period of time if they do that,” Brown said.
NeveRust even comes with a lifetime warranty against rust. For more information and to schedule a free inspection, visit FoundationRepairsAZ.com.