I want to go on record, again, that I am not opposed to do-it-yourself repairs. For a homeowner with the necessary time, skills, tools and equipment, DIY is a viable option, especially for minor repairs to their basements.
Regrettably, the proliferation of home repair TV shows have made it look like everything is simple, that anyone can do anything regardless of experience or ability and that a homeowner is foolish to pay a professional. With all due respect to Tom Silva and all the perky hosts on the DIY Network, there are many home repairs and improvements that just shouldn’t be tackled by a homeowner because they’ll end up with a sub-standard job that will waste their money and end up being re-done by a pro when they try to sell the house in the future.
The latest disturbing trend in DIY is the marketing of do-it-yourself foundation repair “kits.” These marketers claim that, for a few hundred dollars, any homeowner can repair a bowed or tilting foundation wall with carbon fiber and get the same results as a professional repair that may cost several thousand.
Really? This is repairing the foundation we’re talking about here, not painting the kitchen or replacing a light fixture. I know some pretty skilled and experienced DIYers and not one of them would attempt to repair their foundation themselves, even those who work in our industry. There are some very good reasons why they won’t.
Why DIY Foundation Repair is a Bad Idea
A glance at the website of a typical marketer of DIY carbon fiber repair kits raises one red flag immediately when they encourage the homeowner to contact them for a “free foundation evaluation.” Presumably, the folks behind this website are not going to send a structural engineer to your home so how are they going to evaluate your foundation? Astral projection? Texted photos? Skype?
On another typical website, there are enthusiastic descriptions of how easy the process is and how much you’ll save, but oddly enough, no description of what you actually get for your money. There’s an uncaptioned photo that seems to show the kit, with a bunch of bottle and jars and what seems to be carbon fiber strips rolled up in a tube, but no list of what’s included and no mention of the size of the strips. There’s also no price, only a “for as little as…” claim.
By contrast, here’s how a professional repairs a bowed or tilted foundation wall. A foundation expert visits your home and takes accurate measurements and uses a laser level to determine exactly how and how much your wall has moved and how it has affected the structure above. He then, often in consultation with an engineer, creates an estimate that states how many carbon fiber strips are needed and exactly where they should be placed – and an exact cost. He will also tell you if your wall has moved too much to use carbon fiber and recommend another appropriate repair, something missing from the kit approach.
When installation day comes, a fully trained crew of installers lays out the placement on the wall and grinds down the wall at each installation point to create a flat, level surface to ensure the best possible adhesion. They then apply a powerful epoxy to the wall and embed each strip in it, rolling each strip over and over to make sure it bonds completely.
Once the strips have been installed, steel angle is bolted to the top of the wall between floor joists at the site of each strip, ensuring that there will be no further wall movement. There’s no mention of this in any of the kits.
There’s more, but I’ll spare you any further pain. The worst part of misguided DIY foundation repair is that a bad DIY job will create false confidence in the homeowner and lead to the problem worsening to the point where the necessary repairs will be far more extensive and costly than they would have been if done by a pro in the first place.
The foundation experts at U.S. Waterproofing do foundation repairs right and make use of engineering data and the latest in carbon fiber and other technologies to ensure that their work is permanent and cost-effective. Why not ask us for a free consultation before you order that kit?