Push Walls 101: How to Diagnose a Push Wall


Foundation problems are never fun.  And structural issues are among the most stressful for our clients.  Your home is a big investment and foundation issues can threaten that investment.

One of the most common foundation issues during this past year has been Push Walls.  In fact, our office called 2019 “The Year of the Push Wall” because we were inundated with calls (many of them panicked and urgent) to come look at their wall that was showing signs of structural damage.

So what is a push wall and how can we diagnose it?

diagonal crack in concrete

Push walls are a term used to describe a foundation wall that has been “pushed” by soil and/or water pressure from the outside.  It can sometimes be caused by other factors – running into a foundation wall with a vehicle is a bad idea and results in a similar condition, but is much more rare thankfully.

Push walls have a lot of nicknames that all refer to this same condition:  Bow Walls, Tilt Walls, Lean Walls, Deflected Walls.  The wall has essentially moved inward due to pressure from the exterior.  The mid-point of the wall is where the largest amount of deflection will occur most often.

The only silver lining about Push Walls is that they are relatively easy to diagnose because they tend to exhibit the same symptoms consistently.

  • Diagonal cracks – the most common symptom is twin diagonal cracks.  They usually start at the bottom of the wall near the corners and transverse diagonally up and inward towards the middle.  
  • Exterior Cracks that are located about 6-12” away from the corners of the wall that is pushed.  These same cracks can be seen in the interior of the foundation at the corners but tend to be very thin on the inside and wider on the exterior of the wall.
  • Visual and Measured “Deflection” – whether we are inside or outside, we can see when a wall is no longer in a straight line.  If the middle of the wall disappears when we visually line up one corner to the other, then it is most likely deflected inward.
  • Beam “Pop-Outs” – If the main horizontal beam is perpendicular to the wall that is deflected, then sometimes the beam will pop out of the exterior side, resulting in cracking or spalling (loose concrete).
  • Other issues could be: Interior pipes that are deflected and possible cracked.  Siding/brickwork that is pulled inward with the wall.  Interior columns that hold up the horizontal beam could be buckled.

So now that we know what a Push Wall is and how we diagnose it, the next step is to figure out the exact cause and, most importantly, the solution.  We will cover that in future posts.  Until then, if you see any of the above issues on your own foundation wall, please contact us for an evaluation.

Our Guaranteed Solution

When you call us for help, our structural engineer will thoroughly evaluate your situation, propose a detailed plan of repair, and ensure that any recommended work is done correctly and safely. Our goal is to help your structure last for many years, giving you peace of mind and a safer home.