At what point do you refer a specialist for a bowed block basement wall?

At what point do you refer a specialist for a bowed block basement wall?
I normally put a four foot level on the wall and measure the gap. Usually there is a horizontal crack that is visible to help me decide to refer or not. For this particular house the seller bought the house two months ago to flip. He has no idea when the horizontal wall crack was repaired. The horizontal crack hasn’t reopened. There is a concrete driveway next to this wall and the drive is sloping away (driveway looks fairly new).
Thank you all
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If I observe it, I report it. Simple.

When I see it.


Agreed, A horizontal crack is a potential weakened structure. Especially block.

All foundation cracks are an indication of a degree of failure.
Recommend and defer…

Since the failure can be quick and catastrophic it is best to report any Horizontal crack that has bowed the wall in and as Michael R pointed out especially a Block wall.

You refer to a specialist in any field when the issue at hand exceeds your expertise and / or qualifications. That’s as simple as it gets…what you refer to I may not and vice versa (time and experience) yet with that said, this is why NACHI is great…there are so many resources at every members disposal and yet they don’t use it.


Are you saying you refer your client to a foundation specialist or structural engineer for every crack you notice in a foundation wall?

Thank you all!


Foundation cracks are basically like people, no two are alike. Every crack has a history, some are old and some are young. Some are related to others found in the foundation and some are not. Some cracks are trouble makers and some wouldn’t hurt a fly. A home inspector’s job is to gather as much information and history on each crack as you can in the short time your on site. As I have mentioned in other posts this fact gathering phase is like collecting puzzle pieces. You then have to take these pieces combined with your experience, knowledge of building science and basic engineering principals to develop a picture of what caused the cracks. Then if your lucky you may have enough pieces to see one or more pictures emerge giving you the root cause that created the cracks. Just use caution, when you try to diagnose foundation cracks, you are entering into field of engineering and may not be covered by your insurance. As a structural engineer with over 25 years of experience I often can not find enough visual clues to say with 100% confidence what caused some cracks. I am not ashamed to put in my reports the statement “the most likely cause for the crack is…” Some cracks would require expensive soil and concrete testing and/or long term monitoring to raise the confidence level of the diagnosis. As a final note the reason for some cracks may never be known.

I inspected a home Monday where there were at least 2 cracks to every side of the foundation walls…no displacement, just cracks that range from 1/16 " - 3/8" of an inch leading from footing to top of foundation wall. No signs where movement has translated into the interior (check doors, windows, etc.). I suspect that it’s the expansive soil in the area. I spoke with the next door neighbor about his foundation to which he acknowledge he has had problems as well, in particular after the drought we had awhile back. Because there were so many cracks I deferred to an SE… I am actually going to meet him out there in a couple hours (job is a few blocks from my office).


Attached is my crack of today, which will be deferred to a specialist.

Nothing that caulk couln’t fix…lol.

I met with the engineer the other night and we counted 15 cracks in a crawlspace foundation. He pretty much stated the same thing that Randy and written in his post…much of the cracks are historical and it makes it difficult to determine the cause.
He is mostly concerned with how the foundation is affected and what is needed (if any) to stabilize those cracks that he has concerns.

In the home I inspected I was more concerned with two cracks at the left rear corner which not surprisingly was the lowest corner with the most moisture being directed at this particular area. I suspected that because all the moisture was directed at this location and considering the type of soil we have, it was the culprit to the two quarter inch cracks on each side of the corner…oddly the cracks did not translate tot he brick veneer. As a precaution the engineer was going to recommend a helical pier to stabilize that section of the footing.

On a side note the sellers agent was not happy that I called out the cracks and recommending an engineer evaluate same (he said they were normal settlement cracks that all houses have) however the buyers agent was happy in that they are more concerned with a LONG time happy client.

I personally think the home will be fine as did the engineer but we all know personal opinions and professional opinions can differ…personally I would by and live in the home…professionally I would not state such in writing. lol.