Basement Walls 



Basements are typically built as conditioned space so that they can be used for storage, work or living space. Because of this, water penetration resistance is of paramount importance to basement wall design and construction.

Following recommended backfill procedures will help prevent basement wall cracking during this operation. Walls should always be properly braced to resist backfill soil loads or have the first floor diaphragm in place prior to backfilling. Otherwise, a wall designed to be supported at the top may crack or even fail from overstressing the wall. Similarly, heavy equipment, such as bulldozers or cranes, should not be operated over the backfill during construction unless the basement walls are appropriately designed for the higher resulting loads. The top 4 to 8 in. (102 to 203 mm) of backfill should be low permeability soil so rain water absorption into the backfill is minimized. Finished grade should be sloped away from the building.

Control joints are not typically used in foundation walls due to concerns with waterproofing the joint and the fact that shrinkage is less significant in below grade walls due to relatively constant temperature and moisture conditions. If warranted, horizontal joint reinforcement can be installed as a crack control measure. The foundation drain shown in Figures 1 and 2 can also be located on the interior side of the footing, or on both sides if necessary. The drain should be placed below the top of the footing. The optional footing drain shown, such as 2 in. (51 mm) PVC pipe at 8 ft (2400 mm) on center, allows water on the interior to reach the foundation drain. Footing drains can either be cast into the footing or constructed using plastic pipes through the bottom of the first course of masonry, directly on top of the footing.

For reinforced construction (see figure below), reinforcing bars must be properly located to be fully functional. In most cases, vertical reinforcement is positioned towards the interior face of below grade walls to provide the greatest resistance to soil pressures.

A solid top course on the below grade concrete masonry wall spreads loads from the building above and also improves soil gas and termite resistance. Where only the top course is to be grouted, wire mesh or another equivalent grout stop material can be used to contain the grout to the top course. Note that local codes may restrict the use of foam plastic insulation below grade in areas where the hazard of termite damage is high.