Photograph of a bowed concrete block foundation wall, probably from frost cracking. Drop a plumb line to measure total inwards bulging of this block foundation wall.Detect, Diagnose, Evaluate & Repair Foundation Movement
Buckles, Bulges, Bows, Cracks, Creep, Impact, Leaning or Settlement Damage

  • FOUNDATION FAILURES by MOVEMENT TYPE - CONTENTS: How to Evaluate and Diagnose Foundation Movement by Type & Location of Cracks, Bends, Leans, or Shift in Foundation Components. How to distinguish foundation bulging from foundation leaning. Different causes of foundation leaning, bulging, cracking. How to recognize foundation impact damage. How to recognize foundation creep or footing movement.
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about diagnosing different types of foundation movement: settlement, heaving, leaning, bulging, bowing, vertical or horizontal shifting.

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Types of foundation movement:

This article discusses how to evaluate and diagnose foundation cracks and movement classified by the type of movement that is occurring: horizontal movement, vertical movement, bulging or bowing walls, leaning or tipping foundation walls, and other forms of foundation settlement or heaving.

This chapter of the "Foundation Crack Bible" discusses in detail the recognition of different types and causes of building foundation movement and foundation damage. We distinguish among vertical movement, horizontal movement, leaning, tipping, bending, differential and uniform settlement, earthquake and storm damage, and other foundation damage patterns.

We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.

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Guide to Types of Building Foundation Movement as an Aid to Foundation Damage Diagnosis & Repair

Sketch of types of foundation settlement (C) Carson Dunlop Associates

This article series describes how to recognize and diagnose various types of foundation failure or damage, such as foundation cracks, masonry foundation crack patterns, and moving, leaning, bulging, or bowing building foundation walls.

To be used properly, this information must be combined with specific on-site observations at the particular building in order to form a reliable opinion about the condition of that building's foundation.

Anyone having concern regarding the structural stability, safety, or damage of a building, foundation or other components, should consult a qualified expert.

Detailed articles on types of foundation movement are listed just below. The sketch is courtesy Carson Dunlop Associates

Strategy for Building Foundation or Floor or Slab Crack, Damage, or Movement Assessment

To understand the cause, effect, and remedy for all types of building foundation or masonry wall damage or movement we have categorized foundation damage into these broad categories:

  1. FOUNDATION FAILURES by MOVEMENT TYPE: is the movement active or not, how is the foundation moving: bulging, leaning, settling, etc. ?
  2. FOUNDATION FAILURES by TYPE & MATERIAL: how does damage show up in different types of foundation material & what are the implications for collapse risk or repair need?
  3. FOUNDATION CRACK DICTIONARY, what is the severity of foundation damage, what is its effect on the stability of the structure, and how urgently are foundation repairs needed?
  4. FOUNDATION REPAIR METHODS discusses alternative ways to fix a damaged foundation or floor slab crack or movement

Vertical Movement in Foundations & Walls

Vertical movement in foundations, in the most general cases, is caused by downwards movement of the wall or wall footings such as when a wall footing sinks in soft soil, or by an up and down movement of the wall or wall footings such as when a wall is disturbed by frost in a freezing climate or by expansive clay soils which expand or shrink as their water content increases or decreases.

Settlement crack in poured concrete foundation

Horizontal Movement in Foundations & Masonry Building Walls

Horizontal movement in building foundations or walls is generally caused by an external lateral or "sideways" force applied to some portion of the wall. Depending on the construction materials used and the strength of a foundation wall, a force applied to the wall can cause it to move in any of several ways which we discuss in detail at HORIZONTAL MOVEMENT IN FOUNDATIONS.

Combinations of Foundation Wall Movement, Horizontal & Vertical Crack Patterns Occurring Together

Photograph of a collapsing masonry block foundation wallWe discuss the inspection and analysis of foundation damage which shows a combination of different movement directions, forces, or crack patterns in detail at COMBINATIONS OF FOUNDATION MOVEMENT including the following examples of combination foundation damage:



How to distinguish between a "bulged" foundation wall and a "leaning" foundation wall, and why we care

Photograph of a bulged foundation wall  (C) Daniel FriedmanUnderstanding the location and pattern of foundation wall cracking or movement may help us diagnose its cause and thus may help us understand what actions are needed to stop further foundation movement.

We discuss how and why we make this distinction between bulging and leaning foundations in detail at BULGED vs. LEANING FOUNDATIONS.

Even a concrete wall which is bulged is likely to be cracked horizontally, though perhaps not in such a straight line.

But a bulged reinforced concrete wall would be very rare unless perhaps the concrete wall bulged, or its forms bulged, during the time that the concrete was being poured and was still wet. It's more likely that a reinforced concrete wall will be caused to lean or to shift horizontally while a masonry unit wall or stone wall is likely to be bulged and cracked by the same external forces.


Continue reading at FOUNDATION MOVEMENT ACTIVE vs. STATIC or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.


or see FOUNDATION CRACK DICTIONARY - crack patterns

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