Diagonal bracing can stop wall cracks

Get more shear support without a new foundation

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A couple of weeks ago, we answered a question from a reader with a 1920s home in the flatlands of El Cerrito, Calif. Like virtually all houses of this vintage, it has lath-and-plaster walls. It seems the high water table and the ebb and flow of the San Francisco Bay tides was causing the plaster to crack. Our reader talked with a drainage contractor who recommend a perimeter drain and a foundation contractor who recommended a new foundation. We didn't think a perimeter drain was the right fix because the root of the problem is groundwater that rises and falls rather than a stream of water that needed diversion around the house. A new foundation, on the other hand, could be a permanent fix, but only if it was engineered so that it was deep enough to rest on stable ground. A soils engineer should weigh in. We presume he would come up with a design with pilings to support the spread footings. Our reader also indicated that cost was an issue. Our guess is that designing and buil...