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eblackhawk 02-26-2008 09:26 AM

Foundation Follies
Hi! I'm a new guy here from TN and I have a problem that is both vexing and depressing at the same time. I live in a two-storey house that is nearly 90 years old. When I bought the house 18 years ago the floors slanted a little but I wasn't concerned for I have lived in several old homes that weren't level with no apparent problems. But now I am experiencing a HUGE problem. Over the past few months numerous cracks, both vertical and horizontal have appeared all over the house. In my dining room especially, everything shakes when you walk into the room.

I have had foundation repair people out to look at my problem but they say they cannot help me because there is not enough room in my crawl space (17") for them to do anything about it. They say they need at least 27" for them to get around in there to shore it up. Eventually, one company recommended someone who may be able to do something about it. So I give this guy a call, he comes out and says he should be able to get under my house with his "crew of Guatemalans" and jack up the house and put plastic sheeting over the dirt to help prevent future problems.

Well, he comes out one fine day with one other guy (not a "Guatemalan")
and after looking under the house from the crawl space access says there is no way he'll be able to get under the house from there. He then suggests that he can cut a hole in the floor in my hall so that he can get to the load-bearing walls that need support. He and his helper proceed to do that, moving the carpet out of the way and saws a 3'X6' hole in the floor. Six hours (over 2 days) later he puts a jack under 1 wall in my kitchen and puts a cement support under the nearby bathroom wall. However, he says there is no way for him to get to my dining room from there (that is the main sagging wall) unless he tears up either my kitchen tile floor or my hardwood floor in the dining room in order to do this. Also, because of the lack of access, he cannot put plastic sheeting down. For doing what he did, he charged me $2400 and for another $800 he'll do the dining room.

I feel he did not do much for the $2400 and so I am reluctant to have him tear up more of my house. Bottom line: I don't think he really did much to help and my fundamental foundation problem still exists. What can I do to repair this problem? I don't have a lot of money to fix this problem even if I knew what to do next! Where do I go from here? Any suggestions??

glennjanie 02-26-2008 11:51 AM

Welcome Eric:
In the past, when we encountered a low floor like yours, we tied a piece of small rope to each end of an old piece of tin, started by diging out a depression to crawl in, putting the dirt on the piece of tin for someone else to pull out then we pulled the tin back in by the other rope.
I know, it sounds complicated but it just takes a lot of time and a camp shovel. Once you get the depression dug in some plastic will help the floor and your movement under the floor. You'd be surprised how much easier you can slide around on the plastic.
Now, you can start pulling 2 or 3 concrete blocks at a time under the floor with the tin sled. Add some 4 X 4s, jacks, and concrete blocks to hold it up and you suddenly have a firm, non-springgy floor.

eblackhawk 02-26-2008 12:01 PM

My problem is that my back prevents me from doing that, although the idea sounds good! If I could only find a business that would be willing to do that...! It seems that here in middle Tennessee my options are limited although you would think that in Nashville (about an hour north of here) there would be someone who could do something!

handyguys 02-26-2008 02:09 PM

What Glenn said. I'll add. The problem might not actually be with your foundation. It could be a rotted sill or joists or both. Could be termites. I think you need a competent inspection and overall assessment. I think I heard some home inspectors posting around here. I'm sure they will chime in. If you inspector does not take the time to go into your crawl space, on his gut, and get dirty and inspect the location where the problem is he is not worth his salt.

$2400 is probably fair for two guys and two days if they actually accomplished something.

eblackhawk 02-26-2008 03:16 PM

I appreciate your replies. I know the problem is not termites. The guys who did the work said that the joists need to be fixed and that there is too little space under the house. My problem is that no one is willing to go under the house to repair it. The only half-hearted suggestions I received from the foundation repair companies was to do the repairs from inside the house and tear up the floors to do it. No one seems willing to try to do it any other way.

inspectorD 02-26-2008 05:59 PM

Hi ...its me...dusty
I have no salt, no gut and a fairly dirty jumpsuit for crawlspaces.:o
I also have an opinion on your next step.
Do more homework on a company that can give you your solution. You have damaged joists, Why? What is causing it...dry-rot, termites and ants come to mind first. No vapor barrier in the floor of the crawlspace is another issue.
The main issue is that this needs to be repaired. A home inspector is going to say the same thing...but can document what the issues really are and follow up on them that the job is done correctly. Usually you can get a good one out for an hourly rate. Call around to professionals. is the oldest...and best organization.
Obviously there are only 2 solutions to the problem.
Dig the space out so you can work, or take out the floors to gain access. Only someone very experienced is going to give you a wholehearted answer. Half-arsed is just what you get when you get someone who is not fully in the game.
Try some local professional organizations in your area for good reputable companies. You may have to pay a little more for the good ones, and always check their work with past customers.
It will pay off with a good job, only if you do more investigative homework.

Call some more companies...just to get a better idea of what your expectations should be. :)

guyod 02-27-2008 09:48 PM

I hate to give you the bad news but If it was me I would put some cinder blocks under the low spots and sell ASAP. Its either sell or take out a second mortage for at least 40k. The only way to fix this problem correctly is to take out all your flooring, subflooring and joists and start from scratch. Anything else is just a temporary fix. Sounds like dry rot. if your very lucky the floor joists might have some life to them and its only your main beams that has it bad. This is still a big project and will have have to remove alot of your floor to do this. Did you go in the whole they made in the floor?

Crawling under a house with such little clearance and trying to jack up rotten joists/beams can be very dangerous.

eblackhawk 02-28-2008 10:03 AM

I will not sell my house only to transfer my problems to another "sucker" like myself. I do not have that kind of money to fix the problem which leaves me back to my original question: Where do I go from here?

mudmixer 02-28-2008 10:23 AM

Hire someone for an opinion (engineer, etc.) that is working for you and not just trying to do work.

This you you have someone on your side to look out for your interests instead of getting some money for a job that may not be any better that what you are starting with. A professional may give you options, so you can chose. Most professionals are not contractors and just sell their experience and opinions.

eblackhawk 02-29-2008 09:15 AM

A good suggestion, mudmixer. That at least would give me a baseline to work with.

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