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trnt 06-03-2009 09:13 AM

A question of foundation
My first post. Please be gentle.

I am about to buy a 100 year old house and the house inspector claims to have found serious problems. Below I will give you the problems with the builder/seller explanations. The house is a one story house with a crawl space. The crawl space is over the ground level. The house was totally rehabbed 3 years ago.

1. None of the beams in the crawl space are supported at the ends. There are apparently sufficient support but the ends are cantilevered.

Builder says this is a somewhat rare and unique structure: balloon structure. That is, there are no load-baring walls and that the beams and joist only support the floor weight and the furniture. And therefore end supports for the beams are not necessary. For what its worth it seems it was always like that and when we jump uo and down on the floor it did not budge felt very solid. House is empty right now.

2. Many of the vertical supports are made of blocks of wood over concrete bases. (Please forgive me if I am not using the correct lingo.) These are vertical pieces of wood, say 6"x6" or 8"x8" and about 24" long.) Inspector says wood should not be used over concrete (rotting and termite problems.)

Builder says these have been there for 100 years and nothing has happened.

FWIW: the wood columns do look very old but I also see water stain in the bottom 3 inches but they look very dry now and I do not see any termite damage.

3. Some support columns are are made of two cements blocks over each other but they are dry stacked.

Builder says such is OK and again they have not gone anywhere for many years.

4. Some support columns are made of a cement block with a brick on the top and under the beam. Inspector says it should be a one piece column.

Builder says.......same as above.

5. Inspectors says some of the shims are made of inferior (that is, compressible) scraps of wood. He says we should either use better wood or even better, metal shims.

Builder says.....(same as before)


I have some good photos that I can share by email or PM or if appropriate I will post.

I appreciate any help that I can get.

inspectorD 06-03-2009 04:17 PM

being a builder annnnd a Licenced home Inspector, I can see both points of view.
Listen to the guy with the most experience in home inspections.
As a builder and remodeler for over 25 years, I learned more when I began going into so many different homes I never would have seen as a builder.
I have seen builders doing the wrong things for 20 still does not make it ok.
You are buying the home....not the builder, those things are easy for them to fix if there is an issue. For you it will cost lots.:welcome:

DaveyDIY 06-03-2009 06:21 PM

My last house was from 1905 & much the same
Upon purchase the crawls pace was bone dry
Following years there was water
I started replacing the wood supports with steel

Water flow can change, termites move around as do carpenter ants
Preferable to have possible problems resolved before purchase
Did the builder rehab the property?

trnt 06-04-2009 05:27 AM


Originally Posted by DaveyDIY (Post 31070)
My last house was from 1905 & much the same
Upon purchase the crawls pace was bone dry
Following years there was water
I started replacing the wood supports with steel

Water flow can change, termites move around as do carpenter ants
Preferable to have possible problems resolved before purchase
Did the builder rehab the property?

My apologies for using the wrong term. By "builder" I meant the contractors who "restored" the house.

turneyreed 06-06-2009 10:29 PM

trnt- I am a licensed General Contractor in California. I'm wondering about some of the things you've listed. #1) you say the beams are cantilevered. You mean extended out over the foundation wall below? and the house walls are sitting outside the foundation? Balloon framing is quite ordinary in other parts of the country; so much so that others call the other style of framing 'Western framed'. But what comes next is where I have questions. " there are no load-bearing walls.." . What holds the roof up? A major concern in any construction is what is called the "load path" ; all the weight of the roof and the rest of the structure is transferred vertically downward to the ground. Roof rests on walls and interior vertical supports (other walls or vertical posts), and that weight is supported by the floor joists and rim joist, and other supports underneath the structure. A cantilevered outer wall is fine as long as the cantilever is minimal. Your vertical supports under the house are normal for the age and many structures are still built this way. But the wood should be treated against termite problems. The main concern is the connections between the concrete piers to the wood post, and the wood post to the beam that in turn supports the floor joists. Here in old Caleforniae, we have to deal with the siesmic concerns; everything needs to be securely connected to each other. No dry stack blocks, no bricks, nothing that isn't secured well so that it resists any movement in case of an earthquake. There is a very large selection of metal fasteners that are used to achieve this. I'm 'told' I can't give a website address yet so instead I will tell you to go to wild wild west.strongtie.communication . As for shims, most that are available are made from cedar or pine- soft woods. But once they are placed in the desired spot, they are compressed and are not likely to compress more. Get back to me with your take on my info. Hope some of this helps and good luck. Reed Turney

GBR 06-07-2009 07:18 PM

The Inspector knows the current code requirements, and is telling you the violations.

The builder is selling the house. Call your local Building Inspector early in the morning when they accept questions. Read him your concerns. Be safe, G

handyguys 06-08-2009 08:25 AM

These arent code issues per se. If during the re-had the area wasnt worked on then likely no need to bring up to current code. There are hundreds of things in a 100 year old house that arent up to todays code. The method of framing and the foundation are just two of them. There are also electrical and plumbing and stairs and lighting and and and.

Ask yourself this question - Do you like the house? Is it in a good location? Is the price right? Can you comfortably afford it?

if the issues you outlined are the only issues and you answered yes to the questions I proposed then I would say go for it. When you get in have the house treated for termites as a precaution or at least inspected annually. If you are in an earthquake area then consider having some changes made to keep the house from slipping off the piers/foundation if disaster strikes.

Good luck with it.

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