Home needs leveled

Discussion in 'General Home Improvement Discussion' started by jwest, Feb 5, 2013.

  1. Feb 5, 2013 #1

    jwest

    jwest

    jwest

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    I have a 116 yr old house that someone has tried to level before.
    I'm trying to find a reputable contractor to do this and having some problems.
    Have 2 quotes; $7440 and $6500. How do I find out who will do the best job and the $ amounts seem high to me.
     
  2. Feb 5, 2013 #2

    Wuzzat?

    Wuzzat?

    Wuzzat?

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    |............x..x....|
    0....................10K

    Get more bids until they cluster at some average value. Two aren't enough, but three sometimes are.
    For plumbing I had to call 17 just to get five bids.

    I look for something like this

    |...x......xx.x...x|
    0....................10K

    and I throw out the low and high bids. On this bottom dot plot I'd take the center bid unless the contractor says or does something wrong or fishy.

    IIRC, $7000 in some parts of the US will cost you $12K in others, depending on the median income of your ZIPcode.
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2013
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  3. Feb 5, 2013 #3

    inspectorD

    inspectorD

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    I don't care about graph charts and what the $$ is. These are close enough. YOU NEED TO CHECK REFERENCES...of past customers and look at the work.
    Good luck.
     
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  4. Feb 5, 2013 #4

    Wuzzat?

    Wuzzat?

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    Found my house leveling data

    for houses between
    700 and
    2600 sq. ft.

    Half cost between
    $1.88 and
    $4.50 per sq. ft.

    almost all cost between
    $1.71 and
    $6.82 per sq. ft.

    $3.26 =avg. price
    $2.27 =median price

    What is your square footage? I'll add it to the list.
    Getting data from forums for a survey is like pulling teeth.

    For checking past jobs, unhappy customers are at least as important to contact as are happy customers.

    Welcome to the forum.

    Humor me, InspectorD :D
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2013
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  5. Feb 6, 2013 #5

    nealtw

    nealtw

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    Some one has tryed to fix it before. The cost is the last problem to figure out. The footing were not big enogh when the house was built and they sank. A contractor or someone jacked it up and leveled it on the same footing. Unless you contractor is talking about soil conditions and footing size, you will be waisting your money.
    "engineer should be considered"
     
  6. Feb 6, 2013 #6

    bud16415

    bud16415

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    I’m new to the forum but my previous home was in the 120 year old category also and I did a top to bottom restoration and had many leveling issues to deal with. You haven’t mentioned how bad the problem is or if it has stabilized.

    Back in 1897 there wasn’t any unified building code. They built with local materials and foundations (field stone) or others may have had no footings or basement floors for that matter. After 116 years of taking a set IMHO getting the house re-leveled is the least of the problems and maybe why you are seeing different prices. Moving an old structures will twist and strain everything all the way up causing more problems the contractor may be factoring in.

    In my case there wasn’t enough money to get it perfect and part of the charm of a structure that old is its sways.

    For what its worth in my case I did some subtle lifting here and there done over a period of time and observing the house while doing it knowing I wasn’t going to ever get perfect. The basement had a floor poured at some point with only a 6’2” head room and was one big area except for the center chimney. As I worked with adding some partitioning in the area of the center cross beams I lifted those mostly to remove cracks and such and added stud walls beneath where each stud was cut and fit to take some load. I didn’t open the floor and add footings. This method wasn’t perfect but was cost effective and added a lot of stability to the whole house.

    The remodel above required a lot of scribing and trimming just part of an old home. I can say in my case after doing this I didn’t see more change over the next 30 years.
     
  7. Feb 6, 2013 #7

    nealtw

    nealtw

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    Bud: You may get away with leveling a floor with a wall built in the basement, but lifting structure is not a good idea. You may have got lucky but you are putting a lot of faith in the strength and thickness of the concrete and the soil below it.
     
  8. Feb 6, 2013 #8

    Speedbump

    Speedbump

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    My only experience was with a little 800 sq ft house. It had a crawl space. I started jacking it up in the bad areas, shored it up with cement blocks and wood. Went up stairs to admire my work and found that none of the bedroom doors would close anymore. That and even though the door frame was more plumb than it used to be, the doors weren't.
     
  9. Feb 6, 2013 #9

    bud16415

    bud16415

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    My thoughts were the settling had stabilized a good 50 years before I was born based on the cracking in the horse hair plaster and window and door framing shifting. The house was twisted and swayback here and there but wasn’t actively moving in very many years. Given a $100k I might have lifted the home and added a poured proper foundation and then another small fortune to correct the rest. But George Washington never slept there although he did sleep at an older place down the street. So given what I had I did what I could and felt safe with the house. I wasn’t intending the stud walls or the poured floor to carry the weight of the house. I did frame it 12’ OC with a double plate but the purpose was more to take the bounce out of the first floor and a little of the sag without shifting the whole structure upwards.

    In my house the field stone foundation was about 4’ wide at the bottom and tapered up to about 3’ at the top. At that point framing switched to wood a 12x12 timber around and 12x12 cross in the middle. The middle cross was mortised for the 4x12 floor joists. All that cutting into those timbers made for places for splits to propagate. Some of the splinting I did closed those gaps and lifted the joists, and in the process helped some of the floors above.

    The big question the OP has to answer is the house stable or is he seeing signs of the past repair and still seeing things are not plumb and square and thinking the first repair was not done properly. They may have went as far as they dare go and started hearing cannon fire above and stopped. There are many clues he could look for if the foundation is still failing and in that case I do agree just jacking it back up won’t solve his problem and could even make it worse. If I had to guess based on it standing 116 years I would guess foundation isn’t recently starting to sink, but that isn’t an option to rule out.

    The idea of paying a structural Eng. to evaluate the problem is not a bad idea and have him recommend a procedure from there. In my town in the city there are 1000’s of century old houses and they all are suffering the same old age problems. I never hear of any falling in and quite often it’s the new construction that goes down under snow loads and storms. But again I wasn’t recommending any fix only telling what I did and how it worked out in my one case.
     
  10. Feb 6, 2013 #10

    Admin

    Admin

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    Did you stop at two quotes I would get more.

    Do not tell them you are getting multiple quotes. I have found telling them that will change the price.
     
  11. Feb 6, 2013 #11

    Wuzzat?

    Wuzzat?

    Wuzzat?

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    In a good way?

    One book recommended you tell them you are getting multiple bids. I'm on the fence as to telling them. For sure, they don't like having to bid against others, but this is business.
     
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  12. Feb 6, 2013 #12

    bud16415

    bud16415

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    On the topic of getting bids and most trade contractors will come and do some research and compute some number. The price they come up with may reflect also how bad they want the job at that time.

    I had called 5 roofing companies to come price a roof on my old house. They all came within 15 minutes of the time they set up and the first 4 showed up in a car and dressed like they were going to play golf. They took a few pictures measured the base of the house at ground level and gave me a bid on a special bid form with terms. They were all within 10%. The last guy never showed up on time and pulled in an hour and a half late after dark in a pickup truck with ladder racks and full of junk he was about 65 and covered in dirt and apologized for being late. He drug a 30’ wooden ladder off the truck and declined help to set it up. He was on the roof for 30 minutes and came down and said let me guess you are getting prices around X dollars and he was right on the mark. He then said you have plank roofing with spaces in it and ventilation is poor, you have 3 bad boards over in this corner and the whole roof needs to be taken down to bare sheathing replaced where bad with rough sawed 1 x like what’s up there and then sheathed over with OSB. papered and ice guard new vents and soffits opened to let air in. He said gutters are shot and if it was his house he would build out the rafter tails to make the overhang correct and give the gutters something to hold to and redo soffits and fascia. He also commented on failing flashing and asked how bad the damage looked inside. He was right. How he knew that in the dark without a light I still don’t know. He said what do you think and I said I want ½ four-ply instead of the OSB and he said man that’s going to cost ya. And he told me an exact number, and then told me plywood was going up in a week so he had to order it in the morning if that’s what I wanted. I told him he had the job and he said don’t you want to know the price? I said yes tell me the wife will want to know. His crew did a beautiful job and I have got him a dozen jobs over the years.

    The point is the bid process is about way more than finding the low bid. It’s an opportunity to feel out who you are getting also and learn as you go. When I told him he was the only one to actually get on the roof he just laughed and asked me if I had any paper he could write my bid on.
     
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  13. Feb 6, 2013 #13

    Speedbump

    Speedbump

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    That's a good story. It kind of goes along with the statement: Never hire the guy with the full page ad in the Phone Book.
     
  14. Feb 6, 2013 #14

    Wuzzat?

    Wuzzat?

    Wuzzat?

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    I'm assuming you got good value for your money, but where did his bid fall relative to the others?

    BTW, most contracts say "furnish & install". I don't know that I've ever seen one that said "We will solve your problem."
     
  15. Feb 7, 2013 #15

    jwest

    jwest

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    1300 square feet on the bottom (it's a 2 story). Figures about $5.00 a square ft.
     
  16. Feb 7, 2013 #16

    Wuzzat?

    Wuzzat?

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    Thanks, that makes 9 hopefully representative samples. Above 30 is considered to be a 'large sample'.

    sq ft cost ratio, $/sq. ft.
    1400 $1,400 1.00
    700 $1,200 1.71
    1100 $2,250 2.05
    1100 $2,500 2.27
    1000 $4,000 4.00
    2600 $13,000 5.00
    1300 $6,500 5.00
    1300 $7,440 5.72
    1100 $7,500 6.82

    9 =number of samples
    $3.73 =avg.
    $4.00 =median
    0.80 =correlation coefficient between cost and size: not bad

    for houses between
    700 and
    2600 sq. ft.

    Half cost between
    $2.05 and
    $5.00 per sq. ft.

    almost all cost between
    $1.00 and
    $6.82 per sq. ft.

    $5 is kinda high so I'd guess the median income for your ZIPcode is above the $50K US avg.

    If you graph cost vs. size, the $1.00/sq. ft. is visually an outlier at least in this group of few samples and if it's removed the correlation goes to 0.89.
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2013
  17. Feb 8, 2013 #17

    jwest

    jwest

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    I got a third person today, old friend who was in the business for years. After going over everything with him I am thinking of just putting new post and pillars next to the ones there, adding a few more and leaving well enough alone. The floor will still be bowed but better than messing something else up to fix it. As long as it is solid and stable, that is the main thing. It's an old house and there will be imperfections. Have heard some horror stories about people doing it wrong.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2013
  18. Feb 8, 2013 #18

    bud16415

    bud16415

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    It’s good to hear you found a friend with experience to look it over. You have to think what a 116 years of sitting in one place and all the mass of a house and heating and cooling cycles working on the building will do. Most of these old gals were made from material cut and hauled within a few miles from where they now sit. Lots of it was semi dried before use and some was shaped with a broad ax right on the site. Basements were dug by hand or with the help of a horse.

    As you go thru remodeling and repairing the house you will find many things that are far different than today’s way of doing it. One thing that always amazes me is when I drill or cut the century old yellow pine the sap and pitch in it warms up and becomes sticky again and smells just like a fresh cut Christmas tree.

    You will be doing a lot of shimming and trimming as you do things in the house. I built a kitchen island and when I installed it made me feel like the ship was rolling over. I ended up raising one end a 1/2 inch at the base and another half below the counter top. Making the adjustment at two points made it look and feel like it had been there for a century.

    The main thing is that you feel the house is stable and not actively changing.
     
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  19. Aug 19, 2013 #19

    Jungle

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    Keep in mind there is structural levelling and aesthetic levelling.
    Even of they put in good footers, your beams may need to be doubled up with sister joists. Some people may just put concerte leveller over it to make it look straight.
    Usually sagging is caused by water damage or even rot.
    How does your roof look? Once the main floor sinks then the second then your roof. So check your ceiling and your flooring and roof, the problem maybe bigger than you thought to completely fix.
    I do believe it is better to level structurally as best as you can, sagging will cause continuing structural imbalance or roof sag. A level house is a structurally sound house.

    They should provide written estimate with detailed of everything they are planning to be doing.
     

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