Pier/Beam DYI Level attempt

Discussion in 'Framing and Foundation' started by Ironbutt, Jun 13, 2006.

  1. Jun 13, 2006 #1

    Ironbutt

    Ironbutt

    Ironbutt

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    Good morning!

    Just found the forum, and I've done a bit of search...thought I would ask the question and get some opinions.

    The house: 50 years old, pier and beam brick venier/wood floors
    The soil: Texas black gumbo clay (the stinky stuff)
    The symtoms: typical cracks in walls and ceilings, only one exterior wall crack (!), fun house type wavy floors.
    The project: DIY floor leveling, possible grade beam leveling.
    Owner profile: Mechanically inclined, generally well equiped, hopelessly talentless, ignorant enough not to know the difficulties associated with any project.
    The approach: A concern of either over or under symplifying this project has brought me here. Having an understanding of the use of a transit (but not a working knowlege) I intend to get an understanding of what the house is doing overall, and then plan to make decisions on whether to tackle only the floor joist issue (remove/add shims) or tackle the grade beams first.

    I have some minor drainage issues, but the big challenge is the clay soil. It's said that the clay soil can expand up to four times. It sometimes seems as if it can expand 10 times, but hey, I'm not an engineer;) !

    I'm sure the best way to approach is to hire a pro and have them drill some pier holes (at $500 a hole +/-:eek: ) for the grade beams, but I'm convinced that a shovel, sweat, reinforced concrete, sweat, structural steel beam sections, sweat, and shims, a safe and sturdy jacking system, and sweat, and I should be able to adequetly repair the beams.

    The floors shouldn't be hard...so what am I missing?

    Except that I don't have cars on blocks in the front yard (mine are in the back...and they aren't cars, they're motorcycles), I can sometimes be the guy who gets started on a project and becomes lost and then let's the priority of the project get away.

    So...am I nuts? Should I save the pennies for a pro? Should I jump in and look forward to the satisfaction of a job well done? Should I change the batteries in the remote and order up ultimate fighting and ignore the slanting floors and wall cracks?

    Fire away...and thanks for any input! I appreciate your time.
     
  2. Jun 13, 2006 #2

    Square Eye

    Square Eye

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    Funhouse wavy floors..

    Sweat, sweat, and more sweat may not be enough. Wood has a tendency to gain a memory. Once it gets a bow to it, sometimes you can't get it out.

    Whatever you do, expect the house to continue to settle for a full year after the work is done.

    Your plan sounds good. I don't know if you will ever get the results that you want. If the settling is obviously at the interior load bearing walls, your approach may work perfectly. But you have described a nearly hopeless situation.

    I've been in a house that had terrible sagging in the middle of the rooms. The homeowner thought that jacking up the center of the floors and putting in some beams and columns would fix all of his problems.
    His girder beam came up off of the piers.
    They stopped lifting the floor.
    A year later, they were still coming back every 3 months to lift the floors another 3/4 to 1 inch.

    It could end up a slow process. Don't try to do all of the correcting at once if it looks unsafe. This is a good time to get a pro if you can afford it.

    Personally, I refuse this kind of work. I got my fill of that back in the mid '80s.
     
  3. Jun 13, 2006 #3

    Ironbutt

    Ironbutt

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    For the reply! Actually, I've got a little of both: sagging exterior load bearing, causing a drop (rather dramtically) towards the wall in one room, and a hallway that falls towards the center of the house in another. The good news on the interior hall is that the floor falls towards the small mechanical closet, and an adjacent coat closet (both ~3ft. deep), but on the other side of the back wall of those closets is a different floor system as the next room is (intentionally) sunken.

    The other waves are random and minor which SHOULD (I hope) be fixed with the sweat/swear/shim up/down technique.

    Good point on the wood floor taking a "set". Won't be an issue in the hall, but very well may be a BIG issue in the room next to the load bearing wall. Damn.
     
  4. Jun 14, 2006 #4

    inspectorD

    inspectorD

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    Hey Ironbutt....that darned sag in the wood is called "creep" in the wood.
    The unfortunate part is that like other creeps ,it never leaves so you end up stuck with it haunting you every time you encounter it.

    Some ol' timer taught me that one.

    My opinion would be to shim as you need to and live with it. You said it when you talked about clay soil...no forgiveness.The problem with trying to fix it yourself is you need someone to tell you how deep and how expansive it actually is. You could dig way down and still have the same issues when your finished.

    I'm sure your glad you don't live in CA...their soil tends to liquefy and run downhill in a hurry.:D

    Welcome to the forum...pull up the chair........
     
  5. Jun 14, 2006 #5

    Ironbutt

    Ironbutt

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    Thanks for the comments and welcome Inspector D! According to other owners in my neighborhood (~70% are the orignial owners) most houses have had professional leveling done, but all have the same cracks and issues as the houses that have had no work done.

    We have to run the sprinklers on a regular basis (not always easy in Texas-heat and clay we've got-water we ain't-except for monsoons and hurricanes from time to time) and everyone has a sump pump.

    I'll still likely shoot some measurements through the transit and get an idea/baseline and watch it. Sounds like it's off to rent/buy/borrow a jack and a pair of coveralls! Yehaaa!
     
  6. Aug 13, 2012 #6

    jdat747

    jdat747

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    Sometimes houses do funny stuff when you try to level them. Here's a video I shot where you can see how the walls separated from the floors inside the house after leveling: [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnM6XjbqEpU"]When Walls Rise[/ame] I ended up completely rebuilding some of the interior walls on that project.

    It might be helpful to add lime or cement powder to stabalize that clay at your pier locations. Here's how I did that ... in my case adding cement to a sandy soil: [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ECmn_UtLb4"]Making Piers[/ame]

    For tips on materials and DIY techniques, please check out these two videos:

    Materials Level Pier and Beam House

    [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0PIlTtx3dfw"]Leveling Pier and Beam House[/ame]
     
  7. Aug 14, 2012 #7

    inspectorD

    inspectorD

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    Thanks for the help with the videos...for the next guy hopefully.
    This post is from 2006...when I was still actually giving advice.(Geez, have I really been here THAT long)..... sigh)
    I just hope that in 6 years, this poor guy has fixed his sag.......:D
     
  8. Dec 7, 2012 #8

    Crawl_Space_Fun

    Crawl_Space_Fun

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    I'm the next guy. I'm glad I found this recent post by jdat747. I'm in the process of playing under my house in an identical manner, and although I'm about to start eliciting advice in a new thread, the videos posted above made me join this forum.

    If a picture is worth 1000 words, and video is generally shot at 30 fps, then a video is worth 1,800,000 words a minute? Seems a bit much, but still valuable.

    Although it sure would be nice to hear what happened in Ironbutt's case...
     
  9. Dec 7, 2012 #9

    nealtw

    nealtw

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  10. Dec 7, 2012 #10

    Crawl_Space_Fun

    Crawl_Space_Fun

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    Woah. The men had lifted the house 17 inches?

    Just let me say that the reason I'm look for advice is because my first rule is: Safety first. I'm going to go post a thread now asking for advice.
     

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