Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Fixing the foundation


It seemed to us that the best way to approach fixing up our house was to work first on the structural issues.  It makes sense to us that there first had to be a solid foundation.  We've been very lucky with our first homes that we've never had wet basements (knock on wood -- we haven't sold our current home yet.)   But an old house is bound to have some problems and this one has a leaky basement.

Our sellers were awesome.  Each time we visited the house, they both took the time to point out not only the good features, but also the problems and what they tried to do to correct them.  It was great to get the sellers' disclosure in person because we could ask questions and get their advice on how to maintain the home.  They are both really nice people and we were glad that they stayed in the area.

Our friend Kevin came up one weekend soon after the closing to help take out carpeting and move in some furniture.  He had grave concerns about the foundation and suggested that we contact a structural engineer to check it out.  We contacted a couple of companies who both came out to assess the situation and provide recommendations.  

Both companies found issues with the basement.  The east wall was bowed inward by almost 3.5 inches and the north and west walls were bowed in an inch.  One company pointed out that there are two distinct foundations, indicating that the basement had been dug out after the house was finished.  The original foundation was brick.


You can really see that there were two walls in this picture.


Each company had different methods of dealing with the issue and I think either would have been good, but one company went a bit further, suggesting an additional steel beam under the main floor to help support the weight of the house and new supports under the original beam.  We chose that company not only for their recommendations but also due to their solid reputation and the fact that the warranty was backed by a national association.  They scheduled a time in February to come out to start the repairs as we needed to get this done before the spring rains were expected.  

Before they could start work, we had to tear out the old coal room as  it would be in the way of the new clamps that needs to be installed.  I hated doing this as I hate removing a part of the house's history, but it needed to be done.  It only took a couple of hours.  While we were at it, we removed some vinyl flooring that had been put down as well as general clean-up to get as much out of the basement and as much room as possible.  I didn't get a good clear picture of the coal room intact, but these show the room after demolition.




The repairs did not go quite as smoothly as we hoped.  DH went up to the house the weekend before they were to arrive to spend the week.  He logged in to work from the dining room (we've had internet installed) for the day and was planning to do some things around the house that evening.  As the foundation people needed water to conduct a leak test, my father-in-law and brother-in-law came over to turn on the water and clear the drains of antifreeze.  DH was involved in a four hour conference call when he realized that the light fixture above him was dripping.

He started frantically texting me, his parents, his brother in law for help, towels and buckets.  The sink in the upstairs bathroom had been left to run to clear the drains of anti-freeze and either clogged or sprung a leak resulting in water all over the floor in the bathroom which then dripped down into the dining room.

FIL and BIL turned off the water to the upstairs bathroom and my saint of a MIL cleaned up the water on the dining room floor before the floor was ruined.  DH had to remain on the conference call during the whole event.

Thankfully, he didn't get electrocuted from the light, though he did let it dry for several days.  We knew we would have to remove at least part of the dining room ceiling as part of the rewiring project so now we will have to replace most if not all with dry wall.

The foundation company scheduled three days to repair our foundation.  They ended up spending five days.  On day 1, they arrived to find that the power was out in most of town, including our house.  It was after lunch before power was restored.  It snowed slightly on day 2, making work cold and damp and miserable as they had to shut down the furnace.

Snowy day 2
Days 1 and 2 were spent digging holes and installing the anchors that would pull the walls back into place. On day three, they started the trenching around the perimeter of the basement to get ready for the sump pump.  They found that in most of the basement, there were at least two layers of concrete, some areas had three layers and one section had 4 layers.  This issue took them two extra days and two crews to finally chip through all that concrete. They installed the sump pump and told us we may need another one later in another part of the basement.  They covered the walls with vinyl sheeting and left us rolls of tape as we will probably end up putting holes in the sheeting.   We also got new windows which don't leak cold air!

New window!


To install the last anchor, they had to tear out the basement stairs.  We were expecting to replace that eventually but not quite so soon.
The landing is being held up by car jacks and scrap lumber.  Unfortunately the entire staircase had to be removed as it was rotted.


When they were finally done, the basement looked pretty good.

South end of east wall

North end of east Wall

New steel beam and south and west walls.

Sump pump with back up pump.

They finally finished late Saturday afternoon and DH came home on Sunday after making arrangements to get new stairs built.

It wasn't the fun kind of renovation, but very necessary work that had to be done to preserve the house going into the future.  The repairs are warranted for the life of the house and we hope that will be a very long time.

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