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mt999999 11-17-2013 12:12 PM

Foundation Wall Repair/Replace
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Hello everyone! I'm coming here today to get some advice on a major issue with a foundation wall in a house I am buying. It's an old flatstone/sandstone wall (whatever you want to call it), and a gutter has been draining directly onto it for several years while the property was unoccupied. I fixed the gutter, but at some point before that, the wall finally went, in two sections. the right section with the small concrete chunk still attached on top is directly around where the gutter was draining. That portion isn't as bad, considering a only a small deck is above it. The middle portion of the wall is where a window used to be, and it is pretty bowed. It will need replaced too, I am sure.

Now, the left section of the wall is the big issue. This is right under a main living section of the house, and it is currently burying the water meter. I've slowly been digging this out, and moving stones. The house does not appear to be sagging, and seems to have a fairly solid header under it. This is not a load-bearing wall, considering that the floor beams are running parallel to the damaged wall. It doesn't appear that any water was directly draining onto the left section of the wall, so that is a bit of a mystery to me. However, the concrete walk slants inward to that side of the house. But, this may have happened when the wall collapsed and the cellar filled with dirt.

Point is, this wall needs to be repaired, and it is on the top of my priority list. Now, it will still have to wait until spring. I am not currently living in the house, and no utilities are connected. My question is, how should it be rebuilt? My initial thinking was having cinder block and mortar delivered, and jacking up the side of the house enough to build a new wall along this aprox. 20 ft. long, maybe 7 ft. high stretch. After thinking about it, I decided it may be easier to put up a metal mesh/forum and have a cement truck pour a concrete wall and a new sidewalk in place. But, I don't know what the thickness would need to be, if there needs to be a footer, etc...

Budget will determin ALOT. I am on a very tight budget, considering I am buying a thousand dollar house. The second factor, which relates to the first, is the fact that I can't afford to have someone else build a new wall. I need to do it myself, likely with help of friends. My goal is to clear all of the stones and dirt out of the cellar myself. It seems like a bit of an extreme DIY project, but it needs to be done. I have a place to dump the stones as well. So, I am wondering what it would cost to do either of the above methods, which is more feasable, or if there is a better method I am not aware of.

Thank you so much guys for your help and advice! I have some pictures posted below. Please let me know if more are necessary -- I can get more daylight pictures today.

joecaption 11-17-2013 12:25 PM

Lets put it this way, I would not take the house even if it was for free.
It's going to be a money pit.

stadry 11-17-2013 01:10 PM

rebuilding the wall isn't that large of a problem as you only need to jack the house 1/4" to free it,,, larger issue - onto what does the wall sit upon to support the weight ? of course its load-bearing - there's even a supporting steel post - probably not original.

build / cast supporting conc foundations in the cleared bsmt - install temp support columns & spreader beams - remove damaged wall - build a proper foundation - build wall - lower house back down onto wall

not sure why you need to await spring but that's your decision,,, even back home in upstate ny, we'd do it asap to prevent further damage,,, can 1 still buy ' cinder block ' ? ' forum ' - you mean a FORM into which you'll pour concrete ? yes, of course you need a footer/foundation - that's what spreads the structure's weight upon good properly compacted load-bearing soils

cost of house is irrelevant but i can't imagine anyone undertaking this project not knowing anything & asking for how-to's in a form :laughing: 1ST get a pe who specializes in residential stabilization :yes: if you don't know what you're doing ( method & materials ), you could be wearing that house instead of living in it :censored:

we made a lot of $ buying/rebuilding houses just like yours - no one else would take risk,,, if no one's buying, selling prices plummet so there's opportunity awaiting

Daniel Holzman 11-17-2013 01:51 PM

Unfortunately underpinning a house, constructing a foundation, and building a load bearing wall in confined space is a pretty advanced project. Given your admitted lack of knowledge and experience, I recommend against doing the work yourself. You say you have very limited budget, which I believe, given that the house cost you $1000 by your post. But your are not likely to get a professional engineer to design your project for under $1000, given the risk and complexity.

If you hire a professional contractor , you are looking at many thousands of dollars. Doing the work yourself could get you killed, and whomever works with you. Pretty tough spot. Getting reliable, useful information on how to perform such a difficult, dangerous project over the internet on a chat forum is not a great plan, in my book. You need hands on help from someone who had done this before, understands the options, and is willing to take the risk of mistakes. That is usually a professional contractor, who generally wants to be paid adequately for their time, expertise and risk.

747 11-17-2013 02:58 PM


Originally Posted by joecaption (Post 1267711)
Lets put it this way, I would not take the house even if it was for free.
It's going to be a money pit.

Holy freekin crap.:laughing: To original poster. Big trouble. But out another thou on everything.

tony.g 11-17-2013 04:27 PM

Give him a break guys!
As long as he works out carefully how and where to support it, forming a concrete footer and re-building the wall in blockwork shouldn't be too difficult.

oh'mike 11-17-2013 05:52 PM

I was reading another thread of his earlier today---He's just out of high school--this is going to happen .

Let's give him a firm plan---

Tscarborough 11-17-2013 09:29 PM

Small sections. Begin at the corners and dig and pour 4-6' at a time. Once you have the corners, work your way around, alternating sections so that there is at no point an unsupported section of the house.

Good luck.

mt999999 11-17-2013 11:52 PM

After moving a ton of earth and plaster and lathe clean up, I'm totally beat. I'm just going to make one "lump" reply to everyone that commented on the fourm.

Ouch! Tough crowd... I know I sound a bit pathetic asking on a forum, but what else am I to do? My mom cried when I showed her the basement... I didn't think it was that scary. Anyway, when there is a will, there is a way. I just don't know how to easily get a load of cinderblocks into the cellar. I suppose I'll pour a footer along the length of the wall after I get the dirt cleared away to start with. Is 8" a good thickness? From there I guess I'll build a cinderblock wall up, and install a french drain along the side of the house. I think those have to be buried 3 feet, and covered with gravel, correct?

House is a house, ya know? I know the hill isn't the most preferred location, nor next to an abandoned house, but the neighbors on the other side are very glad that I am buying it.. Haha. The best part will be after it is done, and I can say that I did it! And although I did just graduate high school, in my defense, I have some experience. I have been working for a contractor all summer. However, we haven't done any foundation walls, aside from parging damaged walls.

I am waiting until the spring because I don't have the deed yet, and I neither have the money or time at the moment to do the project. I was going to jack it up some and use some of those metal support poles they left down there, but because the studs run front to back, it makes it a little awkard. Not to mention that, for some odd reason, parts of the floor are wooden. The perimeter around the wall is wood, and needless to say it is completely rotten through. Didn't have anything level to set the posts on. That'll need poured concrete too.

Thanks everyone for chiming in, especially those who supported me! Anyone other advice would be welcome, including a cheap contractor around East Liverpool who will do it for under a thousand dollars, LOL! Below is a link to another section of the website with alot more pictures of the house if anyone is interested.

RWolff 11-18-2013 12:50 AM

I had to pour footings and build a wall under my kitchen which was originally a back porch converted to a kitchen sometime in the 50s- the 3 exterior walls were supported on large squared off salvage beams laid on some flat rocks on the ground, as a result they were rotted out from the bottom to the centers, the floor was several inches off level it was so bad.

I had no problems, I dug out the area underneath, put in temp support jacks as needed, dug down a couple feet further below where the floor was to be and after putting some rock and gravel along with a drain tile to a sump I poured in a concrete footing with rebar as well as adding some embedded vertical rods and filled those cavities in with concrete to tie things together.
The footing was made considerably larger than needed both width and thickness, and then I built a block wall up to the height needed and installed a double 2x plate on top.
It was done about 10-12 years ago and the space is my utility and furnace room.
I had laid plastic sheeting and 2-3" of styrofoam board on the outside of the wall before back filling.
I spent most of that summer digging that 5' deep roughly 18' long 9' wide area out by hand bucket by bucket, I also got rid of the old brick chimney at that time too, it was hard work but it had to be done.

Foundations and walls are hardly rocket science, and the fact is that house IS standing right now just the way it is, so ANY addition of foundation walls to replace what is fallen down will only be an improvement as long as he doesn't disturb or remove what is currently supporting things!

I have some concerns about a TWO story house and the weight plus the fact it's on a slope, and the use of those black painted temporary floor jacks, but as long as he is careful and doesn't undermine or disturb the present supports he should be fine.

mt99999 will have loads of work ahead of him, I've advised and made suggestions to him in other threads. I also think this project is way over most people's heads timewise, laborwise, and financially not worth the cost, but he is determined to do this project and it is after all his decision to make, his money and his labor.

No one really should be tearing into him on this DIY site, all we can and should do is advise and suggest and in the end he will have to do all of the work, pay for all of the materials and either bask in the glory of a project completed against all odds, or suffer the agony of defeat and walk away from it to cut losses. Either way it's his decision to make not ours, let's give helpfull advice and ideas on specifics when asked and let him decide for himself what to do.

RWolff 11-18-2013 01:37 AM


I suppose I'll pour a footer along the length of the wall after I get the dirt cleared away to start with. Is 8" a good thickness? From there I guess I'll build a cinderblock wall up, and install a french drain along the side of the house. I think those have to be buried 3 feet, and covered with gravel, correct?
You'd do well to get a book at least on foundations and concrete work to get some criteria and standards, 8" may or may not be right, the width of a footing should be at least twice that of the block wall, so if the blocks in the wall are 8" wide you'd want to start with 16" wide as a minimum width of the footing, it also needs rebar in it and the block wall needs to be centered on the footing not constructed off at the outside edge because the load placed that way is putting a rolling over type force on the footing's outside area.

I made mine around 22" as I recall, but about 12"-14" thick since there wasn't a lot of lineal feet and I had loads of sand and gravel, this was for just a single story...

As an example, and this varies by location and soils;


Ron Henshaw — manager of code administration in Cranberry Township, Pa. — says there are several things the building inspectors are looking for:
-Number one is the footer depth. The requirement is 10" thick.
You might take alook at this page to get familiar with this because there is a lot more than simply digging a trench and filling it in with concrete and calling it a footing. I would be inclined to go by the soil PSI strength column that is the weakest soil since your soil is unknown, with this chart and 1500 psi soil and a 2story house the footing would need to be 15" wide minimum

Your footing also needs to be in undisturbed soil, in other words dig the trench but don't fill it partially in with dirt to get it "level" or otherwise disturb the trench- the soil needs to stay good and compacted as it was.

There's also the anchoring issues to consider;


Interior bearing wall sole plates shall have anchor bolts spaced at not more than 6 feet on center and located within 12 inches of the ends of each plate section when supported on a continuous foundation.
As you can see you will need to do your homework and a lot of research to find out what's required for YOUR location and meet or exceed that, if it calls for 8" thick make it 10"

oh'mike 11-18-2013 04:23 AM

Getting the block,bags of concrete and such into the basement?

I would consider opening the floor in the front room and building a slide---

The time spent fixing the floor will be much less than toting the heavy materials around the house----

Look up---Jack Walls---and temporary walls----both are used as supports --the first one can do some lifting----

oh'mike 11-18-2013 04:35 AM

MT999999----Our members were not attacking you----only trying to point out the obvious---This is one heck of a challenge---

I'm an optimistic sort and believe you are up for it---others are perhaps ,a bit skeptical.

You will get help here---some members are brutally honest--don't take that as a personal hit---they speak from personal experience and are not likely to sugar coat their replies.

If you show that you have the guts it takes to listen and learn without loosing your cool---those 'hard nosed' members will share lots of real world experience with you.

I look forward to watching your progress-----and I'm sure everyone else here does to.-----Mike-------

joecaption 11-18-2013 07:40 AM

Foundations are not rocket science but done wrong the whole rest of the house suffers.
It's one of the most important aspects of building a house.
Your going to need permits for all this work and your local building dept. should be able to tell what the width and depth of the footing needs to be and how many rows of rebar your going to need.
Trying to build a footing in sections just sounds like a very bad idea to me, it's hard enough to keep a one piece foundation from settling.
If that bottom rim joist is also rotted out in most cases I'd be poring footings in the basement to support a beam to temporary hold up the floor joist, then replace the rim joist holding up the outside walls.
Any time I've seen a new foundation done under an existing house the house was lifted with steel beams by a real house moving company, but short of that it can be dug out on the outside and all the footings and new block can be done from outside of the house not from under it.
Trying to haul, mix pore the footing and build from under the house will be a night mare.

stadry 11-18-2013 08:23 AM

read somewhere its only rocket science when you're building rockets :yes: doubtful the ancients had rockets when they built aquaducts, pyramids, or great walls.

take your time & use common sense - IF it can fall down, support it,,, IF it needs supporting, put in foundations @ final floor elevation,,, spread the top load w/suitable beams,,, get a pe to help design what you need,,, make friends w/your bldg inspector,,, might be able to find retired guys to help think it thru ( we work cheap just to get out of the house & reinforce we're still somewhat relevant :laughing: )

foundation depth & width are often prescribed by codes,,, in real time, dimensions also depend on steel reinforcement & supporting soils.

we regularly did that work & still do,,, yes, its labor intensive BUT, taken in small bits @ a time, you can do this :thumbup: risk takers do find rewards & many times night mares = BIG $$$

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