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Old 08-08-2008, 08:42 PM   #1
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Concrete piers in 55 gal drums support I beams


I am looking at a 25 year old house. The house is supported by piers made from 55 gal drums filled with concrete and on top of these sit I beams.

The house is a three bedroom ranch in upstate NY and would get plenty of snow.

The house and floor seems straight and does not seem to have sagged.

Seems to me this form of construction is very make shift or make do. I was wondering has anybody used this concrete pier drum method or seen it? Is it absolutley crazy?

The house has a half basement. These piers support the house about 3 feet on one side and about 5 feet on the other. The I beams run the full length of the house. They are big I beams seems to me. Maybe 12" or 14"




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Old 08-08-2008, 11:04 PM   #2
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Well, those are some honkin' big piers. The fact that they're in 55 gallon drums doesn't concern me. That's not really any different than using cardboard sonotubes. What concerns me about this is how is the craftsmanship? Seems to me that someone that uses barrels for piers is either super-creative or super-redneck.

Are the piers situated deep enough to avoid frost heave? Here that is 36" and I assume it is much deeper in upstate NY.

Whether or not the size of the piers and the quantity of piers is adequate is something we can't tell you for sure. An engineer should be retained to do that. Variables such as the soil's bearing capacity, compaction, drainage, and the actual loads of the structure all must be considered to tell if this is any good.

Things that would turn me off would be very few piers, or lack of burial depth. It takes a lot of piers to support a home, and large piers spanned by steel beams isn't necessarily better than numerous piers and smaller beams of steel or wood.

If there aren't signs of settlement then that is a good thing.


Last edited by Termite; 08-09-2008 at 11:27 AM.
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Old 08-09-2008, 08:38 AM   #3
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If it has been there and not settled or sagged for 25 years why worry? Seems like the man knew what he was doing.
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Old 08-09-2008, 08:54 AM   #4
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My vote: it's crazy.

That is not a general practice in the industry. As KCT stated; in the redneck industry...maybe.

If you are serious about the house, you should consider hiring a foundation engineer to look at it first.
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Old 08-09-2008, 12:46 PM   #5
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Thanks I appreciate the views and the information. I will get a house inspection if I decide to procede further. I did not look at the foundation and beams long enough to check the number of piers or the depth of the piers. It would be useful for me to do even that. The house looks and feel very firm and the surrounding ground is stable and not built up. I'll take another detailed look. Thanks again I appreciate your thoughts.
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Old 08-09-2008, 01:13 PM   #6
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If your main concren is just the foundation/piers, get an engineer and not just a home inspector.

A home inspector is a generalist looking for problems when a specialist (structural, roofing, electical, heating) is needed to assess a specific are of concern. Few home inspectors are qualified on special areas.

I am a home inspector and an engineer, so I can say that. If you look at structural adequacy, you look at the details differently than a home inspector.
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Old 08-09-2008, 01:17 PM   #7
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Got it.
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Old 08-10-2008, 08:17 PM   #8
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So there's no basement, just a crawl space? Otherwise how would you know about the barrels right? Upstate NY should be 48" min below ground level for frost line. I have seen movement even at that depth in clay soils up here. Also crawl spaces are bad for cold air infiltration and frozen pipes up here.
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Old 08-10-2008, 08:50 PM   #9
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It's a half unfinished basement that then becomes a 3-4 feet crawl space following the slope of the land.

I realize that in theory the drums that form the concrete piers could work fine and the I beams are probably sufficient.

BUT I did not get enought information. I did not see how deep the footing for the pier is, I did not count the piers and the distance the I beam spans. Nor did I get the size of the I beam. I really did not get enough information.

So I will have to take another look and probably get a professional opinion. The house needs a lot of work. I am trying to determine if the work is worth doing on the foundation that exists.
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Old 08-11-2008, 04:05 PM   #10
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we used empty ge silicone 55gal steel drums for forms when we built our asphalt plant in binghamton 30 yrs ago & its still there w/o any troubles,,, down here in ga, they'll stack conc blocks for piers then fill 'em w/conc,,, i wouldn't worry.


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