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KinNorth 08-27-2012 11:19 AM

Cottage / cabin building levelling, re-levelling
We have a couple old wood frame cottages sitting on concrete blocks. One is 24'x24' and the other is 24'x30'. Both sit about 10" above the ground and the concrete blocks are dug into the clay subsoil. Both buildings are 60+ years old. Both now tilt about 2" over their lengths - both to their west sides. I'm guessing that uneven spring thawing-runoff or poor drainage has saturated the soil / clay at various points in time softening the ground.

Does anyone have experience levelling or lifting such buildings or hiring someone to do it?

We've done some basic levelling in the past but now it's clear that the settling has occurred under the buildings, beyond easy reach.

joecaption 08-27-2012 11:43 AM

Are these buildings used year would and have running water?
How much you willing to spend to save them?

GBrackins 08-27-2012 01:55 PM

if I understand your post, there is no permanent foundation that extends below the depth of frost.

You can level it, but you'll probably be back in the same boat in the near future. you may want to bring in a professional engineer to make a determination of your soils and make recommendations of how to fix the situation in a more permanent manner.

just my humble opinion

KinNorth 09-02-2012 05:58 PM

Neither has running water or any other plumbing or gas lines. Both sit on concrete blocks dug into the ground but well above the frost line. They are both open to the air under the floor so freezing is even, so no frost heave problems in 60 years. Just a bit of a tilting taking place.

joecaption 09-02-2012 06:05 PM

Unless new footings of the propper size and depth are pored for the blocks to sit on your just going to be playing wack a mole.

KinNorth 09-03-2012 09:28 AM

The 24'x 30' cabin sat level for about 40 - 45 years old before we had to lift one corner by less than 1/2". That's not bad in my mind. Then eavestroughing was changed and rain barrels were placed at one end. Then the barrels were removed and the rain and runoff were allowed to pore right down next to the corner foundation blocks. I figure that's why we've noticed about a slope develop over the past 10 or so years.

The smaller cabin has no gutters at all, sits on a slope, takes a lot of runoff, has 24' of windows across the front and since the early 1950s has now developed a noticeable slope to it when you walk towards one corner. It's been used as a storage shed for 25 years so hasn't been looked after at all. It may have been relevelled three or so decades ago... Again not bad in my mind.

Bottom line, I don't think adding 6' piles would be worth it. It would be like saying that geez I had to replace my roof in only 25 years, so the proper fix would be to go to stainless steel shingles. These are just cabins. Moreover, if 6' piles weren't installed under the middles of the cabins as well, then freeze/thaw cycles could do real damage. Additionally, we have many buildings built here on concrete slab (detatched garages, etc) without piles. These also sit for decades without issue.

KinNorth 09-03-2012 09:39 AM

I just found this...

Footings for small cabin re:frost heave



"For frost heave to occur, three things are needed - 1. Freezing temperatures, 2. Water source, 3. Frost susceptible soil.**Take away any one of the three, no frost heave occurs."

..."Remember, frost heave can only occur if freezing temperatures occur within a frost-susceptible soil.**If you make the frost penetration (e.g. the 4-ft depth) occur in the NFS soil, then frost heave will NOT occur in the soil beneath, because that deeper soil will remain thawed."

"Frost heave is a thermodynamics problem that is dependent upon the moisture content of the soil and the latent heat of fussion of soil water."

"I recommend anyone practicing geotechnical engineering in the northern tier states in the U.S. and in Canada (or other countries with significant freezing temperatures) take a frozen ground engineering university course or short course."

------------ ----------

Hmmm... The DIY video below is SCARY. Moreover, this looks like frost heaving at work! A valiant effort on his part but at the minimum he should have had some helpers along - to offer considered second opinions, advice and safety tips! There's no way I'd do ANYTHING like this kind of haphazard 2x6 fix!!! He's lucky he came away with hands and fingers intact!


Possibly like our own situation, I think he needs to ensure drainage is directed away from the cabin in all directions. A fix might be, troughing the soil and maybe laying heavy plastic or rubber membrane all around the cabin and covering with gravel or sidewalk blocks to get the water and subsequent frost heaving and/or soil/clay liquifying water draining a number of yards away from the perimeter foundation blocks. He makes some great observations throughout his video, but his fix... !!! ...Not good!

KinNorth 05-18-2014 11:41 PM

Worked on levelling the 24x30 cabin yesterday. One end was down about an inch so it wasn't as bad as I thought. (It felt worse.). I've fixed the downspouts to direct rainwater further from the edge supports. However, I wish I could find a way to push a jack about 10' under each side of the building to lift and shim by about 1/4". Maybe cutting a small floor hatch is the only way to gain access.

ron45 05-19-2014 10:17 AM

Concrete injection.?????


KinNorth 05-26-2014 02:30 PM

^ Way overkill and costly.

As I said, as long as everything freezes equally and evenly the entire building just moves in unison. (Just think of the hundreds of thousands of detached garage pads simply put right on a gravel base and only suffer minor concrete cracking whether heated or unheated.) No piers required. Moreover, piers themselves sometimes lift even when drilled to below the frost line. Freezing water in the ground is the threat.

Yesterday though I realized that had the cottages been built cantilevered over their perimeter blocks, then the water that runs down the face of the cottages during storms and soak into the ground further from the blocks and causing less uneven moisture on the windward sides where the cottages where each suffers from slight settling (clay gets wet then soft and the weight of the building pushes the blocks down). Each uses beams made of 3 2"x10"s and increasing those beams might further spead the loads back under the buildings to where the most stable and dry blocks sit.

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