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Old 06-10-2011, 03:25 PM   #1
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Foundation trouble remains?


I purchased an older home and oddly enough, the original work from 1839 stands better than what was done in the last 30 years. On the addition, I had to shave down the middle of the floor joists as they basically crowned in the middle of the room. It appears the foundation walls on the ends settled a little (or it was built that way. There was some foundation issues i can tell in a corner where there was a roof leak and a lot of termite damage, however, it appears to be stable now. There was a window installed in the last few years (guessing the time) which was level, even though the header and sole plate and ceiling joists are slanting down to the exterior corner (i'll try to post pictures later)

The crawlspace beneath is open, but where the columns are, they don't appear to be cracked. My fear is that i'm about to install a bathroom in this area and the spot that's the worst will be my tiled shower. My question is, how can I tell if they fixed the problem or if theres still a settling issue? I've fixed the leak so that's at least not a concern.

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Old 06-10-2011, 04:39 PM   #2
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Foundation trouble remains?


Determining if settlement was a one time event, or is an ongoing problem, is actually quite difficult. Sometimes there are obvious signs, such as fresh cracking, but sometimes slow, steady settlement does not show obvious symptoms.

It is easier to determine where settlement has occurred. The best way to tell is by doing a very careful level survey of the house, which can be done using a builder's level, fluid level, or laser instrument. Then you can contour map the elevations, which is useful in determining where the maximum settlement has occurred. Serious settlement of a floor is usually evidence of foundation settlement, which can be directly checked if you have access to the foundation.

The best way to determine if settlement is ongoing is to install special devices such as crackmeters, which get read on a regular basis, or perform an accurate elevation survey once a year. Unfortunately there is no magic test that I know of to conclusively determine when settlement occurred, and whether the rate is increasing or decreasing.

By the way, accurate elevation surveys are harder than they sound, and are usually done by a surveyor or engineer with experience. It would certainly be possible to do a survey as a DIY project, but it is a bit harder than it sounds, and interpretation of the results requires some experience.

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Old 06-20-2011, 11:25 AM   #3
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Foundation trouble remains?


Thanks for the good info daniel. I'll probably look into getting someone to look into doing regular surveys to keep an eye on it.
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Old 06-22-2011, 03:57 AM   #4
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Foundation trouble remains?


I have done my fair share of lifting old houses that have settled... When you live on an old farm estate it is something you grow accustomed to.

In such an old building I suppose you have a chimney and this normally sits more steadily than the outer foundations of the house, often causing the floors to slope outwards after the entire house settles a bit and ends up "hanging" from the chimney brickwork so to speak. The good thing about this is that it is easy to make the house level again by lifting the walls using jacks and adding to the foundation.

As said, it is very difficult to determine whether settling occured long ago or is an ongoing process. If you have wallpaper you will often see cracks opening and closing over a year if the house moves. If you want to try some measurements yourself you should get a 2"4" board that is completely straight, put it on the floor and with a water leveler on it check the sloping from a stable point in the house (normally right by the chimney foundation in the centre, if you have one) to the walls and corners. Carefully note the figures and locations and redo the process in some time. If you see zero difference the house may now be completely settled but it is difficult to say for sure and tiling up a wall in a house that seems to move is always something that makes you a little anxious.

Concrete columns are almost bound to sink at least a little bit into the ground after construction and if the job was poorly done they may sink a couple of inches in the first few years before settling comletely. Another risk is that when you have 15-tonne diggers going around and tearing up the soil you may disrupt the function of any old drainage system. If you have a drainage system, try to check its function. If not even a drop comes out of it during wet periods it is not doing much good and may be compromised in some way (pipes mangled by heavy machinery above ground, roots filling up the pipe, cut off by digger operator).
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Old 06-22-2011, 08:42 AM   #5
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Foundation trouble remains?


Thanks for the info. I do have 6 chimneys in the house, but the problem area is in an addition which does not. I think my problem is bad workmanship tied with water damage. Unfortunately right now the place is gutted so it's hard to identify cracks, and I'll be finishing off the bathroom (somewhat) soon so it may be too late (tiles cracking) when I find out if there is a problem. I've posted some pictures of the problem area. You can see better in one of them how the roof slopes down in toward the corner. That corner was rotted out from a water leak in the roof so i'm thinking that may have caused some settling issues. On the other side of the room, the brick work foundation is shady at best. so I think there's a good chance the exterior foundation wasn't level with the center beam. I think i'll also try to do what you suggest and measure the slope in the floor and see if that changes over time. I have about a 4ft engineered 2x4 so it's perfectly straight.
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