Help with judging estimates (Cross-post from alt.home.repair)


Hi there,
I am in the Boston area, and I recently had some contractors look at a situation in my house, and I would like the general public's opinion about the information I have received, so here goes:
We live in a ~105 year old house that has a dip toward the center. You see, the main beam was (and really still is, save for some adjustable posts we put there for now) supported only in the center by a brick column that has shrunk (or has lowered with the floor, as it were).
As a result, we can feel the dip toward the center of the house in all rooms, but in the back of the house more (apparently there's heavier stuff there, like the kitchen, which caused just a bit more droop on that side). There's also a bit of bounce in the floors, basically limited to the very center between each beam span on either side of the existing brick column.
What we have been looking to do is to add support columns for the beam and possibly to jack up the beam to a somewhat more level position than it is now. My primary concern is not getting things level per se, because I know I can do that with flooring (although leveling it somewhat would be great if it's feasible). My bigger concern is to rid ourselves of the bounce.
One estimate (the most recent) was for about $2900 (or 3200 with some cosmetics to touch up the brick column that's in unsightly condition). While talking with the crew, they mentioned that they might need to cut a small vertical line in the beam over the center column in order to give it room to squish together as it goes back to level. Although I know these guys are professionals, I have hestiations about that for a few reasons:
1. Has anyone ever heard of doing this?? Everything I find in research suggests that the jacking needs to take place slowly -- not by cuttin out a slim v-shaped slice and basicly bending it on its hinge back together!
2. I am convinced in my heart that if I do this, when we go to sell the place a home inspector will point out this cut in the beam as some sort of "serious structural issue with the beam" and frighten off potential buyers.
3. Well, I guess my gut makes me feel like it's quite crazy to allow someone to cut into the main support for my house, plain and simple!!
Does anyone have any experience with work like this? As for the rest of the scope of work in the estimate, it included: * Digging and pouring footing to a depth of up to 4 feet (sounded really deep to me, but what do I know) * Making any adjustments to heating duct or other pipe placement that may need to be rerouted to accomodate the work equipment, etc. * Manufacturing steel plates to put above the two new columns and to serve as a shim above the shrunken brick column. * the other, usual ancillary items
I would love to hear from anyone who has been through a job like mine. Thanks in advance for your opinions. By the way, if you live in the Boston area, too, and would like to recommend whoever did your work, drop me a private line. : )
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It does depend on your time frames. It took the beam and column 105 years to get to their present position. You can jack the beam back up to level in a few hours. It will push, twist, break plaster, and get things shoved back to right and you will spend whatever time it takes to repair any other incidental damage. In order to get the main beam to move enough they may need to give it a saw kerf, but I would sure try without it.
As an alternative: You could perform the footings and new screw jack columns, maybe even some extras especially at the brick column to take the load off of it. You have never indicated how deep the sag is in inches. Crank up the jacks till you hear things moving (have someone listening at all levels). Raise the beam some predetermined set amount, I'm thinking less than an inch. Raise the jacks 1/4" or so each month. The slower you go, the better for the walls, etc. You will have jacks in place to prevent it from getting any worse and take your time raising it. Once you have it back in position, rebuild the brick column as required.
One man's opinion.
(top posted for your convenience) ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Keep the whole world singing . . . . DanG (remove the sevens) snipped-for-privacy@7cox.net

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I've had to raise a foor,due to a contrator leaving a floor that was...cantilivered...by a fire place...flooring was 3/4 plank. The floor in a span of approx. 4' had sunk about 1 1/2"...so we poured 2X2' pads, installed concrete pier's and did a post and beam system to raise the floor back to where it should have been. This is in so. cali, and all the joist's were in good cond.
Granted this was a small section, but there's no reason why it wouldn't work, IF done properly on a larger floor, of course, you didn't mention how bad the sagging is...This same post and beam system is what I use on most deck I build...and they hold up fine..

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The cut in the beam is over the post, you write, and if the steel plates are large enough to carry the load from both sides of the (now) new beamS then it is perfectly acceptable, now and in the future. Old beams bend and become like the bow of a boat. They want to retain their U shape, not straighten out. The cut allows the beam to become more straight. Sounds like they know what they are talking about. You might want to check and see if they have a engineer looking at the plan of action.

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I'm remodeling my 120 year old house in the Boston area. I am an Architect and have done a few old buildings in the last 40 years. We presently have a 3 inch sag to the rear from the central beam. Our beam itself is well supported and has not sagged, but the joists were only 2x8 @ 16" spanning 13'-4". We will be supporting the joists with new screw-jack columns, beams and footings. We will NOT be jacking up the floor because of possible damage to the building. We WILL be leveling the floor by shimming and new underlayment after bracing. I would try to avoid jacking up the structure to level it.
BTW if your new footings are within the conditioned area of the building, they need go only down to firm undisturbed non-organic soil. 4' deep footings are for exterior use to get below the frost line. EDS

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