Foundation Issues

We purchased a hundred year old house in NE Missouri a few years ago. There is a ridge in the kitchen floor. Under that floor is a concrete cellar that is about 6 feet tall. The rest of the foundation is probably only 3 feet tall. We've been told the rest of the foundation has probably sunk but, of course, the cellar portion has sunk a lot less - leaving us with the ridge.
Any suggestions? If we were to take the drastic choice to raise the house and put in a new foundation, we aren't sure the house would go back to its original state intact anyway (as a matter of fact, most contractors have told us to level and start over instead). Some have told us to put in several jacks and slowly lift the house. Others have suggested we just make the kitchen level with the cellar side (but I'm pretty sure that would mean a step into our living room). We also thought we could take extreme measures to cut out the concrete and lower that portion. What would you do?
As a side note we are considering putting an addition on the side of the house.
Thanks!
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I would make a water level and crawl under with a couple of jacks and blocking. Then I would start jacking up the low areas and blocking the house up until it was level. Cheap and easy. If it doesn't work you can always go back to tear it down and start over. I would give careful consideration to your floor plan before investing much money in the existing structure. You probably have tiny bedrooms with no closets. A tiny bathroom added on in a weird location. Inadequate wiring. You also my have balloon framing which creates a significant fire hazard. Unless you can fix all these items you probably should not invest much additional money. Unless the location is perfect you may be money ahead to sell and buy a more modern house.
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In

I'm curious: What is "balloon framing"? Never came across the term.
HTH,
Twayne`
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wrote:

Balloon framing is where the studs go from the sill to the eaves, with the intermediate floors attached to them. It's no longer used, at least without fire-blocks, because fire can spread from one floor to the next around the floors. The walls become big chimneys; very bad. Try a web search on "balloon framing" for more information.
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Is the reason there is a ridge in the kitchen because there is a beam under the ridged area? If so, I would put adjustable jacks under the beam to raise it slightly, and then cut down the supports for the beam however much you want to lower it, and then let the beam back down to its new lower height. I would err on removing a little too much rather than too little if it is hard to get at the supports. You can always shim the beam back up, that should be much easier than crawling around to cut the supports a second time.
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On Sun, 9 Jan 2011 14:57:27 -0800 (PST), upwardcall

What are the walls of that celler made from? If it's concrete block, cant you just remove the top layer of blocks and replace them with 4 inch blocks or bricks instead of the 8 inch blocks? Just do a little at a time. If it's poured concrete, a concrete saw might work. It's probably easier to lower those walls than raise the whole house. If the house is still good otherwise, why demolish it.
Pictures would be helpful !
Mike
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On Jan 10, 3:19am, snipped-for-privacy@none.com wrote:

Mike, the cellar is made of concrete. We were thinking of doing this very thing, but it would be quite interesting since it involves an outside wall and a back deck above it (which would have to be lowered as well).
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On 1/9/2011 5:57 PM, upwardcall wrote:

An old house that is not level is not unusual, nor a tragedy.
I'd level what you can and live with the rest, even if it means a step. How is the plaster? If it is in good shape, it won't be after extensive jacking.
IMHO, leveling the kitchen is most important. I leveled mine (29 house) with some jacking but also with some shims and underlayment. It took a while but I didn't crack the walls.
Jeff
We

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Seems logical to do the lifting over the course of a couple of seasonal changes, i.e., around 6 months or so. That's what I've seen on a couple of local projects. Plumbing ought to be worked over to lessen stress, too. Old cast iron drainage will probably be the most affected. Some plumbers may even cut the cast iron and install Fernco sleeves for insurance.
Joe
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I assume the pipes were in place when the house was new (& level). So jacking back up up wouldn't hurt?
I would be worried about any cast iron drain lines going from floor framing into the earth.
I heard or read "slowly means" like 1/8" per day but a 1/4" per week or month seems reasonable as well.
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Sounds a lot cheaper to rip the plaster out and redo it after the structure has been leveled out in one day by a professional than it would be to keep having them come back and jack it up fractions of an inch at a time over a long period of time...
~~ Evan
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On 1/11/2011 4:33 PM, Evan wrote:

When a house settles over so many years, it also twisted its floors, walls, and everything about it. If jacked in one day, it may take months until the house settles itself into it's new, or old position.
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I agree with the other posters that suggested lowering the ridge. Just jack up enough to cut.
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*I would weigh the costs and benefits and then decide. You could spend a bundle of money to raise and level, but still have a hundred year old house which will need remodeling and upgrading. If you like the house, talk to an architect about designing one that is similar. Before you demolish the old house, you may be able to salvage some elements for use on the new house.
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I live in a 170 year old 3 story house and have had parts of it raised using jacks. It takes time, if you don't want cracks in the walls. TB
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The correct solution is one which identifies the cause of the settling and resolves it so that the settling will not continue to happen...
It is NEVER the correct solution to "lower" the high spot down to match the rest of the settled structure -- you would have to keep doing that over and over again as the building continues to settle...
You need a thorough inspection of your foundation made which will include having it dug up in several places... It sounds like your older home's foundation was built without the proper footing and is steadily sinking...
You have not described what kind of foundation you have:
-- Is it field stone/rubble ?
Well if that is what you have, then you will need to replace your entire foundation with a new one because the mortar used to bind the original one together is failing and it really can't be fixed in a way to prevent uneven settling...
-- Is it made of bricks/concrete/block ?
Well if that is what you have, then it is wasn't built on a properly sized footing for the site conditions and you might be able to excavate it out in sections and pour a new footing underneath it...
Have you ruled out water as the cause of this ? Your site might have poor drainage and water is getting into the foundation and making it heave and settle every winter...
You need a specialty contractor for this project, it is a complex thing to deal with identifying the cause of a failed foundation, engineer a new solution and install it on an existing building... Your house might have to be elevated up on cribbing to make the foundation work easier... That sort of work is usually the domain of people with experience in moving/relocating houses rather than a general contractor or carpenter... So it will be a more involved project than just locating a carpenter to fix it...
~~ Evan
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Evan,
I certainly agree with your assessment. I believe our foundation is some type of old concrete block cemented together. There is a lot of water here, and we have done some changes for that reason (gutters mostly). There doesn't seem to be any water under the house, however (the ground is sloped away correctly). We have been told by foundation guys that all houses settle here, and no matter what we do they will, at least some. Thanks for your input.
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Make sure everything is structurally sound, then either build a level floor over the top of the existing floor, or tear the whole thing out and build a new level floor from scratch.
We did both when we remodeled the kitchen and bathroom in my folks' house. The floors were sloped BAD. We cut tapered stringers and nailed them to the existing subfloor over the joists in the bathroom, then laid a new 3/4" ply subfloor over that. In the kitchen we tore it all out down to the empty gaping hole and installed new floor joists on the level.
There's about a 4" half-step into the bathroom... Nothing we could do about it without completely gutting the house. Technically it's now a split-level house...
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