house is sinking

My 82 year mother lives in a house where the floor is sinking in one corner of the house. The basement floor is cracked and sinking along the outer walls. The house walls and ceiling are plastered and I'm afraid that the ceiling is going to come down.
I know there are many companies that claim they can correct the problem and I'm a little leery.Any ideas as to the best way to correct the problem and the cost associated with correcting the problem.
Thanks David Kight
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dk wrote:

You need a local pro. I might suggest first checking with the company that carries the insurance on the home. Find out if this is covered. If not maybe they can make a recommendation. You need to find a competent and honest contractor for this one.
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Joseph Meehan

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-- You need to find a competent and honest contractor for this one.
Uh, when don't you need a competent and honest contractor?
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I would highly recommend an architect look at the situation. I had a similar problem in the rear of my house and the architect designed a beam with supports to carry the load. All that may be necessary is two to three footings (Sonotude) into the ground and a beam either laminated or steel but it must be properly sized, to carry the load.
Regards,
Howard
DerbyDad03 wrote:

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DerbyDad03 wrote:

When I do it myself, an often incompetent but honest worker. :-)
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Joseph Meehan

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Extra information would be really helpful. Such as:
1) Climate or location 2) Slab, crawlspace, or full basement. 3) Age of house
Cost of this type of work will vary dramatically depending on your area. For example, in my area, we have full basements for the most part, which have to have footings below the frost line, which is about 4 feet down. One corner sinking is rare in my area, but is a really bad thing, that could cost huge money to fix.
Please give us more detail.
JK
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Yes, we do need more information. I moved to FL where sinkholes are a problem. Before moving here, I had never even heard of such a thing. If her house is in an area where there are sinkholes that is a whole 'nother problem'.
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Big_Jake wrote:

The location is Akron, Ohio and the house has a finished basement. I'm guessing that the house was built in the 1950s.
The floor of the basement is heaving along the corner. According to my brother, she had a severed piped from the dishwasher that may have gone undetected for quite some time. Water apparently was draining directly into the basement.
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How far is the basement floor below grade?
Banty
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Banty wrote:

I would guess 6 ft on the side in question.
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Inadequate footing, maybe. A lot of houses like that didn't have the right footings and had the basement not far enough below grade.
You may need to consult an engineer. My 1960 ranger didn't have footings on the walk-out side of the lower floow ("basement" on the other side, a story below grade.) Seasonal heaving eventually started breaking up the block.
Banty
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Recently I had an estimate from a local contractor that specializes in raising concrete slabs. To raise one end of my driveway is about $950.
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Most of the time I just read this newsgroup, and many times I get a little irritated when people suggest hiring a professional for some simple task, like replacing a light switch. I think this newsgroup is mostly intended for the DIY person, and no one needs to post on here to hire someone because most people know that hiring someone else is already an option. However, in your case, I will have to agree with everyone else. You really need to get a professional for this problem. You might have a sinkhole or cave under the house that is collapsing, or whoever built the foundation did something wrong. Houses with proper foundations dont normally sink, at least not anything noticable. There are so many possibilities involved, such as poor soil, bad drainage, and the location of the house. States that have abandoned mines have had houses suddenly collapse when the earth gave away. Even if you are qualified to do the repairs yourself, at least find out the cause from a pro.
Then too, is the house really sinking? Did you check with a level? Maybe the basement floor is just heaving, but there's a reason for that too.
Just my 2 cents !
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dk wrote:

I had a similar problem. It turned out that when houses here were built, they used construction sand to bring the lot up to grade. Over that, they put dirt, then grass. Below the sand, the grade went downhill toward our house. So, when it rained, the water that seeped through the grass and the dirt was carried by the sand toward our house. The lady who had our house before apparently left because of the problems that caused. For starters, the rear deck was sinking. This is a very long story, so I'll start with the punch line and go toward the details so you can skip as you wish:
The pros recommended a french drain. They had even put one in under the deck in back, but they didn't put a sock on it, so over the years it filled with sand, etc. When I dug it up, it weighed a ton! Now they wanted me to put one in on the side of the house where the water was coming from. My research showed that a french drain is about 24 in. deep, filled with stone, uses a slotted 4" pipe and should be covered with a sock to help keep out debris. I would need 25-50 ft. I heard estimates of up to $1200 for it.
Bottom line: what I found showed that the problem was at about 48" below the surface and deeper, so the "french drain" they proposed would have meant the $1200 spent for it would be better off as a gift to the poor. So much for the "pros"--engineers, architects, etc. Long live DIY!
What I did: Based on test digs, I found the water level to be four feet down. The house is about 1930 and has a crawl space. The footings went down no more than four feet. So, I wanted to provide protection down to six feet to keep the water flow away from the footings and the deck. So, I dug a trench six feet deep. I lined the downhill side of the trench with 6-mil vinyl and put a socked slotted 4" pipe at the bottom. It goes to a non-slotted 4" pipe which empties in the street (with permission of the city).
The results: The soupy stuff under the deck is now dry. After rains, it dries right away. The pipe that goes to the street tells the whole story: after a particularly heavy rain (which we get a lot here in South Alabama) water will come out the pipe to the street for 3-5 days. I shudder to think that this water could have all collected under my house!
How I found out what my problem was: The first clue was the soupy stuff under the deck. It was supposed to be just sand. Secondly, there is a small basement which had been used for laundry. The floor always had a couple of inches of water. They had put a pipe in the wall to carry it out, but they didn't put it like a drain in the floor, so it only drained off the excess. She apparently did the laundry standing on plywood on top of concrete blocks. The floor of the room was slimey. (She later added a small addition to the house with a laundry room and a second bathroom.)
Also, the dirt in the crawl space was mud, not dirt. There were swirls that showed that liquid flowed through, carrying the dirt. In the house, the floors were uneven. The floors went downhill, toward the rear of the house. No wonder the house was so reasonable!
I did a test dig by the small basement, which was formed with concrete blocks. I found the exterior of the blocks were obviously pourous. So I dug to below the concrete flooring, pressure washed the concrete blocks and painted them with elastomeric (however you spell it) paint, which basicly coats it with rubber. Then I put a sheet of 6-mil vinyl, covering the surface. Other than the small basement, the rest of the underside of the house is crawl space. They had filled in the sides, but when I checked the side where the water ran downhill (slightly, anyway) toward the house, I removed a huge ancient azalea root and found a big hole where the water apparently flowed in and then through the crawl space. I also found that tree roots from the neighbor's tree had pushed through the crawlspace wall and had made holes where water could come in.
I waterproofed the entire foundation. But when I came to the corner of the house where the lady before us put in an addition, before I got to the bottom of that footing, water came up. Uh, oh, I thought. I dug another 4 ft. hole around the corner, uphill, and found water there at about 4 ft. I dug two more 4 ft. holes along the neighbor's fence. I could see the slope of the underground water. It was obvious that I had better get it fixed or the addition was going to start caving in.
So, as I said, I dug a 50ft X 2ft X 6ft trench, lined the downhill side with vinyl and put a socked slotted 4ft. pipe at the bottom, draining to the street. Yes, I dug it (I'm 73). I looked at a trencher, but it would only go down 4 ft. Nation's Rent wanted nearly $500 for a backhoe for a day, but (1) I didn't know if I could get it done in a day, (2) there is a sewer line from the neighbor's in the middle of the trench area, and (3) the area between the house and the neighbor's fence wasn't enough to pile six feet of dug up dirt. So, I had to do it by hand.
The neighbor's tree had roots that went through the area of the trench (and through the crawl space wall). Today that tree has a lot of branches with dead limbs. I wonder why.
In digging the trench, I saw that there was up to a foot of dirt at the top, and construction sand the rest of the way down; thus, my conclusion that they used the sand for fill to bring the lot up to grade. I tested with a moisture meter and found the dirt had a couple of points of moisture, but the sand had none. Since it hadn't currently been raining, that was understandable, but the point I got was that whatever water there was, had gone somewhere else--under my house, probably. The dirt collected the moisture, but the sand did not.
Fortunately, I dug it in a dry period. When I got to the bottom, the walls began caving in due to the residual water in the ground. I had to act fast. Since I dug the trench 24" wide, I dug the last foot or two just wide enough for the pipe, so I could stand on the higher part and scoop out the wet material from the pipe hole fast enough to get the pipe laid.
I put in a solid 4ft. pipe at the back of the property to carry the water to the street (I have a corner lot). Connected to it is the socked pipe from the trench, two downspout runs, and a new drain for the basement.
The result is that today the basement, formerly slimey, with boards on concrete blocks to walk on, is now bone dry. I mean bone dry. The slime under the deck is now loose sand, which blows in the wind. The dirt in the crawlspace is now dry (I put exhaust fans in for a while). I formerly had to cut room for the basement door to open under the deck because the deck was sinking, but I haven't done that for a long time now.
If I had someone do the project (architect, engineer, etc.), they probably wouldn't have done it right, and the cost would have been somewhere between $5,000 and $15,000. I probably spent $500 for paint, pipes, and special tools. DIY wins again.
John
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John wrote:

Thanks for posting in detail your experience, sir. I particularly appreciate that you posted what you observed and what you inferred from your observations and how that informed your choices for a remedy. Not a problem I'm experiencing at the moment, but I think I'll archive this one for future reference.
Yours aye, W. Underhill
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