owners cut into framing to increase door height-help needed

Hello. I am in the process of buying an older home. Its a LOVELY house but the civil engineer turned home inspector showed me what is a grave earthquake risk (I'm in earthquake country): to create the (already low clearance) doorway from a finished basement room to the remainder of the basement, the owners cut up into the frame and floor joists (2 or 3 of them) to create more clearance.
He said this could be headered and the joists brothered/ sistered....but that this would lower the doorway by 12 inches......
Are there other options for reinforcing this ? What kind of contractor am I looking at for doing this kind of work?
I would so love this house but if I have to crawl through the doorway to do laundry, it's all over I'm afraid...
Thank you so much for your input. I am pretty handy but this is beyond me!
Tracy
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Not being able to see exactly what is there, none of us can give a good solution. The engineer may be overly cautious, but then he may not be.
Brother and sistering joists mean adding new ones along side and bolting them all together for a strong unit. Rather than use wood, it may be possible to use steel and get the same strength in a smaller package. There are other engineered wood laminates that may be ideal also. Get a second opinion or at least ask this guy what he thinks of using other material.
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Hello Edwin, thanks for your note....

He said he tends to be quite cautious....but then again, so do I so I took what he said to heart. Here is a photo of the spot: share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sidŠYuG7di0ctGLF
I will do a bad job at describing this, but he did say it might be possible to build some kind of framing around the doorway that would run support horizontally out from the upper right and left corners of that doorway, paralell to the floor and across the floor joists from joist to joist (in essence creating a 'hallway' if it were extended to the floor.....

Can you 'brother/sister' a framing portion of the house? (I can see how that would work for the joists)...
Rather than use wood, it may be

I'll see if he's willing to let me peg him with questions! Thank you.
Tracy
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Tracy-
Where else could the laundry be placed? It must have been some place before it was stuffed into the unfinished basement.
Your inspector (if he was / is civil engineer) should be able to give you some suggestion as to a more suitable design (lowering the door to less than 6' doesn't sounds like much of a fix)
When you say earthquake country..what part of CA? Bay Area? SoCal? Hills? Flat land? Near fault?
You need a good local CE who can take a look the situation & give some you options then based on your choices come up with a design.
IMO you should be able to install a reasonable fix for a few $1000's
My suggestion is: negotiate an allowance as part of the escrow to fix this
How long as the property been on the market?
cheers Bob
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Hello Bob!

I'm unsure if where it could be placed.....Kitchen perhaps....? These were the only hookups existing. Beyond the access issue is concern about the weakness: My headboard will be on that wall and my son's bedroom above. I guess all homes have some point of weakness....

Yes, especially since it is already lower than that. I am 5'4" and I have to duck!

The house is on flat land in San Leandro, just west of the 580 freeway.

It apparently went on with another agent in Feb but did not sell, was farmed out to another agent and has been on the market 1 month with her. What I love about it is that there is a flat yard great for our 3yo son, the rooms are all large, and in general, the house is in decent shape (though this guys report is a bit hair raising to read! All 64 pages of it!!). It's hard to find all of those things in a house in this area, and having lived in the area before, I know I like it....it has a lot going for it...
Thank you Bob :-)
Tracy
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freeway.
You are within two miles of the Hayward fault. Quake experts rank this fault among the top five most dangerous earthquake zones in the United States. The fault is still highly active, with displays of creep and small tremors.
Beware! Do some research on faults before fooling around with the structural integrity of your house!
--
Walter
www.rationality.net
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Is there any way you could lower the *bottom* of the doorway to match? You then wouldn't have to crawl. It would still be something odd--some kind of dip or something like that, but might be acceptable, given how much you seem to love the rest of the house.
--
--Tim Smith

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I suppose that would be an option. At the doorway is some concrete stairs (poured probably directly onto the slab foundation)....if we 'backed up' the steps into the room a bit and jackhammered them out, that might help the clearance issue.....

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Tracy,
I don't quite know what to make of a home inspector who is no longer qualified to be an engineer but even so I think his point is valid. Find another house. The obvious fix is to replace the cut floor joists and jack the entire house up to give you more head room in the basement or to dig the basement lower. That's really expensive. I really don't see any DIY solutions here.
Dave M.
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Interestingly, my husband I and I just were having this conversation. He wants me to see how much it might cost to do something like this: jack the house up, rebuild the basement/bottom floor. We could repour the foundation at the same time. Though I loathe the idea of being displaced while the work is done, he seems to like the idea of knowing what it would take to do it. This would fix both this door problem as well as a spot in the stairwell to the downstairs bedroom/basement where my husband will always have to 'duck'.
Any clue what 'really expensive' means in this light? I realize an 'in person' estimate is the only way to really know, but if you'd have a wild ballpark....like 75K, 125K, 200K? etc
Tracy
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Just a guess from far away in Western NY (coincidently, also near a fault which has very, very lightly shook our house a few times in the past 10 years)...
In many areas, if you upgrade something in a house, you often have to bring a lot of other stuff up to code as part of the process.
I'm sure you'll find this out as you investigate the "jack the house up" option (or any other option for that matter) but I wonder if you would need to bring other portions of the house up to earthquake code at the same time. In other words, let's say you get an estimate to jack the house up and pour a new foundation. Then you go for the permit and they say that if you build a new basement you must follow all earthquake codes for anything that touches the new foundation, which might add a considerable amount to the project.
Like I said, just a guess, but something certainly worth looking into early on.
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Tracy,
My younger brother did jack up a small house in New Hampshire and have a new foundation put in several years ago. I think he spent about $25K. The house was not habitable for around a month. I don't really see how knowing this will help you though, call and get a few estimates from contractors in your area. Be sure to get the joists replaced at the same time, have a new set of stairs built et c. It won't be cheap.
Dave M.
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There has to be an inexpensive way to reinforce it with steel to make it as strong as it was originally. Obviously you have to get someone in there who is familiar with local code.
The two inspectors I had used checklists and couldn't have solved a problem if their lives depended on it. Even with the checklist one missed several serious electrical problems. I didn't bother using one on my third house. (though admittedly, one found some serious problems on a house I didn't buy because of them.)
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I had a choice between a cheaper guy who did the checklist or this guy- more than twice as much - but who wrote a book on this house. The inspection report was 64 pages long! I'd really recommend him, he was incredibly thorough.
I will use him next time I offer on a house. My husband and I decided that the problems in this house simply add up to too much stress and too many of them are structural and safety issues. Maybe if we lived in the stable flatlands of....well, somewhere else. Too much work was done improperly and without permits, and this 64 pages added up only to what was visibly wrong.....we could put a ton of money into this one-- or just buy a better built house. I dislike newer houses, they don't tend to have much charm: but if I'm going to sink money into something I think I want to have some evidence of it, not go broke just keeping it standing up...
Sigh.
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Dear Tracy-
My wife & I have bought and sold several new ones & used homes in So Cal. (orange county)
The home inspection thing is a good idea, I use them even though I've got 30+ years experience as an engineer (nearly 20 years running a unvisertiy structural research lab)
The fact is I could miss something, its always good to get another set of eyes on the property.....but I can read through a report & easily see what inspection "finds" are important & which ones are not....which ones will cost a bundle & which ones are simple.
One our most recent sale, the buyer's "inspector" found several pages of "issues"......my wife said "don't read them, it will just piss you off"
I did a lot of the work myself or worked with the contractor, I did the design & specifications....the patio cover was redwood with all stainless steel fasteners. The block wall had 2x code rebar. I replaced all of the 40 year old breakers (the house was built in the 60's).
I knew all the important stuff was taken care of & done right......I never read the report, we merely asked our realtor "how much do they want"
She said "I can make the list go away for a few 1000's"....we said "do it"
It was cheaper & less aggravating to give them some $'s rather than me or someone else go through & "fix" them
The buyer really just wanted a little cash back, I'd bet he never fixed the "issues".
The nit picking inspection report is often used as a negotiating tool by the buyer to pry some $'s loose.
He's the deal...............the inspectors job is to find as many "defects" / "issues" as possible, that's what he's payed to do..."find stuff"
He can't very well come back & pass judgment on his own "finds"....like, "these aren't really important" then why did you list them?
It's not his job to evaluate the finds...that's the job of an engineer or other professional.
My suggestion is get an opinion on the "issues"; the structural hack job needs an engineer.
The others? maybe a general contractor or friend who has some extensive experience in home repair
I really doubt that many of his issues are really substantive but they could be
Don't run away from the house get armed with more information about the "real" condition of the house, the real needs of repair & the costs involved.
Owning an old house is a tradeoff.....charm & uniqueness vs new / modern.
We've owned old (1930), new (years old)) & medium (1965, 1972, 1987) they each have their issues & tradeoffs
currently I Iive in old (1930)...it's really a cool place BUT there are issues
If you really like the place & it suits your family don't be scared off. Your photo is a little grainy & too close to get the perspective of the whole situation but I'm sure that the hacked up joists can returned to "good as new" by strengthening with timber or steel.
A walk through with an engineer & a GC (who have experience working together) will give you the information you need to make an informed decision.
cheers Bob
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Time is money- how rich do you feel? On this 1960 cookie cutter I bought 2 years ago, the house was basically sound, but had a lot of stupid stuff previous owner did that needed to be undone, and some stuff he had neglected to replace in a timely fashion needed to be replaced. (roof, furnace, etc.) The inspection report helped me get the place for about 12k less than the asking, but I have easily spent that much since then fixing it up. I don't have as much ambition or interest in ongoing improvements as I thought I would, and I kinda regret not going up 15 or 20 k in the food chain, and finding a place that didn't need all the catch-up work. But I was fighting the clock of interest rates going up from a 30-year low, so I settled. (I doubt I'll see 5.37 again in my lifetime.)
BTW, the inspection report told me nothing I didn't already know (I grew up in the business), but having an 'official' inspection report was worth the 300 bucks I paid, just for the negotiating value.
aem sends...
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As the sellers were pressing for the contingency to be lifted-they countered with a 10 day contingency instead of 17-and would not allow us more time to get the estimates/consultations we really wanted to get--we have backed out of the deal. We wanted to really know what we were getting into before sinking every penny we had into a house (or its repair!) and it was just not acceptable for us to not have the time we needed to be comfortable. If its still on the market and we dont find anything we might go back to them and ask for all the time we need (they can keep it on) to do what we need to do and get estimates.....
I really appreciate everyone's input. The house (back yard in particular) was great in so many ways....I guess the situation and timing were just not in our favor this time around!
Tracy
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On Tue, 03 Jul 2007 18:08:41 -0000, "tracy.thode"

I don't blame you. Ten days is not enough time. And 17 is not such burden for most sellers, espcially when I'm pretty sure they can still keep showing the house as long as they don't attempt to sign a contract with anyone else why you are still in your contingency period.

Maybe if it didn't have this basement problem, you couldn't afford it.

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It's difficult to say without seeing the actual situation, but what about using steel channel or beam to support that section rather than wood framing?
--
When the game is over, the pawn and the king are returned to the same box.

Larry Wasserman - Baltimore Maryland - lwasserm(a)sdf. lonestar.org
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