Repairing brick foundation piers

I just bought a house (well, not JUST) in Southern Louisiana with the foundation piers requiring some maintenance and repair. Almost all of them (8" x 24", all brick, approx 18" tall) will require some tuck- pointing of the mortar, and the remaining ones are in bad enough shape or are leaning far enough that they will need to be demo'd and rebuilt. I also need to sister a couple of floor joists and replace one 6x6 sill beam. The house is still fairly level, with about a 3-1/2" height differential in the floors (which is considered borderline for needing leveling for these parts). While I'm at it, I'd like to level the house again, but I'm unsure of the following things:
1. What should my order of operations be? It seems that I should start from the ground up--piers, sill, joists, leveling everything as I go.
2. My plan to re-lay a pier is as follows: Jack and block the sill on either side of the pier, twice (the first time will likely settle a bit), until the sill is at whatever arbitrary elevation I decide it should be, knock down the existing brick, use some Type M mortar (adding a little extra cement), re-lay the brick right up to about 1/8" below the jacked-up sill (after double-checking the elevation) and let it sit that way for 5 days or so, then remove the blocks and let the jacks down slowly onto the new pier. Does this sound like the right way to go?
3. To tuck-point, dig out the mortar until I get to good, hard stuff in the center 12" of the pier (enough that I have some bearing on of both of the sill beams), squeeze new mortar in with a grout bag, let it sit for 5 days, then do the outsides the same way. If the elevation at that point needs to be raised, jack and block, then use some non-shrink grout to fill in the last little bit, unless there's enough room for another brick.
4. For leveling purposes, is it ever a good idea to go DOWN? I'm thinking I can minimize plaster damage and whatnot by choosing the elevation in the center, thereby moving a maximum of 1-3/4", rather than 3-1/2". The house is 80 years old, so I'm thinking that any further movement will be cyclical in nature, and just about all of the settlement has already occurred. Famous last words, right?
I know that's quite a mouthful. Thanks in advance, guys and gals.
Phil
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Phil, I think I would plan on using solid concrete/haydite patio blocks with no mortar. These blocks come in 8x16 units in nominal 1, 1 1/2, 2, and 4" units depending on manufacturer. An assortment of cedar shingles and treated lumber can make up anything finer. I would plan on a copper flash between the house and the piers to prevent termites. If the original footings are OK, this should allow you to load the piers immediately. The other advantage is that if the building re-settles, it will be much easier to monitor and adjust.
I would be concerned about lowering the house subject to plumbing and other utilities. I would think it would be best to average the 4 corners. Use a laser level that can shoot under all the obstacles (a rotating laser or "follow me" type would be ideal). If the center is down as much as you indicate, you may want to jack until you hear the structure really groan and quit. Over a period of weeks, slowly raise the worst areas giving them a bit of time to adjust. The center girder caries a lot more of the load than the outside walls, so you may need additional piers, larger bearing pads, or both.
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

I would question the piers being only 8" wide, not very stable. How deep into the soil do they go. If you are in a no-frost area, it is possible the footing, if there is one, is only on or close to ground level. If there is any organic soil under them, they will continue to sink as it decomposes. All footings should be on solid virgin subsoil. Personally, I would jack up the building, tear out the piers, dig down deeper, pour a 24" x 24" x 12" footing, then build up the pier(s) with concrete blocks, 2 wide, to give a 16" x 16" pier, using techniques described in another posting to achieve the level needed.
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Is the Thrifty Nickel ad paper distributed in your town? I own a house in Lake Charles (first solid ground north of the Gulf), and there are always half-a-dozen house leveling companies running ads. With the soil around there, crooked houses are an ongoing problem. Just for giggles, I'd call a couple of them out for the free estimates before I did anything. Considering that you will have to rent or buy jacks and cribbing (unless you already have them), and if your town has actual inspections get a permit, having a pro do it may be worth looking at. The right tools and the experience helps. This is especially true if,as I suspect, you will need new footers under the piers. The ground down there EATS things. Note that this is an advanced DIY project, more so than it looks like. If you screw up, and one of the solid-looking piers you aren't fussing with at the moment decides to fail, the house CAN fall on you and kill you. The times I have seen it done, they jacked and cribbed at least half the house at once.
-- aem sends...
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