Our house had numerous structural problems, many (but not all) of which were the result of bad DIY by the previous owner. This post is part of a series outlining what we did to correct these problems.
Our house had several structural issues that overwhelmed me as a do-it-yourselfer. I am not ashamed to admit that I turned to the pros for help. We had been living for years without use of our second floor. On the main floor, I had gutted the ensuite bathroom. And we knew we had to replace a supporting wall that the previous owner had removed.
We consulted with an architect and hired a couple of contractors to renovate and restore our house. The contractors started in the basement. When dealing with structure, start at the lowest point and work up. Structure is only as good as the support under it.
Sagging load-bearing joists
First of all, it is important to note that a load bearing block wall divides the basement into a workroom area and a recreation room area. In the workroom, below the bedroom and bathroom, the double joists which supported load bearing walls above had sagged significantly. The contractors’ first course of action was to support the joists from below and bring them up to level.
Using a few jack posts, they cranked up the joist until it was level. They then built a stud wall underneath.
The new stud walls in the basement carry the load above and divide the workroom into three rooms. These walls also serve as the walls of the new basement bathroom which is directly under the original location of the main floor bathroom.
Jacking up the joists did cause some damage on main and second floors as the movement resulted in cracks to drywall and plaster. This was to be expected. And it really wasn’t a problem. We were going to completely gut the main floor on this side of the house anyway. And the damage to the second floor wasn’t anything some drywall compound and paint wouldn’t fix. A few cracks in the wall now is preferable to more damage in the future.
In the recreation room portion of the basement, a main beam runs the length of the room. Well, not quite the entire length. The problem here was that the beam stopped at the chimney, leaving another 8 feet or so unsupported. We already removed the chimney to just below the level of the second floor a few years ago. So I had the contractors remove the rest of it. With the chimney completely gone, they could continue the beam across the rest of that portion of the basement.
A new 2×6 stud wall helps support the beam where the new section meets the old section. The wall replaces the one that was there previously, and encloses the boiler room.
The Basement Window
The previous owner had penchant for installing oversized windows with no regard for the structure around them. Another glaring example of that was the basement window. He replaced a typical basement window with a picture window. The larger window allowed a lot of light into the basement and providing beautiful view of the picturesque back yard. However, outside there was no lintel to support the bricks above the window. And inside, he had sacrificed the support for the floor joists and framing. To make matters even worse, the window was right at ground level. Without a window well, the wood frame had suffered extensive water damage and the window was prone to leaking.
The solution was to remove the old window, which was near the end of its life anyhow. The contractors built up the ledge several inches with poured concrete, raising the new window above the ground. Outside, they notched the bricks on either side of the window and installed an angle iron lintel to support the brickwork. Aluminum capping was installed later. Inside, another angle iron, supported by wood studs, supports the floor joists.
Structural Repairs: How to “unbutcher” a house
The Back Dormer: Repairing water damage and fixing framing problems
The Back Dormer: Adding ventilation and eliminating water leaks
The Sunken Tub
Supporting a house from the basement up