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Post war foundation not anchored to sill, no rebar, leaning walls, rim-to-joist gaps…

Tia M | Posted in General Questions on

Zone 6A, gumbo clay dirt, 1953 build in a neighborhood that word of mouth says was a swampy or Creek side land a before being developed.
During a exterior wall retrofit I found cracks coming up behind the pretty stones on my foundation. After finding more and worse cracks I took a hammer and went to the basement for a time out. Once the sheetrock dust cleared and the full run of foundation repair salesmen passed through I was stumped. Of course I got conflicting advice. The correct answer in my mind is kill the foundation and build it right. My bank account laughed at me. So I was stuck googling the 2nd best answer, it felt too much like eenie menie mini mo so I called a structural engineer to come in and enlighten me. This guy… Well suffice it to say he told me my non pressure treated bottom plates were FINE no need to worry about water wicking into my humid basement. I waited to see if he would notice my sill was unattached to either foundation or floor joists, (I did inform him but I waited first to see if he would try to wrap up the inspection without catching it, as indeed did happen) oh and then he sent me his ‘findings’ and a lovely diagram that labeled my tongue and groove plank subfloor as plywood and he forgot my cracked 80% of the way through floor joist, + more, etc. His answer is that I need both Wall anchors and I beam reinforcing together. Presumably at the same time?  So i emailed him back witha few clairifying questions that may have took me the better part of two hours to write out of sheer petty behavior… But I’m looking forward to see his response to my utterly massive list of questions. So now I’m running it past you folks before I go with my favorite eenie mini. Lets see here, not one salesman or the engineer looked at the various attachments or health of the structure , etc. But i was told wooden beam reinforcing , steel beam reinforcing, wall anchors, piering of one corner, dig it out, dont dig it out, and i can choose to do nothing and might be ok. 😣
Im thinking Dig out, seal seal cracks, water membrane, insulation,
retrofitting simpsons ties, and steel beam is my gut belief. Approved by the Congress of GBA? Yay or nay? Next part, is i cant trust these Yahoos so im hoping i can pay them to dig it out but i want to do the work myself if i can get it swung that way. Do I Sound reasonable ?

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  1. GBA Editor
    Brian Pontolilo | | #1

    Hi Tia.

    I am sorry that you have not had good experiences with local experts so far, that's always a bummer. But now you are asking questions about how to shore up a failing structure on a web forum without providing enough information for even a super-sharp structural engineer to advise you. That would require specific information about your foots, foundation walls, floor framing details, spans, etc.

    Of course you should plan to stop water intrusion through your foundation, insulate, bolt the plates to the foundation, and if your floors are failing, add the necessary reinforcing sistered or new joists, footings and beams, etc. You should also keep looking for a qualified local professional to verify what you plan to do. I don't meant to be discouraging and there are a lot of smart members on GBA, but sometimes questions ask too much. These structural issues, in my opinion, require site visits and professional specifications.

  2. Expert Member
    Peter Engle | | #2

    As an occasionally competent structural engineer, a loud +1 to Brian's comments. I also point out that there are many perfectly acceptable ways to reinforce foundations and there may be several different approaches to yours. The best one is the one that is well understood by your engineer and contractor, and achievable to build on your site. Of course, being affordable is also an important piece of the puzzle.

  3. Expert Member
    Michael Maines | | #3

    House problems are like a puzzle, but one that has more than one right answer. You may have received good advice from everyone, just different ways to skin a cat, as they say. Generally speaking I would trust a licensed engineer's paid advice over that of a salesperson, but not every engineer is good at diagnosing every problem.

    Engineers are efficient by nature, but sometimes too efficient--when consulting on small, somewhat complicated projects like yours I have found that they don't always catch everything. It is normal and expected to need to clarify a few items from them. Good design is an iterative process of trying ideas on for size and adjusting as new (or missed) information becomes available. (Design includes engineering, not just the artistic aspects of a project.) If you aren't happy with their work or advice, you can always try another engineer.

    For what it's worth, my house has been sitting on a rubble foundation with no anchor bolts for 190 years. Modern building codes help ensure a well-built house, but not every element is always necessary.

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