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Foundation jacks

Posted: 31 Jan 2011 4:31 PM By: tkstock Replies: 6

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  • Foundation jacks

    So, we purchased a house in 2002 that was built in 1966.  The foundation still appears to be settling.  There are two or three piers in the center that appear to be the culprit.  The end result is that some of the door frames are so crooked that the doors no longer fit (and they've already been modified significantly to make them fit the door frame by the previous owner, apparently).  It's also obvious that certain floors are significantly out of level, etc.

    So, a few questions:

    1)  Is this normal?

    2)  Our crawlspace floods very occasionally - I've put in a sump and re-routed downspouts which has mostly mitigated the problem, but could this cause settling?

    3)  Harbor Freight sells 30-ton hydraulic bottle jacks.  Would one or two of these be sufficient to lift the beam that sits on the pier?  I have a two-story dutch-colonial.

    4)  If I do lift it back up, how far should I go?  Should I try to get it back up to the original position, or maybe until walls start cracking?

  • Re: Foundation jacks

    1) Settling is normal, but that seems awfully excessive to me. 
    2) Flooding would probably contribute to your problem.
    3) Those bottle jacks could work, but professional foundation companies prefer to use actual foundation jacks, so there must be some reason for that.
    4)Can't even answer this one.

    Honestly, the best thing to do would be to call a foundation repair company in and have them give you an estimate.  If there was just a little settling that could be easily fixed by installing a new pier, then it would be more of a DIY job.  But with what you describe, it sounds like your house has some major problems.

  • Re: Foundation jacks

    Thanks for your reply.  I wouldn't characterize it as excessive (I've been in and seen much worse).  I may have made it sound worse than it is, but I'm concerned that it appears to still be settling after 45 years.

    I guess the question about the foundation jacks is more to the fact that I have no concept of how heavy a house would be (and how much weight is on each pier) to know if the jack would lift it.  It it lifts it OK enough to put more supports / spacers, etc., that's all I need.  I talked to an architect about how to put a new footer / support beside the piers to distribute the load, but I don't know if the jacks will work and how much I should jack it up.

    I do think I probably need to get a foundation expert out to see if there are more issues than I am thinking (hoping) there are...  :)


  • Re: Foundation jacks

    I used a 12-ton bottle jack and a 2"x4", yes a 2"x4" to jack up the second story of my old barn.  I had to replace the 4"x4" post so I needed to lift it up a bit.  I didn't even think about how dumb of an idea it was until I looked at the 2"x4" and noticed it was totally bowing from the weight.  Needless to say, I got the new post installed in lightning speed.

  • Re: Foundation jacks

    I releveled my single story house that was built in the '20's with a 6 ton bottle jack and some 4"x4" blocks and shims. I spent all day under the house and out with a level on the floors. Finally got all the floors level and took a shower. When I sat down in my recliner and as I was tilting my head back for that well deserved long swig of beer, I noticed cracks where the walls and ceiling used to meet. There were very few doors in this house so I didn't notice any doorways out of square but apparently this house was built unlevel. I spent the next day undoing what I had done the day before.

    Be sure and check as you go what the effects are. Above all, be careful.


    I can meet any schedule, given enough time.

  • Re: Foundation jacks

    #3 Don't cheap out with harbor freight junk. Go to a rental place and rent REAL Hydro JACKS or SCREW JACKS

    #4 you need someone in the house with at least a 4' long level telling you how far to go up. when you hit level give it another 1/4" lift so it settles back to level. (Shim with 1/8 to 1/4"x 3" steel flat bar chunks) there is a good chance you will crack some sheetrock and all those illfitting doors will no longer work.

    You will have to emove the trim and adjust the strike side of the jambs to correct them and re-trim them.

    Good Luck to you

  • Re: Foundation jacks

    I've leveled a lot of pier and beam houses when men said it couldn't be done.  First, you will need to correct your flooding problem.  Use downspouts, and level the soil to redirect rainwater away.


    1. Using hardy boards of different thicknesses, cut shims the size of your pier dimensions, i.e. 8" x 16". I use the 6" wide trim boards that are about 3/4" thick, and the 1/4" soffit material.  If you go to Home Depot, you can get broken pieces in the back near the saw they use to cut special orders in a rolling bin for about $1-4.00 each.  Also pick up some concrete 8 x 16 x 2" and 3" concrete pads, if your piers are made of concrete blocks.  Make sure you get solid pads, heavy duty.  if the piers are cast in place, you may be able to break the pads to fit.  You want to have a variety of insect proof shims available.  Better too much than to stop and go to the store.  You do not want to use pressure treated wood, as it will compress over a short time.

    2. Buy about 4 good heavy duty largest jacks from Home Depot or Lowe's, about $235.00/4.  I use both brands.  You want to jack for a considerable length on each beam, and make sure each jack is near a piling or pier.  Your problem is in a longer area than just near each pier.   Get some small 6x6" squares of scrap steel, or larger from a welding shop or manufacturing plant that works with steel.  You want one for each jack, and place it above the head of the jack in contact with the wood beam, and overlapping it a bit to one side of the beam edge.  If the jack screw does not bring the jack head up to touch the metal plate, use a large piece of 6x6 to set the jacks on to get to the correct height.  You don't want to have a lot of distance from the head before you jack.  It only goes up about 4".  Do not use a concrete block to jack on-it will shatter.

    3.  Go up a little at a time on each jack so all are even. Jack up as high as you can until it gets hard to pump on the handle.  That tells you things are where they should be up top.  Get out from under the house and use a long level, min. 4', and check in several different directions to see if you are level.  A long very straight board will be useful to get the measurement across the width of the room.  However you must use a straight board, not a sort of straight one.  

    4. Overjack about 1/4", then shim until the shims are wedged tight.  If you run out of length on the jack throat, shim, release the jack and use the metal plate to pull down on the head of the jack to force the air out, move it out of the way, and place a piece of 4x4, 6x6, or whatever you can in the hole to raise the jack up until the head can be screwed up to meet the now higher beam.  Make sure your jack always has a secure footing!!  If you need to, use 2 4x4's.  Resume jacking until it is firm and hard to jack, then shim again.  Check the length of the beam to make sure all is shimmed.  You may need to jack neighboring beams too.

    5. You may have a lot of cracks in your sheetrock, but that is better than the oddly uneasy feeling of having a house that is not level.  It is possible that you may not be able to take all the dips out of your floor as some of them may be caused by bowed joists, but I can guarantee that you will feel a lot better when you are in the house!  I hate an unlevel floor, and I have found many professionals who do not bring the floor back up where it should be.  As far as I am concerned, that was a waste of money.  You will never feel good unless the floor is level.  It is far easier to patch sheetrock, and you probably want to repaint anyway!  You may have to replace all those chopped up doors though.

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