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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
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    2

    Question Pier and beam foundation, scratching my head...

    I'm helping out a family friend with a mess they got themselves into. This house is in eastern Indiana, is quite old and has had significant termite damage. We had it treated 2 months ago and it appears that the infestation is over (for now), and I'm trying to get a handle on the repairs that need to be done. In some areas of perimeter foundation the sill plate can be swept out with your fingers and turns into dust. I have jacked up joists 2-3 at a time, removed the damaged sill plate and slid in new PT 2x8 lumber with sill plate foam under it and screwed the joists back into the new sill plate sections. In most of these areas I have also sistered the joists b/c of termite damage there as well.

    Turning my attention to the inside of the crawl space (which is dry and fairly crawlable), I see a strange looking (to me) beam that is supporting the center of the house. I call it strange b/c it seems under sized and also is laying on its side. It appears to be a true 2x8 piece of old lumber, but it's laying with the 2" dimension perpendicular to the ground and the 8" dimension parallel to the ground. I have attached some pictures to this post. The center of the house that lies under this beam has sagged significantly. I can also see termite damage to a portion of this beam, but I'm struggling to figure out how to repair it. I don't even understand how (or if) it was structurally sound as it was originally built. The piers are roughly 2-3 feet apart (and not evenly spaced). Most are just stacks of cinder block that are somewhat buried into the soil, while some others are the same red terra-cotta blocks that the perimeter foundation was built with.

    This house has a lot of history that I will probably never fully discover, but I would like to know if anyone has thoughts about this beam running down the center of the house. Is this common/expected/safe? And, of course, suggestions on how to safely and effectively repair/replace portions of it / all of it due to termite damage (or repair/replace all of it if necessary and if so with what)?

    Thanks,
    --Joe





  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
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    Fayette County, Ohio
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    5,825

    Default Re: Pier and beam foundation, scratching my head...

    What you describe as a strange beam looks like a sill plate to me. I would guess that at one time it sat on a brick foundation which has either fallen away or been removed to do work under the house.

    Jack
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
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    Maryland
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    1,668

    Default Re: Pier and beam foundation, scratching my head...

    I have to agree it is not structurally sound. That's no beam in any sense of the word. It's no wonder the house has sagged over that area.
    Was it a sill plate on a foundation wall that was removed or was there a beam at that location that was removed for some reason?
    Does there appear to be piers that may have supported a beam at some point? Can you see remnants of an old foundation wall?
    From what I can see, a support structure needs to be placed to under the floor joists at that location. In general I think a beam with proper support piers and footings would probably be the easiest way to go. Consulting an engineer or a good general contractor would a good way to go.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    SoCal
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    6,694

    Default Re: Pier and beam foundation, scratching my head...

    I think your problem is in the piers. Stacked blocks that sink would allow sagging. You need to beef up the piers, jack up the joists and install new posts on 2' deep concrete with Simpson's connectors.

    Check with local foundation contractors.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Houston Texas
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    2,969

    Default Re: Pier and beam foundation, scratching my head...

    My house is on stacked CMU's, that's how its done round these parts.

    Of course foundation issues are common.

    So are termites.

    Surround each pier with 50 or 60 pounds of dry sand. Termites don't like sand as their tubes collapse.

  6. #6
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    Aug 2007
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    Maryland
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    1,668

    Default Re: Pier and beam foundation, scratching my head...

    I can see joists supported by a 2x plate that is spanning between piers. That is not the way floor joists should be supported.
    Dry stacked CPU should not be used to hold up a house. Even in my minimal earthquake zone, that would not pass muster.
    It looks to me like the house was cobbled together at this location with little regard to the proper construction techniques.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Houston, TX
    Posts
    298

    Default Re: Pier and beam foundation, scratching my head...

    Quote Originally Posted by ed21 View Post
    I have to agree it is not structurally sound. That's no beam in any sense of the word. It's no wonder the house has sagged over that area.
    Was it a sill plate on a foundation wall that was removed or was there a beam at that location that was removed for some reason?
    Does there appear to be piers that may have supported a beam at some point? Can you see remnants of an old foundation wall?
    From what I can see, a support structure needs to be placed to under the floor joists at that location. In general I think a beam with proper support piers and footings would probably be the easiest way to go. Consulting an engineer or a good general contractor would a good way to go.
    Ed's questions are well derived from the first picture. There is a transition in the subfloor at the 2x that could be evidence of an addition, with the plywood subfloor being newer.

    I live in the same neighborhood as Houston below, and in our houses that 2x would be a 4x4 or a 4x6, if it was an original sill that was not on brick it may be a 6x6.

    Since you mentioned not knowing how to work with pier & beam, you probably need to call a contractor that specializes in the work.

    One of the methods used here to prevent termite intrusion is this metal plates (might be aluminum) on top of the piers and under the beams(which are PT wood these days).
    It's this old house, not this built after your dad was born house.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
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    2

    Default Re: Pier and beam foundation, scratching my head...

    Thanks so much to each of you for taking the time to reply and make me better informed.

    I think the prevailing theory that this was once a sill plate and the foundation was removed makes a lot of sense. There are at least two rooms in the house that are obviously additions b/c behind the lathe on interior walls is old wooden siding. One of those two rooms is on the far side of the "beam" in question. It's a bit mind boggling to think that someone would remove part of the foundation of a house, but I'm seeing a handful of similarly surprising "techniques" in this home.

    It seems like most of you agree that this should be resolved by a contractor rather than something we can DIY. Assuming that's the case, could anyone hazard a guess about how much this type of project could cost ($1k, $5k, $10k)? Our hope is to get this thing turned around with a minimum of investment (having already spent significantly on electrical contracting, termite treatment and some plumbing work.) But this seems structurally unsound despite the length of time it has apparently held up, and I doubt it would pass a home inspection to be sold to anyone trying to get a mortgage.

    The area in question is roughly 18 feet long. The side from which I took the pictures is easily crawlable, while the far side is pretty tight -- roughly 15 inches from soil to joist.

    Thanks again for your input and advice -- it is greatly appreciated.
    --Joe

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
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    2,188

    Default Re: Pier and beam foundation, scratching my head...

    15 inches from soil to joist is a lot of space around here. Code now requires 16", saving carpenters from a lot of belly-crawling. If you feel comfortable enough, this could be a DIY project but it will be quite involved. The basic steps are:

    Create and install a temporary beam on both sides of the old one, making sure they are carrying the load.

    Demo and redo the pier system so that a new properly-sized beam can be installed. trhis includes proper foundations.

    Install new beam, with treated blocks between masonry and beam, shimming with oak house shims (not the narrow ones such as used with doors, windows, etc,) as needed.

    Remove temporary beams.

    This will require some stout jacks and a lot of dirty work, so letting a contractor handle it might be a good idea. My description of the work doesn't include a lot of the details involved- if you don't know or can't see them now, then don't DIY, but get a pro instead.

    Alternately, build a masonry wall on a proper foundation to support the entire length then shim back to level as needed. You'll need to create under-house access to the now-closed side in that process.

    As an aside, I can't say what people were thinking but no matter the width, 1 1/2" lumber laid on it's side is NOT structural; yet I have seen several old houses which were clearly built like this from the start! I even lived in one once (a rental) and yes, the floors were sagging as I'd expect. I liked that property and would have bought it (and fixed the beam) but the owner wanted far too much for the place, even after I pointed out the extensive work which the place needed. That one and others I've seen were built like that from the start. Makes me glad we've got codes and framing inspections nowadays!

    Phil

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    104 monmouth way ,Clifton Park, NY 12065
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    13

    Default Re: Pier and beam foundation, scratching my head...

    Quote Originally Posted by HoustonRemodeler View Post
    My house is on stacked CMU's, that's how its done round these parts.

    Of course foundation issues are common.

    So are termites.

    Surround each pier with 50 or 60 pounds of dry sand. Termites don't like sand as their tubes collapse.
    Termites hate sand but this is not a good solution for eradication of termites and it is not that effective too.
    For complete eradication of termites, we should aware about different types of termites and their different places for infestation.

    For dry wood we should drilled the small holes on wood surface and inject orange oil in to it. It goes deep and kill termites. I had a good experience of termite eradication with termite treatment rocklin team.
    Last edited by nelsonpitter; 03-07-2014 at 12:22 AM.

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