Crumbling Rock Under Support Column

Old 10-20-15, 02:17 PM
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Crumbling Rock Under Support Column


Apologies in advance for the long post, first time home owner and would really appreciate some guidance.

I was recently in my basement/crawl space ( not really sure the correct term as I can kind of stand up down there but it is a rock / dirt floor ) putting a vapor barrier down over some of the dirt.

While doing this I noticed that some of the shale near one of the support columns of the house was crumbling. Basically there are 2 support columns about 8-12ft apart inside of the surrounding concrete foundation. The support columns are placed on top of rock. One of them is directly next to my chimney which currently vents my furnace.

It appears that when the previous owners put in the new furnace they must have had to hack apart some shale to get it in there. It looks like more rock than the wanted came out and the result is the corner near one of the supports is crumbling. The support is still on the rock except for a small piece out of the corner but the rock under I would say about 25% of the outer corner is crumbling.

I took some pictures and posted them to here:

The pictures make it look a bit worse than it is because they are up close and you can't tell how big the column is or see how much is supported. I took some further back which gives a bit more perspective.

I am leaning toward getting a structural engineer to come in and take a look to make sure everything is fine but I'm a bit worried that they are going to say a bunch of stuff down there is not up to code (house is nearly 70 years old) and want to do everything over and above. I really just want to make sure the house is safe and I don't plan on being here for more than another year or two.

I was hoping to get some advice. If I call in the engineer and he says I need to do X,Y,Z am I then liable that I must do this? Do I need to get insurance involved, etc? This was never raised as an issue during the home inspection.

Like I said the pictures make it look worse, I think if the rock did collapse it wouldn't take down the pillar since the bulk of the pillar is on solid ground. I'm kind of wondering if I can just keep an eye on it and if it gets worse call someone in. Or do you think I should just bit the bullet now and get a structural engineer in there?

I'm a first time home buyer and I just imagine a huge bill if I bring in the engineers. My thought is that they are never going to tell me the minimum to be safe but instead tell me to go far and beyond, jack up house replace supports, put in a full floor, etc.

Am I worrying for nothing or is this something serious I need to get checked out immediately?

Thanks for reading and appreciate any advice.
Old 10-21-15, 08:19 AM
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A Engineer will probably offer recommendations to bring it up to current codes. So, if you go that route you might be looking at a poured footing and new column. In my experience a Engineer generally starts at about $500 so if you're willing to pay for the engineering you'd be foolish to not follow through with the recommended repair.

That said old houses are grandfathered in. Old work is old work and is generally not required to meet modern codes unless you are doing renovations or performing repairs. Once you work on something old you are often required to bring it up to modern standards.

So, I think the first decision is if you are financially able to follow through with a repair that could be several thousand dollars. Or, you can take good photographs and maybe some measurements and monitor the column over time to see if it's stable or continues to degrade.

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