The Enclosed Porch is coming apart!?

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Old 07-26-11, 07:01 AM
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The Enclosed Porch is coming apart!?

So I was looking into a buying a small house (864 square feet) in a nice, quiet neighborhood here in Western New York (very harsh winters here). The house is beautiful on the inside. The house siding is wood and the porch itself is wood. Here is a photo of the house:



As you can see in the photo, the front is an enclosed porch that appears to have been made enclosed after the entire structure was already built. Anyway, it's suffering from the following problems:

1. If you look to the bottom right of the porch right next to the right side of the steps, you'll notice an empty space gap, there is a mess of debris and miscellaneous non-descript junk under there.

2. You can see that the steps are sinking to the left.

Also, the photo is unable to show this because of the angle, but there is also a space that has formed between the concrete steps and the wood threshold to where there is just a gap there where you can see straight down under the porch. The wood threshold is just all ragged and torn away.

3. Look closely and you'll notice that the left and right walls are settling into like a "V". shape.

4. You can't see the inside of the porch because there is no photo available, but when you go inside you immediately notice that the porch is slanting down and forward towards the street. Like if you took a ball and placed it at the end where you'd enter the front door and go into the living room, the ball would just roll down right back to you, lol. If you bounce up and down slightly, the entire porch moves with you.

The porch is not connected to the concrete foundation of the entire house, but it's like the wood porch is pulling away from the house.

Some considerations: Inside the living room you can see a number of places that have been visibly spackled then painted over and there is some small spots where the walls are showing bowing. In addition to that, there is some bowing in parts of the walls in the bathroom, which likely indicates that at one time there was a serious roof leak and water damage. The roof however is currently in excellent shape and the place has been remodeled, so this issue likely took place many years ago. The gutters appear to be in order, but I did notice some standing water in the basement water trap (is that the correct term?) even though it hadn't rained in weeks, it had been hot for weeks and 90+ degrees that day.

My 4 questions:

1. What--if anything--would need to be done in order to set the enclosed porch wall structures back straight (eliminating the settling "V" issue)..

2. Would correcting the 'V' issue also set the porch floor back to being level again?

3. What type of equipment would be needed in order to do the job?

4. What kind of ballpark figure might I be looking at in terms of cost of this repair (equipment + labor)?
 
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Old 07-26-11, 08:20 AM
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Generally I don't see a leaky roof causing walls to bow. That combined with the repaired cracks and uneven floors makes me think the foundation has settled or moved. It's impossibe to say what it will take to fix without looking at it. Much will depend on whether or not the foundation is currently moving or if the damage is from settling that stopped long ago. It is also possible that there is rot or termite damage causing some or all of the sagging.
 
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Old 07-26-11, 08:48 AM
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Like you mentioned, the porch was likely enclosed much later. So keep in mind that the porch floor ALWAYS had slope to it (back to front), because that's usually the way porch floors were made. Back when there were no windows and it used to rain through the porch openings, water had to drain forward- there were usually weep holes that were made for this purpose through the framing and siding.

Your porch has 4 columns as shown in the photos, and judging by the age of the house they could be made of brick. The footing may not be as deep as we would make them nowadays, and/or the mortar in the bricks could be degrading. Old mortar mix often gets weak with age. It's possible that these 4 foundation piers may need to be replaced. It's also possible that some of the foundation is rotting or being affected by termites... crawling under the porch to inspect would be one step you would need to take. You'd especially take note of the framing where it sits on the foundation piers, to see if it is still intact, or is beginning to crush/rot.

Assuming the foundation under those columns is fixed so that you have a solid level surface for the columns to sit on, the front of the porch would now be straight. But like I mentioned earlier, the floor inside will never be level since it was not framed that way. You'd need to reframe the floor or at least add sleepers if you wanted it level. This would raise the floor at your doorway opening which would either mean cutting off the bottom of the existing door, or putting in a new door which would then sit higher.

The steps look to be precast, and they were probably just set in the dirt, not set on any sort of pad or footing of their own. It's possible that they could be rolled back so that a footing could be made then they could be reused.

There is no way to give any sort of ballpark estimate for any of this.
 
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Old 07-26-11, 10:16 AM
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Thanks for the information guys. Just as a reference, the house was built in 1923.

It was suggested to me by another person who seen the photo, that the cellar/basement could be sinking and that may be causing the problem with the porch. When I was in the basement, there was some standing water in the basement water trap/gutters, but when I looked up at the wood supports it looked dry and wasn't cracking, it actually looked like it was in fine condition.

I guess my concern is with whether or not the fix would be a major job that would cost a lot (over $10,000) or a simple one that wouldn't cost as much ($5,000 or less which I'd be willing to do). Problem is that when getting quotes it's tough to know who's giving you an honest quote vs. a rip-off :-(
 
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Old 07-26-11, 10:44 AM
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Best plan is to have three or more contractors submit bids so you can compare
 
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Old 07-26-11, 11:02 AM
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Sagging porches are a common problem. One question is what your local Inspections Dept. will allow. Sometimes with porch columns if you remodel/repair above the masonry you can work with the existing footers but if you get into the bricks then they require a new footer to current codes which as you would expect carries additional cost.

Without knowing anything, a Band-Aid fix to the porch could certainly be done for less than $5'000. Doing a full & proper fix could push it over the $5k amount especially if you want other improvements "as long as" it's being redone. I'm not sure if ram jacking or grout injection are possibilities to bring the porch in line and firm up the foundaiton/footers but it may be an option to look into.

I am more concerned about the general condition of the foundations if the rest of the house is also settling. With a house 80+ years old the settling probably happened long ago and it's stabilized now. If there is movement it might be minor seasonal stuff that the house goes through every year with the seasons. People often freak out about foundation settling and cracked walls but it's pretty common with older buildings and not the end of the world in most cases.
 
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Old 07-26-11, 12:25 PM
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I believe you about the sagging porch deal for sure. Lots of houses here in WNY have that going on especially in my particular city.

In regards to the sloping porch floor, if the sloping is just a matter of it being built that way then I can live with that. I'd never actually seen a porch floor with a slope like that before even on houses older than this one, so I just immediately assumed there was something wrong, thanks for clarifying that.

My thing is, if the 'V' issue of the front porch walls isn't something that will bring the structure down and it's just cosmetic, it wouldn't deter me from buying the house, since my only real worry has been that it might bring the house down. Am I just worrying too much about that?

So do you think it would be worth it to get an inspector in there and see if the porch situation is stable now? I'd imagine that the way the outside wall wood is bent into a 'V' like shape that the 'V' issue is probably permanent anyway now and wouldn't be able to be fixed without a completely new installation of wood?
 

Last edited by HomeHopeful; 07-26-11 at 01:01 PM.
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Old 07-26-11, 06:25 PM
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The porch is sagging in the middle for sure. We can't say with certainty that the sloping from back to front that you have witnessed is by design or because of a structural issue. It's true that they were designed to shed water, but the porch here may have a slope that is steeper than it was built with. My impression here is that a porch of this age with such a structural issue my need complete replacement. I would expect to find rotted timber in that porch especially since it was probably open for many decades. If you really like that house, I would get under there and spend some time looking at everything. Take lots of pictures. Or pay a professional to do it. I don't mean a home inspector either.
 
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