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Wall Collapsing. PLEASE HELP!!!


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07-26-05, 01:48 AM   #1  
mjm1979
Wall Collapsing. PLEASE HELP!!!

I bought my first home about 1 year ago. Since then I have undertaken a number of projects with good results. A few friends offered to help me remodel my very rundown bathroom. We knew there was something wrong due to the fact that a shower surround had been placed over a brand new replacement window so as to render it useless. Well, apon removing the surround and gutting the entire bathroom to the studs it became clear that the outside wall of the bathroom is leaning away from the house about 3 inches or so. The top plate of the wall is split and the wall appears to be pulling away from the interior walls-cracking the plaster in the two adjacent bedrooms. (something which I missed as did the home inspector). I am fairly new to the do it yourself game and fixing this sort of problem is beyond my knowledge. I am scared to death that the wall is actually just going to fall over into my yard. Could somebody give me some advice on how to bring the wall back into line, or at the very least securing it so it does not move any farther?

Will attempting to pull the wall back into place do more harm than good? I am not concerned about cracked plaster and what not-as that damage has already been done. Your prompt help would be greatly appreciated...I cant even sleep thinking about that wall!!

 
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07-26-05, 06:16 AM   #2  
Walls do not start leaning away from the house on their own. This is probably a roof problem with a wall symptom (first choice) or a foundation problem with a wall symptom (less likely).

Here's how all houses are built - foundation - walls - roof, in that order. The walls carry the weight of the roof structure. That weight consists of two forces - vertically down and horizontally away from the center of the house.

A roof is a set of triangles with two horizontal components - the ceiling joists which normally keep the rafter tails from spreading apart and the collar ties that keep the rafters tops against the ridge beam.

Action plan: contact a roofing contractor immediately. From the outside, looking up the roof over this bathroom will probably reveal a sag in the roof and ridge beam. It will be slight, but noticeable.

Go up into the attic with an inspector. You will probably find that someone has cut the ceiling joists to install something large. You cannot just "push the wall back", because the weight of the roof must be lifted as well.

My concern is that a 8-12 foot section of the roof is caving in. This is major structural damage. The wall and plaster are trivial consequences by comparison.

If there is a mortgage and homeowner's insurance on this property, some people are going to be VERY interested in what you have found. This is not a "rundown bathroom" situation. It is a "falldown house" situation. Contact your insurance rep now.

 
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07-26-05, 08:16 PM   #3  
mjm1979
This is not what I had hoped to hear, but seems like sound advice. There is a ridge which runs down to the point in the wall where the damage has occured. It was my thought at one time that the weight of this ridge was pushing on the wall. I am unsure of contacting my insurance rep or mortgage company however, as the price of reframing a roof and wall is light years beyond my means or ability to do myself. I would be concerned that my insurnace company would drop my coverage-leading, of course, to a problem with the lender. Also I would fear running into problems associated with the fact that I ripped out my bathrooms guts without a permit...could they claim I caused the problem? The only reason I could see contacting the insurance company would be to file a claim-which I do not see how I can do. The house would have to have been like that when I bought it. Please advise me on what I would tell my insurance rep. Looking at another sleepless night!

 
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07-26-05, 09:24 PM   #4  
I would not worry too much about a permit for a bathroom. People hire or do-it-themselves to re-tile or update a bathroom frequently. It's not like anything that you did was a cause of the damage. You just uncovered it.
Re-doing a bathroom is more like maintenance. If the toilet were to become unusable, you would not take out a permit to replace it, you would just get someone with sufficient plumbing experience to pull the old and install the replacement.

What you must do quickly is get a local framing contractor to tell you how to stabilize the situation. Propping up the exterior wall will not be enough. The problem in the attic must be addressed. Otherwise you will have issues with insurance and lender alike. You may also need legal advice since it looks like one or more inspectors overlooked or failed to notice.

Is the house perhaps less than 10 years old? There could still be a homeowner's policy in force. The first 2 years are typically handled by the builder, the last 8 by insurance for major structural issues only. I think that this would qualify.

This situation looks like you were set up to be a victim.

 
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07-26-05, 09:42 PM   #5  
mjm1979
No, unfortunatly the house was built in the 1920's. I will contact somebody to see about getting the situation stable. I am just unsure as to how I would ever be able to repair the damage. I would be looking at massive reframing, siding, wiring, roofing, plaster and interior work. It would likely run into the tens of thousands of dollars. I had considered talking the situation over with a lawyer-just unsure if anything could be done for me. Frankly, at this point I would almost prefer to have the darned thing collapse so my insurance WOULD do something about it. Otherwise I see no possible way that it is ever going to be fixed. I simply do not have the means.

 
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07-26-05, 10:21 PM   #6  
The fact that it's a 1920's structure makes a slight difference because houses then were framed differently. I'm not sure that insurance would do what you think it would if the structure collapsed.

Let's say that the house is worth $40,000 but it would cost $100,000 to repair it. Assume that you have a $20,000 loan against it. If it collapses (total destruction) insurance hands you a check for $40,000 (or whatever it appraises for). You pay off the note, leaving you with $20,000 and a lot with a pile of lumber on it. The city makes you clean it up or fence it off because now it's a hazard, so you're left with $10,000 and a vacant lot. You sell the lot to a builder and go buy another house. I seriously doubt that any insurance company will invest the kind of money needed to bring it back to a cute little bungalow. The numbers above were just whatever figure occurred to me.

 
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07-26-05, 10:35 PM   #7  
mjm1979
Would you see any way of somehow strengthening the existing structure so as to prevent it from moving any further? At this point I am lost as to what I should do long term. To give some exact numbers, the house appraised out at $90,000 last October. There have been numerous improvments since then, so it would probably appraise out somewhat higher (not considering the current situation of course). About the only thing I can think of is to try and tie the outside wall to the interior walls in some fasion so as to prevent it from moving-then just shimming the studs to level and sheeting over it. Does this even sound reasonable? I am somebody who usually insists on doing the job correctly, but in this case the job could cost more money than I make in 6 months. I guess I just need some sort of stop gap measure to prevent further damage. If it falls down a year from now, then oh well. It would seem to me that my insurance company would have little choice but to cover the damage if my house litteraly collapses. would you have ANY ideas on how to tie the structure together? I still will call in a contractor to look over the problem, but from what you have told me his sollution is going to be beyond my ability to undertake. I appreciate the advice.

 
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07-27-05, 07:11 AM   #8  
Certainly 3" out is significant, but all is not lost. Stabilizing the current situation is of the highest priority. Once the cause is understood, there will be alternatives.

If it were my house, I would consider jacking up the fallen ridge and bringing the wall back under it. Since the top plate is broken, probably 8-12 feet of wall must be brought back in line with the rest of that side of the house. That would be my preference rather than a major rebuild. Yes, some plaster will certainly crack.

Shimming, bracing and sheeting over it will not work. The forces that caused the damage will not be removed. The previous owner did just that in the bathroom - cover it over and pretend it's not there. The deterioration continued.

 
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07-27-05, 06:38 PM   #9  
mjm1979

I have read your posting 3 times. I have also given your problem much thought. Probably more so then others I answer. Enen though you do have a major problem, I don't think it is as bad as you feel it is. I did an experiment here tipping out a wall 3". 3" is not much, and it can be put back in place at a relatively low cast. Alot less then you are thinking. I would probably something like putting a beam and jacks under the ceiling joists and take the pressure off the wall. Then just restud the wall with new rim joists, then take the pressure off the ceiling joists, then attach the wall to the ceiling joists with hurricane clips for joist hangers. Now, I might have missed the whole problem, but I do not believe I have. I would call in a contractor.
You will have to take the siding off that side in order to do this. Good Luck

 
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07-27-05, 09:09 PM   #10  
mjm1979
Thank you for the response. That sounds at least slightly encouraging. I guess I just need to have a contractor in to go over the situation in detail. Hopefully the wall will be able to exist for at least a while on its own, as the purchase of the home has left me a little short on cash. This does not sound like the sort of project I would be able to attempt on my own. I would rather have somebody take financial responsibility for jacking up my roof. Seems like I could really mess something up if I tried to do it myself. If anybody else comes up with a solution I would welcome all the input I can get. I also am in contact with my lawyer about what-if any-recourse I have against the home inspector or seller.

 
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07-27-05, 11:46 PM   #11  
mjm1979

Just for your own information, I am not sure this happened before you bought the home. This is your assumption which may not be correct. A wall that has popped out 3", can easily be seen from the outside as a buldge in the top of the wall. It could be hard to miss. This could have happened in the past 3 months or 6 months. Good Luck

 
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07-28-05, 05:20 PM   #12  
mjm1979
I am fairly sure that this happened long before I bought the home. The corner of my back bedroom that is nearest to the bathroom has about 10 pounds of spackle in it-apparently it has been respackled everytime the wall has moved enough to recrack the plaster. This was covered up when I looked at the house by a tall dresser and a hanging plant. Also, the backside of the shower surrond was covered in foam at one end-where the wall is buldged out the most-in order to make it fit correctly. So, it seems that the previous owners knew there was a problem with that wall. From the outside you can see very little actually. If you look closely a section of the wall just under the eve is bulding outwards, but there is no cracking or seperation that would catch a persons eye. I should make clear that the wall is only out 3 inches for about a two-three foot span, and then it tapers back in to square on either side of this buldge, making a total of maybe 8 feet that is effected. This gradual slope in the wall does not stand out in any big way when looking at the outside of the structure-in fact I usually have trouble getting people to even see it-then of course they go inside and their jaw drops. I am looking into the suggestions made here to see what sort of money I am looking at. I will keep everyone up to date with my progress. Thanks again for the advice!

 
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07-28-05, 05:25 PM   #13  
mjm1979

Yes, if all that cover up spackle is ther it is an old break. I kind of thought that it was not the whole wall from my little experiment here. Of course any outage is bad. I do not think it will be as expensive as you think. Good Luck and Have a good Day.

 
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07-28-05, 07:12 PM   #14  
mjm1979,

I would go into the framing with a sawzall. Cut all nails from the rafters. I would remove the top plate the length of the bathroom. I would then get 2x4 braces at the exterior wall and jack the wall back into place. Apply pressure at the remaining top plate. I would then once the wall is straightened nail on a new dbl top plate. I would nail it with (2) 16d's at 16" o.c. staggered. I would then nail all my rafters back into the new top plate. I would even use simpson h-1 hurricane clips. It is a twist clip at each rafter. The exterior material may crack and need repair but you wall will back in place.

The key here is that you must make sure the interior walls were not framed with the bulge or you will need to beat back the last stud and cut the top plate to the appropiate length. The other item to be aware of is that all top plate splices need to be 4' long minimum. That means if the bottom top plate is spliced somewhere in this room you may be going further than just the bathroom to meet code. I know this is a bit of work.

I hope this will help.

Brian Garrison
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07-28-05, 07:41 PM   #15  
MJM,

I've done two jobs over the years where on an old house the outside wall where the rafters sat on was pushed out up to 2-1/2".

The problem was that the ceiling joists ran perpendicular to the rafters and this was on a gable roof with no outriggers. Meaning that if you have a hip roof you have rafters on all four walls and you will have your ceiling joist running parallel to the rafters on two ends nailed along side the rafters tying them in and doubling up the end ceiling joists.

On those doubled ceiling joist we run smaller ceiling joists (outriggers) perpendicular with joist hangers but parallel to the rafters and along side the rafters nailing them into the rafters and holding the rafters and wall in place. We also nail strongbacks across the top of the ceiling joists made up of 2x4's flat and 2x6's on edge tying in the rafters.

These two jobs that the ceiling joist were running perpendicular to the rafters had no outriggers. There was nothing holding the rafters from pushing out the walls.

We had to jack up the ridge and pull the walls in and run outriggers and strongbacks.

If this is the case It's a lot of work and you will have to replace the roof shingles because all the shingles will pop up. You will also have to renail the sheathing.

Joe Carola

 
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