Preliminary levelling advice

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  #1  
Old 12-25-12, 07:07 PM
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Preliminary levelling advice

My wife and I recently purchased a 200+ year old timber-framed farmhouse. From the looks of things quite a bit of work had been done to reinforce the structure of the house (floor joist had been replaced, new footers, columns, beams in the basement), so I'm not extremely concerned about the structure being solid, but as you might imagine, literally nothing in the house is level/plumb/square. I don't expect it to ever be perfect, but as we start to remodel, I'd like to do what I can to begin righting some of the issues that it has. I've been having trouble finding good information on this old-style type of construction, which brings me here. Hopefully I can get some advice more specific to the challenges I'll likely face.

The first major project we've planned that I'd like to get some preliminary advice on is a remodel of a small 3-piece bathroom on the first floor. We don't need to make any major plumbing or layout changes, but the major issue that it has is a significant list in the floor away from the exterior wall (only one side is along the exterior). The list causes the toilet to be slightly tilted to the left, so before I go about replacing anything, I'd like to try and fix this. I'm wondering what the best method would be. I've seen a bunch of methods for doing this, including shimming or sistering the joists, using a levelling compound, attempting to use jackposts. The current subfloor is tongue and groove floorboards. I'm not sure that sistering would work due to some of the plumbing that passes close to the joists underneath (there is a bathtub on one side of the bathroom that will be replaced). I'm not sure that jackposts would work, either (whoever did the previous work already placed a number of jackposts in the basement so I'm not sure I'd get a whole lot more movement in the floor). Fortunately, there is easy access underneath in the basement to do any work that needs to be done. I'd like to do this work myself if at all possible but I know there are possibly structural issues that would require professionals, particularly with a bathtub involved. Just looking for advice on what the best course of action would be.

I likely won't be starting this project for a few months, but I'm trying to do as much planning ahead of time as possible, so any advice would be appreciated. Thanks!
 
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  #2  
Old 12-26-12, 08:41 PM
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I would be interested in looking at why the jackposts are there. That is, are they support for sagging due to age of construction? Is there deterioration of the structure or any piers that support the house?

If there are jackposts supporting the bathroom, and it still lists or sags, what is their benefit? There may be some larger considerations to take into your plan.

We bought an old house with old concrete block garage. I was planning some renovation and changes for putting a shop it the garage. I hired an engineer to evaluate the garage and my plan. it was the best $500 I have spent in a while. I learned that the garage was quite marginal in construction and would require extension buttressing of the walls and reworking and reinforcing the site built trusses in the roof in order to proceed.

It is a good garage, but cannot be more. I built a new building for a shop.

Chris
 
  #3  
Old 12-29-12, 10:59 PM
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Welcome to the forums!

It sounds like you've purchased a lovely old house that will repay some investment in time and energy to address a few problems.

In terms of this particular project, what are planning for the floor in the bathroom to be when you're done? In a similar situation in a much younger house, I once decided, after all the lifting and leveling was done, to demo the bathroom floor and cut the tops of the joists down to level. The primary reason for cutting them down was to allow for the 3-1/4" of material that we installed to wind up with a heated tile floor that was flush with the floors that it met with through the two doorways; Winding up with a dead-level and rock-solid floor was a nice bonus.

I share Chris' concern about what problems the jack posts are intended to address. If you'd like us to be able to look at the situation with you, see How To Put Pictures In Your Post.
 
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Old 01-05-13, 12:45 PM
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First off, do not trust that the previous work (like the floor jacks installed) was done intelligently. Only evaluate the structure in front of you, don't try and judge or trust the skill and intent of a long-gone stranger.

I had a couple really old floor jacks in my basement that were always in my way but I wouldn't dare touch them. After opening up enough of the structure doing renovations I finally understood the issue that the long-gone owner was trying to correct, but that person didn't know the framing they were trying to push up wasn't going to help anything - they were just crushing wood. I took the jacks out and everything is fine.

In general, I don't like the idea of floor jacks, especially if the soundness of the basement floor is not guaranteed. I use them plenty for straightening things while beefing up framing, and there's just one spot in my house where I knew I ought to keep them in place - and for this I poured a dedicated footer.

I've done a bathroom with exactly the same problems as your's. I beefed up and straightened out framing first: jacking/replacing/sistering/bracing joists. even then the floor wasn't perfectly level and more jacking was going to do more damage than it was worth, so I made things perfectly level with a combination of shaving the joists down and shimming joists higher (and by shim I mean I ripped 2x to just the right height, then glued it to the top of the joist). 3/4" osb, 1/2" durock, and the floor is really really solid.

GET A LASER LEVEL. I just recently bought one and wish I'd done it years ago.
 
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Old 01-05-13, 04:32 PM
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To reinforce what chimpywrench said, I always look at and evaluate a problem area that has been "repaired" by a previous owner with a presumption that it was done incorrectly. There are hundreds of rookies out there who have absolutely no idea what they are doing. And even a few professionals--like the home builder in our Colorado subdivision who poured the center stemwall footing of a new place going in right behind ours. He managed to match the exterior wall's top of footing elevation at one end, and the bottom of footing elevation at the other end. Resulting in a footing slope of more than 1/4" per foot, which he then corrected by building a center tapered pony wall, every stud of which was a different length.
 
  #6  
Old 01-08-13, 09:13 PM
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GET A LASER LEVEL. I just recently bought one and wish I'd done it years ago.
When I did this same work - shaving and shimming the joists, plus blocking, to get a solid, level subfloor in the bathroom I was renovating, I used a water level that I originally made for setting the beam on top of my porch columns. A few feet of clear poly tubing, a few ounces of water and two old pencils, and I had a level that would work inside the framing! One of my favorite tools for old-house work - cheap and effective.
 
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Old 01-24-13, 12:41 PM
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Thanks everyone for the replies! I think my next step will probably be to have someone come take a look at the structure to make sure there won't be any more movement, as well as to make sure the field-stone foundation is sound. I've spent a bit more time over the last few weeks int he basement trying to sort out the mess that is the electrical trying to see if I can find anything obvious in the floor structure that would cause the issues in the floors both in this bathroom and on the rest of the first floor. It's obvious that a lot of work as been done to modernize the structure (probably sometime in the last 10 years or so, but as some of you said, I don't know who or what exactly they did (or did wrong). At the least I know they dug out the existing floor, poured a new concrete floor (along with new drainage) including a large footer in the center; they re-supported the house with 2 cinder-block columns on either side of the stairs (the stairs are roughly in the center of the house); spanned from foundation wall to foundation wall across the columns with beams made from 3 or 4 2x10s laminated together with plywood, and replaced most or all of the floor joists. There's very little remnants of original floor support (though there are some huge timbers in a couple spots). I'm no expert obviously, but there definitely a few spots that looked to me like after-the-fact additions for extra support. I'll try to post some pictures after I finished getting everything down there organized. Thanks everyone.
 
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Old 01-28-13, 09:38 PM
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Post back anytime !
 
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