One of the first things I noticed while looking at this house when we were “In the market” was the lousy shape of the basement. I heard that there was a little moisture on the floor (the remedy of which I will discuss later), was informed by the home inspector that the insulation fitted in between the floor (upstairs) joists was installed up side down (which I already fixed) and some of the mortar joints needed to be finished. But one thing that really stood out to me was noticed when I was upstairs. In the living room and along the hallway that runs the length of the house, there seemed to be a slight dip. Now, this really annoys me, not because I am a little on the anal side when it comes to this stuff, but because when I was renting an apartment a few years back, I actually had to use a rope tied from my rolling chair to the corner leg of my desk to stop the chair from rolling to the center of the room when I was sitting on it. That is how crooked the floor was. After a year of that, you can understand why I was so angered by this little dip. I had to find out what was causing this.
I went downstairs and inspected the entire foundation. No cracks. It looked fine. I went to Home Depot and bought one of those laser line tools. I mounted the laser light on one side of the girder beam and ran it down the entire length…AH HA! The center of the beam towards the middle of the house was about an inch lower than the ends at the foundation. Looks like the original lally columns and footings settled a bit over time. Well, looks like I found my first project.
I was also a little concerned about the cement block column (all the way to the left of the picture above). It was installed on a tilt. So that, along with two settled lally column footings, gave me a sense of urgency. I was in the mood for a challenge anyway. I decided to put in three additional footings and columns, this time to maximum code compliance. I would put one column in between each of the existing columns.
I dug the first hole closest to the foundation wall. I dug it about one and a half feet deep. Then, I constructed a form from cut 2″x10″s so it would create a footing of two feet wide by one foot high. Then, I hung a plumb line from the girder beam just to make sure the form was exactly centered under the beam. I measured this about 10 times. I also made sure the form was perfectly level.
Once again, I measured the actual form to make sure I cut everything correctly. I kept thinking that one day the building inspector was going to show up with a micrometer and inspect everything I did. I actually called the building department and they told me that this did not need to be inspected since I was adding in between the existing footings, and they met compliance back when the house was built.
Building code calls for the footing to be one foot deep by two feet wide. Since I made a form from 2″x10″s, I needed to keep it about 2-3 inches off the ground. I accomplished this by propping the form up on some rocks that I dug up. Then, I measured to make sure I was perfect (again). You really need to do this a lot, it keeps shifting.
When everything was absolutely perfect, I mixed a few bags of Quikrete Concrete Mix in my wheelbarrow. The form took a total of 7 bags. I smoothed it out real nice.
I waited a day for it to set and then popped off the form.
Now that is what I call footing. Let that sucker try to settle. One thing that I forgot to mention was that I sprayed water from my hose into the empty hole before I put the form in, then I let it dry. That let made sure the dirt was nice and compact. I also put in a few pieces of rebar for added strength. You don’t need to do that for a footing this small, but I didn’t want to take any chances.
The cement calls for a cure time of 7 days for a 2500psi compressive strength and a 28 day cure time for the full 4000psi compressive strength. I have heard that concrete never stops curing. You also need to make sure the concrete stays moist to cure correctly. I am sure we all have seen a sidewalk that hasn’t cured properly…chipping and flaking to expose the gravel. To follow the instructions, I filled in around the footing, wet the top of it and layed some plastic over it. I wet the top every day for 7 days.
I followed these same exact steps for the next two footings. The following photo is of the final completed footing.
For the last column, I decided to try my hand at building a cement block wall. There was room and how else is a new homeowner supposed to get experience? Those temporary columns on the right came out of there after I was done…they stayed on hold for a future project.
Believe it or not, this wall is perfectly level in every direction. I filled the last two blocks in solid because that is where I put the weight of the girder beam.
After all the concrete in the footings was cured properly, I went to a local lumberyard, purchased three lally columns and had them cut to my measurements. These are the familiar maroon ones filled with concrete. I am not sure of the weight each one can support, but I have a feeling it is more than enough. I then purchased a 20 ton bottle jack and jacked up the area next to each existing column. When there was enough clearance from the plate on the top of the each column and the bottom of the girder beam, I slid in a quarter inch thick 6″x6″ square steel plate. I did this for each existing column as a spacer. I read somewhere that you should only jack up a house one eighth of an inch per day so the sheetrock upstairs won’t crack. I did a quarter inch per day because I was going to tackle the upstairs sheetrock later anyway. After about a week, and enough spacers to make the girder beam perfectly straight, as indicated by my laser, I jacked up the girder beam and put in each new lally column on each new footing. Each one had a great tight fit.
If you are planning a project like this, I really suggest you have a professional do it. You can get quite freaked out by all the squeaking that the wood does when it is jacked up.
In the photo below, you can see all of the lally columns in a row…the originals and the new ones. What a project! No more dip in the floor upstairs…nice and level. Just wait until I am done digging out the entire basement. Almost there…