Home>Discussions>EXTERIORS>Old pier and beam foundation
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bchaney
Old pier and beam foundation

So I'm looking at purchasing a 1920s duplex that has been mostly renovated. Unfortunately it seems like they didn't do any work on the foundation. It is a pier and beam and the floor in the lower unit is obviously sloped - it is highest in the middle and slopes down to the edges of the house. The access to the crawlspace is very small but I was able to get a video of it with a camera attached to a broomstick.

The beam that I could see is probably 6" off of the ground at best. I know that modern codes require 16"+. Will the entire house need to be raised? Will the edges need to be raised to level the floor? I've heard that houses with low crawlspaces may need tunnels dug under them to inspect/repair the foundation - do you think this would be necessary?

Any general insight on old pier and beam foundations is appreciated - I don't know alot about them or what is acceptable and what needs to be fixed.

youtube.com/watch?v=bcdRRraHstU

function
Re: Old pier and beam foundation

There are plenty of houses in my neighborhood on pier and beam with low crawlspaces like yours. Grandfathered codes mean the house does not have to be raised, but it may be a pain to do plumbing work.
The slope/out of level of the house is a negotiable point in a real estate transaction, personally I used it in part to justify a lower sales price.
If no inspector is able to crawl under, I would tell a novice homeowner to run away.

As for leveling the floor, you can make the foundation level but that does not mean my floor is perfectly level. That is part of the character of my 100+ year old house that I deal with. In my case there was a cracked shaker beam due to a poorly supported load-bearing wall, the beam pushed a few joists upward, and even after leveling, these joists are bowed up to 1" upward from original position. Over 10 years with heavy weight on that location the spot may be fixed, or I can just get over it.

Also, who did the reno? The homeowner? I know in my neighborhood a wise contractor would want to work with a level house. I have to re-hang a few doors because a "middle" stretch of my house sunk a bit, and now the doorways look like a funhouse and cannot close.

bchaney
Re: Old pier and beam foundation

I don't mind the sloped floors, I just don't want a condition where further damage would result from not taking action like rotting beams because they're too close to the dirt. I am a novice homeowner but the only way to escape that classification is to learn - what would an "expert" homeowner do with a house with a crawlspace that no inspector could crawl under?

The reno looks professionally done. It could be that the foundation has moved since it was renovated in 09.

function
Re: Old pier and beam foundation
bchaney wrote:

I don't mind the sloped floors, I just don't want a condition where further damage would result from not taking action like rotting beams because they're too close to the dirt. I am a novice homeowner but the only way to escape that classification is to learn - what would an "expert" homeowner do with a house with a crawlspace that no inspector could crawl under?

The reno looks professionally done. It could be that the foundation has moved since it was renovated in 09.

Movement over three or four years is quite possible and likely. Drought conditions in Texas were a nightmare for pier and beam as well as slab foundations.

If you love the house, call a foundation company(one that specialized in pier and beam) for a secondary inspection, or just make sure your home inspector frequently works with pier and beam. The extra $100/150/200 will be worth it if you find out the house needs 2k in work right now. You might as well talk to the foundation company about the cost for raising the house by a block or two if you are going to crawl under there and work on things.
Whatever it is, they have seen it before, and can predict trouble.

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