Home>Discussions>HEALTH & SAFETY>Question about a Leaning House
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jalaures
Question about a Leaning House

Hello All,

New to the forum, but looks like a good source of commentary so I figured I'd pose the question to you all.

I just recently moved into a new house with a couple people (renting - not owning) and noticed that the house is leaning. The house is probably about 100 years old. Its a little dizzying inside - which isn't a big deal to me - but I'm concerned about it from a safety stand point. From my understanding, most of the settling in a house occurs within the first few years of its existence and that any lean has probably been that way for a long time.

I just want to make sure that this is not a safety hazard to us living in the house. My biggest concern is the front right corner of the house. It seams to bend inward from the second floor level to the foundation and I worry about the stability of this corner of the house. There are no big visible cracks in the plaster, but the house sounds awfully creaky and there is slight visible sagging in the floor joists. Based on the floor depth, the joists are 2x8s at 24" O.C. and span the width of the house, which is about 13 feet.

Thoughts? Does anyone else have experience living in a house with this condition?

Any input is much appreciated. Thanks!

MLB Construction
Re: Question about a Leaning House

i've seen many many houses that are that old and older. some are level and plumb and some are scary crooked. sometimes the level and plumb ones can be a danger to be in and sometimes the crooked ones are perfectly safe. it goes both ways. there's no way anyone on here can tell you if it's safe or not. the only person that can help you out is to have a structural engineer come in and do an assessment. it might be perfectly fine, a danger or somewhere in between.

JLMCDANIEL
Re: Question about a Leaning House

I agree with MLB but from your description " It seams to bend inward from the second floor level to the foundation" sounds like there may be a seriously compromised sill. This needs to be checked out.

Jack

brewster
Re: Question about a Leaning House

I agree with the others that the building may or may not be unsafe---but under local law it's the responsibility of the town/city building inspector to accept complaints of this nature and to check them out using the town's structural/civil engineer; if a hazardous condition is found, the property owner is notified to have it fixed.

jalaures
Re: Question about a Leaning House

Thanks for the input. Do you all consider it poor etiquette to consult the engineer without telling the owner first?

MLB Construction
Re: Question about a Leaning House

go right ahead and get one if you want to. don't worry about the landlord. this is about your safety, not his.

keith3267
Re: Question about a Leaning House

There are two conditions that could be at work here, settling and racking. If it was just settling, the floor would slant the same amount as the wall leans, but if the floor is level and the wall leans, that is racking and that is an even bigger concern.

You might want to discuss this with the landlord, but I would not tell him or her that you may go to the city inspector. If you tell them that, things tend to get ugly.

Mastercarpentry
Re: Question about a Leaning House

Don't tell the government, at least not yet. If they assess the situation as dangerous and condemn it, you will not be allowed to go back inside for anything so you will lose all your belongings. Maybe the landlord will be nice and care enough to fix it, maybe not. If it worried me I'd just move ASAP then inform the government afterward. You can't really force the issue without risking some kind of loss yourself, and since you don't own the house there's no point in risking any loss when you don't have to. CYOA first, then protect others from potential harm.

Phil

HoustonRemodeler
Re: Question about a Leaning House

As the others have said I'd get a good contractor in there to take a look around and figure out what has happened to the building over the last century. It may take a few sets of eyes to figure it out. Look up past residents and neighbors who may know.

Fencepost
Re: Question about a Leaning House

If there has been any remodeling since the house settled, it may be nearly impossible to fix without first undoing that remodeling.

Houses -- especially old ones -- do settle over time. Newer houses are less likely to settle because of the way modern building codes specify the installation of the foundation. By remodeling without first releveling, you end up with new stuff that's level and old stuff that's not level... if you level out the old stuff the new stuff won't be level anymore.

Mastercarpentry
Re: Question about a Leaning House

That's why my level almost never leaves the truck on a as-is remodel job. To make things look and work right, they have to match what's there, even if it's not perfectly level or perfectly plumb. If later on someone wants to correct the original condition, then my work will follow it all back into it's proper place. Until then it looks as good as the rest does and it works fine- what more can you want? OCD (or CDO ;) ) is good for us to a degree, but when wanting perfection blinds us to the real-world conditions we're working with it goes against us :(

The idea is not to do the job perfectly by your standards, but to give the customer what is going to be best for them without compromising quality. A perfectly level or plumb addition or renovation on a out-of-level or out-of-plumb house is going to look bad and it's not going to sell your next job; instead it's going to make you look bad no matter how perfect your work was. Go with what's there and you won't go wrong- if it's so bad that you can't do that, then you need to fix the other problem first or walk away from that job before it bites you in the butt.

Phil

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