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Question DetailsAsked on 1/14/2017

Should piers on a pier and beam house be attached to the beams under the house

I have three estimates for Leveling my house, and two stated that the piers needed to be attached to the beams and one said they should not be.
My house is sloping in the back and has piers that are tilting off of the back beam. Also, I was told by two of the contractors that the beam needed to be replaced. One contractor said the house was 2 inches off from front back. One estimate said 7 piers needed replacing on the back wall and one said I needed 27 piers replaced. The estimates all ranged from 7500 to 8500 . Two contractors said I had to have new underpinnings so it went up to 10000.00. I have already paid on contractor 10000.0 and he still did not fix or level the house. Also the last contractor wanted half down, anto schedule the job. My house is only 984 sq feet and is about 30 years old.

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OK - throw away the contractor who said they did not have to be connected to the beams, because not only is that a building code violation but to be stable in the event of slight shifting or softened soil or earthquake or even very strong wind vibration, the posts have to be fastened to the beams - sometimes quite substantially with metal brackets, sometimes with only lapped 2x4's nailed to the sides to tie them together so the post cannot fall out from under the beam, depending on the design and functions of the post.

You need an expert - which unfortunately is something foundation repair contractors commonly are not - remember that a contractor is a builder/repairer, and generally NOT qualified by education or licensing to analyze or design structural or foundation measures. Get an architectural/engineer or civil engineering firm which has both Structural and Geotechnical (soils and foundations) capabilities (sometimes in one person with multiple degrees and experience, sometimes two different people) so you get a professional opinion - which you would almost everywhere need a design from anyway before you can get a building permit for structural members are replaced. Engineering cost likely about $1000-2000 range for a simple "post and pier" support system like you find in many crawlspaces, unless the engineer thinks you have a soil bearing capacity or slope movement issue in which case up to a thousand to three thousand $ extra commonly for some soil borings and/or soils testing. The engineering evaluation would establish whether any beams need replacement (generally not unless visibly breaking up or rotten or insect-infested), how the piers should be fastened to the beams, whether posts need replacement or just resetting and maybe shimming, and what is needed in the way of foundation support for the piers.

If these are just stub posts under the beams (typically 4x4's bearing on concrete pads or precast piers (the underpinnings) if not over about 4 feet tall), other than removing and replacing any rotten or insect damaged ones, commonly all that is needed is puttting temporary jacks under the beams while resetting the concrete pads or piers (or maybe digging them in a bit more or sometimes putting in new or larger ones), and while the wood posts are realigned and shimmed or replaced (for deterioration or for now being too short) as necessary - commonly a thousand to few thousand $ job depending on how many need resetting. Normally not into the $7,500-10,000 range you were quoted unless there is land movement or grossly improper imitial construction involved, or the entire house has shifted on its foundation - or of course if there is beam decay or damage mandating replacing one or more beams, which is a lot more work than replacing posts

Since you say some piers are tilting, if a number are tilting the same way this could be indicative of ground movement (especially if the house is on a slope or near a bluff) or the house shifting on its foundation, so getting a larger size architecture/engineering firm with full residential design and analysis capability and either an in-house or an affiliated geotechnical engineer is important - not just a one-man outfit or very small architecture or engineering firm that does simple residential designs or evalulations but not significant foundation repair evaluations. Might be your case is very simple - but better to have the capability in the first firm you talk to, if needed. In most city and suburban areas you will find typically 5 or more outfits of that size in normal driving distance (say 20 miles or so), as well as dozens of very small or one-man outfits primarily doing new-construction or additions/remodels design.

And for a 30 years old house, 2 inches difference front to back would not be uncommon or normally, in and of itself, a "hazard, so unless it bothers you would in a great many cases not "need" repair" from a structural standpoint, other than to ensure piers are properly fastened and aligned and supporting the beams. You will need to be prepared to discuss with the engineer whether you are interested in levelling the floor (fully or perhaps only partially) for aesthetic purposes or possibly to eliminate a visible slope for future resale purposes, or if you can accept the existing slope (or something a bit less while resetting and shimming the posts) as long as it is structurally sound - can easily make a 2-5 fold difference in project cost in many cases on older homes, especially where the construction is such that just jacking it back level may cause as much or more architectural damage as the sagging - especially in brick, stone, or concrete buildings,


As for the first contractor you paid $10,000to - if he did not do the job adequately, I would (before bringing in any other contractor) get the engineering evaluation done and explain you also ewant an evaluation of the contractor's work - then, with or without a lawyer (generally goes a lot eadsier with) I would be calling the first contractor's bond to get the work redone by another contractor as the bonding company's cost for the amount originally agreed upon - i.e. the bonding company would "warrant" the work by having another contractor do it for the total amount in the first contractor's contract - with you paying any amount not paid to date which the contract called for (if any over $10,000), and the bonding covering the $10,000 initial payment you already make to the first contractor. So the new contractor which you and they agree on would be basically doing the work the first one agreed on for that contract amount, but the bonding company would be paying the $10,000 the first contractor got from you and getting the rest of the payment due from yuou to pay the second contractor - then later they would go after the first one to recover the contract amount (or any portion he had not earned to date) from him to recoup their costs.

And for this type of work, which does not usually need much up-front materials purchase if any, 50% down is out of line in my mind - so that might eliminate another potential bidder from your list. The geotechnical engineer is likely to have a decent feel for local foundation repair contractors and should be able to help you pre-qualify some to bid on the job once the final scope of work is established.

Also - you mentioned 30 years old (which is not real old, though some settlement is expected by that age) and only 1000 SF - so you need to bear in mind how much repair cost you might want to put into it, versus its market value, especially if the issue turns out to be land sliding or such causing the posts to tilt (rare, but happens).

Answered 1 year ago by LCD

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