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Question DetailsAsked on 6/26/2015

Replace entire sill plate in basement

We're attempting to purchase our first home. Had our home inspection today and discovered in the basement that there is a powder post beetle infestation or was along with water damage to the sill plate and it has to be replaced in the entire basement . I'm not willing to do this myself and I'm wondering approximately how much this would be to fix. I know it means the house needs to be raised and the finished part of the basement tore out and replaced as well after fixing. We really like this house but not sure if the cost s worth it to us, inspector and realtor said about $5k but that seems very low.

We're asking for a structure inspection, but just trying to arm ourselves with some knowledge

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4 Answers


Seems low to me too - I would expect just the jacking bill alone to run around $5000 -10000 - plus several thousand more for the replacement (and be sure to use treated sills if you do this). I would not be in the least surprised for this to run in the $10-20,000 range assuming a compact rectangular house of say not more than 1000SF in footprint - can be MUCH more for courtyard or L or U shaped houses or larger ones.

Couple of other things to consider in your decision:

1) damage is likely not limited to the sill - likely to be portions of studs involved too, which significantly increased the amount of remedial and siding work involved. Once the sills are off (and likely the bottom plates too, if separate elements), you are likely to see water damage in the walls - to insulation, wood, siding, electrical, metal water pipes.

2) You also have to track down the cause of the water damage - if all around the house, then sounds like a systemic siding problem or high surface water problem that also needs repair.

3) Most people would not want to take on this sort of job for a new home - you should seriously consider requiring the OWNER to get it fixed subject to your concurrence on the suitability of the repair design and fix, with your inspector having access to inspect the work at all times. That way, if put in as a contingency on the contract, though it leaves you hanging for months till closing, if it does not geat done or there is a major cost overrun all you lose is the time and having to find a new home. Course,for most people - including me - this would be a walk-away situation.

4) Make sure if buying the house that you can insure it - with that sort of damage in its history some insurance companies would refuse to cover it fearing hidden damage in the structure.

5) Bear in mind, whether you are doing the work or ownear is, there is likely to be possible structural dmage from the lifting and lowering, and almost certainly cosmetic damage to drywall (cracking) and possibly glass cracking and door and window misalignments resulting from it - account for how these issues are to be taken care of and when and by who.

6) The above assumes a frame house with drywall interior and a flexible siding - if concrete or brick construction or a sensitive finish like true plaster or concrete or metal panel or vinyl/aluminum siding, could be much higher due to creasing and cracking.

7) Because you say you are reluctant to do the replacement yourself (meaning you considered that option), unless you are a GC or carpenter (in which caase you would probably not be posting this issue at all), I get the feeling you fail to recognize how serious a job this is, or how the house has likely settled and moved and locally had structural issues because of it, and how that history and the subsequent replacement are likely to result in both structural, utility, and cosmetic finish issues after jacking the house up a foot or more and tearing the guts out of at least the bottom of the walls and the repair. This sort of job is NOT simple, starting with the fact you cannot just jack on the sill or bottom plate - entirely new supports are needed under the floor joists AND to support the walls during the lifting (because that junction has been damaged or destroyed) so a LOT of prep and tearing in at least the base of the siding and sometimes interior wall sufaces is needed. Also, it is not in the least uncommon to find carpenter ant or termite infestations as well in this circumstance. My recommendation - unless you are into a serious fixer-upper project, shy away and find a first home without serious issues - I consider it quite unlikely that sinking several taens of thousands into this house will get you a better house than putting that money into a house in good condition, and also avoid the repair and closing failure risks and the amount of stress and time it will involve on your part. Why buy into the grief.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD


Thank you for the response LCD.

I may be a little naive of the complexity of this situation, you're correct, which is why I came here for advice. We could can only go by what the inspector was telling us, which set off bells because that seemed a very reasonable price for something that sounded major. He also said that the driveway is likely what caused this situation (which would also need to be dug down and re-graded) as well as the powder post beetles.

We’re waiting to hear back to see if the seller will do a structure inspection. If they say no we’re out.

Here is a picture of the damage on the side of the house by the driveway.

Answered 4 years ago by Guest_98153341


Obviously can't do a detailed inspection or diagnosis based on a photo, but to me that looks like classic dryrot which means repeated wetting - so if all around the foundation wall (and also appears to be in the post to the right side of that exposed section of wall), I would say you are into definitely a MAJOR job. And that does not account for the driveway/drainage repair cost, which would likely be several thousand $ more assuming regrading will allow diversion of the runoff away from the house. likely more if you have to put in a wetwell and sump pump system to remove the wataer and pump it away from the house because it is down in a depression.

If you are in a hurry to get into a house, I would run away. If you love the house and are willing to wait, I would at a very minimum amend the contract (probably with an attorney's help) requiring all rot be removed and replaced with new material per code, all drainage issues contributing to it be solved AND approved (both plan and execution) by YOUR inspecting engineer, not by one he hires.

I can't figure on good odds this will turn out well you even if it is all fixed as part of a contingency, and your failure-to-close risk is high, so you could be sitting in house buyer's limbo well into Fall or later - most buyers are not willing to take that chance or time and would walk away. I would NOT cover it with a contingency for you to get fixed after closing (plus I doubt you would ever get a mortgage on the house as it is) - because the repair costs are really up in the air and might well be into the multiple tens of thousands of $, which probably makes the house non-competitve price-wise. Plus until you get into it you do not know how much damage there is in the walls - I would guess a bit at least, possibly a good deal. Imaging the work required if say the bottom 6-12 inches of most of the studs are rotted away - you have to totally rebuild the walls while holding the rest of the house up in the air - $$$$.

Especially since you say you are first-time homebuyers, I would discuss this with your realtor (assuming he/she is not working both sides of the deal), but in your situation I would advise rejecting the contract on the basis of the inspection results, and putting on your running shoes and running away to a house in at least decent condition - because it what you showed is represedntative of more than a very small area, I would say the house is in the marginally poor saleability condition, and possibly uninhabitable as is, so even if you got a mortgage by some means, your interest rate would be high because it would be rated as an "old or deteriorated" structure, which raises rates.

Might also make it hard to get Homeowner's Insurance - many underwriters will not cover a house with a condition like that, on the poremise if it was allowed to get so bad, there might well be other similar problems due to neglect - some buyers get a real shock when they find their new home is uninsurable.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD


Again, thank you for your response. I have more pictures but this one showed the scope of the damage to this particular section well.

As much as we like everything about this house (less this issue) we're going to walk. There was just a small part of me hoping that it's not as bad as we think, even though my brain was yelling at me to just cut our losses and run. I just don't know if I have it in me to keep looking.

I appreciate your feedback very much. Everyone (friends and family) has an opinion but none of them are an expert in any shape or form.

Answered 4 years ago by Guest_98153341

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