Post Out of Plumb - Your Opinions, Please

TessieQDecember 1, 2012

Hello, Everyone...

My husband and I are in the process of purchasing a 50-year-old, one-story, ranch style house. The previous owner was an inept Mr. Fix-It who either didn't know about/understand/care about home maintenance and improvements.

As a result, our building inspector's report is a Russian novel's worth of problems that need to be addressed before we will close the deal.

Two of the biggest problems (from our point of view, at least) is the out-of-plumb post shown here and, in another Old House Forum posting I'm making today, some dry rot.

Here's what the building inspector's report said: "Post out of plumb under front bedroom in crawlspace. Adjust the post, so that it's level and plumb under the beam."

I did speak with a structural engineer via phone who didn't have the opportunity to see the picture I'm posting here nor go to the house to see for himself. He said he suspected the post was INSTALLED out-of-plumb and has been that way for the past 50 years. Further, he told me that the jagged dark lines on the post are called "check marks" and are NOT necessarily indicative of the wood's having cracked. He didn't think this was earthquake damage (the house is in the Willamette Valley in Oregon) because the building inspector would have made note that SEVERAL posts were out-of-plumb.

He went on to say that a handyman with a big mallet and a decent jack could raise the house up just enough to take pressure off the post and easily whack it back into place. Or we could spend around $600 to have it replaced by a contractor. He didn't tell me what to expect a handyman to charge us for just whacking it back into place.

It's not possible for either my husband nor myself to crawl under there and fix it by jacking the house up a teensy bit with our hydraulic car jack.

Frankly, my husband isn't as worried about this as he is about the dry rot (please see my other Old House Forum posting I did today...12/1/12).

Have any of you come up against this sort of issue? If so, how dangerous did you think it was and how much did it cost you to have it repaired?

I would very much appreciate any information or advice you can offer.

Thanks so much for your help!



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You need to reassess your attachment to this house. If you expect any homeowner to fix a laundry list of items before you buy, then you will never buy an older house. No seller will do all of that. Nor should you expect them to. You are not buying a new house. What you describe is pretty trivial, and should be an easy DIY fix. If you don't think so, then you really shouldn't be looking at old houses. They will all have issues. All of them.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 8:40PM
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That post is probably nothing more than a decent size hammer and a level to measure plumb.

Just whack the bottom back into position.

You might reconsider older houses if that post seems a real problem.

It is trivial.

There are likely a lot worse things like plumbing, electrical, etc. hiding in the walls.

keep in mind that old (even on plumbing or electrical) does NOT mean it is not code compliant.

The systems only have to comply with the code in affect when the house was built, with a very few exceptions.

'Grandfathering' rules, or we would be tearing things down about every 3 years.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 11:30AM
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Knocking the post plumb may not work because of the possibility that the ends are not square. In otherwords the post may be at an angle to get the ends flush with the floor joist and the concrete footing. The concrete doesn't look like it's a level flat footing, sort of looks like the wood inset is tilted. Not only that inspectors are just that, just look and write it up. That's their job.

Just for fun I blew up that pic and tried to figure the angle. I came up with approximately 6.581944655 degrees. Now if you knew the floor loading and the coeficcient of friction between the post and the concrete footing you cold figure the slip out force----Aw who cares? :-)

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 12:24PM
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Thanks for everyone's comments; I very much appreciate your time.

Believe me when I say we are fully aware that we're not buying a new house and expected age problems.

What makes this house so attractive to us is its VERY low price. We're in Oregon where housing prices make it a buyer's market. Our budget allows for a limited price ceiling. This house has all the room we need. Those two points, combined with the house's location in a nice (but not pretentious) 55+ golfing community with several other amenities, were really the selling points for us.

The current owner, who has never lived in the house (it was his parents'), acquiesced to replacing the broken gas furnace with a new one and coming down about another $3K on the house's price. His Realtor convinced him that otherwise, he'd never sell the place. It's been on the market since October 2011, our offer is the only one he's received in all that time, and, if WE don't buy it, he said he'd take it off the market and just let it sit. When his Realtor (who works for the same company OURS that's how we know this) informed him that not only the neighbors but the HOA would eventually be on his case for letting the house fall into disrepair and then he'd NEVER sell it, he finally agreed to replace the furnace.

What strikes me as stupid on his part is that he'd rather let the house rot than at least make a little money on its sale. It's selling for MUCH less than it's worth, but still, anything's better than $0!

ANYways...we have scheduled electricians and plumbers to come and take a look to give us quotes on the rest of the problems but we are hopeful that they won't be so dangerous and expensive to repair that their costs will be manageable. Luckily, we have a bit a money to deal with repairs and we have no intention of doing any remodeling, so those added costs won't be an issue.

The house is small and modest but actually perfect for our needs and, frankly, we very much want to live in this community. While there are plenty of other houses available in this community, so far none of them in our price range...which equals houses of this general age of 50-years-old...have enough room for us AND have a fully-fenced back yard for our little dog. We run an online bookstore and I have two Etsy shops...we need the room the finished garage and bonus room this place has so we can have someplace to keep our inventory and I can have an office and craft studio.

As you probably all know, no house is perfect. We have prepared ourselves to take the bad with the good. But we ARE being realistic. If it turns out that the repairs will be costly because they'll be necessary to fix truly dangerous problems, then we WILL have to keep looking.

We take solace in knowing that our building inspector came highly recommended and he is respected in his field for his knowledge and honesty. We just hope we find contractors who are as well.

Thanks again for your comments! ...

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 2:59PM
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Personally, I wouldn't give that post a 2nd thought. It's been fine for 50 years, and I'd wager on another 50. It's not enough out of plumb to be a concern, IMHO.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 7:04PM
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"What strikes me as stupid on his part is that he'd rather let the house rot than at least make a little money on its sale. It's selling for MUCH less than it's worth, but still, anything's better than $0!"

On the one hand, I wouldn't worry much about the post. On the other I'd worry a *lot* about the idea that any house sells for a much less than it's worth. There are plenty of bargain hunters out there, and if a house has been on the market for over a year they've looked at it and determined that by the time they invest whatever it needs the price is too high to make it a bargain. You can certainly get a good deal if you have the interest, skills and time to do a lot of the work yourself, but my experience (hard-earned as we near the end of the process of a very expensive re-hab on our super bargain house) is that within a few percent the market gets it right and houses don't sell for a lot less than they are worth.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 2:23PM
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