Sagging Floor Joists in a house we are buying

word_docNovember 15, 2005

Hi, there. I usually post on the Home Buying & Selling forum, but this is more specifically a home repair issue, so I thought I'd give it a shot in this forum.

We are probably going to buy a house we are now renting. We are actually under contract to buy it, and the seller was kind enough to allow us to rent it a few months before closing (various reasons for that, not important to this issue).

We had a home inspection done a few weeks ago, and the inspector found sagging floor joists under the house. The "piers" are apparently ok, but the joists in some areas have some dry rot. This was not a surprise, since the floors in the house are somewhat "wavy."

The home was built in 1977 and is in TN. It's a crawlspace construction, and there are two floors.

There is also some mold under the house, but I'm told it has not extended to the subfloor and is fixable. The fix will require removing the insulation, but this is not that bad of a thing because I understand that it will be hard to fix the joist problem while trying to work around and salvage the insulation.

I also have been advised as to the solution for preventing future moisture problems under the house, so that these problems will not occur in the future once the current damage is fixed.

My questions, though, are more about the floor joist situation. One contractor who came by to check things out advised me that there are two fixes. One is to jack the house up and replace the damaged joists. The other is to sort of "sister" new joists alongside the old. That would not fix the wavy floors but would stabilize the flooring structure and keep the sag from getting worse.

It seems to me that the "jacking" situation is the preferable solution, although I'm also pretty sure it will be quite a bit more expensive. We are not paying for these repairs, by the way.

I'm sort of a little concerned because there has been no mention of calling in a structural engineer. It seems to me that this would be a situation that calls for one. Am I overblowing the potential seriousness of the situation? Is my understanding that the "jacking up" solution would be a better fix accurate?

Thanks for any light you can shed. And if any engineers should happen on this and want to opine--thanks. (And please dumb it down a bit; as my user name suggests, I am a word person and not a numbers person, hehehe.)

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Wood has a lot of give and will "creep" with time. Sagging floors do not necessarily mean that premature failue is likely. However, it does mean that the floors are not level and flat. Tables and furniture will then also not be level.

If the sag is because the wood is rotted then they may continue to deflect and the situation gets worse.

As you said, the options are stiffen the floors in thier current deflected condition and hopefully arrest any further deflection or to restore the floors to a level condition and then strengthen the system to keep it level.

The decision is yours and whether you want to live with floors that are not plumb. this assumes that there is not some inherent problem with the existing system.

If it we're me and I wasn't paying for the repair, I'd be inclined to have it corrected completely instead of simply patching the warped floors.

My 0.02

    Bookmark   November 15, 2005 at 1:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Contractors are taught to build things. They seldom go back later---later being several years---to check their work`. Home inspectors see the years later results of contractors work. Inspectors also see the effect of non standard conditions---those often experienced by a structure that were not anticipated by the designer/contractor.

So, I have done contract building, following local codes for design and material. I have also seen instances where those code compliant practices failed.

Get a home inspector to look at the house. Then sit down with the seller and all the info and decide which repair is best for you both.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2005 at 5:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks so much for the responses. I did actually have a home inspector look at the house (that's how we found the problem). We're now at the repair stage and so far, they've had three contractors out to look at the problems.

What does "deflect" mean in this instance? I'm having a hard time squaring its use here with the way I usually see it used. I know it's a word used in this kind of situation, but I don't understand what it means. Sagging? Help?

    Bookmark   November 15, 2005 at 8:37PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

If the floors were perfectly rigid and true, there would be no deflection. The word deflection in this instance means how much of a gap there is between the low points of the floor and a perfectly flat straightedge laid across the, yes, it's the amount of sag. Also, when floors don't have enough stiffening or strong enough joists, they are bouncy and are said to deflect when you walk on them.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2005 at 9:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


"deflection" as used here means vertical displacement of the beam. If you take a board and support it on stands at the the ends, then apply a load, say a point load at midspan, the beam will "deflect" downward. If you have not overstressed the beam, when you remove the load it will return to its original position.

Beam deflection under its own weight, without applying additional load, is often referred to as "sag".

If the beam deflects more with time and no increase in load, the additional deflection is called creep.


    Bookmark   November 15, 2005 at 9:35PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I agree with you from an engineering perspective, and not to start an argument, but I think the answer being sought is what it means in practical/lay terms in regard to this less-than-perfect floor.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2005 at 2:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

That was actually helpful. Thanks so much. I like to be able to talk to people using their lingo, but I don't want to make a fool of myself. It will help with the contractors who come out to discuss/repair this problem.

I could probably actually live with most of the sag as it is, as long as I knew it was not going to deteriorate. There is one area (right near the opening to the crawlspace, near one corner of the house but not at the actual corner) that I would probably want jacked up a bit. The rest I could probably live with if they repaired it enough so that it wouldn't be an issue if we decided to sell again, and so that it would strengthen the joists and keep the problem from getting worse.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2005 at 3:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

no problem. I just typed a response of how I used the term in my previous post. If you look at the posting times we were typing at the same time and I didn't see your post until mine had already been sent. I wasn't commenting on your answer, if fact I think it's says the same thing (which is always reassuring!) LOL

    Bookmark   November 16, 2005 at 5:31PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks for clarifying. Sometimes I try to get inside people's heads when I answer and I went for the simple version. Between the two of us, it looks like he got what he needed.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2005 at 2:57AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I read the sagging floor posts with great interest. I have a 40 some year old house built on clay soil near Raleigh, NC with moisture problems and rotten floor joists and concave floors.The part of the house with this problem is 28' by 29'on a concrete block foundation with pier and beam at midspan and the joists are on 24" centers. I've taken the siding off the front up to the bottom of the wall and am sliding new 16' 2x10 treated joists in to sister them next to the old ones.(the joists will be connected front to back with a lap joint) I've supported the front wall with a 4'x6' beam while I do this. I've replaced about a quarter of the joists so far.The part I'm not sure about is jacking them up when I'm finished to level the floor. Does anyone out there have experience with this? And how's your house coming, Word Doc?

    Bookmark   April 1, 2006 at 10:42AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi, fixinfool. Thanks for the email alerting me that you brought this one back up! I've been meaning to come over and update it, actually.

OK, so here's the update. We did buy this house at the end of December. What ultimately happened with the floor repair situation was that my husband negotiated with the seller/seller's agent to lower the price of the house by around $20,000. This was done because the highest estimate obtained by the seller was just under $20K. It included fixing the sagging joists and getting rid of the mold.

However, we were uncomfortable using this contractor because he did weird stuff in his estimate such as adding in a "20% markup" just as a line item. Another contractor (plumbing, not flooring/foundation) came out and while he didn't say anything bad about the $20K contractor, he expressed some level of surprise that the guy was in the floor-fixing business. That was enough for me to want to pass on it.

And as it turned out, passing on it was a good thing because we got two or three more estimates, and finally found a guy who jacks up and levels floors for a living. Very down-to-earth guy who works with his father and son and it's something they've all done all their lives. He came in and told my husband what needed to be done and gave him an estimate, which included all materials, jacking up and leveling the floor, and replacing the damaged joists/adding new ones alongside to strengthen everything. He added concrete piers and something called "six buh sixes" (sorry, we live in TN and I'm from PA so my husband had to talk to the guy--I literally couldn't understand a lot of what he said, hehe). He also built a subfloor in an area of the house with a concrete slab (I think it used to be the garage, maybe).

The total cost was $5,000 for all of it (including the materials and subfloor that he built). We had to pay him cash and buy the materials ourselves, but he provided us a list and told us what to get. He did a very, very good job. The floors are leveled out in all but one area, and he could not do that area because there is a heat/AC main duct going along the center of the house in the crawlspace. He could not move it to jack up that one small section. But what he did was add piers and joists (? not sure exactly) along either side to make sure that it was all structurally sound and fortified. It took him about a week to get it all done. When they were jacking the house, we were inside and could feel it. That was pretty cool. They would do a little at a time. They also said that one of the original joists was actually broken in half, so they replaced that and then added some sort of sistering thing alongside just to be sure.

They did not remediate the mold or the damaged vapor barrier, however.

For this, we found a termite guy. We are from Florida, and we used the Termidor system down there. I don't like bait systems; too iffy and "wait for disaster" for me and it's also dependent on technicians coming back and checking. Blech. No thanks. So we were at a home show and one of the termite guys had a Termidor sign. He was also kind of a skinny little fella, which seemed sort of like an advantage when it comes to crawling around in confined areas.

This is what the termite guy did for us (it was a total of $3100). He treated the house with Termidor. It's a 3200-3400 sf house with about 800 feet on the second floor, I think. He removed the insulation under the house, which was mold-ridden, soggy, and gross-just a moisture magnet. He also removed the failing vapor barrier. He put up a new barrier for us. He treated the house (the crawlspace, I mean) to kill the mold and mildew. He also installed a vent system with humidity and temperature sensors that automatically starts running the fans if they rise above a certain level, to help prevent any future mold. We felt this was a good deal and we also liked the guy. This took him most of a week to accomplish. He incidentally found an HVAC duct that was separated and hanging down, just blowing hot air all over the crawlspace. Nice! No wonder our power bills have been nearly $500. We are not sure if this just happened or if it has been like this for a while. We also replaced the existing HVAC system and added a new one (we are remodeling an attic space and also adding central heat/air to a room that just had a window A/C unit) just before the floor guys/termite guys did their thing. The HVAC guys are coming out next week to do another duct inspection just to make sure it's all tight and stable under there.

Geesh, this was long! I hope this answers some of your questions. The jacking up part of the foundation fixing was actually far less dramatic than I'd pictured it in my mind. I think what they did was check the floors for level (under the house) and then jack until they were level, then do whatever they do to the floors (joist fixing?/joist adding?) to support the floors at "level." Then they checked it again and moved on to the next area. I know there was a lot of wood (expensive wood) and a lot of concrete blocks involved in this process. Probably $2K worth of wood and concrete blocks?

Sorry my descriptions are not incredibly technical, but I might be able to answer specific questions if you have them. The answers will probably not be all that technical but they might still work for you. Good luck, and thanks again to sdello, HancyMac and kudzu for helping me out!

    Bookmark   April 1, 2006 at 1:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

to fixinfool whether or not to use jacks is really up to you and the amount of damage done to the joist and how far it's sagged but to jack you need to do this before tying your sisters in raise and level slowly with two or three jacks depending on room under the house make sure to block securely after raising. good luck.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2006 at 8:44PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Word Doc do you have the name of the guys who did the work for you? Living in Nashville and looking for exactly the same for my old plaster walled house.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2007 at 11:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hello WordDoc, We've lived in TN long enough to speak 'tennessee talk'. In just a couple years you will be saying 'y'all' and mis-pronouncing words ending in 'ing'. We have house with similar problems. Can you tell me the names of the men who worked for you?

    Bookmark   April 24, 2008 at 2:13PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My advice is to not believe any one telling you that only certain areas need repair. Look yourself and test yourself and you will see yourself. I know of a situation in hand now where a termite inspector stated that some water damage was only minor and only four joist needed repair. The family took his word and only later found out that a paper was hidden in the paperwork from the Century 21 agent that revealed other damage. They bought the home and now they know the extent. It is a brick home which means more hard work to replace each and every joist including the central joist as all are turned to powder and cannot even be jacked up without falling apart. They were misled by a termite inspector and the real estate agent selling a home for 80,000 plus that is no good for anything except the outside brick on it. May God save them.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2008 at 9:09AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

This post is 3 years old. I sure hope they made a decision by now.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2008 at 8:19AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I know this was years ago but does anyone have the contact info for the people who fixed your floor joists issue in nashville. We are moving and have the same issue in a house we are looking to buy,

Thanks. You can email me

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 10:12PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
HydroShield Sealant?
I have some granite that is failing to maintain stain...
T1-11 siding: Replacing rusted z-flashing?
I have several questions about z-flashing for T1-11...
Can you clear my doubt about home security system?
I have a home security system installed recently. Do...
home ventilation system (EZ Breathe)
Hello! Has anyone out there had the EZ Breathe Ventilation...
Door knob
My front door knob screws won't stay tight so if I...
Sponsored Products
Sealy 10" Memory Foam Mattress
Grandin Road
Global Views Ring Umbrella Stand - 9.91666
$622.50 | Hayneedle
Palermo Curved Outdoor Sofa Cushions, Patio Furniture
$795.00 | FRONTGATE
Metro Sage Rectangular: 5 ft. x 8 ft. Rug
$299.00 | Bellacor
Everbilt Closet Organization 96 in. x 1-5/16 in. Heavy Duty Chrome Closet Pole
$29.73 | Home Depot
Emerald Home Lounger Chaise - Red - U399C-18
$529.99 | Hayneedle
Modern Indoor/Outdoor Area Rug: Surya Rugs B. Smith Red 8 ft. x 11 ft.
Home Depot
Palermo Balcony Outdoor Lounge Chair Cushions, Patio Furniture
$269.00 | FRONTGATE
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™