Author Topic: 117 Year Old House  (Read 1401 times)

Raskolnikov

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 11
117 Year Old House
« on: September 13, 2017, 09:02:08 AM »
I'm in the process of purchasing an old house, but am struggling with one item that I see as a big deficiency: sagging floors.

First, the Pros:
-stunning 3.5 acre property overlooking the Tippecanoe River in Northern Indiana and 700 ft of river frontage
-the sellers meticulously maintained everything, but just accepted the sagging floors
-most of the living space (kitchen, master bed/bath, and kids' bedrooms) was added in 2001, so it's relatively new and the floors are perfect
-the price is right
-tall windows covering the entire South side of the house for maximum sun exposure in the winter and great views of the river
-all electrical systems were updated to modern standards in 2001
-the cellar, while 117 years old, is dry although there is evidence of some water intrusion (nothing a dehumidifier can't handle)

the Cons:
-as mentioned, the sagging floors in the old part of the house
-the living room and guest bed/bath are over the old foundation which is made of fieldstone and rough hewn, untreated logs
-the radon test came back higher than the EPA recommended level, and the seller (who came down significantly from the list price) does not want to install a mitigation system

The owners before the current tried to prop up the old floors with lumber over the years, but it was a pretty shoddy DIY job, e.g. they didn't pour concrete footers and install steel posts.

I've called 4 different contractors in the area but no one is interested in flooring system repair, so far.

I do have a crawl space/ foundation repair company coming out soon just to take a look, but I don't believe the floors are caused by foundation problems as the home inspection found no issues with the foundation.

Has anyone dealt with an issue like this this? If so, I'd appreciate your opinions and any ideas of repair costs. My family and I really love this house due to the Pros listed above, but I want to make sure our emotions aren't trumping our logic in this case.

Thanks!

Jon Bon

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 231
  • Location: Midwest
Re: 117 Year Old House
« Reply #1 on: September 13, 2017, 10:33:51 AM »
Are the floors sagging on the first or second floor?

Sagging first floors are pretty dang easy to fix as you already mentioned. Get some 2x8s and a jack, apply upward pressure slowly and over time. Then put in wood or steel posts and remove the jack.

Second floor is 10x harder because you have to either do the same process as above and have a gross beam and posts exposed in your house or you know like rip out the entire ceiling and sister up the joists which would also invole likely moving a bunch of electrical and plumbing around.

On the Radon: I think its just a negotiation tool honestly. Let me guess your realtor is suggesting that you use the radon levels as leverage during the request to remedy? House is 117 years old, did everyone die of lung cancer who lived there? No? Probably ok then....


Raskolnikov

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 11
Re: 117 Year Old House
« Reply #2 on: September 13, 2017, 11:04:00 AM »
Are the floors sagging on the first or second floor?

Sagging first floors are pretty dang easy to fix as you already mentioned. Get some 2x8s and a jack, apply upward pressure slowly and over time. Then put in wood or steel posts and remove the jack.

Second floor is 10x harder because you have to either do the same process as above and have a gross beam and posts exposed in your house or you know like rip out the entire ceiling and sister up the joists which would also invole likely moving a bunch of electrical and plumbing around.

On the Radon: I think its just a negotiation tool honestly. Let me guess your realtor is suggesting that you use the radon levels as leverage during the request to remedy? House is 117 years old, did everyone die of lung cancer who lived there? No? Probably ok then....

It's a ranch, so no second floor to deal with. I'm tempted to rip out and replace rather than jack the floors up. We'd like to put down wood or vinyl floors rather than carpet, so we don't want to risk them squeaking.

You're correct on the radon question...very fair point.

hoosier

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 100
Re: 117 Year Old House
« Reply #3 on: September 13, 2017, 03:01:44 PM »
Are the floors deflecting (bending down in the middle) or has foundation caused them to no longer be level?  I'm assuming the former based on the use of the word sagging.

If that's the case, it's not a terribly difficult job to pull up the subfloor to expose the joists and "sister" in new joists, then put down new 3/4" T&G flooring.  If there's some really nice hardwood that you want to keep this wouldn't be a good option though as that stuff can be hard to get out without destroying it.  That added benefit is that it gets rid of all the squeaks and creaks.

You will probably have to notch and shim where the joist goes between the sill plate and the bottom plate on the wall, but in all reality if you screw and glue the new joist to the old one, it doesn't make a lot of difference how it contacts the foundation.

I did this to my BIL's house that was built 100+ years ago. 

ChpBstrd

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 579
Re: 117 Year Old House
« Reply #4 on: September 13, 2017, 03:08:10 PM »
Assuming chairs don't tip over when you sit in them, is simply living with the sag an option? In my 60 y/o house, I have a couple pieces of furniture that have been levelled with tiny pieces of scrap wood. It's part of the "charm".

Also, my local hardware store sells a foundation jack consisting of a pipe, a large screw, a top plate, a bottom plate, and a handle for something like $10-20. As alluded to above, one or more of these might do the job with a twist or two added each year for a few years. For faster/bigger results, a $100 40-ton hydraulic bottle jack could push up a joist a couple inches, allowing you to place concrete blocks. I would probably prefer the more gradual approach because the old wood will be brittle.

Jon Bon

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 231
  • Location: Midwest
Re: 117 Year Old House
« Reply #5 on: September 18, 2017, 10:47:34 AM »
Are the floors sagging on the first or second floor?

Sagging first floors are pretty dang easy to fix as you already mentioned. Get some 2x8s and a jack, apply upward pressure slowly and over time. Then put in wood or steel posts and remove the jack.

Second floor is 10x harder because you have to either do the same process as above and have a gross beam and posts exposed in your house or you know like rip out the entire ceiling and sister up the joists which would also invole likely moving a bunch of electrical and plumbing around.

On the Radon: I think its just a negotiation tool honestly. Let me guess your realtor is suggesting that you use the radon levels as leverage during the request to remedy? House is 117 years old, did everyone die of lung cancer who lived there? No? Probably ok then....

It's a ranch, so no second floor to deal with. I'm tempted to rip out and replace rather than jack the floors up. We'd like to put down wood or vinyl floors rather than carpet, so we don't want to risk them squeaking.

You're correct on the radon question...very fair point.

So did you end up moving forward?

Sorry about getting so snarky about Radon, I've had realtors straight-up use it as extortion in 2 home sales. So I dont have much prospective on it!

Good luck!


Fishindude

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1509
Re: 117 Year Old House
« Reply #6 on: September 18, 2017, 02:55:57 PM »
You just described our house 😜   You buy a place like that for the real estate and the "bones" of the house which sounds awesome.  All of those issues you describe can be fixed, just takes some time and money.  Have some vision and imagine how cool it will be when you get it done.  One project at a time, pay as you go.

I think the whole radon fear is a bunch of BS.   Know anyone that has ever had a radon illness.  Decide for yourself.

Incidentally, sounds like you are relatively close to me.  Good luck

cerat0n1a

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 789
  • Location: Cambridge, UK
Re: 117 Year Old House
« Reply #7 on: September 18, 2017, 03:51:17 PM »
I think the whole radon fear is a bunch of BS.   Know anyone that has ever had a radon illness.  Decide for yourself.

Nobody is going to be diagnosed with a radon illness. It's going to show up as lung cancer (and not really any other kind of cancer). The stats here in England work out as lifetime risk of getting lung cancer for a non-smoker living their whole life in a house with 200 Bq/m3 (which is about 5 picocuries/litre) are 1 in 190 (and about 1 in 5 for a smoker.) Move that up to 800 Bq/m3 and your risk as a non-smoker is about 1 in 100. There's about 30 000 lung cancer deaths per year here, and about 1100 are estimated to be from radon (there's basically 3 counties that have radon problems - and you can see excess lung cancer rates in those places.) Living in those places exposes you to significantly more radiation than working in a nuclear plant or onboard a plane.

I'm sure the EPA has equivalent stats for US and for different levels of radon, so you can make an informed decision as to whether the mitigation is worth it.

Jon Bon

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 231
  • Location: Midwest
Re: 117 Year Old House
« Reply #8 on: September 19, 2017, 05:54:42 AM »
I think the whole radon fear is a bunch of BS.   Know anyone that has ever had a radon illness.  Decide for yourself.

Nobody is going to be diagnosed with a radon illness. It's going to show up as lung cancer (and not really any other kind of cancer). The stats here in England work out as lifetime risk of getting lung cancer for a non-smoker living their whole life in a house with 200 Bq/m3 (which is about 5 picocuries/litre) are 1 in 190 (and about 1 in 5 for a smoker.) Move that up to 800 Bq/m3 and your risk as a non-smoker is about 1 in 100. There's about 30 000 lung cancer deaths per year here, and about 1100 are estimated to be from radon (there's basically 3 counties that have radon problems - and you can see excess lung cancer rates in those places.) Living in those places exposes you to significantly more radiation than working in a nuclear plant or onboard a plane.

I'm sure the EPA has equivalent stats for US and for different levels of radon, so you can make an informed decision as to whether the mitigation is worth it.

Yes I realize it is a risk, albeit a small one.

I guess my point is a realtor will (hypothetically) buy the same house 10 times. And every-time after the acceptance of a contract make a big stink about radon abatement to extort more money from the seller with zero intention of actually having the radon abatement installed.

That being said, where did you find your data? I'd like to educate myself a bit more.

Thanks!

former player

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2607
  • Location: Avalon
Re: 117 Year Old House
« Reply #9 on: September 19, 2017, 06:38:33 AM »
The thing no-one mentions about radon is that it is easily vented.  If you regularly open the windows in your house and let fresh air in and the radon laden air inside out, you will not have a problem.  People started noticing high radon levels and their effects once houses became more airtight.  If you have an old, draughty house heated with log or coal fires and you open the windows in each room every day to air them out, your radon levels inside the house will be much the same as your radon levels outside the house.
Be frugal and industrious, and you will be free (Ben Franklin)

cerat0n1a

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 789
  • Location: Cambridge, UK
Re: 117 Year Old House
« Reply #10 on: September 19, 2017, 08:30:19 AM »


Yes I realize it is a risk, albeit a small one.

I guess my point is a realtor will (hypothetically) buy the same house 10 times. And every-time after the acceptance of a contract make a big stink about radon abatement to extort more money from the seller with zero intention of actually having the radon abatement installed.

That being said, where did you find your data? I'd like to educate myself a bit more.

That was my point really. It's a small risk, but it's a very well understood & measurable one, so you don't need to rely on anecdotal - "do you know anyone who died from Radon" stuff. The main problem here in England is a lot of old houses have cellars/basements and Radon tends to collect in such places. Sounds like less of an issue for a ranch - and as former player points out, just allowing air to circulate has quite an effect.

I got my info from here: http://www.ukradon.org/ but I'd expect the EPA has something similar for the US.

Jon Bon

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 231
  • Location: Midwest
Re: 117 Year Old House
« Reply #11 on: September 19, 2017, 08:57:03 AM »


Yes I realize it is a risk, albeit a small one.

I guess my point is a realtor will (hypothetically) buy the same house 10 times. And every-time after the acceptance of a contract make a big stink about radon abatement to extort more money from the seller with zero intention of actually having the radon abatement installed.

That being said, where did you find your data? I'd like to educate myself a bit more.

That was my point really. It's a small risk, but it's a very well understood & measurable one, so you don't need to rely on anecdotal - "do you know anyone who died from Radon" stuff. The main problem here in England is a lot of old houses have cellars/basements and Radon tends to collect in such places. Sounds like less of an issue for a ranch - and as former player points out, just allowing air to circulate has quite an effect.

I got my info from here: http://www.ukradon.org/ but I'd expect the EPA has something similar for the US.

Good to know thanks for the info! I found this tidbit. If you smoke or have a family history of lung cancer, mitigation might be a good idea. Sounds like smoking plus radon is bad bad news.

"Exposure to radon is estimated to be the second-leading cause of lung cancer, accounting for an estimated 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year (range of 8,000 to 45,000). Radon is a tasteless, colorless and odorless gas that is produced by decaying uranium and occurs naturally in soil and rock. The majority of these deaths occur among smokers since there is a greater risk for lung cancer when smokers also are exposed to radon."

http://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/lung-cancer/resource-library/lung-cancer-fact-sheet.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/

Frugal Lizard

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 639
  • Age: 50
  • Location: Southwest Ontario
  • One foot in front of the other....
Re: 117 Year Old House
« Reply #12 on: September 19, 2017, 09:59:56 AM »
We had a radon mitigation system installed for by a specialist installer for 1600 CAN in May.  It was only this much because there was "good communication" under the floor slab.  Took the guy about an hour to determine that the pipe and fan installed in the far corner of the basement would work for our house.  It involved drilling a small hole where we wanted the fan and outlet and several small holes in other parts of the basement and connecting a shop vac on one end and pressure valves at each of the test holes.  I am not sure what would be next steps if there was bad communication under the slab.

My hubs jack up the back of our first house.  It was a fairly slow process as it had to come up almost two inches and the previous owner had re-roofed the flat roof over the back part and we wanted to ensure that the roof didn't crack anywhere and void the warranty.  The problem was cracked joists so it was easy to repair once it was levelled. So he did all the jacking slowly in late afternoon when the roof membrane was still warm.  We had helped my dad jack up his entire barn quadrant by quandrant to replace the sill plate and all the joists.  Areas where the posts were in poor condition, new steel posts, footings and the odd steel beam were added.  The barn was a huge 1850's structure so this was an entire summer and fall project.  But now we can drive the tractor anywhere in there.

Where you get problems is if there is problems in the foundation.  Standing water can cause the old mortar to leach out the binders so it just turns back into sand.  My friends house was sagging and that was a symptom of a huge problem.  It was a concealed because the greatest damage was on the outside of the wall - and only observable once the renovation started.  The mortar just crumbled wherever it was touched.  It looked fine.  It turned into a nightmare that lasted 14 months as each part of the foundation was exposed and new tile drains installed and large portions of wall completely rebuilt with new concrete blocks and the remainder re-pointed. 

A really in-depth structural engineering investigation was needed.  They had gotten a less in-depth report when they bought the house but the real estate agent had kind of glossed over one sentence that indicated the engineer was concerned about a shifting/sagging wall.

Sounds like the property is gorgeous.  Just don't overpay if you are going to have to do a re-build.
Seeing the possibilities

paddedhat

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2142
Re: 117 Year Old House
« Reply #13 on: September 19, 2017, 02:27:36 PM »
There is a lot of fascinating info. about the pseudo science used by the EPA to develop US standards for acceptable radon levels, available online. Not, paranoid ramblings, but scientists who had a real knowledge of the risks involved, but were driven from conversation, as the truth is quite damaging to the multi-billion dollar a year mitigation industry. Radon is real, it causes lung cancer, and in long term exposures to high levels it will kill you. Is this reflected in the 4 pc/l level that seems to result in mass panic and immediate mitigation as a home is being vetted for sale?  Hell no.  First, relying on a single test is really bad science. Second, the "science" used to develop safe levels in the states is deeply flawed. Third, the levels used in the states work out to roughly 1/4 of the safe limits used in other countries. Personally, if I had a reading of over 15pc/l in a continually occupied space, NOT, the damn unfinished basement, I would retest several times to see if the level is reproducible, then address it. This bullshit of, "we found a 4.0 in your unfinished basement, your kids will die if you don't spend $2000 to mitigate, IMMEDIATELY" is getting old.

Bottom line?  Radon is a legitimate hazard. Radon is also a grossly overblown issue in the states, and a cash cow for the mitigation industry, that has a nefarious interest in keeping the EPA singing the right song, and the cash flowing.

FIKristen

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 94
Re: 117 Year Old House
« Reply #14 on: September 20, 2017, 12:42:25 PM »
Ha.  Former EPA employee here.   Looks like a lot of pissed off people making angry opinionated claims here about radon.   Sigh.   

Just like not every smoker is going to get lung cancer, not everyone who lives in a home with high radon levels is going to get cancer.  But the higher your exposure, the greater the risk of developing it.   

 It irks me when people point to the one smoker who didn't get cancer and say "see!  that guy didn't get cancer, the science must be wrong."   That's clearly a stupid way to think.   Ditto with the people who say "the guy who lived in that particular home with high levels of radon didn't develop cancer, so the radon must be safe."  Not true.  Just because one person lucked out doesn't mean the next one will.




J Boogie

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 505
Re: 117 Year Old House
« Reply #15 on: September 20, 2017, 12:50:46 PM »
Are the floors sagging on the first or second floor?

Sagging first floors are pretty dang easy to fix as you already mentioned. Get some 2x8s and a jack, apply upward pressure slowly and over time. Then put in wood or steel posts and remove the jack.

Second floor is 10x harder because you have to either do the same process as above and have a gross beam and posts exposed in your house or you know like rip out the entire ceiling and sister up the joists which would also invole likely moving a bunch of electrical and plumbing around.

On the Radon: I think its just a negotiation tool honestly. Let me guess your realtor is suggesting that you use the radon levels as leverage during the request to remedy? House is 117 years old, did everyone die of lung cancer who lived there? No? Probably ok then....

It's a ranch, so no second floor to deal with. I'm tempted to rip out and replace rather than jack the floors up. We'd like to put down wood or vinyl floors rather than carpet, so we don't want to risk them squeaking.

You're correct on the radon question...very fair point.

I think it'd be tougher to level your sagging floors from the top.  You'd have to sister all those joists and it'd get ugly and complicated fast.  I think it'd be relatively easy to jack it up, and it would mean much less time in a house that looks like a warzone.

paddedhat

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2142
Re: 117 Year Old House
« Reply #16 on: September 20, 2017, 01:59:55 PM »
Ha.  Former EPA employee here.   Looks like a lot of pissed off people making angry opinionated claims here about radon.   Sigh.   



Yea, Sigh indeed. If you can't spout the official government propaganda without question, it can be frustrating, eh? Unfortunately, spreading fairy tales involves carefully ignoring the fact that, once again, due to hubris and incompetence, when faced with the discovery of the Reading Prong formation, and high radon levels at the Limerick Nuclear Generating facility in Southeastern PA., the feds totally blew it. They arrogantly determined that there was no real information available to establish the exact hazard level involved, even though there was extensive study done,  and safety protocols in place, in northern Europe at the time. They used junk science based on self reported, totally useless data from underground Uranium miners, as reported decades earlier. They ignored the scientific evidence, and opinion, of some of the most qualified and respected scientists in the country. They have also continually ignored the fact that residential exposure at their fraudulent  "action level" is linked to LESS incidents of lung cancer, that locations that had lower levels of background radiation. (Think about that one a minute. You may be making yourself and your family MORE likely to be victims of lung cancer, by needlessly mitigating low levels of radon in a home, according to actual scientists. ) Unsurprisingly, the EPA has totally failed the citizens of the country in this case, and continues to warn against hazards that do not exist, while propping up a multi-billion dollar industry that protects the public from non-existent hazards.

https://www.acsh.org/news/2015/11/13/dont-fear-radon-concerns-at-home-theyre-overblown

There is a ton of real science available online, for those that care. As I stated previously, Radon is real and a real issue, in the few limited cases where there is a significant amount of it inside your dwelling.  That said, a single test is nearly useless, most mitigation is a fraud, and most info. endorsed by the EPA is nothing but worthless propaganda.

« Last Edit: September 20, 2017, 02:13:43 PM by paddedhat »

DangleStash

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 91
Re: 117 Year Old House
« Reply #17 on: October 12, 2017, 06:17:45 PM »
I wouldn't let Radon hold you back from buying the house.  Mitigation sounds scary, but is probably $1k-$2k conservatively to vent the basement.  Definitely get it resolved though, realistically it's not worth the risk.  You will regret the $1k you didn't spend forever if you or a loved one did happen to develop lung cancer.
Join Robinhood and we both get a free stock!  Free trading platform:
http://share.robinhood.com/michaec2902

Raskolnikov

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 11
Re: 117 Year Old House
« Reply #18 on: November 05, 2017, 06:14:53 PM »
Are the floors sagging on the first or second floor?

Sagging first floors are pretty dang easy to fix as you already mentioned. Get some 2x8s and a jack, apply upward pressure slowly and over time. Then put in wood or steel posts and remove the jack.

Second floor is 10x harder because you have to either do the same process as above and have a gross beam and posts exposed in your house or you know like rip out the entire ceiling and sister up the joists which would also invole likely moving a bunch of electrical and plumbing around.

On the Radon: I think its just a negotiation tool honestly. Let me guess your realtor is suggesting that you use the radon levels as leverage during the request to remedy? House is 117 years old, did everyone die of lung cancer who lived there? No? Probably ok then....

It's a ranch, so no second floor to deal with. I'm tempted to rip out and replace rather than jack the floors up. We'd like to put down wood or vinyl floors rather than carpet, so we don't want to risk them squeaking.

You're correct on the radon question...very fair point.

So did you end up moving forward?

Sorry about getting so snarky about Radon, I've had realtors straight-up use it as extortion in 2 home sales. So I dont have much prospective on it!

Good luck!

We did. Been out of pocket for a while as we've been settling in. It's an amazing place, and we're having the floors supported and (slightly) raised in a couple of months.