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Sagging floors

William Kibbel III, The Home Inspector

Dear Home Inspector: Our old farmhouse was built in 1857, and has several"character" flaws, like the sagging floors, that we'd like tofix. Some of the beams in the basement show obvious cracks are have metalsupports. Whom should we seek out to address the beams/jacking issue? We don'tjust want anyone doing this type of work on our home.

Try locating a carpenter that specializes in, or has experience with oldhomes. All of the wood floor structure should be thoroughly probed for rot andinsect damage. Cracks may or may not need attention. "Checking" refersto cracks that run in the direction of the grain and form when the wood isdrying out. Often these cracks don't affect the structure. An experiencedcarpenter understands the properties of old timber and can evaluate theseconditions fairly.

My biggest concern for old home owners is contractors that talk them intounnecessary repairs. If you have contractors that you suspect are overreacting,then an independent inspection is advised (by an inspector that does not dorepair/contracting). Give the inspector a crayon to mark exact locationsrequiring repairs.

Finally, "jacking" is something I personally try to avoid. Woodstructures naturally sag over time which involves gradual bending and stretchingof the fibers. Sudden jacking can stress these stretched fibers. Often it isonly necessary to reinforce joists and beams, or reduce their span with posts orcolumns and accept the sloped floors as 150-year-old house character. If jackingis deemed necessary, it should be done very gradually.

About the Author
William Kibbel III is a home inspector and restoration consultant specializing in historic residential and commercial buildings. He is vice president of Tri-County Inspection Company, serving Southeastern Pennsylvania and Central New Jersey.

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