My Cape-First Job

I closed on the 1952 Cape on December 10, 2018.  It’s now my home.  I have several projects planned for the home over the next 5 years or so, meaning it will probably take closer to 10. My plan is to detail each major project with at least one blog post. (Some will take several posts). My hope is to share the realities of living in a multi-year renovation project. I’ve been here before and I know what I’m getting myself into. All the drama of an HGTV show, except it will take much longer.

My first project, or attempt was not a total success.  The flooring system of the home consists of 2 x 10 dimensional lumber spanning 12 feet to a center beam in the basement.  This main beam runs 32 feet down the center of the basement and has sagged 2 ½ inches because of insufficient support under the beam, or more accurately, an insufficient footing for the posts holding the beam in place.  I knew it had a sag because I used a laser level to measure several points in the basement ceiling.  My plan was to use a hydraulic jack to lift the beam and re-support the main beam with a new metal column.

2 x 10 main beam supported by triple 2 x 6 posts. Note the existing adjustable metal column in lower right hand corner of photo.

I first needed to find a way to extend my 10-inch, 20-ton hydraulic jack to reach 6 feet.  I purchased a 6 x 6 wood post and cut it down to a little less than 5 feet.  I attached a larger wooden base to the bottom and top to add some stability and give myself a larger platform to support the jack.  This gave me about an inch of clearance under the beam.  I used a piece of ¼ inch plate steel to act as a solid point between the jack and the wooden beam.  Without the metal plate to spread the weight, the force of the jack would have seriously damaged the wood beam.

The lifting equipment. Note the 1 3/4 inch thick LVL is in place and the bent 1/4 inch plate steel. Notice the bent 1/4 inch plate steel.

With everything in place, I started to lift the beam.  The first ½ inch or so lifted easily, after that the jack had to work hard to lift the beam.  The house was popping and cracking, complaining that it was moving.  I eventually got to where I could put a ¾ inch shim between the supporting post and beam.  At that point I decided to let the weight off the jack to see what would happen to the supporting post.  It sunk into the ground under the concrete basement slab.  I kind of expected that.  My solution was to add an adjustable metal column post placed on top of the basement concrete slab next to the wood post.  Ideally there would be a thickened footing under this column, in this case, whatever the thickness of the concrete is will have to do.  With that in place, I again began to lift the beam. 

During this final lift, there was one very loud crack somewhere upstairs.  After I completed the entire lift, I learned that the loud crack was drywall breaking in the living room, where one of the kids was sitting at the time.  It scared her enough that she went and sat in her car until I was done.  (I wish I would have taken a picture of the crack, I already fixed it.)  It took about 15 minutes before I raised the beam enough to place a cut off LVL which measures 1 ¾ inches in thickness between the wooden post and beam and tighten up the adjustable screw on the metal column. Letting the weight off the jack, the house settled a little.

Adjustable metal column installed next to existing wood post.

After the lifting was complete, I remeasured using the laser and found I had lifted the beam a total of 1 inch.  Around half of what I was hoping for.  I was able to bend that ¼ inch steel plate that was used to distribute the weight.  As I said earlier, not a total success.  It will have to do for now.  My first major renovation project will hopefully happen next summer, which will be in the upper level of the home which has two bedrooms.  I am planning on gutting the area to the studs, which will remove a lot of weight from the home.  Maybe I will attempt the leveling again at that time.

My next project…an office space in the basement.  That will keep me busy for a few weeks over the cold winter months. 

2 Replies to “My Cape-First Job”

  1. I use (2) 12 ton jacks quite often on my building projects. Many of my remodel projects involve opening up sections of supporting walls to adjacent rooms or new additions and the jacks are a must have. Properly sized LVL beams give a lot of flexibility in safely supporting these large openings.

    1. My 20 ton shorty has been in place for a couple years now. Every so often I give it a pump. I’ve managed to lift one side of my basement stairwell a couple inches now. Another couple to go. Who ever built this home didn’t pour a footing where the columns were placed, as a mater of fact, it appears they put them right on top of the dirt before the slab was poured. I have one that sinks every time I try putting weight on it. Eventually I’ll rebuild the walls around the stairwell opening, should help better support this area.

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