Settled

A problem that’s stumped us for the last three months on the kitchen project is how to level our floor. The foundation man we consulted long ago said that the foundation is in good shape. In fact, at some point, new piers and beams were added. The problem is that in the middle of the kitchen, there is a large rise. The floor at the outside walls is more than an inch and a half lower than the highest point in the middle. Quite a bit of the subsequent construction of the kitchen had taken these slopes into account. The foundation man figured that one of the beams was probably green and bowed as it dried, creating the little hill in our kitchen.

A floor installer provided no useful advice. He didn’t want to be involved with the project until after the floor was level. (Well, gee…we could deal with installing the floor if the subfloor was level.) “You’ll have to screed it.” he suggested half-heartedly. “It’s a pier and beam floor.” I pointed out.

Enter the brilliant Tony Smith, a wiry handyman with a weathered face who obviously loves tinkering. He paced around and around the floor. (I admire a person who walks to think.) He stood on the hump, considering. He lay flat on his stomach and stuck his head through the hole we cut in the floor for the plumber. He tapped the hump with his foot. “Is this it? This isn’t the beam. This is where one of the piers is. We need to shave off the top of the pier. Wait. What are those boards?” Boards?

We can’t make out exactly what’s going on, so we crawl under the house to see. (I’ve never crawled very far under the house because the space is only about 20 inches tall–you have to slither on your belly the whole way.)

This is what we found.

pier and beam

The beam is not sitting on the pier. The pier was too tall and someone had made a cutout for the beam to rest level. But at a later date they raised the end of the beam to put in a new pier (the white blob), and when they lowered it, the beam did not settle into the cut-out, it caught on the edge (where it’s splintered). Rather than shave the edge of the cut-out so the beam would settle back in place, they stuffed a couple of boards on the pier and called it a day. And so the beam is resting one and a half inches higher on the pier than it was designed to.

Tony took about an hour to jack up the beam, saw the cut-out correctly, and let the beam down. The floor was immediately more level. It will take time for the wood to slowly settle the last half inch, but…what turned out to be the simplest and cheapest approach was to look at the cause of the problem and make it right.

I’m shaking my fist at the ghosts of the people who did this job the first time. “Do it right the first time” has always been my motto. See what happens when you don’t.

3 Responses to “Settled”

  1. M2 Responds:

    I’m glad you found your knight to save the day. The problem is — from a safe distance — hilarious. I think the capper on the whole mess is the “hey, it’s five o’clock, just stuff some boards in there and let’s get a brewsky” solution.

    What’s Tony’s vital stats? He sounds like a guy I want in my book.

  2. Kathy Responds:

    I think anyone living in an old house could tell stories similar to this. My husband still can’t get over the fact that someone in our house’s past cut a piece out of a main structural beam in order to make an opening for a stairway to the basement–and just left the ends hanging.

  3. bill Responds:

    It’s really great that you found someone willing to look into the problem and find the solution.

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