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HELP Balloon Frame Sill Repair

JoeJoyce's picture

Hi,


 


It seems like I have hit a major obstacle with the repair of my sill in a balloon frame construction 1920s bungalow (2 floors). The rear foundation sill is completely rotted out – about 30 feet. My understanding of balloon construction is that the floor joists and the wall studs are “separate” and that jacking up the floor basically has no impact on the wall; the wall would have to be supported independently.


 


Here’s the problem: an engineer has drawn up plans to support the wall by spanning from the outside of the house to the inside of the house (in the cellar, perpendicular to the foundation) – I believe with a steel “channel” bolted to each stud.  The contractor doesn’t want to do it this way, he wants to shoring the wall from the outside, using 2x6s or 2x8s at a 45 degree angle, similar to supporting a porch. The engineer states that because this is balloon construction, the contractors method will merely push in the wall, not really supporting it.  They have spoken and are at a stand off.


 


Has anyone dealt with this problem?  I can’t tell if the engineer’s method is theory that no one can execute or if the contractor does not really understand the physics going on.


 


All opinions very welcome.  Thanks in advance! Joe Joyce, Boston MA

(post #105256, reply #1 of 24)

My understanding of balloon construction is that the floor joists and the wall studs are “separate” and that jacking up the floor basically has no impact on the wall; the wall would have to be supported independently.


Umm, not really - or maybe I'm not really understanding what you mean.


In balloon framing, the studs run from the basement to the attic, as one continuous piece of wood.  The floor joists are attached to the SIDES of the studs.  In contrast, current framing practice is platform framing, where one floor is framed at a time and the next level attaches to the floor of the level below.


Here’s the problem: an engineer has drawn up plans to support the wall by spanning from the outside of the house to the inside of the house (in the cellar, perpendicular to the foundation) – I believe with a steel “channel” bolted to each stud.  The contractor doesn’t want to do it this way, he wants to shoring the wall from the outside, using 2x6s or 2x8s at a 45 degree angle, similar to supporting a porch. The engineer states that because this is balloon construction, the contractors method will merely push in the wall, not really supporting it.  They have spoken and are at a stand off.


I agree with the engineer, if I am understanding correctly.  The point is that you need to have a support on both the inside and the outside of the house - if you do it from one side only, the force of lifting the house will tend to push it over.  Don't see how that has anything to do with balloon framing, though - I would do it the same way for platform framing.


If the engineer's plans are stamped and approved, you will probably have to do it his way, or convince him to change it.  How committed are you to the contractor?  A contractor who does not want to follow the plans seems problematic to me.  You want a contractor who will follow plans and your direction rather than arguing about having a "better way".


For more information on what happens when contractors don't follow the plan and have a  "better way", google the convention center collapse in Pittsburgh.  Fortunately no one was killed.


 


(post #105256, reply #2 of 24)

"You want a contractor who will follow plans and your direction rather than arguing about having a 'better way'"

Maybe the engineer has an inefficient solution? I use my own engineer that I have been working with for years. We go back and forth and discuss solutions to problems based on my practical field experience and his calculated engineering experience.

(post #105256, reply #3 of 24)

Maybe the engineer has an inefficient solution? I use my own engineer that I have been working with for years. We go back and forth and discuss solutions to problems based on my practical field experience and his calculated engineering experience.


It's certainly possible the engineer has an inefficient solution, but efficiency is a key component in the engineering of a solution, so (in theory) the engineer should have an efficient solution.


Sounds like you have a good working relationship with your engineer, and that's great. The input from the field experience can be invaluable to the the engineer.  In the case of the OP, however, I "read" his post as the contractor essentially saying "the engineer is an idiot" and that he would do it his own way.  Note that the OP said that they were at a "stand off".  I assume you and your engineer would work things out before you ever got to that point - so I don't have the respect for his contractor that I do for you.


Edited 11/28/2007 1:04 pm ET by woodturner9

(post #105256, reply #4 of 24)

Understood. I was just playing a little devil's advocate on behalf of the contractor.

I have run into architects and engineers (mostly architects) that will present poor solutions and be bull headed about them. But contractors are not immune to this syndrome either.

My favorite was a screen porch that spec'd "Marine Grade Varnish" over t&g fir flooring for a screen porch built over a finished, insulated garage as the only weather barrier. (OSB I joists too! I predicted the floor system would last less than 2 years before total failure) He was fired from the project and we did the rest of the design and numerous corrections to his original prints.

(post #105256, reply #19 of 24)

LOL, I was handed some plans like that too, to be the roof over a finished Cabanna` with TV, wet bar, fireplace and living room type furniture and a plaster ceiling!

That was another archy who found himself looking for other work.

 

 


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(post #105256, reply #18 of 24)

"so (in theory) the engineer should have an efficient solution."

I dunno. The PE I work with will provide me with 2 or 3 solutions with a recommendation written in that I should choose the one that fits my crews skills and the labor.materials cost est. the best.

 

 


Welcome to the
Taunton University of
Knowledge FHB Campus at Breaktime.
 where ...
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We did the best we could...

(post #105256, reply #16 of 24)

I was speaking today with my concrete guy. He is in the middle of a FU where the archy changed something as he was finishing his forms. Then the engineer came along with a solution to deal with the change. My crete guy told the engineer, well, you know that won't work. Here is why.

Engineer says Ooops, how can I solve this.
crete guys sketches up a solution.
Engineer says I like it, but don't do anything until I run the numbers and do a drawing.

So crete guy is waiting for the engineer to solve the problem with his solution...meanwhile winter is coming

 

 


Welcome to the
Taunton University of
Knowledge FHB Campus at Breaktime.
 where ...
Excellence is its own reward!

 

 

Oh Well,

We did the best we could...

(post #105256, reply #6 of 24)

Woodturner, thanks for you reply. 


Here is what I meant by the studs and joists being separate: when I look at the joists, I don't see that they are nailed or connected into the studs. It seems like the joists are nailed into the 4x6 sill (abutting up against the sill) and the studs sit on top of the sill - sort of on the outside of the sill.  The joists do so sit ON the sill at all - they are not notched


So what I was told that the wall and floor aren't connected in the traditional sense of them being nailed to each other.


The construction of this house has baffled me.  I don't have a degree in construction, but have been exposed to and learned quite a bit.  But from what I can see, the studs and joists are separate.  Maybe I'm wrong and they are.......


Does that make sense? 

(post #105256, reply #10 of 24)

When I posted my first response, you hadn't described the first floor floor setup.

It is possible your first floor floats on it's own support. But the second floor has to be connected to the walls.

As someone else suggested... If you have a basement, build a support wall underneath the first floor. Just to be sure. Maybe a foot from the edge. Then do the repair work as I outlined above. If you have no basement it gets trickier, but essentially the same thing can be done in a crawlspace.

Everybody is born a hero.


.

It's a small world. Until you have to walk home...

(post #105256, reply #11 of 24)

when I look at the joists, I don't see that they are nailed or connected into the studs.


I see the confusion - I was thinking of (and describing) the joist connection on the upper floors, you were thinking of the first floor joists that rest on the sills.


The studs and joists should both rest on the sill, and I would hope they would be tied together and to the sill, but anything is possible.


Would you be able to post a few pictures?

(post #105256, reply #22 of 24)

makes perfect sense from all i have seen

 

 


Welcome to the
Taunton University of
Knowledge FHB Campus at Breaktime.
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(post #105256, reply #15 of 24)

" The floor joists are attached to the SIDES of the studs. "

In th eballoon frames here, you have a sill that is 8x8 or up to 8x12. The floor joists attach to the side of the sill or notch into it. The studs set on top of it. Occasionally i have seen a portion of the joist attach to the wall stud where the sill is 8x8 and the floor joists were 2x12 with 4' notched up over the sill.

The only regular place where I have seen floor joists fully attached to the sides of the studs is on the second floor where they also run across a ledger.

 

 


Welcome to the
Taunton University of
Knowledge FHB Campus at Breaktime.
 where ...
Excellence is its own reward!

 

 

Oh Well,

We did the best we could...

(post #105256, reply #20 of 24)

I believe you stated how my house is built - the studs sitting on the sill and the joists butting up against the sill.


The contractor states he has done work on this type of framing.  I'm not sure about the engineer, though I have to say I think he has since he recognized that shoring from the outside might cause the wall to be pushed in, depending on the angle and the height of the shoring.


Joe


 

(post #105256, reply #5 of 24)

I have done this.  I built a temp. wall just inside the original outside wall, angled a bit so its top plate caught both the top of the wall and the ceiling intersection. 


I used 1x for for the top and bottom plates, making sure I had studs above joists, because the 24' long wall was sunk 3-4" in the center, but the ends were only down 1/2 - 1".  As I lifted, the old wall and my new bracing wall had to flex vertically to "unbow" the sill.


I lifted under each first floor joist in turn, moving back and forth with a couple of screw jacks and cribbing, to gradually ease itall up (obviously, all the plaster had been removed).  Hacked out the stump piers, formed up, and poured new concrete ones through chutes in the walls.


To add interest, the termite-riddled sill (sitting on the ground in the center) was a 16" tree trunk, the 1st floor joists were 6-10" logs with one side hacked flat for sub-floor, and locust stumps for the piers! 


First job for my inlaws, 22 years ago.  Still seems fine


Forrest

(post #105256, reply #7 of 24)

Why not build two temporary walls in both the basement and the first floor to support the floor framing as McDesign detailed. Then shore the wall from the outside as it will be very light with no floor load bearing? Keeping the shoring as close to vertical is best. We're not talking huge loads here, nor will this structure be up on temp supports for very long so wind/snow loading shouldn't be much of a concern.

Bolting steel channel to the joists seems pretty mickey mouse to me. I have never seen that as a temp support solution to replace a rotting sill.
Since you're obviously pulling off some siding, maybe you can open up the second floor wall floor connection and see what it looks like. The first floor wall may be able to hang from the second floor framing.

(post #105256, reply #9 of 24)

Redeyedfly and McDesign:


Interesting idea.  So if I understand it in the cellar there would be a support wall and on the first floor the same thing.  As the cellar was jacked up it would correspondingly support the second floor?  Is that right?


 


Initially the engineer said the shoring of the outside wall would be done as you mention – with the support running diagonally from the wall to the ground.  Then when we got the plan, it had the steel channel method instead.  I guess he thought it would support the wall without “pushing” it in (as the support from the outside wall might do).  I suspect this steel brace is to be used on each stud in the area they are working in (4 feet at a time). After thinking about it it seemed like the best way to vertically (instead of diagonally) supporting the outside wall.


 


My head hurts…..



 

(post #105256, reply #8 of 24)

First of all, jacking the floor -will- raise the wall. And versey-visey. How do you think the floor is supported ? Anti-gravity machines on all 4 corners ? The floor is attached to the wall.

Second of all, the entire lift that occurs, only needs to be a couple inches. There is no reason to lift any higher than what is necessary to clear the old rotted sill and replace it. 2 inches is ample clearance room.

If the contractor wants more than that, he will be taking progressively more chances with structural failure... Versus what little more efficiency he will get with each little bit more clearance.

In fact, once you start cutting out the rot, the 2 inches of clearance that you get from a small lift, will become even more, and you'll have to fill all of that back in, as well.

Lifting that wall 2 inches, is not going to push the house over. Well, unless the house is already leaning drastically in the direction you want to 'push'. And/or the entire house is rotted badly, and only held together in a couple places...

The contractor and the engineer are both right. The contractor's way will work. At far less cost. The engineer's way will also work, but there will be a lot more cost. (And a lot more repair afterward.)

Were I you, I would have them affix a carrier beam along the 30 foot length. The beam should be lag bolted to -every- stud in the wall, and should be at about floor level, for that second floor. It should overhang both ends, and should be of sufficient strength to hold the entire weight when supported at those two ends.

Jack it up, squarely. Amd very slowly. Jacking from three points. The middle and the two ends. Do not go more than two inches.

Support the beam, and remove the jacks. Place a support at 45 degrees to the wall, in the middle, as you earlier described, if you are worried. But the best support is directly up. Vertical. I would stay away from the 45's.

The 45 degree support -will- tend to push the house, if the house begins to settle. Then you will have two forces. One down, and one sideways, and then yes, you are talking about pushing the house out of square or over...

Remove at least a foot of the siding at the bottom of the wall. That means at least a foot above the sill. Not including the sill.

Remove all the rotted sill, and any rotted material you find above the sill.

Sister new wood in for any rotted wood you removed from the wall itself.

Replace the sill.

Let the house back down the same way it went up. Fasten the new/old wall to the sill.

Now fill in the insulation, (if any), sheeting, tarpaper or whatever vapor barrier was there, and replace the siding. Paint.

Done.

Everybody is born a hero.


.

It's a small world. Until you have to walk home...

(post #105256, reply #12 of 24)

First of all, jacking the floor -will- raise the wall. And versey-visey. How do you think the floor is supported ?


Only if they are connected - which it appears they may not be.  As OP described, the joists are resting on the sills and are not connected to the studs.  So the sill it supporting both the floor and the walls, but they may not be connected.  If so, raising the floor will not affect the walls.

(post #105256, reply #13 of 24)

I used to do a lot of sill replacement. Nasty, dirty work.


I'd lag a 2x12 to the outside wall, and jack under that until you JUST take the weight off the sill. If you need to jack more to get the new sill in, that can be done at that time. Your contractor's idea of setting jacks at 45 deg. seems like too much of an angle to me. I like to keep them as plumb as possible.


Do a section of wall at a time. Don't try for the whole house. You'll probably have to support the floor joists, too. A beam, with a couple of posts a few feet away from the basement wall will work for this.


Even tho I haven't done this kind of work for a number of years, I still have several 20-ton hydraulic jacks, as well as a bunch of heavy duty screw jacks. If you're going to have the wall up for more than a day, lift with the hydraulics, but hold with the screw jacks. The hydraulics could lose pressure, and things could come down. The screw jacks won't move.


And make sure that whatever you're resting the jacks on will support the weight of the lift.

(post #105256, reply #14 of 24)

Do either of them actually have any experience with their way in a balloon frmaed house?

I don't quite understand the engineers way with no sketch or photo, but I know the contractors way will work, tho I would be using the supporting kickers at about 15-20 °

 

 


Welcome to the
Taunton University of
Knowledge FHB Campus at Breaktime.
 where ...
Excellence is its own reward!

 

 

Oh Well,

We did the best we could...

(post #105256, reply #17 of 24)

The contractor's method, and some variations of it, are the same as used by some of the "old style" house restoration specialists, such as Colonial Restorations, Renaissance Restorations, Yononne Restorations and others. In the end, the results are the same..

Otis

(post #105256, reply #21 of 24)

Interesting that you say that.  Early in May I spoke with Colonial and with Yvonne and both described how they would do it. We decided to get an engineer involved because we weren't sure how to proceed. Through many trials and tribulations it is now late November and we are still trying to line up a contractor.....

(post #105256, reply #23 of 24)

  Is there a reason you can't bring a house mover into this picture?


  They would certainly have the depth of experience to lift this correctly, and with the proper insurance...buic

(post #105256, reply #24 of 24)

George Yononne has been doing sill repairs and related structural stuff for over 20+ years, and I'd put him on top of the list, from the work I've seen him do.