Comment of the Day: How To Jack Your Own Bungalow

COMMENT OF THE DAY: HOW TO JACK YOUR OWN BUNGALOW “Dude, it’s easy, just get a 20 or 30 ton bottle jack, the kind you can buy at any auto part or hardware store. . . . To raise a stack, just start a new one right next to it. I like to use the solid concrete blocks that [are] half the height of the normal ones. Pile those up to close the height of the jack, and then unscrew the thingie in the middle of the jack to bring it up to the beam. It’s a good idea to put a small piece of scrap wood between the jack and the beam, or otherwise you can make a little jack-shaped hole in your beam- probably not a big deal. Anyway, jack the beam up until you are able to put a shim in there- steel shims are nice, but hard to find, I just use wood for the smaller ones. Then you can let your jack down, and reset- the new stack your jack was on will have pushed itself down into the ground more than the house will have gone up, so you’ll need another shim or two under the jack before you start lifting again. Procede like this, adding more or larger shims, or concrete-block half pieces, until you get your floor the way you want it. . . . Important thing to keep in mind as you work is that the existing locations for the concrete blocks are already sitting on 80 years worth of soil compression. If you start a new stack somewhere else, and you don’t put some concrete down 3 or 4 feet, that new spot will sink over the next couple of years. So, just keep all the existing stacks, though you can add new stacks to cure a sag. On my house, when adding new stacks, I didn’t pour any concrete, I just dug down about a foot about put a 16″ x 16″ wide piece on the bottom, using a dollar-store level to make sure it was sitting in there flat. Ok, the redneck way to do this process is to lower the house, rather than raise it. Sure, this is easier but also moves your house that much closer to termite-ville, and closer in time to the moment when the beams are sitting directly on the dirt, which is kind of the dead-man-walking state for a wood framed house. And if you never raise your house, that day is a matter of when, not if, in this city of mud. . . .” [Patrick, commenting on Brick on the Inside]

6 Comment

  • Dude, I would have proofread that better and been more careful if I thought that was going to be more than a throwaway comment. : ) .. I jacked my house up about three feet with the smaller bottle jacks. Like I said, at least it’s more productive exercise than running in circles in Memorial park.

  • Now you guys know why this site is called SWAMPlot.

  • Don’t worry Patrick. When I read that walk through yesterday I thought was very interesting.

    Nice detail! And if homeowners are adventurous enough to try it, they’ll save lots of money.

  • Thanks – cool, now I can watch the guys closer when they’re working on our little rent house. Also, it really doesn’t sound like it should cost as much as some companies are asking.

  • My husband the geeky engineer used to do that at our old (Heights bungalow) house. I was suspicious that somehow it was not the appropriate thing to do…and yet, everytime the front door started getting a little hard to lock, he’d take the jack under the house to the “problem pier” and within a few minutes, everything would be back where it was supposed to be, until the next series of heavy rains, of course. I’m glad to know it’s a recognized home maintenance technique.

  • My dad and I have been jacking up our farm house out west for years. The blocks are arranged in a grid pattern under the house, but only the blocks along the outer perimeter sink with time. We figure it’s because the soil near the outer edge gets moist soaking up rain water, while the soil underneath the blocks in the middle stays rock hard.

    Seems like every 5-10 years, we have to go at it again. It’s really not hard work at all.

    I think the foundation companies charge so much partly because they insist on replacing rotten beams when they find them, which involves intense carpentry work.