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As I write this, I have a slight lean as I walk on my floor in some parts of my house, and it's even worse on the upper floor. In some parts upstairs, it feels almost like you have to grab something. Visitors don't notice this, but I do. The lean was noticed by my dad as well when he stayed with us, got up, walked in the dark across the floor upstairs, and ended up in my bedroom when he was expecting it to be the bathroom. He said, "Yeah, you're right. The floor leans up here."

About ten years ago, I built my 4500sq ft house and the scammers who built my foundation flew the coop and are no longer found. All was fine for the first couple months, but then a long ridge appeared down the middle of the house floor, lifting that small section up about a little under a quarter inch. So, I called the builder out to remove the ridge. He brought his jacking equipment and was doing great in removing the ridge until we got to the kitchen, which was the remaining part. When we got there, it was pretty finicky and didn't want to go down. He called out his assistant and I heard a sledgehammering going on. Then, the whole house shook like an earthquake, an entire wall sunk down about 2 inches, and huge cracks appeared in several parts of the house. As well, the back of the house seemed to have gone down about 1.5 inches.

In this emergency, I fired the builder and told him never to come back. I then called out RamJack. They gave me an estimate on the entire thing for $17,000 USD and brought out stainless steel piers. They are stainless in that they rust on the outside patina -- so, the cheap stainless, they told me.

What they found when they inspected was that my foundation was done by fly-by-night scammers who basically only gave the impression of a foundation. It was pretty good in some parts, but in other parts they failed to use rebar, pour concrete, and only had the sunk-in part of the foundation going down about 2 feet, rather than 3 or more feet. A couple columns were only about 1.5 feet down into the earth!

Meanwhile, RamJack also discovered that my water table was high, and recommended that I get a drainage expert involved. They said they could dig down about 3 feet and hit water. (Later, a Charleston architect engineer visited my house and said that high water tables were common and that he had seen worse. He said that I should work towards improving drainage, but that for the most part the house will be okay because I had so many piers (about 36 of them) and several of the key ones were RamJack steel piers.)

Anyway, they managed to repair much of the house and I thought all was great. But then they got to the back of the house, and said they under-estimated and needed to request another $20,000 USD to finish! So, I fired them too. They only got $17,000 USD out of me.

So now all is well except that I need to bring up the entire back wall of my house, which is about 50ft long, up about 1.5 inches. I used a laser measure to figure this out from multiple locations, following the instructions on the box. More than 4 years has passed since the RamJack guys were here, and the house has stayed steady with no more sinking.

TL;DR: Therefore, what's the proper way that a contractor needs to raise the 50ft back wall of my 4500sq ft house about 1.5 inches, as affordable as possible? I mean, as I interview contractors, I want to see how close they will be to your assessment.

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I know I'm missing the point entirely, but humans can't walk straight in the dark: youtube.com/watch?v=dYcvLw_jkkk – Mark McDonald Apr 13 '11 at 12:19
Wow, what an awful story! – Alex Feinman Apr 13 '11 at 15:43
up vote 0 down vote accepted

It looks like the most cost-effective way to level the floor is to do it with this self-leveling compound system, pumped in by a professional.


I mean, there appears to be nothing wrong with the walls, the house isn't moving, and it's only the back of the house and the upper floors that have the issue.

As for the upper floors, they are easier -- I can rip out the carpet and flooring, add shims to the joists and do other measures to avoid the squeaks, put the flooring back, and the upper floor should be good for go.

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After asking around on the web, it appears that indeed you CAN use self-leveling compound on a plywood floor, but you must prep it first using latex floor primer that you roll on with a roller and then touch up near the walls with a brush. The plywood subfloor must be made leakproof, essentially. Basically -- you can't afford to let the self-leveling compound seep through the floor, creating massive stains on the ceiling below. More info is here: ehow.com/how_7624294_use-leveling-compound-plywood.html – Volomike Oct 2 '12 at 19:07
Yet another technique is fascinating -- they use cheap, low-quality asphalt roofing tiles in layers and then lay another OSB (or hardwood flooring) on top of that. askthebuilder.com/getting-a-new-hardwood-floor-level – Volomike Oct 2 '12 at 19:14
Just got off the phone with a home improvement builder. He had never used self-leveler or roofing shingles, but said that was interesting. Instead, he used a system called scribing, which is far easier than cutting angled shims. Scribing is great for large sections of floor, although shimming might be good for final adjustments. Scribing involves cutting long thin strips of pine with a table saw at different heights, but never angled. You then lay these about a foot apart on top of nail glue and nail it down. Then, nailglue it again and tack OSB down on that. – Volomike Oct 2 '12 at 19:29

If you are sure the foundation is stable, I'd say the most 'affordable' solution would be to not jack up the house at all, and just lay down new floors in the affected rooms, using shims on top of the joists to get a level floor.

EDIT: hey, oops...I see that you already answered with the same idea. So, yea, I concur with your assessment...don't level the house...just the affected floor surfaces.

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