We are currently renting our house and considering purchasing it from the owner, but it is sagging, and in some rooms it is rather significant and noticeable, with the worst parts being approximately a 1" rise in a 24" run. It has apparently been this way for a while, as all the owner's trim work has strange angles cut to fit the shape of the house.

There is a thick beam in the basement, probably 6" by 6" or greater, that crosses the entire house and supports all the joists. A four foot section was removed to put in the new furnace. I'm not sure if this cut is the reason the house is sagging, but I'm wondering if this amount of sagging is something to worry about, if we should look into fixing it and how hard of a fix it is likely to be, or if it's strongly suggested that we find another place.

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    How old is the house? Was the support beam cut all the way through? Are there any support posts underneath the beam (especially near the cut)? – Niall C. Feb 18 '11 at 22:51
  • The house was built in the 1940s, and yes the beam has been completely cut through. An entire section of it has been removed, and it is now being supported by several support jacks along either side. It looks like they put in the jacks when they removed the original block wall supporting the beam. – wersimmon Feb 19 '11 at 17:07

A 1" to 16" slope is huge. that would mean a 10 " drop in apx 13 feet. Did you mean 1" in 16 feet? Regardless, the fact that you are asking the question indicates that you need a professional to take a look. There are many possible reasons from maybe the cut center beam, collapsing or crushing support posts(top or bottom), settled footings, etc. This is a common situation in very old houses, especially ones built on stone foundations. A simple answer would be to jack and support the offending beam(s) to restore a level floor, *however*several other factors need to be considered before jacking can be done. Factors like chimney/roof coupling, door and window reactions, tile floors, millwork/trim, plumbing connections........the list goes on. Find a competent general contractor that has experience working on older homes. That person should be able to determine the root cause, then formulate a plan to fix the problem. To buy the house or not might be determined by the repair costs and advise this person gives you. I would also have a complete home inspection done before even considering making an offer to buy this house.

  • Clarified the angle: it's not all 1" by 16", and it's actually closer to 24". – wersimmon Feb 19 '11 at 17:04

From your description is does sound like the cut in the beam has had an effect, but you say it was only cut recently yet the sagging " has apparently been this way for a while".

A more serious problem is if the house is still moving/sagging which would indicate an ongoing problem rather than something that happened in the past and has now stabilised.

The only advice I can give is that you get a fairly comprehensive structural survey done. But as with all things you get what you pay for. The basic one required by mortgage lenders in the UK won't go very far - they are there to satisfy the lender that the house is worth the money they are lending and isn't going to fall down tomorrow. You might need to spend a little more to get something useful, so shop around, but this should tell you if there is a problem with the beam.

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