Foundation Repair & Renovation Progress Update

Things have been moving along slowly but surely. The foundation has finally been leveled and they are pouring the concrete on Monday. They plan to be done by the end of next week! It's already incredibly different inside the house, particularly in the kitchen where it no longer feels like you are climbing up a hill to get to the sink.

As they leveled the section of the house that the previous owners added on, the whole addition began to separate from the main house. This isn't surprising considering everything the previous owners did on the house was done as haphazardly as possible (remember the "wall use only" boards glued to the efficiency apartment floor?). This is kinda freaky and tbh, i'm not sure what exactly we are going to have to do to fix that. More learning to do.


Once foundation is done it will be time for a whole new roof! ...and electrical!...and plumbing! :) The foundation contractors found a leak behind the shower wall in the main house so we will need to get that taken care of asap. And once the electrical is fixed, hopefully the a/c will work!

One major layout decision we are trying to make involves the center bedroom that has no windows. We know we are going to take it down to open up the main living space, but we also would like to use part of it to put in a second bathroom. Also, the entire back of the house is currently bedrooms, none of which have a door to the exterior. The front door is currently the only entrance/exit. With smaller bedrooms, it's hard to figure out where it makes the most sense to put in a door. Luckily, we've been getting some professional help on these decisions -shout out to our wonderful friend and architect Jelisa for helping us figure it all out. 

That's it for now. We promised a full house tour and failed miserably at delivering that, but I remain hopeful we will get that up next week.

-Em O

Choosing A Foundation Contractor

Image that I personally found helpful during my "what is a joist" google query -Em O

Image that I personally found helpful during my "what is a joist" google query -Em O

You might have noticed that we went MIA for the past couple of weeks and the reason for that yet again involves our foundation.

We thought after we received our scope of work from the aforementioned structural engineer, that the bids process would be a walk in the park. As per usual, we were incorrect.  

We were instructed to get 3 bids on every major piece of work we are doing on the house. At least 2 should match and then you choose one of those two. So we gathered our 3 contacts and scheduled the inspections! In our case, no bids matched and no one just showed up and said, “we’ll do exactly what is on your SOW and we’ll charge you $X!” as we had asked the foundation gods to manifest for us.

We ruled out bid number one as it came from an unlicensed crew offering to do unpermitted work (possibly under the cover of night). We are all for a bargain, but decided that was just too risky for our first big job. It would take significantly longer, and, to be honest, the bid actually wasn’t much lower!

We were left with two bids, one outlining every possible contingency making us feel like the upcharge potential was through the roof (our albeit unstable roof which probably isn’t too difficult to puncture). The second bid was bare bones- leaving us wondering where the hidden charges are. And would someone for god sakes tell us if we need to be taking the efficiency apartment floor up or not?! (Although we are getting pretty buff from the 14lb crow bar we’ve been using.)

After spending some time with the bids, we were able to determine that the main differences between the two came down to

Contractor A

  • -158 ft of 4x6 beam
  • -100 ft of 2x6 joists
  • -excavation of the lower parts of the house @ $35 a foot
  • -foundation skirting price significantly higher than contractor B

Contractor B

  • -216 ft of 4x6 beam
  • -excavation of the lower parts of the house @ no charge
  • -foundation skirting price significantly lower than contractor A

Contractor B came in total around 2k below. Multiple phone calls and many google queries later we think we sorted out the discrepancy surrounding the joists. (A) put the joists in the bid under the assumption that since that part of the house is so low to the ground, the joists will most likely need to be replaced. We spoke to (B) and he explained that since we are getting an entirely new foundation from him, he will take care of any joist issues that arise. On top of that, he won’t charge us any extra for excavation, which could be quite extensive. His similar skirting offering is also cheaper. This sealed the deal for us, and we decided to go with B.

This may not seem that exciting in general, but it’s the first major decision we’ve made on our house and we are feeling pretty proud of ourselves for getting this far.

OH and as for those efficiency floors...since our foundation contractor doesn’t charge more for excavation, we decided to take up half the floors where the house is the lowest (to hopefully save some time on the overall job)  and leave the rest for them to take care of.

Alright, time for us to celebrate.

-Em & Em

Hot Mess Trash Disaster Foundation (Part I)

Professional foundation inspector reporting for duty! 

Professional foundation inspector reporting for duty! 

Our lil’ bungalow is currently sporting a pier and beam foundation system. We’ve been told by several reputable parties that in Austin, a pier and beam system can be more advantageous than a slab foundation.  This is due to the nature of the soil and it’s tendency to shift between seasons. A slab may just crack while a pier and beam system can go with the flow. That said, most foundations, regardless of type, need a tune up every few decades or so. Ours is in dire need of some TLC. 

After the initial inspection we knew that the foundation would be one of the biggest repairs we would be making on the house. The inspector pointed out some sloppily and cheaply done repair work (you will see this is a continuing theme as we work our way through the house). Many of the 4X6 beams had been replaced with 2X4s resulting in the beams sagging and rolling. He also informed us that the house was a few piers short of a full load. We would need to install additional piers and replace most of the beams. Those factors combined with shifting due to natural ground movement left our house feeling off-kilter. 

You can really see the rolling beam from this angle.

You can really see the rolling beam from this angle.

Before we moved forward with getting quotes from contractors, we brought in a structural engineer who specializes in pier and beam to take a look at the house and write up a scope of work for the repairs. He confirmed most of what we had been told to date and gave us a little physics lesson. I won’t bore you with that here (but also I don’t remember much of it, he was attractive and I was distracted).

The biggest advantage of having an engineer review your project is that you know exactly what to ask for from your contractors. Two contractors might quote you similar prices for repairs but could include completely different scopes. The engineer generally isn't there to "win the business" so they will shoot you straight on what is necessary vs. nice to have and what needs to be done tomorrow vs. what can wait. Especially for first timers, we highly recommend this step (not just for the views, heh heh). 

No crawl space here! 

No crawl space here! 

A good portion of the foundation repair cost is coming from the fact that the addition the previous owners added to the house, which includes the efficiency apartment and the 4th bedroom in the main house (more on this later), is just sitting on piles of cinder blocks. The addition also doesn’t have proper clearance to allow a crew to get underneath it and do the necessary pier installations. Our engineer told us that less accessibility means more $$$.

That brings us to our first tiny rehabber task. This weekend (weather permitting) we’ll be tearing up the floors in the efficiency apartment to allow the foundation crew to access the area and install the piers from above.

Sounds easy enough, right?

Em V.