Dear PoPville – Help for Structural Issues with a Sleeper Porch?

“Dear PoPville,

I live in Capitol Hill now and am looking at purchasing a home near the Congressional Cemetery. The problem is there are structural issues with the enclosed sleeping porch. I had a structural engineer there this morning. He said both the joists could be weak and the brick pillars holding up the structure might be settling. I was wondering if your readers have dealt with a similar issue? How they handled it? And if they hired contractors to fix it, are there any they’d recommend?”

I’d also be curious about cost?

8 Comment

  • I has a similar problem with a settling foundation. One of the engineers I had come out mentioned that a helical pier can be installed underneath each brick column. It is like a massive cork screw that is screwed into the ground until it resists 30,000 lbs of pressure. I think he mentioned that each pier costs about $1K.

  • We just had 2 joists replaced in our house near the Car Barn (leaky plumbing caused some rotting/water damage). Call our contractor Leo (301) 404 6607. He’s awesome – extremely fair and considerate. I’m sure he would be happy to give you an estimate.

  • CoHi,

    Excellent advice.

    Please share with us more details.

  • Unless you can actually see what is happening structually, no one is going to be able to give you an accurate estimate.

    Something like replacing rotted joists or a main support beam can be simple if the problem is isolated to just one or two structural members. However, it can get expensive very quickly if you have to repair masonry, cut through mechanical systems or there are more widespread structural issues.

    I would get a contractor out there at the same time as the engineer – having them on the same page is a good idea.

    But again, there is no way for them to know for sure what is happening unless they can get under there and lay eyes on the problem. 19th century craftsmen cut corners just like today’s; there may be some silly things going on under the floorboards.

    If there are no complications and a contractor that isn’t gouging you, it could be as little as $3k (engineering plans, simple beam replacement & minor masonry work on the pillars). With complications, you could have to rebuild the whole thing.

  • I had a similar issue with the brick pillars that were supporting a two story addition on the back of our house. They were sinking and pulling away and had to be comepletey replaced (they were replaced by steal beams that were encased in wood for appearance, not new brick and mortar) I used Capitol Hill Construction whom I have used for three large projects and their work is fantastic and reasonably priced. I cannot remember the total costs because it was part of a larger job but I believe it was around $1000.

  • we had a similar problem. piers were settling and starting to rip off the back of the house. the back wall of the house had separated at several points. We tore off the whole back of the house and built a 3-story addition. Because of the problems with the ground that caused the porch piers to settle in the first place, we had to use helical piers under the posts in the addition. We had ~7 helical piers for a cost of ~10k ($1500/helical pier) + structural engineer costs.

  • Our home inspector recommended 2 structural engineers for assessment of foundations: Jolles & McKenzie and Structural Solutions.

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