Sunday, April 09, 2006

Sloping in Astoria

At last ... an explanation for why my kitchen addition has a decided downward slope!

I got in touch with an old-time contractor here in Astoria, TG, and he came over for a look-see about jacking up the house, which is trying to head down the hill for a swim in the Columbia River, just like any other house on the north slope. The kitchen addition sags about 3" below the rest of the house, which I found worrisome.

No measuring tape for this guy, he just came in, stood in the kitchen addition for a while, looked things over, and asked to go to the basement floor below (which, by the way, is still 10 feet above the ground). On the landing right below the kitchen addition, he started to laugh.

"Has anyone bothered to look up?" he asked.


"So do it."

I looked up, and then I started to laugh, too. The kitchen addition slopes for a damn good reason ... it was built right on top of the sloping porch roof below it. The porch no longer exists in its original form, but the roof sure does. And of course, the original porch roof was sloped to slough off the rainfall. So the kitchen isn't sinking, after all. It was just built on a sloping roof to begin with. Go figure.

Then we went down to the very bottom of the house. He stood there, too, and shook his head in disgust.

"Back in the old days, they knew where to stop a house."

By that he meant that they knew how far out onto the hillside they could go on that slippery muck they were building on, and to go no further out onto the slope than absolutely necessary. If the house had stopped where they originally stopped it, and the porch hadn't been added onto the back, and the kitchen addition hadn't been put on top of the misbegotten porch, I wouldn't be having all these problems.

Another gem from TG: "Actually, a house should never have been built in this location."

Ummmm, well that one really gave me pause, but hell, it's here, so let's do what we can.

So then we went up to the second floor, where it is obvious that the weight of the kitchen addition is tearing the north end of the house away from the framing. On the northeast corner second story bedroom, there is a gap in the ceiling that is nearing an inch wide.

"Yup, gotta shore this thing up damn near immediately. The north end of the house is trying to leave."

So what it boils down to is that the house is not "jacking up" material. It needs to be shored up, which entails putting in new footings on the north, east, and west walls, and pouring a partial cement foundation about two feet high. Then we will put posts in the cement, so that when the house inevitably shifts again, we can add shims to the tops of the posts.

Anyway, the bright light on the horizon is that I have at last found someone who will work on the house.

Astoria Photografpix

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