Every month, we seek to bring our readers insight from the worlds of home construction, home repair, and home maintenance straight from local Northwest Washington contractors in a segment we call “3 Questions.” Yep, you guessed it: we ask three questions, and the contractors answer them.
This month, we talk structural elements with Cameron Sides, owner of Bigfoot Builders, LLC in Bow.
1. Do you have a rule-of-thumb for replacing historically insect-damaged structural elements in older homes?
When we are remodeling a client’s home and encounter structural elements that have been historically insect- (or otherwise-) damaged, our rule of thumb is to replace as much as possible. If this is outside the scope of work for our project, we will evaluate the best course of action for the client and determine the method and cost to “make it right.” If we found a floor joist that had sustained termite damage, we would replace it completely. We would then thoroughly inspect adjoining elements: the beam it is resting on, the blocking between it and the next joist, and the post below the beam. In general, there is no benefit to waiting to replace damaged elements as the voids and powder left from insect damage only promote further damage from moisture.
2. Can you explain, in general terms, what kinds of costs clients might expect in replacing insect damaged structural elements? For instance, replacing a typical floor beam might cost, on average, about “x” dollars per beam?
Replacing damaged structural elements, like most remodeling and restoration work, is highly specific to the home, extent of damage, and accessibility. Checking with a reputable pest control company to ensure that the problem will not continue into newly installed lumber would be step one. Once the extent of damage has been established, a good contractor will provide a detailed scope of work that explains which members will be replaced and how they will be supported. In older homes, the footings (or lack thereof) used for typical post-and-pier floor construction are often inadequate. If the damage in your home is restricted to the crawlspace, several excellent companies exist to clean and seal the crawlspace, as well as repair damage under your home. Costs can vary widely depending on the amount of replacement necessary and could be as low as $5,000 if the damage is limited to a smaller area. A more complex project could exceed $30,000. I know, quite a range! That is why it is important to have an experienced contractor (and possibly a structural engineer) look at the job and determine what needs to be done in your situation.
3. What do you do if a crawl space doesn’t have proper access to repair insect damaged structural elements? Excavate? Work from outside?
If a crawlspace does not have proper access, meaning there is no room to work, repairing damaged elements becomes more involved. When the house is that close to the ground, there is rarely a vapor barrier (polyethylene sheeting), and there is often moisture damage to beams and posts that are either in close proximity to ground moisture or, in some cases, in full contact with the ground. This is obviously a bigger problem which involves excavation of the area before work can begin. Manual labor is the most common method, sometimes with the help of conveyor belts to move material out faster. Occasionally, a Vac-trailer can be used if the soil is very soft and free of rocks and debris. Once room to work has been created, an experienced contractor can determine how much structural damage exists.
BONUS: What’s your favorite structural repair story?
It is hard to name a favorite structural repair story and bringing up the issue to clients after we have uncovered unknown damage is never fun. When we can quickly and cost-effectively fix the problem and get back on schedule knowing the house is in much better structural shape than when we started—that is always a win. During our numerous remodels on older homes, we have run into many issues with structural members. These include water damage, dry rot, undersized and sagging beams, and occasionally, insect damage.
About Bigfoot Builders, LLC
Cameron Sides started the company four years ago to bring a quality customer experience to the custom home and remodel market in Skagit County. Bigfoot is a small company (lean and mean!) of just three employees besides Cameron. The company loves transforming client visions into reality with the aid of 3D modeling and online project management software.
For more information, visit https://www.bigfootbuilders.com.
A big “thanks” to Cameron for his responses!
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