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Sagging ceiling (and floor above) likely problem/solutions?

Discussion in 'Building' started by crobar, 17 Jan 2016.

  1. crobar

    crobar

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    Hello,

    I'm looking at buying an old Victorian house, irca 1890. Its in a row and is attached to houses either side. It has a few issues, but the most worrying one is sagging of the living room ceiling, and corresponding sagging of the floor above. I'd like to know what the most likely reason for this is. The sagging happens near a window in the living room close to the front wall of the house. It also appears that the wall bulges out a little here. However it seems likely that this has been like this for many years, i.e. 25+, and isn't a new development.

    I'd like to know what people here think about this, what the most likely cause is and what the possible fixes might be. I've got a few ideas from googling (ranging from shimming to level the floor above to jacking up the joists and bolting a new beam to it) but don't really know much more than this.

    I do wonder if a couple of the existing joists have basically come out of whatever the fixing method was at the end closest to that wall because of the wall bulging out.

    So what do you think, should I avoid this place like the plague?
     
  2. KenGMac

    KenGMac

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    crobar, hi.

    From the description, the most common causation of sagging first floor joists is joist end rot, where the end of the joist which is embedded in the external wall is rotted away by the action of rain water entering the external joints in the stone [I assume the terrace you are looking at is sandstone?] over a considerable time. The joist is simply built into the internal surface of the external wall, there will be no mechanical connection.

    What can occur over time is the rain water entering the external wall will over time cause the joist end to rot then the lower surface of the joist crushes, because of the rot and the floor on the first floor drops and the ceiling in the room below bulges down wards.

    One give away that is visible tends to be that a gap occurs between the Skirting and the floor in the first floor room.

    As for a repair? this generally entails lifting the first floor flooring, remove the [probably] Lath and plaster from the ceiling in the ground floor there after, prop the joists cut the rot damaged ends away, and insert and bolt together the new replacement and existing joists.

    My preference is to remove and replace the entire ground floor lath and Plaster ceiling with two layers of plasterboard, skim and a total re-decoration of both rooms.

    As for the bulge in the front wall, this wall will have been getting a lateral Support from the now probably rotted joist ends, lateral Stability is a term where the tall wall which is considered to be thin relative to its overall height will begin to buckle [bulge] because the mid height restraint offered by the now rotted joists has been removed, the action of the rot has diminished this restraint once offered by the joists.

    Another thing to consider is that there will probably be a cornice of sorts in the ground floor room??? this cornice will be lost during the repair to the joists, replacing the cornice will cost, that cost is dependant on how ornate the lost Cornice is, a simple design will be about £ 400 per M as for the more shall we call it ornate can cost upwards of
    £ 1,000 per m run, it is perfectly feasible to copy exactly even the most ornate of Cornices.

    If it were me unless this property is in a really shall we say "High End" area it would take a long time to recoup the expenditure that would be generated by the above possible repair will be a long time?

    My dispassionate view would be to walk away from this proposed purchase??

    Hope this assists.

    Ken.
     
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  3. crobar

    crobar

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    Ken, a more comprehensive answer is difficult to imagine. It definitely assists, thank you.

    The building is indeed sandstone.

    I am capable enough to both lift and replace floorboards and tear down and replace the ceiling (having done both of these things before). The entire place would need replastered anyway. However, could you give me an idea of what sort of cost I might be looking at to replace the joists? The property might be available at the price required to make it worthwhile. It's in Edinburgh and pretty close to the city centre.
     
  4. ^woody^

    ^woody^

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    It's not something that should put you off a property. It's a simple repair if it is the most likely cause as above. All you need to do is negotiate a suitable reduction to reflect the costs involved.

    Any property of that age should be having a full survey in any case. You then use that to haggle on the price.
     
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  5. crobar

    crobar

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    Thanks woody
     
  6. WabbitPoo

    WabbitPoo

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    Replacing the joists is straightforward and, by the sound of it, a job you could do. I have done my floors and its quite easy (and once you have the ceiling down, it becomes obvious what you need to do). A few hundred quid'll see you right for joists, screws, bolts etc as required, depending on how many are affected.
     
  7. theprinceofdarkness

    theprinceofdarkness

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    Some one who lives down the road from, has a sag (2"+) over the rear half of a through lounge in a Victorian house. Its funny because me and my Wife were only talking about this the other day. How they could live there for 35 years and not try to fix it.
    Its part of the original (bad) design, the corner of the bath room sits on the unsupported floor joists and bends them.
    Frank
     
  8. crobar

    crobar

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    To follow up on this, I had a full structural survey done on the property, and their opinion was that the sag was due to actual movement of the walls some time in the past and not the joists rotting at the ends. So shimming the joists below the floor above is probably the order of the day.

    This movement was in their opinion historical and not an ongoing issue.
     
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