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PSU

Hello Friends and all knowing board:

 

We built our cabin (by a very reputable local builder) in 2005-2006. It originally was going to be a bunkhouse (24x32), but later loved the location (views of both Frazer and Smarts) and decided to put in septic, electricity, etc. We are on a bit of a slope looking out towards Smarts with the cabin supported by numerous footings, the front ones facing the lake being probably 7-8 feet high. Three years ago we had another local builder who lives very close put in a fish house and storage shed. He commented at the time that it appeared that our footings were shifting (slowly over time leaning a touch) a bit and I should probably have our builder take a look. Our original builder wasn't too concerned early on, however, over the years we both agree the shifting has continued to take place and probably should take care of sooner versus later. We are having challenges communicating (he works on very large (and beautiful) cabin projects and probably is just absolutely slammed with his regular work. He originally commented we have three options; cheaper.... resetting footings by putting into original angle , middle cost was reestablishing a new foundation throughout the blue print of the cabin, and then finally doing the long term addition we will likely do in the future (too costly right now).

 

Does anyone know of anyone who would have knowledge on this particular scenario that I could contact to get it fixed/diagnosed? Anyone ever experience a similar scenario?

 

Thanks for any insight friends!

 

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redlabguy

PSU,

i don’t have help, only sympathy. We have a bunk house with the same issue. Last winter was one of the worst for frost heaving. We have sono tubes (concrete) that are tipping. And this year it went from a concern to more like disaster. We’re going to try to put a new foundation. My local jack of all trades is going to try in August. I know he’s swamped but I’ll mention your situation, too. I’ll let you know and I’ll be interested in your experience.

Dick

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yoppdk

Sorry not to be able to help either, but also feel your pain in trying to find an able and willing contractor. Our ely cabin built 10 years ago has some issues which I have been trying to get the original contractor to address. The last we spoke he sounded doubtful that he could help ... too busy. And no longer answers my calls or returns calls. Sad and frustrating ... good luck finding a solution to your cabin problem ... if u find a good willing contractor let us know.

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delcecchi
Posted (edited)

How many footings have shifted? And what is the soil like?I

Just wondering about feasibility of a diy solution. Cook building center rents a backhoe skid steer for a reasonable price.

Edited by delcecchi

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chucker1101

Any chance you could post a couple of photos? Also, when the piers were put into place, did they pin them by drilling holes into rock and gluing re-rod?

 

My take would be to re-build foundation, and make certain to drill holes and set rerod pins, followed by concrete/cement blocks with cement down the middle of the blocks. If that was done to begin with, though, not certain what to say. 

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leech~~
Posted (edited)

My Mom bought an old shell of a lake cabin up on blocks on a hill as well.  Over the years she made a bunch of improvements on the inside like added an indoor bathroom, kitchen, bed rooms and it all added tons of weight.

The cabin slowly started moving and at times I could hard get the door open to get in. One winter it moved so much the the frig that was right by the door was blocking it in the spring.

When my Dad passed away my son and I got a few 20 ton jacks and tried to level it out but it was just to far gone.

I found out when climbing under it that all the cross members were built with 2"X8" and all bowed bad. 😮

I finally got her to sell it at age 82 and let the next younger owner deal with it! 

 

 

Edited by leech~~

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PSU

Thanks for the replies friends. Here are a few pictures

Cabin shots.png

Cabin 2.png

Cabin 3.png

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PSU

By the way and for clarification, the cabin seems very sturdy and level. Our builder agreed

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leech~~

Dang dude that is a high one.  You may think about adding a full foundation under it some time when you can afford it. Your kind of playing Jenga there! 😮

 

image.png.4b32e02dfdfc07969ec2fb5fbc743d24.png

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delcecchi
Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, PSU said:

By the way and for clarification, the cabin seems very sturdy and level. Our builder agreed

And it will be up until the pillars do a Sampson.

The design doesn't seem to have much lateral strength.  Are those foundation posts just basically sitting on the ground or rock with perhaps a pad of concrete under them?

 

Remember that, as the support leans, there is a portion of the cabin weight pushing the bottom out and top in, like standing on a ladder leaning on a wall and the more it leans the more side force.

 

I'm wondering if the bottom isn't sliding a little.  

 

I am not a construction guy, so just an wondering.

Edited by delcecchi
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Big V Bobcat
Posted (edited)

Your cabin does not appear to have any lateral support. Some of the column 'bays' between the columns should have some diagonal bracing. Right now they are all acting as independent columns and each is allowed to move/shift however mother nature and gravity wants. The connection from the top of the columns to the bottom of the cabin floor structure is a weak (pinned) connection. Think of a table with wobbly legs and a lot of weight on top of it. Like it was mentioned earlier, the footings are most likely not anchored to the bedrock, or at least down to the frost line for the region (6'-0" Deep!)

 

Heavy rains or a big snow load, coupled with some high winds could potentially be disastrous. I would probably replace the middle bay with some larger timber columns (8x8 or whatever the beam width is) and brace it diagonally - front to back and side to side. Then re-do the block columns in the front. I can't really see the back columns. It would probably be wise to consult with a structural engineer to come up with some specific details to give a contractor if you can find one to do the work.

Edited by Big V Bobcat
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chucker1101
Posted (edited)

Like everyone, i'm starting with the statement of i'm not a structural engineer, and i think it's worth your while to hire one to assess this. It can be hard to find building engineers the area sometimes. I've found that there are plenty of craftsman and engineers in Duluth area that enjoy the drive up and doing work here.  

 

First, i think you clearly have a lateral deflection issue. The base of the piers are either slipping or rotating. The basic question is how are the piers pinned to the ledge rock? If the foundation base was poured/formed directly on the ledge rock without any pinning, it's going to move. Too much level/water/ice/snow issues to stop that. Assuming some level of pinning happened, knowing how (or if) any pinning was done would be helpful to determine how fast it'll degrade. They might have used Hilti Pins, which probably aren't adequate for the Northern MN climate in this situation, but would at least help slow the issue.

 

Second, there's probably nothing you can do to correct the deflection now. So your choices are down to replacing the piers altogether, or trying to stop/slow the lateral movement. As mentioned, balancing the lateral load amongst all the piers through some type of diagonal bracing between piers, would be the best first step. Rotation or sideways deflection would be transmitted to multiple piers, and should slow the process.

 

Here's where a structural engineer might be able to help, to verify (or refute) this thought...I think you could reinforce the footings with an additional block on each side of the footings, and then pin those down really tight with a good 24" hole insertion of rebar. So for each footing, place four blocks, one on each side, do a deep pin/epoxy of each using rebar, and maybe stop the lateral slide of the original pier. It doesn't solve the current deflection, but would prevent it from getting worse. But don't take my word for it  :)  Find a good engineer.

 

Finally, for those front piers you could tear them down, put a smaller well-pinned pier in ( a couple of feet off the ground) and then use 6x6 posts to hold the porch up - a cheaper solution than full pier replacement. This is assuming the house proper is squared on the other piers. The load on the porch isn't nearly what the house load is, and 6x6 should be more than adequate for the smaller load.

 

Good luck, not fun...

Edited by chucker1101
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PSU

Really appreciate the thoughts friends. You guys are always pretty knowledgeable. First and foremost, I am as far from a handy guy as you'll find.....It's my understanding that the builder (again, very reputable) didn't go down to the frost lines or ledge rock as this was only originally going to be a bunkhouse. The footings are on top of a sort of concrete square which you cant see on the photos. He may have called them "floating footings" and told us they may move somewhat. We built the cabin in 2005 and only started to notice the "movement" back in 2015. I know the pictures look ominous, however this has been taking place over many years.

 

I am calling the excavator who helped with the footings to get a better sense of best steps moving forward as I seem to recall he excavated the land for the footings.  

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SkunkedAgain
Posted (edited)

Yup, floating footings are just in the ground. Just from the pictures it seemed easy to tell that frost heave has pushed the piers around because the footings are neither below the frost line nor pinned to the bedrock. You've certainly added more load to it so I'm not sure what liability the original builder has, but anything that you don't pin or get below the frost line is going to shift. Basements foundations are poured below the frost line to prevent this problem. When no basement is going in, something has to get down to something solid or shifting will occur.

 

A structural engineer is a good idea. However, it really comes down to the fact that the footings are inadequate and they will need to be braced/replaced before the entire place does a Jenga.

 

As a side note, I just put in a small structure on a hill. It's got 8 piers of which 6 have footers that are pinned to bedrock and the other two are just big footers that are 4.5ft deep because I never hit bedrock.

Edited by SkunkedAgain
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Skibo

I feel for you.  The really bad part for you is that the Limit of Repose (statute of limitations) for a contractor in Minnesota is 10 years, unless they intentionally build something wrong.  Very hard to prove that, but I would try.  This is not going to be a low-cost fix.  If you had an architect design this, I would definitely go after him/her.  Find a good construction attorney and buy an hour of his/her time.

Having built a number of residential and commercial buildings on some very un-level and difficult lots, I can't believe that your contractor put your house on those very high and very small piers with no means of stopping lateral shifting.  A foundation is a system that has to work as a single unit to support the structure.  Even ledge-rock moves, and there doesn't seem to be anything to keep the system together in the event of any movement.  All of those piers should have been tied together to stop movement and create a somewhat monolithic foundation.

Everyone who has posted and spent any time on or around lakes in northern MN (especially in ledge-rock country) has likely seen many examples like this of napkin-architecture and engineering.  I'm sure that a good architect or engineer can come up with a way to salvage what you have instead of needing to replace the entire foundation system.

Good luck!  https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/cite/327A.02

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leech~~

What was proposed to fix my mom's cabin by a builder was they would slide steel beams under the whole cabin.

Jack it up a bit and put in a new foundation. 

I thought that she may do it, but we found out after she passed away that she was a very charitable person and had been supporting the kids at the Mille Lacs band of Ojibwe.  If you get my meaning! 🙄 

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birdswacker

I see In the first picture I see shims on top of the piers?

Why is there 4”-5” of shim on the left pier”

1.5” on the center pier?

3”-4” on the right pier?

it doesn’t appear these piers are anchored to the cabin?

Get rid of the corner piers and pour  a concrete corner 4’-6’ long each way and make sure it’s anchored to something above with structural plates (Simpson plates or steel plates

just a thought??

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papadarv

Not sure about your builders material selection. Looks like 11 EA 8" cinder blocks sand/cement morter between blocks 88" tall pillars. Note the water/moisture on the block joints which degrades when frozen. Note seperation/morter loss on top blocks. On circled shims, 2 1.5" + several 1/2" jammed between looks like shabby work. On pic 2 buried rocks and small tree trunk indicate heavy rock bed ground typical in northern MN. You may have very shallow below ground footings anchored well above the frost line. Piller has already shifted about 33% out from the structure. If it goes past 50% it could collapse and other outside pillers crumble. birdswaker idea of 4'-6' poured concrete corners with footings below the frostline might be a good idea sooner than later.

20190730_084437.thumb.jpg.5930604d9cebf4f0f6f5a0d0d380f303.jpg

20190730_085140.thumb.jpg.2989ecc3595bb2f99d9150c9261d2ccd.jpg

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SkunkedAgain

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delcecchi

I think maybe it is time to "out" this mystery contractor.    For everyone's well being.  

 

I'm guessing the shims are there because the pads didn't end up at the right height for an even number of cinder blocks.  He just poured them and stacked the blocks and then shimmed to get the joists level.   

The other possibility is that they sank from freeze thaw cycles with the load on them and the shims were to level the structure back up.

 

 

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PSU

Thanks for the replies everyone, I sincerely appreciate the continued feedback! I contacted our former excavator who also worked on the cabin and he (and another local builder friend I know) suggested I call an expert mason who lives in the Cook area. I have left him a message. My immediate concern is the safety hazard, i.e. is it imminent? We use the cabin quite often in the spring, summer, and fall. Actually, just got off of the phone with the mason and he's going to come out and take a look in a few weeks as he will be working in the Frazer/Smarts Bay area. He looked at the pictures and didn't feel there was an imminent safety issue. Our builder also made the same comment a month ago that we should probably have a plan in place for fall or Spring.   

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PSU

Hey Del, I sent you a PM on this board. Call when you have a moment

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delcecchi
5 hours ago, PSU said:

Hey Del, I sent you a PM on this board. Call when you have a moment

Nice to talk to you.  Good luck with getting your supports fixed.

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