Sagging Crawl Spaces

When you think about it, crawl spaces have it pretty rough. Unlike basements, which are enclosed and protected from the elements, crawl spaces are typically vented, unconditioned areas exposed to moisture, heat, cold, humidity and even wood-destroying insects year in and year out. It’s no wonder, then, that they can begin to sag as wood joists and beams — and sometimes even columns — weaken and rot over time. Weakened wood joists and beams simply cannot span the distance between supports as they were originally designed. The original columns within the crawl space are also prone to settlement, as the exposed foundation soil is either compressed by the weight of the home or affected by changes in moisture content.

As the floors above a crawl space sag, you notice floors that are uneven, sunken in the middle, or gapping where they meet the walls.

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Crawl Space Options to Avoid

Maybe it’s because crawl spaces are inherently ugly and hidden away, but it seems as if they’re often repaired using less than ideal methods. These can include replacing original sunken columns with new concrete block columns, which in addition to taking a long time to cure, can settle into the soil below, requiring placement of shims over time between the new columns and the wood framing. Unfortunately, these shims are most often just a temporary fix that will have to be replaced or added to down the line. And as with the new concrete columns, they don’t address the underlying problem that caused the original columns to settle and the floors to sag. And, as with concrete columns, shims aren’t adjustable. Light-duty jack posts can seem attractive because they are adjustable and are relatively inexpensive. They are prone to failure over time, however, because they may not have been designed to support the loads placed upon them from the home. They can also be prone to rusting, and, like concrete columns and additional shims, they don’t address the underlying (soil) issue.

SmartJack® System

Unlike “dumb” jack posts, the Supportworks SmartJack System is designed specifically for use as a supplemental support in a crawl space, to shore up sagging joists and beams and to be used in conjunction with the existing column. The galvanized steel components and the cast aluminum footing work in tandem with a cube of compacted engineered fill rock that absorbs and spreads the load to the surrounding soil and over a larger area. This leaves a sturdy, permanent fix that actually addresses the issues that caused the floors above the crawl space to sag in the first place.

crawl space jack

Preparing for installation

Before the installation process of our SmartJack™ crawl space system, a project consultant will have already met with you to map out and specifically design a crawl space support system that will effectively return the structural stability of your home. At the beginning of the installation, our team of in-house crawl space repair contractors will excavate a 2′ square, 2′ deep hole at each SmartJack™ location. Each of these holes will be prepared with engineered fill consisting of tightly compacted crushed stone.

Placing the pre-cast footing

A pre-cast concrete base (or footing) is placed on top of the engineered fill and carefully leveled.
The footing serves as a stable base for the steel jack post, keeping it vertical and distributing the weight bearing on the post across a broad area of soil. The engineered fill base underneath the footing provides solid support that won’t shift, settle or be affected by soil moisture. Some building codes may require a poured concrete base rather than engineered fill.

By the time the weight is distributed through the pre-cast base and the fill, the bearing stresses have dissipated to approximately 10% of the stresses at the top of the post. This means that even if you have weak supporting soils, you can be assured that the weight of the building will not exceed their bearing capacity.

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Cutting the jack posts to length

Once new bases have been installed, measurements are made for the steel crawl space jack posts, and the posts are cut to length.

The steel tube used in each SmartJack™ is manufactured with a triple-layer, in-line galvanized coating.

The triple-layer coating process includes :

  1. A uniform, hot-dip zinc galvanizing layer
  2. An intermediate conversion coating, which enhances corrosion resistance
  3. A clear, organic top coating to further enhance appearance and durability.

Additionally, the inside of the pier tube also has a zinc-rich coating.
The remaining steel components of the Smart Jack™ come standard as zinc-plated in accordance with ASTM B633, “Standard Specification for Electrodeposited Coatings of Zinc on Iron and Steel”.

Once the SmartJack™ has been installed in your home, you can rest assured that you’ve invested in a high-quality, permanent solution for your crawl space issue.

measuring crawl space jack

Assembling & tightening

Each crawl space jack post is assembled in your crawl space. The top of the crawl space jack is mounted against the girder, and the installation is carefully plumbed.

In cases where existing girders are undersized or damaged by rot, a new sister girder may be installed alongside the original in order to strengthen and reinforce the structure.
Each SmartJack™ is then tightened in an attempt to lift the floor back to its original position. In many cases, your contractors will be able to straighten and level floors, close cracks in walls, and halt future downward movement. The jacks will continue to be adjustable for future tightening, should you need it.

smart jack system

Encapsulating the crawl space

If your wood crawl space joists, girders, and/or supports were damaged by mold, rot, and moisture, then you will want to address these issues to prevent future damage.

The encapsulation process involves sealing all crawl space vents, installing an airtight crawl space door, and lining crawl space walls and floors with a durable plastic liner. This treatment also includes additional drainage measures like installing interior drains and a sump pump.

Encapsulation stops moisture-related damage and associated structural problems that occur when framing members rot and deteriorate. By investing in crawl space encapsulation, you’ll also improve overall home energy efficiency and indoor air quality.

Diagnosing and Fixing the Problem

NSquare project consultants are trained to expertly diagnose crawl space problems. They use highly specialized equipment that allows them to develop a solution tailored to your home’s unique needs. By the time the inspection is over, you’ll know exactly what caused the problem, exactly what it will take to fix it permanently and exactly how much it will cost to do so.

Once a solution has been customized for your home, we pick a date for the job. At that time, a highly trained crew of technicians will install the solution, leaving your home fixed and protected for future generations — restoring its value, improving your family’s quality of life and giving you lasting peace of mind.