A New Support Beam in the Basement

Basement day! Bob arrived at our place a little after 8:30 AM. After making some eggs for breakfast and visiting a bit, we unloaded his truck and for the rest of the day… we were off to the races.

Some wood that Bob had picked up, on his way over.

While Bob began prepping in the basement, we borrowed his truck. Liz and I both drove over to Home Depot to pick up lots of supplies, for when PermaSeal comes over next weekend.

We had them do work for us last year, and opted to handle the cement pour ourselves. Doing this ourselves saved us a lot of money, but to retain their warranty on the work done… their requirement is that they have an observer come out and watch the pour.

The last time we did a big pour was for the back basement. For that job, we estimated 38 bags (and ended up using 31). This time around, we’ve estimated 45 bags – and that’s precisely what we had to pick up.

We had all our cement on a palette in back, and the guys at Home Depot were kind enough to let us bring our vehicles around back to load up (as opposed to throwing bags on a cart, wheeling them through the store, and taking them to the rooftop parking lot.

We figured on two vehicles, two trips. Trip 1: 16 bags in Bob’s truck, 6 in our car; Trip 2: 17 bags in Bob’s truck, 6 in our car.

Back home, we found Bob had gotten one of his bottle jacks in place, and was starting to raise up the joists. Note the red dot and the line indicating where things are starting from. His goal was to move things up an inch and a half.

Measuring the height for the second beam, to be placed on the second bottle jack.

Liz, helping Bob prep the wood for the second jack.

Bob getting the second column prepped. Note that these are not the final columns, and are just to help raise the joists up a little more. Again, look to the line and the red dot on the left.

Later on in the day, Liz and I were outside when Bob said that the house made this huge/loud BANG, as is common when lifting up part of a house like this. He said the sound was so loud, it likely would have driven me to want to spend the night at a hotel.

I am kind of sorry (and kind of not sorry) I missed this. I remember hearing stories about this, when Bob told me about the time he did something similar at the Frankfort house. I still kind of do (and don’t) want to actually hear this, in person.

Most of what I did was haul the cement from the truck to the basement. At Home Depot, I got help from a super nice guy named Javier, who was loading up the truck while I was inside, positioning bags.

He was giving me lots of good advice, and cautioned me to take my time. I guess a guy was recently out in the back loading area, and ended up having a heart attack. That kind of stuck with me for the remainder of the day.

The first stack of bags in place, we headed back out to get the remainder. Bob did some recalculations, and decided to get a larger piece of wood for the support beam. He rode with Liz, while I drove his truck back to Home Depot.

Here’s the remaining pile.

And here’s the bag that I kind of drove over, after backing up the truck too much. I’ve gotten better about backing Bob’s truck into our driveway, but I still have some practice to do it seems.

The remaining bags, located in the back of the basement.

I was working really slowly, going through all these bags. For the most part, I just put two bags on a dolly, and transported them down the driveway to the basement steps. There, I hugged each bag down a few steps, and walked them to the proper stack.

I’ve moved bags of concrete down the basement steps before, but it honestly felt like more effort than benefit. It’d take a lot to control the dolly as it went down, and even after I’d arrive down there… I’d have to pick up the bags again to move them. So leaving them at the top of the steps made more sense to me.

By the time I got done, my arms were pretty shot. I worked really slowly, and couldn’t shake the thought that Bob probably could’ve moved all this himself in a third of the time.

Still though – I was happy to do this work, as it was definitely something I was able to do. Bob is more the craftsman, and I’m more the laborer. I worked up a pretty healthy sweat hauling this all around, but it felt really good.

You know, in an “my arms are rubber” kind of way.

All told, I handled 45 bags. At 80 pounds each, that clocks in to 3,600 pounds I lifted and set down, over the course of an afternoon.

A photo of the neighborhood, as the sun was setting. Seeing the sky and the outline of the trees made me pause a moment, and I decided to take this photo.

Two bottle jacks, and one car jack (to help push some of the other joists up). The big guy there is what will eventually span across both column posts.

Bob, notching some of the joists.

Kind of like what Bob and I did when we installed the painted plywood – there were a lot of dry runs, with some fine-tuning in between. We’d raise up the beam, put it in place, then assess whether it was (or wasn’t) touching in the right spots).

The beam in place, with two support columns. This was a team effort, with Bob and Liz and me all working together, to get things situated.

To get the columns in place, Liz had to position them… and then Bob pounded them in place with a hammer.

Some fine-tuning.

Bob, checking to see if things are level.

This is one of the screws Bob got, to affix the gussets he made. Look at the size of this thing!

Putting the first gusset in place.

The new support beam, with new columns and new gussets.

Here’s a wider shot with the two concrete bases, and with Liz looking on.

It’s crazy to think that, before we did any work down here, there was just one small column that the previous owners had in place. Comparing photos of what it was like before to now is a huge difference!

We did go up about an inch and a half. But on the right column, we ended up coming down a little bit. But! After Bob checked, he determined that the beam itself was level, so we decided to leave things be.

Some interesting things happened to the rest of the house, in the areas above where we were lifting. Noticeably – this crack above the small window by the stairs.

And also this crack, over the door to the first floor bathroom (that also leads to the basement).

And this, above where the stairs turn. Seeing all this made me really glad we opened up the transoms a few days ago.

Other interesting developments: the closet on the first floor no longer squeaks open, and is super smooth! And also, the stairs don’t creak as much, when walking up and down them!

After we first raised up the joists, the stairs were perfectly quiet. Now though, after things have settled a bit, there’s a slight creak in the bottom 4-5 steps. But it’s markedly better than what it was! Crazy to think that the work we did in the basement influenced things like this, above.

We’re going to be repairing all the walls and re-doing the stairs, so it really doesn’t ultimately matter. But it was cool to see the influence of the work done in the basement.

After loading up Bob’s truck, the three of us eventually settled down for a beer around 7:30PM. A very long, full day. And a big milestone for us, with the house. Looking at these photos of the new support beam (and comparing them to what we had when we moved in), I feel so much better about how strong/secure our basement joists are.

Up next: I’m going to have to use the grinder to even out the cement around the pit, and we’re going to have to even out the sand to 4 inches below the top of the current cement.

It’s not terrible, but it’s a decent chunk of work we have to do before next Saturday, when we do our next big pour. Which will be another big milestone for us.

The basement is really moving along again! After the pour is done, we’ve got a bit of work to do, before putting in some new stairs. And once we have some stairs… we’ll really be shifting gears, as our plans are to move all our stuff/boxes from the office down to the basement.

Doing so will clear a big space on the second floor, and allow us to start to really work with the rooms up there.

Big Saturday. Gonna be another big Saturday in a week. Busy days ahead.

Pouring the Base for the Basement Column
Serious Basement Work
Pouring the Base for the Second Basement Column

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