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Unread 06-05-2007, 09:59 PM   #1
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Sketchy Old Slab

Guys, please give me your thoughts;

I looked at a basement in a very old Minneapolis home this morning. This house belongs to a friend of mine. He is in the process of finishing off this basement and would like to tile the floor.

There are a number of concerns with the slab:

1. There is a floor drain that has been backing up annually due to tree roots clogging the sewer line running out to the street. Luckily this drain is set really low so when it backs up it only pools in a very small area at the floor drain.
2. There is a 10'x10' area that has vinyl tiles that he has not been able to get up. I suggested putting a torch to them to warm the adhesive.
3. The slab seams to be very thin, or there is a layer that has sheared. It has a hollow sound when you knock on it in places. In the area that it sounds hollow, it began cracking under our feet when we were standing close to each other.
4. There was a large area that had broken up so he cleaned up all the broken up pieces and repoured that are of the slab. He was not too skilled in finishing, and the concrete is really rough and uneven.
5. the ceiling height is of concern throughout, but of great concern where the duct work runs under the joists. I am 5' 9" tall, and just make it under without having to duck.
6. The slab is anything but level, it rolls and tapers throughout.

What would you do to prepare this floor for tile??

Thanks in advance,

Brian Gronski
Taconite Tile
Andover MN
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Unread 06-06-2007, 02:19 AM   #2
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Tell him to Save his money for awhile or go get a home improvement loan because we dont do band aids

Deal with all of his ductwork FIRST If possible.( this will require a Better than average heating guy who is a PROBLEM Solver)

Then Break up the entire slab to the footing,,Dig a trench alongside this and pour a new footing 9-12 " deeper leaving exposed wire and rebar to tie into(not an actual footing, more of a perimeter strengthening of your overall slab) (remember expansion material between original and new)..Dig out the rest of the floor after pouring the new footing to the same level. Bring in sand and fill and compact until you have room for a 4" slab. All of this he can do himself over the course of the summer.
(dont forget to have plenty of Jacks and Blocking for any Support Walls)

Change out that drain and put in a sump pump......Have the lines cleaned out while you have it opened up.( A Good Plumber & Roto Router dude are a must here)

If you do this right you can use the original footing as a perimeter curb. This will gain you around 6-7" of head room in the basement and you'll have a decent floor to work with for finishing.

You can even put a new finish coat over the exposed area of the original footing to dress it up some If you bring in a Good Cement Finisher (ask around and GO LOOK AT SLABS They have done recently...About 1 in 10 cement finishers are actually good at their trade (not much different than Flooring is it )

If you will Tile everything including the original footing that is exposed, You can do the finish work on it with Fat mud..Remember to use 1/4" expansion MINIMUM between new and old.

Done right you wont even have to change your stairs. Just add a single Step which should come in around code for rise...........Obviously every situation is different and this may...or may not work out.

The above is Way better than any Bandaid he is considering and it will give him a USEable basement rather than an oversized crawl space.

TIP - Throw Weekend Party's when its time to
#1 - Break up and remove the existing Slab - (Lots of guys so the jackhammer never stops operating)
#2 - dig out the dirt on that floor. (You need 2 crews..Downstairs and Outside)
Lots of Eats, BBQ and a Keg of beer (perhaps a hot tub trailer rented) will get you alot of help for ALOT less money than hiring it done.

My suggestion would be to have a start on it for the dirt digging party by trenching in squares at the proper elevation BEFORE having the party so that the figuring's been done and Dirt removal is all thats needed!! Trench 2 Main runs 3' wide splitting the basement in Quarters to start.

Tip 2 - Build a Ramp & Sled Take out a window..Build a Ramp out of dimension Lumber(2x4's) and Plywood. Put 2x6 Sides on it and Build a Plywood sled sheeted with tin to run between the 2x6 sides. Make it 4-5' long , as wide as your window can handle and 8" deep or so. Hook on a rope.Fill with broken up concrete, dirt whatever and use lawn tractor...4 wheeler. or truck to pull up and out.........The time spent building this will be more than made up for and the lumber can be re used for other things...........OR, he can now start a sideline business LOL

One last thing............Better him than Me
TIP YOUR TILE MAN, His Retirement plan is not nearly as lucrative as yours and his waning years will be far more painful to boot.
He gives much so you can have a Beautiful Home!!
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Unread 06-06-2007, 08:19 AM   #3
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I couldn't agree with you more! That is the first thing I told him to do. Digging down and pouring a new slab solves all his problems with the exception of the tree roots clogging his sewer. he was concerned that there might not even be footings at all, and is afraid that digging down might disturb the walls and cause settling. I also beleive that is more money and labor than he wants to put into the house.
Brian Gronski
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Unread 06-06-2007, 09:30 AM   #4
Dave Taylor
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he was concerned that there might not even be footings at all, and is afraid that digging down might disturb the walls and cause settling.
I have one associate in Winona Mn that did the very thing Todd suggests and is more than pleased with the outcome. Another associate dug new footings directly inside the old basement walls, built new block walls alongside (inside) the old walls and did whatever was necessary to insure the home was supported by them.... then demolished and re-poured the basement slab.
My parent's older Mpls home basement had solid concrete walls that had deteriorated badly in many areas and I never got further than patching them; the cement (in places) had turned back into sand. I was told that it was because many area home basements had been constructed with sand dredged from city lakes (Harriet and Calhoun) and the sand was never cleaned, sifted, washed/prepared in a suitable, lasting manner.

PS: Twin Cities Roto Rooter is adept at cutting tree roots from sewers but (in time) they grow back.
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Unread 06-06-2007, 09:53 AM   #5
Dave Hessel
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Man, that's some good advice Todd.
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Unread 06-06-2007, 09:42 PM   #6
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Sounds like they are on a first name basis with the Roto-Rooter man. The same guy comes each year. Sounds like he does the whole block. My friend was telling me that the three houses next to him are all tied together with only feed to the street. The guy on the end keeps getting stuck with a huge bill because it backs up into his house and not the other two neighbors.

I agree a tearout and digging down would be the cure all for all the problems, but it doesn't sound like he is willing to put that kind of work or money into the property. His doughter and husband live in the house. I am not sure if he still owns it, and they are paying on it, or if they have bought it from him and he is just keeping busy by helping them with the labor.
Brian Gronski
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