Your pier and beam home needs leveling. You know this because you’ve got some typical signs of foundation problems for crawl space homes like diagonal cracks in your walls and a door that sticks. You’re hesitant to immediately reach out to a contractor because you don’t even want to bother anyone just yet.
Is there any chance you can calculate some estimated house leveling costs on your own?
At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have been inspecting and repairing pier and beam foundations and giving quotes for house leveling since 1985 (we do slab foundations too but that’s another story). We can sure tell you about how we work through estimating pricing and give you some tips too.
This article will explore the idea of DIY pricing estimation for homeowners on pier and beam house leveling repairs. We will give you a few suggestions, 9 tips, 6 steps, and price ranges on trying to figure this out without the aid of a contractor.
Can I Calculate the Cost of House Leveling?
Calculating the cost of house leveling is a pretty tough task, even for us foundation repair contractors. There are some obstacles to any ol’ homeowner trying to figure this out. The biggest obstacle is that you pretty much have to crawl under your house to even begin to estimate pier and beam foundation repair costs.
Are you willing and/or able to crawl under your home and roll around in the dirt with some spiders for a while? Is your crawl space accessible with enough clearance to move around?
- If the answer is no, you should probably skip straight to our article about the average costs of house leveling and don’t try to DIY it.
- If the answer is yes, then by all means grab a screwdriver and a flashlight and maybe put on some coveralls (or other clothes you don’t mind getting dirty), and let’s see if we can help you out a bit.
How to Estimate Pier and Beam Foundation Repair Jobs
Tip No. 1 – Do this when it’s dry and hasn’t rained in a while
Tip No. 2 – A headlamp is easier than a flashlight because you have your hands free
Tip No. 3 – Don’t forget to bring a screwdriver
Tip No. 4 – Remember, you don’t actually have to do this, you could just call someone
Still here? Okay, you’re just not giving up on this. I can appreciate your can-do attitude. So let’s take a look around your crawl space home and see if we can’t help you with some pricing estimations . . .
Step 1: Inspect the Interior of Your Home First
When doing a foundation inspection for crawl space homes, the first place we look is inside. What areas/locations/rooms are the signs of foundation settlement showing up in the house?
Make a mental (or actual written) note of which rooms, walls, doors, and floors are experiencing the top signs of foundation issues for a pier and beam home. These are things like diagonal wall cracks coming off of windows and door frames, doors that stick or don’t latch properly, and loose or bouncy floors.
Measure and write down the dimensions of any rooms that seem to be affected by these foundation settlement signs. Or if you are feeling really ambitious (I just know you are), measure the whole interior and make yourself a room-by-room diagram now.
During this interior part of the home inspection, I also look for structural cues, like where the support beams should be or are likely to be located. Identifying the location of load-bearing walls is helpful when you get under the house later. This might be difficult for most people who don’t know things about construction, but you might be up for the challenge!
Step 2: Assess the Pier Condition Under the Home
Ok, later is now and it’s time to head underneath the home. Don’t forget your flashlight or headlamp, and that screwdriver. Another handy tool to have is a laser measuring device, but only if you already have one on hand.
For a block and base home, you may have to remove some skirting around the perimeter of the home to get underneath. For a pier and beam home, a planned access hole might be located in a closet, cabinet, or utility room. Take a moment to let your eyes adjust once you get under the house.
Tip No. 5: Pause and look around to make sure you don’t surprise any critters, especially skunks! It doesn’t happen often but you just never know what’s under a house . . .
What kind of piers does your crawl space home have? Do you see any that are damaged, falling over, or crumbling?
Your piers should be plumb (i.e. straight up and down) and in good condition. If any of them are falling apart, or rotting (if you have timber piers) then they will need to be repaired or more likely replaced with a concrete block and base support. This is about $25 worth of materials per pier on average.
Not only do piers need to be in good repair, but they also need to be spaced apart appropriately to best support the structure of your home.
Look for a maximum of 6 feet between piers for adequate home stability. If you have piers that are spaced farther apart than 6 feet, then more need to be added under your home. Can you count up how many piers might need to be added in for adequate support meeting the 6 feet apart guideline?
Doesn’t everyone easily know how far 6 feet is at this point in our pandemic-era lives?
Step 3: Look Over the Condition of All the Sill Beams
The sills on a pier and beam house are various types of horizontal timber that make up the primary load-bearing structure of crawl space types of home foundations. Sills have different names depending on where they are located in the home and what purpose they serve.
But right now, you don’t need to know what they are called. You just need to see if any of them are decaying, rotting, molding, bowing, or crooked. This is where your screwdriver comes in handy. You can poke at each beam and see if they are intact or deteriorating.
Do you see any sill beams that are bowed, rotting, moldy, or compromised right off the bat?
Tip No. 6 – Head towards the damaged areas you see or rooms that you know have problems
Poke everything with that screwdriver checking for decay. Any beam that can easily be penetrated with a simple tap with your screwdriver is *no beuno* and needs to be replaced. You will need to know the linear feet of any wood beams that need replacing. This is where that laser measure might come in handy but you can also rely on the interior measurements you took earlier.
Try to verify that there are main sill beams supporting all load-bearing walls – this is not easy because you have to imagine where those walls are above you. Also, any room where you have bouncy floors will likely need a beam (called a shaker sill) added. You will need the linear feet of those areas too. Are we having fun yet?
Step 4: Check Out the Floor Joists and Subfloor
Floor joists need to be spaced between 16 to 20 inches apart. The proper spacing depends on if you even have subfloor and if so, what type. Thinner or no subfloor means you need closer spacing, while thicker subfloor can get away with greater spacing. The type of flooring you have on top of any subfloor can also factor in with its contributed weight.
You are also looking for all walls to have good support underneath them with joists either running perpendicular to the wall or parallel and running directly under the wall. Anything missing enough joist support will need joists added in between what is already there.
Tip No. 7: Don’t go by looks alone because they can be deceiving. Do you see any decayed joists or subfloors? Poke everything with the screwdriver hoping for no wood penetration. If anything breaks through, again it’s *no bueno* and needs to be replaced.
If a joist is losing strength due to some type of deterioration, the “sistering” technique is used where a good piece of wood is joined next to the compromised wood. Count up how many joists need to be added or sistered up. Calculate the square footage of areas of subfloor that need replacing too.
Step 5: Consider Material Costs and Time Factors
At this point, you might have a list of the following kinds of materials that make up your crawl space foundation repairs:
- Number of piers that need to be repaired or replaced
- Number and linear feet of sill beams that need to be added or replaced
- Number and linear feet of joists that need to be added
- Square footage of subfloor replacement
All of these numbers and measurements will need to be priced out just to figure out the material costs. Get your pricing info from a local “contractor-centered” supply store (like Woodson Lumber Co. or McCoy’s Building Supply in the BCS area). These types of hardware stores tend to carry higher quality construction-grade materials than big-box stores.
Tip No. 8: Don’t use the cheapest materials for pricing. You get what you pay for.
If you are able to calculate some material costs for everything that needs to be replaced, that’s about 20% of the cost that goes into the pricing for crawl space foundation repair. The other 80% of the cost comes from labor. This is where it gets even more complicated . . .
The time factor and labor is a sliding scale based on the size of the work crew. The more members on the team, the less time things take and could ultimately cost less. Fewer workers on the crew means the repair project takes longer and it could end up costing you more if the team is smaller.
So 80% of your costs for a pier and beam foundation repair project is difficult to gauge because you have no idea how many people will be working on your home. Remember that you haven’t chosen a house leveling contractor yet and are trying to price this on your own.
Step 6: Attempting the Calculate Labor Costs
You’ve got some approximate material costs from the previous step, but let’s see if we can figure out any kind of labor costs. The way we price labor for crawl space foundation repair is based on a full crew (5 or 6 guys) and how many days it will take based on the job size.
A full house leveling crew for any foundation repair contractor could cost between $1,800 to $2,400 per day (we charge around $2,000 per day). So how many days will your job take then?? How long a house leveling project takes can typically range from 2 to 4 days for small to medium jobs and 1 to 3 weeks for extensive jobs.
So if you’ve got a small-ish crawl space foundation repair job characterized by an easy-access crawl space and minor work needed, that could take 2 to 3 days. A medium or average-sized job with more restricted access and more widespread repairs will take from 2 to 4 days.
The larger the home and the more limited the crawl space access is and the more widespread repairs are needed will add up. So it’s probably easier to approximate labor for a small or average house leveling job on your own than the extensive projects because days start to stretch into weeks and the time ranges are so broad.
But think to yourself if the amount of repairs needed at your home seems small, average, or extensive based on the descriptions above. Then calculate some price ranges for labor based on the number of days we have estimated above. Add in your materials cost for a final DIY estimate. This is no easy task, so congratulations if you’re still here . . .
Average Price Ranges for Crawl Space Foundation Repairs
One way to skip the 6 steps above is just to give you some typical pricing ranges for small, average, and extensive-sized house leveling projects.
Let’s look at the average costs for most first-time crawl space home foundation repairs. This is the “what do most people end up paying for an initial repair” section organized by job size.
- For a basic house leveling project, where the crawl space has easy access and minor work is needed, expect the cost to be around $4,000.
- The most common pier and beam repair project will cost between $6,000 to $8,000 with more widespread/complex work needed and a more restricted crawl space.
- Extensive house leveling projects can cost $20,000+ when access is limited and/or termite damage or wood rot are present requiring rebuild work.
*Keep in mind that this pricing is estimated and based on what we typically see in our area of Bryan, College Station, and surrounding Brazos Valley communities here in Central Texas.
Tip No. 9: The only way to get exact costs for your house leveling repair is to request a quote and get an inspection on your pier and beam home from the foundation repair contractor of your choosing.
But we get it that you still might not want to bother anyone about this just yet . . . concerns about how to pay for a foundation repair project are very real.
Get a Foundation Inspection for Actual Costs of House Leveling
You now know *oh so much more than you ever thought possible* about the world of calculating crawl space home foundation repairs. You can likely see that it’s a job that requires some physical agility, attention to detail, materials pricing, and knowledge about how long things take to repair based on crew size.
It’s no small order, so wouldn’t it be nice to have some experience on your side??
After 35+ years of inspecting and repairing crawl space homes in the Brazos Valley, Anchor Foundation Repair can confidently offer a free phone estimate process to get you a really close repair bid. This helps homeowners feel like they are not wasting a contractor’s time even when worried about affordability.
Check out how to save time with Anchor Foundation Repair and get your crawl space home foundation problem assessed by phone/video first. If you feel comfortable after that, we can come out for a formal inspection.