Restumping and raising homes: The key to giving your home a lift

Prevention is better than cure, which is why regular home maintenance is so important.

This applies to everything from the top of your house to the bottom – from the roof that shelters you to the stumps that support the building.

If you live in an old house with timber floors, there’s a good chance that the floors are supported on timber stumps, even if the house itself is made of bricks and mortar. So if you do have timber floors, it’s a good idea to check the condition of the stumps from time to time. Certainly be sure to check the stumps of a house you intend to buy, and never start any type of renovation work without checking the condition of stumps before you do so. Can you imagine how awful it would be if your house suddenly collapsed or subsided, particularly if you had just had a new kitchen or bathroom installed, or had recently repainted, retiled or recarpeted the interior?

Restumping and raising homes

Water and pests like termites and borer will inevitably destroy timber over time, so don’t wait for the rot to set in before you take action.

Evaluate the condition of your stumps

The timber used for structural stumps varies depending on where you live in Australia. But generally, whatever timber was used, they should last for at least 20 years, and even four times longer, provided they are not adversely affected by insects or water.

Sometimes stumps rot away quite evenly, and because the floor itself is firm, people don’t realise the gradual deterioration until it is too late. Typical tell-tale signs include a sloping floor as well as door and window frames that are no longer plumb. A spirit level will show you just how much the floor or frames slope.

Even if there are no obvious tell-tale signs, it’s a good idea to evaluate the condition of house stumps from time to time. You probably won’t be able to get to all of them, but where stumps are accessible, dig the soil out from around them to see what their condition is below the ground. If you can clean off the soil, paint on a bitumen-based sealant to prevent future water damage. If there appears to be any type of insect attack, call in pest specialists to treat the timber.

Keep in mind that it isn’t only timber stumps that deteriorate. Other materials may have been used, including concrete, that can crack, and steel, that can rust, especially in damp conditions. The steel reinforcement in concrete may also rust, which will have the effect of weakening the structural strength of the stump.

Replacing stumps

Because one or two stumps rot or crack (depending on the material used) doesn’t mean that you have to replace all of them, unless you decide to change the type of stump, or you want to raise the house. But if most of the stumps are affected, this might be a good time to consider raising or lifting your home, particularly if you are short on storage or garage space. Raising a home is an excellent way to reclaim space, and if you are paying for the stumps to be replaced anyway, why not just make them longer? It will cost you a bit more to do all of them, but will probably be worth it in the long run.

If you are replacing stumps you do not have to use the same material that was used when the house was built. For example steel columns are now popular, especially for raising houses. These may be coated or better still, hot dip galvanised, to prevent rusting. Although galvanised steel is generally the most expensive option initially, it is low in maintenance and will last a very long time.

Some timber is rot resistant and can still be quite a lot cheaper than concrete stumps, although you need to realise that they won’t normally last quite as long, probably only a couple of decades. In some parts, pine treated with copper chrome arsenate (CCA) is now the most popular timber for stumps. Coach screws or bolts are used to attach a bracket to the stump and to the timber bearers under the house. If the ground is soft and unstable, it may be necessary to first pour a concrete footing that can be used as a foundation for the stump. In areas with high winds, anchor bolts must be fixed at four metre gaps around the perimeter of the house, and under bracing walls. Dion Seminara Architecture can help you decide on the best approach.

If concrete stumps are used, there may be a threaded rod at the top that allows the stump to be bolted to the floor bearers and so prevent movement. This particular method can also be useful if high spots in the floor need to be lowered.

Don’t get ripped off

If you decide to repair or replace stumps under your home, then it’s important to use a reliable, experienced contractor with contactable reference. Also, when comparing quotations make sure you are comparing apples with apples, or you could end up with a lemon! What this means is that you should never just look at the bottom line. Make sure you know what you’re getting for your money. To ensure that you’re getting the right service it pays to have Dion Seminara Architecture assist you with this process.

The number of stumps used for any house will depend on the size of the house and its design, and this could be anything from two to three stumps per square metre. With this in mind, we will make sure the contractor has sufficient jacks to lift your house. Remember that they are going to need one jack for every stump and that the contractor is going to replace all the stumps required. If you are having the house raised, every single stump should be replaced unless you have steel beams installed to create larger spans between posts to create living or storage space below the existing building, in which case fewer stumps will be needed.

We will ensure that the chosen company has full insurance including publicity liability, workers’ compensation and personal accident cover. We will also make sure they will be working according to relevant building regulations and guarantee they will obtain the necessary building permits on your behalf.
Before you sign any contract it’s important to ensure it states the type of stumps and footings (or pads) to be installed, as well as the spacing of the stumps, the agreed cost, and the start and completion date. The contract should also state who will be responsible for removing floorboards (if relevant) and getting rid of any material that is removed, including rotten timber and rubble. We will take care of all of this for you.

Once the work is complete, Dion Seminara Architecture will check that it has been done correctly. We will advise you not to pay the final fee until we are absolutely sure that the job has been done properly.

There are lots of unscrupulous operators out there. By using Dion Seminara Architecture you can be confident that you’re not getting ripped off.

Staying safe

As you can see there are many considerations and potential pitfalls when restumping or raising a home, which is why having Dion Seminara Architecture look after this process for you will help ensure that the job is done correctly.

So if you think that your home may need restumping, or you are considering raising your home, then why not contact my office so we can help you achieve your desired outcome.

Click here to contact Dion Seminara Architecture.