You are looking at purchasing a house and your building and pest inspection has noted that there is evidence of cracking in the stumps or house footings and you should engage a qualified house restumping contractor. What does this mean?
House foundations are a crucial part of the construction process.
What are stumps?
Typically houses in Australia in the 1950s-1970s were built on timber or concrete stumps. There is a range of reasons why this was done and may still be done when building today.
For one thing, the earth naturally has lots of uneven ground and many foundations can slope or be unstable.
Furthermore, the ground has pests like ants and termites that would have an easier time entering your home undetected if they sat on the ground. It also helps protect against groundwater and flooding.
Thus, stumps were created to allow for houses to be elevated off the ground. They are pillars made from wood, steel or concrete.
Stumps also elevate a house and allow for better views above, more ventilation and greater space.
Built-in stumps are pillars installed under a house that keep your home stable.
What does it mean when your house needs restumping?
It is inevitable that your house stumps will degrade over time. If they are made from timber and concrete, weather and general age wear them down.
Alternately, the soil supporting the stumps can erode and the ground can shift, causing the stumps to shift.
In the event this happens, a building inspector can identify this.
From there, this old stump is replaced with a new stump that better supports your home.
What are the tell-tale signs that a house needs restumping?
There are several key signs to look out for that suggest your house is ready for restumping.
One of the more extreme signs is if your floors start to feel as though they are on a slope.
Try dropping a marble and seeing if it rolls one way – this is a sign that shifting stumps have caused your house to sag. You may feel the sloping floor beneath your feet as you walk.
An eye test can reveal damage. Though you may not be a trained inspector, even a layperson can see issues such as cracks, holes, mould and various other forms of visible damage.
Presence of moisture
Look for moisture around stumps.
Moisture around your foundation can be a sign of termites in wooden stumps. However, termites can travel up cracked concrete stumps too and access wood from there.
Doors and windows difficult to close
If your windows suddenly become hard to close, this can be a sign of degrading stumps.
As the stumps degrade, your house shifts which warps the way doors and windows operate.
The restumping process in action
Once you know that your house requires restumping, you should hire a contractor to carry out the work. The usual process involves removing and replacing the old stump.
Removing the old stump
Restumping can be compared to changing a tire on a car.
The house is lifted, generally with some sort of hydraulic press, so the weight can be supported when the stump is lifted away.
Replacing the stump
To make way for the new stump, the hole left behind is cleaned out and a concrete footing is put in to support the new stump.
The size of the footing depends on how tall the house is. Ultimately, it will be the exact height to ensure the floors of your home are all on an even level.
Using the right material
Wood stumps are susceptible to termite infestations, so generally, new stumps are made with steel.
These are not in danger of being eaten by termites and they do not decay like concrete.
Lowering the house
Once the new stumps are in place, the house is lowered back ensuring the stumps are in place.
Similarly, stumps can be installed with tie-down brackets to ensure that the stumps are completely secure.
Why is restumping so important?
Not restumping your home will have major, long-term effects. Deteriorated stumps can move and warp your home, which will eventually cause damage that will need to be repaired.
Inevitably, these costs will exceed the cost of restumping.
Beyond the financial aspect, a failure to restump will cause damage that could completely destroy your home.