Sill Beam Repair and Replacement
Sill Rot is a Common Problem with Older Homes
and Homes Built too Close to the Ground
By Mark J. Donovan
Question: Mark, I have an 8 foot
section of sill beam in the front of my farm house that needs replacement.
Evidently it has rotted out from years of splash back from the front granite
stoop when rain water runs down from the single dormer above. Someone told me
itís a simple repair and that the beam could be sprayed in place to effectively
re-constitute it. How and who does one find details on this procedure, if it
Answer: P.P., Iím Sorry to hear about the rotting sill beam near your
Sill rot is a common problem with
older homes and homes with sill plates that sit close to the ground. Typically
the sill rot occurs from the outside and works its way inwards. Roof runoff
water splashes up off the ground, or in your case the front stoop, and works its
way behind the house siding. If left unchecked, the home can settle dramatically
over time which can lead to pitched or sagging floors and even structurally
Depending upon the level of sill rot and damage the costs to repair the sill
beam can be quite expensive. Though there are some additive epoxy products on
the market that you can use to strengthen wood, such as in the case of window
sill repair, I am unaware of any type of epoxy system that can restore the level
of strength necessary in a major structural component such as a sill beam. Yes
there are penetrating epoxy sealers from Smith & Company, among others, on the
market. However these products are meant more for preventing further rot rather
than restoring the strength and integrity of a sill beam.
With older homes sill beams rest on the homeís foundation. Sill beams typically
are quite large as they have to support and distribute the weight of the entire
home. To repair a damaged sill beam correctly the home, or at least a portion of
it, needs to be temporarily jacked up to expose the beam(s) and level the house
frame. Once level, the section of old rotted sill beam can be replaced. Often,
the foundation wall needs to be repaired in the process, particularly if it is
constructed out of stone.
Jacking and lifting up the house
is a cross between art and physics so it is wise to get a contractor
experienced in this type of project.
If done incorrectly, your home could
end up with cracks in the plaster walls and ceilings. In addition, the interior framing could twist or buckle. The trick is
to raise the low areas of the sill beams to a pre-determined benchmark so that
the home is in equilibrium and the frame structure is not stressed.
To determine the best course of action in your case you need to call in an old
home restoration expert or an architect to inspect the state of your sill beams.
They can then make the best recommendation for your particular situation.
Unfortunately the cost of repairs will likely not be cheap. However, not
addressing the issue could put you and your home at further risk, and lead to
repair costs down the road.
Once the structural repairs have been made to the sill beam it is also important
to address the issues that caused the sill rot in the first place. The
installation of roof gutters, ice and water shield, moisture barriers, and flashing
around the sill plates can help to eliminate splash back water from finding its
way underneath your house siding. The soil grade around the homeís foundation
can also be modified. Some of the soil can be removed and re-graded so that more
of the foundation wall is exposed and roof run-off water is more quickly shed
from around the foundation.
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