The Basement (I.E. The Bane of My Existance)

If any of you guys out there are in the old homes club, you know that along with the curved archways and solid wood doors, comes some, well obstacles shall we say. The basement in this house was almost a deal breaker for us when we walked through the property for the first time. Jay and I have become quite the home buying team (this is house #3 in 4 years), so we’ve more or less developed a system where I look at layout and general aesthetic potential, and he looks at the bones. If I don’t get Jay’s blessing, than as sad as it is, we walk.

Y’all I must said pretty please in the most convincing way possible, since this man gave me a big fat thumbs down when we saw the basement. I heard the tell tale call from the basement telling me he had something he wanted me to check out (joy). So I trounced down to the basement, and the hubster had some bad news. The front basement wall was in rough shape.

Fixing Bowing Basement Wall

See all that cracking and bowing – ummmm, yeah. Not qualities that you’d be dying to have on your little abode. It’s hard to see in the photo above, but about 4 rows down from the top, there is a break in the wall that basically juts off a few degrees away from the rest of everything else.

You can see some other problematic cracking, below. Another wrinkly detail was the water line we had running right along the exterior wall… grumble, grumble.

Cracking Bowing Basement Wall

In all honesty, since we had looked at over a dozen homes at this point, we definitely were starting to notice a trend that a lot of the older homes in NC have legit basement problems. Almost every home we looked at had some janky stuff going on and we’d passed up house after house with the logic that it was probably a bigger issue than we wanted to deal with. But you guys, my heart had already been taken by this little cape cod, so I asked Jay if we could at least price out our options to fix it. He kind of gave me the stink eye, and then agreed to it 😀

Brick Front Walkway

On the high end we were looking at about $8,000 to fix this issue. That would have included an entire excavation of the front yard (noooo!!!!) and quite frankly, that just didn’t sound like a barrel of monkey’s worth of fun to me. It was so pretty and green and landscaped. I just didn’t have it in me.

On the lower end, (much lower, actually), we got a quote from a company called RamJack. The basic idea behind their fix is to anchor bolts (essentially) from your wall, into your yard outside using some type of pulley system. Odd, I know. But they came recommended from one of the contractors we spoke with and they were only asking $3,500 to make it all happen. AND they didn’t want to tear up my yard. When I started to piece together that using RamJack would allow me to proceed immediately with a kitchen renovation, I was all systems go. When Jay started to piece together the fact that this made is wife feel like high fiving every stranger in site, he was on board. What a guy.

So we hemmed and we hawed, and in the end, we decided to go with RamJack. Mainly because their quote came in at a mere $3,500. Although generally unpleasant to spend any amount of money on joyfully fun things like basements, to keep our house structurally sound we both decided to bite the bullet on this one.

Ramjack Cost

I think it gave us all piece of mind that the solution proposed by RamJack was also the one that our structural engineer proposed as the best fix for the space as well. The first step in the process, before we even decided on what the fix would be, was to have a structural engineer come out and assess the property to provide a recommendation on what should be done to solve the issue at hand.

You can see in his drawing below that he advises the installation of a helical pier system, extending out into our front yard (which was the fix Ramjack proposed, as well).

Engineer Report Bowing Wall

Needless to say, my armpits got kinda sweaty when I came home on my lunch break and saw this in the basement. Holes in yo basement wall?! Something seems really wrong about that … (Ahem, sorry for the crap-o-la picture, it’s from my tele)

Ramjack Fixing Basement

The entire process actually took a bit longer than we thought it would initially. When they quoted the work, Ramjack indicated that they’d be there through the morning, and most likely head out around 2pm. They called Jay that afternoon though and indicated that our soil was a lot more dense than then initially thought it would be, so they had to bring in some welding equipment in order to give the anchors a better “grip”. Turns out that’s a good thing though, since that means the whole system is a bit more optimized, since the dense soil gives their system something to hold on to (vs. loose, sandy soil). Go figure.

2 days later, after they packed up their bags, and cleaned up their mess – our basement looked like this.

Cost for Ramjack

I know, it kinda looks like it broke it’s back and got a brace. Like the kind they screw into your bones (ggrrroooossss). My back feels broken just typing those words. Not going to lie, it makes me cry a little bit every time I walk down into the basement and see these big, bad, metal knuckles just gripping into our wall.

How Ramjack Works

The good news though is that they’ll keep our house from falling down. It was actually never in danger of falling down persay, but I think it makes both Jay and I feel a little bit better that we’ve taken steps to fix what we perceived as the worst thing about the house pre-movin. Between these new brackets, the plumbing and our HVAC running along this wall, things are looking mighty busy down here right now. Jank if I ever saw it. Le sigh.

Fixing Basement Wall with Ramjack

Things that make me feel kinda sad include the fact that our laundry right now is down in this deep, dark basement. I don’t think I can put together any pinterest worthy loveliness in this cave. We do have a big closet on the second story that I’m thinking about converting … but that is for another day, my friends.

All potentially expensive things are being postponed indefinitely though. Not going to lie, I’m feeling pretty poor after pricing out the cost of this kitchen reno (ugghh) more on that, Monday…

Has anyone else out there used Ramjack before? I’d love to hear feedback, if so!

3 thoughts on “The Basement (I.E. The Bane of My Existance)

  1. Hi Mary! I’m enjoying following your journey here! I can totally sympathize with you in wanting the home in spite of the basement. I too found an adorable cape that I had to have (even though it was $20k over budget but I got them to go WAY down so it was meant to be!) and I sort of looked passed the fact that the walls in the basement were boarded with plywood and plastic. I talked myself into thinking that was their poor attempt at “refinishing” it. Well AFTER I bought the home I decided to take the plywood down and of course there was MOLD everywhere and the basement leaked every time it rained. I have since then corrected the problem $5k later! It was so worth it and I love my little cape cod!!! Sometimes our hearts do know more than our heads! Good luck to you! 🙂

    1. Hi Nancy!! So funny – our stories are very similar. Our house was way overpriced too, so we had to do some crazy negotiating to get it in our range 🙂 Even though it can be a hard pill to swallow, I know we’re going to absolutely love making this place our home, so in the end, I know these type of set backs are worth it. Thank you so much for the well wishes!

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