Clearing Out the Brush

One of our big projects for the summer will be to put a band-aid on this garage. The garage is original to the house (1939), and as you can clearly see from the photo, it’s in rough shape. See how the roof is all bowed in?

Crooked Garage.

When we bought the house, we were pretty convinced that the garage just needed to be torn down. And we still pretty much think that’s the case, but instead of the $20,000-$30,000 a new garage would cost, we’ve decided that we think we can spend $1,000 or less and keep it for a few more years, if not indefinitely.

The roof is sagging, so naturally, the first thing you think is that the roof rafters are probably all rotten. Except that their not. Structurally, everything wood in this garage is still in pretty good shape. The problem is that the foundation has sunk out from beneath it. So while this really looks like a roof problem, it’s actually a foundation problem, which has sunk as much as 6″ or so right in front of the door.

Our plan, which may or may not work, is to jack up this side of the garage, figure out how to get some sort of band-aid foundation underneath it, and set it back down. We’re not really sure how we’re gonna do it, yet, but we’re gonna give it a shot.

Anyway, before we can do anything like that, we needed to clear out this pile of branches and stuff that’s been sitting here  since last fall.

Brush Pile

Luckily, a spool of twine can keep a 10-month-old entertained for quite a while.

KP playing with twine.

This is what it looked like when we finished clearing out all the dead leaves and plants.


The next step will be to dig out around the foundation of the garage to figure out exactly how we’re going to get a new band-aid foundation underneath this wall.

Got any suggestions?

6 comments to Clearing Out the Brush

  • we had a similar project on out garage where there was differential settling. you don’t have seismic considerations like we do out here, but you will have to dig down deeper than us for your foundation to avoid heave from the frost.if you want to really fix it, it will take a while and cost more than $1,000, but if you’re up for it and capable carpenters then you can do it yourselves.
    it looks like you only have the settling near the side entrance. assuming that’s it basically the sequence goes like this: cut out about 8″ of the slab on the interior. shore up the entire wall using bottle jacks and 4x4s attached to the rafters. the rafter will need to be attached to the studs of the wall, probably using 2x4s. i’d probably use some simpson h2 hurricane ties as well to ensure that the rafters don’t separate from the top plate(s) [our garage only has a single top plate, yours might have a double]. to ensure that the top plate and studs stay together i’d run a 2×6 or 2×8 (if you have a double top plate) along the face of both and attach it with construction grade screws (grk or spax, not drywall screws) through the top plate and studs. it’s also a good idea to setup cross bracing on this wall with 16′ 2x4s creating an “x” on the interior of the wall; this stabilizes it from racking/shear forces. you can also support it from falling toward the outside by attaching two 2x4s flat side down in a “v” with the bottom of the “v” terminating at the door and the top of the “v” terminating at the corners of the opposite wall.
    after all the bracing is done you can jack it up to level…slooowly… and install several kickers once you get to the right position. a kicker is a 2×4 with a notch (like a bird’s mouth) cut out of one end. the bird’s mouth will fit into the bottom of the 2×6 or 2×8 that you attached to the top plate and studs. the other end of the kicker is cut on an angle and is in front of and up against a temporary 2×4 that you install on the slab using simpson titen hd bolts. the kickers will hold the walls so you can lower the jacks and let the kickers do the work.
    once everything is shored up you can work on digging out the area under the wall for the foundation. refer to local building codes for depth and the rebar schedule. we use way more out here than you probably do. you’ll probably be using a couple #4 rebar, we use several #4 and #5 rebar along with sst holddowns to prevent uplift. from there you can figure out the rest. drilling holes for anchors bolts, using the soil for forms, etc. let the concrete cure for a few days before you jack it up slightly, take out the kickers and let it back down.
    hope you go for it!

  • Chris has given you some excellent advice for jacking up your garage & dealing with the sunken foundation. Not a project for the faint of heart, that’s for sure!

    We have an old free standing carport that is original to our property, and as much as we’d like to try and fix it up as to avoid removal, that just isn’t going to happen in our case as things are just too far gone. Sometimes nature & neglect win over the best of intentions.

    Good luck with this project!

  • I’m curious to see what you come up with. I haven’t seen a dug out garage foundation, but my understanding is it’s similar to a basement with cinder block walls that go down (below the frost line?) and a slab that sits on the ground. Looks like a big project to me!

  • Thanks for the comments, everybody.

    @Chris – That’s some really good advice about how to shore things up to jack the garage up. That info will definitely come in handy. What I’m most concerned about is keeping the wall vertical as I jack it up, rather than having it start to tilt one way or the other.

    As for the foundation, I don’t want to disappoint anyone, but I am almost certain that digging below the frost line is not in our future. I don’t think the existing garage is worth that level of effort. Many detached garages in MN are slab-on-grade structures with keystone foundations (the slab is somewhat thicker on the edges than in the middle).

    We will probably cut away the old slab near the wall (though we haven’t entirely ruled out the possibility of just pouring over the sunken slab), but we probably won’t put much effort into digging down more than a foot or two.

  • you’ll be jacking the wall up from the rafters and the wall won’t want to tilt much as a result. also, the “v” that you’ll be attaching to that wall and the opposite wall will help keep the wall you’re jacking from moving toward the exterior (where the brush was). you can also attach 2×4 “x” bracing to the back wall (the one to the right if you walk through the small door) which will further reinforce it and keep the structure from wanting to move toward where the brush was in the pictures.
    it looks like your garage is stucco on all four sides which means that it racking is pretty unlikely. our garage was stucco on only two sides so it was a bit more tricky.
    it also looks like your header maybe a bit under-sized, but the sag may be an optical illusion.
    here are some links to the work we had done on our garage. ours needed to be lifted on all four sides so there was more bracing to be done, but the idea is the same:

  • My husband and I jacked up our garage a couple of years ago. The wood sill sat directly on a concrete pad, and it and the bottom 12″ of insulbrick siding were rotten. We properly supported the garage, put in hurricane ties, and then installed a row of cinderblock. It was a long process, since it was our first time doing masonry and the weather wasn’t co-operative that year.

    Anyway, it’s definitely doable and preferable to spending $30 000 on a new garage!