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Our old heritage listed house has survived a myriad of owners and uses, from the original baker's family home, boarding house, bawdy house, telemarketers, chicken processors, massage parlour and as commercial offices for various firms.
But the very severe drought that we in Australia are suffering was nearly the end. Huge cracks appeared in the front walls, big jagged scars running along the walls, down and back.
The consensus of opinion was that the sub-soil had dried out and shrunk, thus allowing the front of the house to drop. There had been some suggestion that the street trees were sucking up all the moisture, but that doesn't seem to be the case, as we found no evidence of tree roots.
Our old place was built before the advent of strip footings, concrete foundations or rafts that let the whole premises float. Places of this vintage have a row of separate large stones, called floaters, that the walls are then built up on. They are not linked together in any way, so they take the easy way out and follow the collapsing soil.
Hence the big cracks. The whole mess had to be fixed.
Underpinning is the only way. The contractors brought in a small crawler tractor fitted with a boom-arm mounted hydraulic drilling machine.
They had to take out some of the front fence and then demolished Val's "pride and joy" garden to get it in. Five 400mm diameter holes were bored, evenly spaced, across the front façade.
These holes, four metres deep, were then half filled with concrete, and big jacks used to level the house up again. Pieces of steel column then replaced the jacks, and the holes were filled right up to the top with more concrete.
If it's any compensation we are not alone with a cracking house, it's happening all over the Adelaide. The contractors were incredibly busy, probably too busy and are trying to please too many frantic householders.
The work flow wasn't quite like I describe, there were days that nobody came, then there was a week or two waiting for the concrete to cure between levelling, that sort of thing. The usual minor inconveniences that occur when employing contractors. But they did a remarkable job, much better than I ever thought possible.
The final photographs show the result the underpinning, I haven't started to repair the cracks inside yet. They've closed right up and will need very little work to fix. That's my kind of job!
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