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posted: 10/12/2013 12:01 AM

You can preserve an aging, leaning garage

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By Dwight Barnett

Q. My home is from the 1930s and has a detached garage. At some time the garage was extended for more room for a larger car. Now the whole garage is leaning to one side and the roof is sagging. I want to keep the garage because it is from the same era as the home. Can it be repaired, or do I need to build new?

A. Not only have I inspected older garages like yours, but when I was a contractor we were able to save some older garages in historical neighborhoods. I am assuming the garage is a wood structure rather than brick, block or tile, because it's leaning rather than settling and cracking.

The garage is normally a simple, lightweight, wood-frame structure with wood planks on the exterior that are also exposed on the interior. What I often found was that the foundation was cracked and had settled in different locations, allowing the load-bearing walls where the rafters sit to lean. A load-bearing wall supports the entire structure. The foundation had to be replaced, so we did this by supporting the entire garage structure, removing the old foundation and pouring a new wider footing and foundation wall.

After the concrete dried, a 2-by-4-inch treated wood plate was bolted to the new foundation and the garage was lowered onto the new plate. As the garage was being lifted, the walls would often realign themselves or we would use steel cables and turnbuckles to realign each wall.

We would then add 4-by-8-foot sheets of plywood to the inside corners of the garage to keep the walls from shifting in the future. We corrected the sag in the roof by removing the roof shingles and decking, adding new rafters next to the older ones and adding additional cross ties (ceiling joists) to prevent the walls from spreading out. Then new roof decking and shingles were installed.

I know this sounds like a lot of work, but by using scaffolding on the exterior of the garage, adding cross beams and raising the structure with bottle jacks set on the scaffolds, it only took about two hours to lift the entire garage.

There are a lot of necessary precautionary steps to make the garage lift safe, but the basic idea is that the repairs are feasible and a qualified contractor will know what to do. If a new garage is required, it usually only takes about two days to demolish and haul away the old garage and two to three days to pour a new foundation and set a modular garage in place.

• Dwight Barnett is a certified master inspector with the American Society of Home Inspectors. Write to him with home improvement questions at

Scripps Howard News Service

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