An unlevel house can cause a number of problems in the home

By CCHRC Staff

The “Ask a Builder” series is dedicated to answering some of the many questions Fairbanks residents have about building, energy and the many other parts of home life.

Q: My home is starting to settle a little bit. What advice can you give on leveling a house?

What is an acceptable amount of settling is a relative question, but if windows and doors start to bind that is a good sign that things have gone too far. Plumbing systems can also be at risk for damage and are often overlooked until it is too late.

One option to level a home is to use hydraulic bottle jacks.

If you can get under the beams that support the house and raise them with bottle jacks, that is a fairly inexpensive route to take.

Some home moving companies and contractors will have airbags that they gradually inflate under the home. As the building comes to level, they will add more structural support to the structure. This approach works well on soft soils. One older method involves a railroad jack, which relies on a mechanical ratcheting system instead of hydraulics.

This device can fit into a four-inch space, making it very handy. A few of the rental stores in town still have this jack.

The act of raising a house involves potentially lethal amounts of force and weight that can react in unpredictable ways. Relying on a jack to support the structure while working in danger zones is extremely risky. There should always be some fixed means of support, such as cribbing in place to support the structure, should the jack fail. Alaska home owners are renowned for their “do it yourself” attitude.

However, sometimes house leveling should be left to a professional.

Q: I have some foam board insulation I want to put on the outside of my house. Is it a problem that it’s wet?

Be cautious with wet foam board insulation. The more water in the foam, the less insulating value it has. If you have a piece of foam that is so saturated it weighs a lot more than a dry piece, it will not have the same insulative value as the new, dry piece of foam.

Also, since the water got in, there is a good chance it will get out.

If you have a wall that is susceptible to moisture damage, it is not a good idea to put wet foam on your structure.

Alaska HomeWise articles promote home awareness for the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC). If you have a question, e-mail us at can also call the CCHRC at (907) 457-3454.