Hydraulic Jack

Hydraulic Jack

Heh, heh, heh. This is more what I had in mind. Wednesday evening my new 50 ton hydraulic bottle jacks were waiting on the porch from UPS when we got back from Home Depot. The boxes were small but said “team lift” on the side. I picked them both up and discovered why: they’re freaking heavy! I bought two of them with the thinking that I may need to use a temporary beam and jack both sides. For the moment I’m only using one. They were $130 each on Amazon, which isn’t cheap considering I’m not likely to need them in the future, but I’m operating under the assumption that anything I need to buy will still be far cheaper than paying fifteen grand to have someone else do it. I can always turn around and sell them on Craigslist when we’re done.

Steel plates

Steel plates

I cut off the rotted portion of the column I removed previously. I wound up having to cut it down a second time so that it would fit between the jack and the beam. It was so big I actually had to make a cut from either side with my miter saw and then use a bow saw to finish it off. Then I put a stack of four 16 gauge steel plates between the jack and the wood to spread the load across the entire base of the column. I wanted quarter-inch steel, but I couldn’t find it and these were only $1.41 each. Four of them adds up to a quarter inch, so I’m calling it good enough.

After following the priming instructions for the jack I carefully leveled the column over it and lined it up underneath the beam, in line with one of the lowest joists. With some re-checking of the level after each pump on the jack I got it snug and right where I wanted it. Then I set up the laser level and marked a starting line on the column to keep track of how much it moved. This means the height of the level can’t change, and because my tripod is rather flimsy I put it on top of one of the 4x4s that I had taken out of the wall. I’m tempted to write “do not move” on the 4×4, just in case.

Laser line

Laser line

I’m taking it slow, but it moved pretty easily at first as the column got a bit tighter up to the beam. Then the noises started. Nothing loud, no groans or anything so far, but little pops and snaps that were extremely unnerving. The beam has a split in it –which is normal– but it appears to be getting wider as we push on it. I made some marks at the ends of the crack to keep an eye on it. After about a dozen pumps on the jack it started getting resistance and I started getting freaked out that bits of wood were going to splinter and fly as a precursor to some catastrophic failure of the beam… but that didn’t happen, at least not yet. Sarah came down and gave the jack a couple of pumps. For me it was as much a symbolic “we’re in this together” as anything, but it made me feel a little better.

We left it overnight, but this weekend I’ll be back at it. The beam needs to lift over an inch in this section, which is pretty dramatic as these things go. Once this section is level (assuming the beam doesn’t fail) I’ll build the temporary support walls, move the jack, and then do it again.

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6 Responses to Beam Project: Leveling with a Hydraulic Jack

  1. Reuben says:

    Excellent, I love these updates.

  2. You’re welcome to borrow them when I’m done.

  3. You can always rent special equipment like the 50t bottle jack at Sunbelt Rentals (sunbelt.com). It is my go to place for items like this.

  4. […] our friend Drew, and also to Dan Rockafield, who lent their expertise and help. A thank you also to Matt who let us use his heavy duty bottle […]

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