The Best 20 Ton Jack: The Cheap One You Own

When we hired two foundation crews for two different houses they both rolled up with an arsenal of 20 ton bottle jacks.* If professionals use them by the dozen, DIY weekend warriors should too. Maybe not a dozen though…two or three is probably more like it.

Three double ram 20 ton bottle jacks in use by the first foundation company.

Three non descript 20 ton bottle jacks in use by the first foundation company, Remedy Foundation Repair.

Three 20 ton bottle jacks in use by the second foundation company.

A mishmash set of three 20 ton bottle jacks in use by the second foundation company, Precision Foundation.

Why would you want one, three or twelve 20 ton jacks? House foundation work, car repairs, or checking to see if you actually weigh more than 20 tons after Thanksgiving dinner.

Back to house repairs–check out the crushed old floor joist right here:

If this is your house did you just get an unsettling feeling in the pit of your stomach? How much is this fix gonna cost? Or are you already thinking DIY–I’ll just sledgehammer a new floor joist in there to beef it up!

I have no recollection of our first use of the 20 ton floor jack, but it is an AMAZING tool.** Imagine laying on your back, side or stomach in the small crawl space under your house. ANY advantage you can conjure is a blessing when you are pounding a 2”x8”x16’ board into place. A set of 20 ton jacks is your magic bullet.

Poor Dad and Brian struggled sledge hammering in all the new sistered floor joists in the kitchen. And that was with the floors wide open with no subfloor.

Brainstorming how to sister the joists and how far to rip up the old subfloor.

Brainstorming how to sister the joists and how far to rip up the old subfloor.

One 20 ton floor jack later and all the sledge hammering could have been a little slide and a few taps into place. The lessons you learn too late…but is it really too late when you find the same problem in EVERY SINGLE ROOM WITH WATER ACCESS?!?

Two weeks passed between the kitchen floor joist project and uncovering the bathroom floor joist problem. Sometime in between a screw/floor jack appeared, as documented in pictures.

The best 20 ton jack could be a cheap screw jack.

Another 20 ton hydraulic bottle jack appeared which also helped spread the weight across more of the house as the lifts continued in different places in the crawl space.

  • The laundry room (including a new sill plate and rim joist along the outside of the house).

The laundry room (including a new sill plate and rim joist along the outside of the house).

  • The front entryway where water had pooled on the front steps and rotted away the sill plate. Not only did we use the same 20 ton hydraulic bottle jack–another lighter duty bottle jack appeared just in time to help lighten the load!

The front entryway where water had pooled on the front steps and rotted away the sill plate.

  • Cracked and sagging floor joists in random spots under the bedrooms.

Cracked and sagging floor joists in random spots under the bedrooms.

Before you buy a few, slam it in place and start pumping your house to a higher elevation keep the following tips in mind:

  • Expect to see drywall cracking/buckling in the living space above when you adjust the floor.

    This crack appeared after the start of foundation work along with some of the crown moulding popping off.

    This crack appeared after the start of foundation work along with some of the crown moulding popping off.

  • You have to be careful not to overdo it. If you jack up a floor too far in a single spot it can cause extra cracking/buckling drywall problems in the house. This is where more than one jack and/or distributing the weight over multiple joists comes in handy.

    We used a 4" x 4" beam to spread the weight across more square footage above, reducing stress during the lift.

    We used a 4″ x 4″ beam to spread the weight across more square footage above, reducing stress during the lift.

  • Do not lift too quickly or you can also cause worse drywall problems than you already are going to.
  • You can use an additional supporting piece of wood or other material to help spread the weight just in case the old joist/beam is too soft (right before sistering it with a new joist/beam).
  • Expect to swing a sledgehammer a couple times–it can’t be too easy, right? However, a couple times is less than required if there is zero wiggle room with on old floor joist which is obviously squished smaller than it was originally.
  • You want the new joist to match or be taller than the old joist depending on the situation. If there is some resistance still that is OK. A compression joint is necessary otherwise your new joist will allow the old floor to continue sinking.
  • Expect to use a 20 ton floor jack more than you ever wanted, but also expect to be thankful you have them. For instance, once we were done with the kitchen, bathroom and laundry, we used them on parts of the house that did not have water access, but had cracked or sagging joists.
  • Consider the space where the work is happening. The fully collapsed height of the jack needs to be smaller than whatever cramped space you are working in.

Do you have a pier and beam house? If you are even thinking of doing a single subfloor repair or floor joist repair you need one of these. It is one of those tools where you are in the middle of the job and say, “That was the best $35 bucks I’ve ever spent!”

One last suggestion: don’t go out and buy a super fancy one. They all do the same thing. Just get a cheap one (or two or three) and enjoy!  The best 20 ton jack is the cheap one you own. It’s worth every penny.

Links to a couple we actually used (and very much gratefully used) are embedded in the article, but here they are for your perusing: floor jack , and 20 ton bottle jack. Yes, they are affiliate links (no extra cost to you). Even if you decide on a different jack–your support is very much appreciated! The Torin Big Read Hydraulic Jack has quite the following, but I have not used one personally. I think. The labels get worn off quick when you are slinging them through the dirt below your house.

 

*We love both foundation companies–the crews were great! A full review of the foundation repairs is coming soon!

**I will give credit to our dear friend Rodney, who was a great source of so many tools just a few houses away.

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2 Responses

  1. Thomas A Richey says:

    LOL. That ole screw Jack just keeps showing up. What a trooper. With the tight crawl space I had to work in, there is NO WAY that bath floor got fixed. At least not by me that weekend.

    • Margaret says:

      If you mean Hardibacker and tile, no, but it sure looked a lot prettier and it was MUCH more sturdy. No squishy subfloor anymore!

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