Question about a concrete basement floor

I’m at my parents’ house for the holiday week and noticed the concrete basement floor around one of the Lally columns looks like this. Actually, all of the Lally columns show that irregular discoloration around the base but only this one has that cracking (I think it’s called spalling?). This is a one-story ranch house in south-central Connecticut that was built in 1958, I think. Is this a problem?

I’d agree that it looks like spalling…like moisture coming up through the concrete.
You can test it by putting saran wrap over the area (and ‘sealed’ or weighed down around the edge) and watch see if moisture forms on the underside of the film.

Of course it goes without saying you should really have an inspector or contractor come out and look at it.

I Googled, based on my Spidey-sense tingling. There might be cause for concern here:


Look for the heading:

Cracks in a floor slab around a Lally column may indicate settlement

Yeah. That.

That’s an interesting photo. Firstly, anything that’s been standing up for 60+ years is probably going to keep standing up. Secondly, concrete cracks, especially around penetrations. It also looks like there is a top-coat on the concrete that might be failing? At any rate, there is definitely moisture getting through, but that’s pretty normal in the NE. I wouldn’t worry too much about it unless it changes…

As far as I know, there’s no paint or coating on their concrete floor. And I get that houses settle, but the house is almost 65 years old, so shouldn’t it be done settling already?

Yes, unless something is changing with the water table or seismic stuff. Do you know this is new or did you just notice it? I assume it’s not right on the coast, which would change the calculus a bit. Things don’t usually wait 60 years to settle!

Looking at the photo again, it looks like the lally column is on a sonotube round form (very common), and maybe there’s some expansion, i.e. uplift, of the footing (or settling of the slab). Could they have a water line leak? That could cause expansion of the soils even after all these years.

To me, the “discoloration” looks like evidence of prior concrete repair. The only other cause of discoloration would involve moisture but that should have produced a great deal on concrete efflorescence resulting in raised concrete powder but I don’t see that. Perhaps there was settlement years ago necessitating removing the old concrete in order to pour a deeper footing. I believe if there were ongoing settlement, there would be evidence of downward cracking at the existing concrete but the cracks in the photo don’t seem to support that.

If you want to check for actual settlement, measure the height at the column from the floor to the ceiling joist it supports. Then measure the same height at each far wall of that joist. Deduct the column height from the average end heights and that is your settlement, if any.

It doesn’t look like a serious problem to me but as previously mentioned, an inspection by a structural engineer could offer some peace of mind and advice.

Got nothing to add other than that I grew up in a house with such columns and never heard them described as “Lally.”

I’d imagine your parents were just trying to protect you.

FYI, here is the Wikipedia article on them.

Edited to add, the last name of the inventor was Lally.

That’s what I was thinking when I first saw the picture. It almost look like the slab may have settled a bit while the footing for the post didn’t. If the post heaved enough to do that, I’d think there would be other symptoms due to it pushing up on whatever it’s attached to (an I-beam running the length of the house, I assume).
There’s an imgur user named AlphaStructural. I have no idea if he’d comment on something like this, but you might try posting it in one of his threads and see if he responds.
If he doesn’t, well, his posts are still worth flipping through for the entertainment value.

Thx. My dad was an engineer. His workshop was in the basement, and it was my job to clean th basement. It is highly unusual that I do not have a recollection of him calling something by its proper name.

Reading the Wikipedia article, not all basement columns are Lally columns so it’s possible what you had in your basement was technically something else. So your father may have been correct if he never referred to them as such.

Well, they looked exactly like the photo in the OP - and exactly like what is in the basement of every Chicago bungalow. Round metal pipes. Definitely not hollow, so I assume filled w/ concrete.

Just odd - and cool - to realize something you are extremely familiar with has a specific name.

We also have a concrete basement of the same age and some of the same problems. A few years ago we had one of those basement repair companies that do a lot of advertising on TV come out and give an estimate. I told him I didn’t need to see his PowerPoint sales pitch, nor hear a talk about financing; it was pure hard-sell. It was only when he gave a crazy high estimate based on some rough measurements that I had to show him the door.

So, who else handles basement problems and can be trusted?