Update on "Where to Start with Unlevel.."


Old 01-27-05, 05:15 PM
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Where to Start with Unlevel Floors

Hello everyone. I'm new here, and have tons of questions! My husband and I moved into our first house 2 years ago. It's 65 years old, and a fixer-upper. We want to put hardwood floors down in the central part of the house (oldest part, there are two additions) the rooms include the DR, 2 BRs, an office and a small hall which total about 615 sq ft. The problem is, the DR is unlevel and squeaks and pops like crazy when you walk on it. (If I didn't mention this before, the existing floors are hardwood, badly damaged, not nice enough to want to refinish) I'm not sure how to go about leveling that floor since there happens to be 5 doorways in the DR since it's in the center of the house. I don't want a discrepancy in height between rooms.

My first question is:WHERE DO I START? Should I tear everything up and start from the concrete slab that's under it somewhere? Judging by everything we've seen in this house so far, the floors that are there were probably not installed properly anyway, however my husband is VERY wary of tearing apart half of our house without knowing the nature of this beast.

PS My husband is borrowing a friend's laser level and we'll soon know exactly how much we're off and where the high/low spots are.

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Old 01-28-05, 05:50 AM
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Leveling a floor is no easy task.
there a reason why it sank.
You for a fixer upper not sure if you had house inspected before.
My sound advice is to have a house inspector look at it.
Might cost you 300. at least you will have right information to proceed in repair.
Good luck

Old 01-29-05, 08:54 PM
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I don't think you need a home inspector, yet. After all, we're at a place called "do it yourself". Figuring out the problem isn't dangerous.

diymamma, I have some questions.
Is there some way to see under the dinning room floor? What's under there? Is there a basement or crawl space? Is the floor exposed underneath the dinning room?
Anything above the dinning room?
What kind of house you got there? Brick
You need to determine where the room is down. Sounds like that's the plan with the laser level. Then when you figure out where and by how much you can investigate. The popping and squeking are the nails coming loose in the subfloor.

Are you and your husband doing the work? You could be talking about a big job. Can you live in the house while this work is going on?

I've done a little of this kind of work myself, never having done it before. Learnt as much as I could about it, asked friends and elders. Found a couple of people who have done it. Asked them about it. I'm working on something that includes leveling a floor. Level can be a subjective thing too.

And Jamie Coyne says, if you can't figure something out, stare it for a while and it'll come to ya.
Old 01-30-05, 10:47 AM
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How is it built?

First you need to find out how this floor is constructed. If you are on a slab it may be that someone at some point created a type of sub floor on top of the slap furring it out to install the current hardwood flooring. Did they do this to cover an existing problem with slab? Find out exactly how this floor is constructed. Also is the area level with the additions or must you step down to get to them? This would indicate the additions are on a slab but the original is on a crawl space. You must know the construction of the area in question before you can contemplate an approach. Post back and let us know what you find. Good Luck
Old 01-31-05, 03:18 PM
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Update on Unlevel Floors

Hi guys, thanks for the insight. To answer some of your questions, the house we live in is frame constructed. The floors we want to replace and level are over a slab, which worries me since it may be the concrete that's the problem. There is not a basement or crawl space beneath. We pulled up a piece of the floor,and it looks like they put tar paper over the concrete (to use as vapor barrier?) and the existing floor is sitting on pieces of wood laid on top of the concrete. Sorry, not fluent in construction lingo yet. It doesn't look like there is any subfloor besides the concrete. Just the tar paper over that, and then the strips of wood laid like joists to nail the floor to. We used a laser level, and the results are scary, the floor goes down 3" over 16 ft.

Like I said before, I don't really know where to start. Just trying to get some info. I've talked to a couple of friends. One suggested ripping out entire floor (remember, this is a little over 600 sq ft.) and using a leveling compound to rectify the discrepancy, then to install subfloor and then hardwood. Another said we'd have to hire someone to fill in concrete from the outside into the foundation to rectify the problem. I hope we don't have to do that! Although I would prefer to rip out the old wood floors, and start from scratch to do it right.

The dining room is the only room we've got a real problem with, the other rooms are level to 1/8" over 10 ft. We do have squeaks in some rooms, though I'm not nearly as worried about that as the slope in the DR.

Thanks Again for the insight, and look forward to replies!
Old 01-31-05, 03:37 PM
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Update on "Where to Start with Unlevel.."

Hi everyone.

I posted a reply on my thread some answers to your questions, but I forgot a couple things. First of all, my house is one level, a ranch, frame construcion. There is a "half-basement" it's like a little cellar that runs the length and width of my kitchen, that's it. No crawlspace or anything else, everything else is on a slab. The additions are on either side of my house (north and south) the middle of my house sits lower than the addition on the north. The addition on the south side is at the same level as the center.

Also, in case you didn't read the other reply, the slope in my DR is 3" over 16 ft. The rest of the rooms are level, but there are squeaks everywhere. Under the floor in the DR is concrete, they didn't install a plywood subfloor. There is just some tar paper, I assume they put there as a vapor barrier and strips of wood laid on top of the concrete to nail the existing floor to. We don't know if there are any cracks in the cement , but outside there appears to be none. Right now we're at a stand still. We don't want to start ripping out half the floors in our house untill we know exactly what we have to do in what order, etc..

Thanks in advance for your response!
Old 02-01-05, 03:27 AM
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You will find that this is good advice;
[QUOTE]One suggested ripping out entire floor (remember, this is a little over 600 sq ft.) and using a leveling compound to rectify the discrepancy,[QUOTE]
In doing this, level both wasy in about 4' grids and adjusting to lessen the affect in your doorways, least you have to continue to other rooms.

Adding additional concrete under the slab from the exterior, would only be warranted if there were obvious indications of disproportionate setteling, such as cracking or seperation of the exterior or humps in the roofing material.
Old 02-01-05, 02:44 PM
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Oků I think it a good idea to remove what was done. Some of the discrepancy could be in what was done to install the floor in the first place. This will also allow you to see any cracks and such in the concrete to help focus your efforts. Look closely over doors and windows for cracks that would suggest continuing settlement. 65 years old it could be done settling, also after you remove the existing floor measure from the slab to the headers of all doors and windows check for any differences. If it has finished settling and leveling the floor with self-leveling underlayment wont impede the operation of any doors you could go that way. Now, if the settlement is directed towards the outside walls it may be a question of the condition of your footers, which might require the application your friend spoke of regarding the pumping in of concrete. I would also consider when this wood floor was installed, who installed it and does it constitute a breach of full disclosure when you bought the home? Just a thought good luck
Old 02-01-05, 03:01 PM
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1. It's possible that the dining room was built over an outdoor patio slab which was sloped for drainage. If so, then the foundation is probably inadequate.

Solution: Tear the whole thing down and rebuild with proper foundation.

2. The foundation has simply settled due to poor soil bearing pressure.

Solution: Underpin and jack up the foundation properly - or .... see above.

3. The walls and windows and doors are all square and the floor has settled but the walls have not. You can check this by measuring the distance from the top of openings to the floor on different walls. If there is a door opening on the wall at the low side of the room it should be easy to tell. You would expect the bottom of the door to be about 3" above the floor.

Solution: Tear up the Floor, level and put the floor back - or ... see above.

My guess is that the problem is one of the first two. In either event, you have a mess that is best solved by demolishing the existing and rebuilding from the ground up. A consultation with an Architect or Engineer is definitely a good idea in this case.
Old 02-01-05, 03:08 PM
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You mention that the dining room is in the center of the house. Do you mean that there are rooms on 3 sides? If so, then I will assume that the window wall is the low side of the room.

If that's correct then I'm going to guess that this area was at one time an exterior patio slab that just got covered and enclosed. As I said in my previous post - tear it out and start over - it doesn't have adequate foundations.

If the dining room is surrounded on 4 sides by other rooms then it is a bad deal anyway because there are no windows - it would be a better storage room than a dining room - and it's probably illegal.
Old 02-01-05, 10:22 PM
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I merged the update thread with your original one, this will help everyone stay on the same page in the discussion. Looks like you've got lots of help here. Good luck.

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