BIG problem with an old floor...

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Old 06-26-20, 11:09 AM
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BIG problem with an old floor...

Domestic associate attacked the man cave. She decided the carpeting was garbage (it is), the walls were hideous (they are), and the whole thing needs a makeover. SO, we moved all the office furniture out this morning, and I pulled up part of the carpeting.

This is an old house and we’ve done several rooms, so we’ve seen some “bad” floors, unlevel floors, floors with some kind of linoleum, floors with what was left after linoleum or something was scraped off, floors with paint and ceiling texture covering the original oak, and on and on. But I HAVEN’T seen a floor that looks like this one. Under the carpeting is some sort-of concrete-like stuff. But not the whole floor. There’s one corner where there’s OSB with some sort of white material (perhaps leveling compound?) abutting it. In other places it LOOKS like concrete, but not smooth, it looks like it was finished by a kindergarten class with spatulas. It’s nowhere close to smooth or level. Swirls, gouges, cracks, lumps, it’s ugly.

Near the doorway the floor goes UP to a hump that tapers down to the sill plate to the front parlor.

And, of course, EVERYWHERE they hammered down tack strips for the carpeting it completely destroyed the concrete or WHATEVER it is that’s down there. So around the outside of the room it’s all just rubble.

I haven’t removed enough to see what’s under whatever all this mess is, but I presume this grey, concrete-like material was supposed to be an IMPROVEMENT over what’s underneath.

WIFE wants to put in “luxury vinyl plank flooring” – the click lock, floating stuff. Which is fine with me. But, according to the generic instructions I looked at on line for this material, if it’s 4mm thick or less (most we've seen has been 3, 4 or 5 mm), we aren’t supposed to put it on a pad. Which I presume means whatever this stuff goes on has to be smooth and level.

Even if we switch to something like a laminate or engineered hardwood, I believe they also want the floor to be reasonably sound, smooth and level… So, what do now?

Do I add MORE concrete-like stuff (leveling compound?) to try to smooth the junk that’s down there (seems like a bad idea)? Do I hammer this stuff up and put ¼ underlayment down (can I put it over whatever is under this junk?) I SUSPECT there’s something like linoleum or some other WW II era floor or floor remnants under the “concrete”. Do I take the whole mess up, down through whatever is under there to “good” underlayment if there IS any, and if not down to the joists? I’d REALLY rather NOT go all the way down to the joists – been there, done that… So, what do next?
 
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Old 06-26-20, 11:21 AM
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If the subfloor is sound and not humpy, bumpy, unlevel etc, I'd glue down the underlayment. If u want the room to last forever, I may check out removing the subfloor, fixing any irregularities, and installing a new subfloor.
 
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Old 06-26-20, 02:16 PM
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What is underneath that room? Is it on a slab or do you have crawlspace or basement below? If there is crawlspace or basement below that the gray concrete stuff you see might be a self leveling compound.

If it were me I would not be afraid to rip the floor down to the studs. It does generate a lot that needs to go the landfill but in the end it can really speed a project up and get better results in the end. With the mismatch of subfloor stuff gone you can really see what you have to work with. You can sister joists or do what's needed to get the joists level. Then put down new subflooring that's nice and flat and ready to receive whatever flooring you choose. In old houses with problems I like to use a premium underlayment like 3/4" Advantech. It's a premium OSB that is much stronger than regular OSB and is very moisture resistant.
 
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Old 06-27-20, 05:11 AM
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Yeah, I was pretty sure the response was gonna be "first get all the junk up! I presume it's supposed to be some kind of leveling too, but it's not like I've ever seen before and if it WAS supposed to level things - IT FAILED!!!!!!

This room is over the crawlspace. It sounds like step 1 is getting this stuff off, then look at what's left.
Depending on that, it may be possible to use a LITTLE leveling compound to make it smooth enough to put down 1/4" plywood or underlayment - I've always used a combination of glue and screws to I know the edges are as even as possible.

If I have to, it won't be the first floor in this house that's gone down to the joists! In 1 bathroom, we had a "bouncy" area so we took the underlayment up. Underneath we figured out it used to be whee a staircase came through, so they cut the joists. When they took it out, they didn't FIX the joists - just left them hanging. Bouncy!
We sistered in new ones in that area to fix it... This CAN'T be any goofier than that was!

OK, thanks for the replies - I'm not mentally prepared to start ripping everything out as needed! I'm thinking since this unwarranted assault on the man cave was the domestic associate's idea, I'm gonna let HER practice her sledge hammering!!!!!!!!!!
 
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Old 06-27-20, 09:50 AM
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My world has gotten more interesting!
Got the last couple pieces of furniture out this morning, then pulled up the carpeting. So far, nothing bizarre.....

THEN comes the floor. There are a variety of concrete-like substances in colors from light gray, dark gray, white and textures some that looks like grout/mortar, some that looks like "concrete", some that's gravel mix - it looks just like the really old sidewalks in the neighborhood. There are places where the concrete is 1/4 in thick and places where it's 1 1/2" thick.
A straight, 8' board from one wall, goes 2/3 of the way across the room (it's 12x14). Around the middle is a dip of at LEAST 1 1/2 inches. that's WITH all the concrete and whatever on the floor to "level" it.

Where I STARTED knocking loose concrete I hit dimensional boards about 6" wide - the kind we see for subfloor or underlayment in many of the rooms in this house. BUT, within 3 feet we encountered 3/4" plywood running across those boards. NOT everywhere, it started feet in from the edge. They DON'T appear to run all the way across the room - I haven't chopped out all the whatever on the other side yet. THEN a bit further there are some pieces of OSB on top of the plywood - again not everywhere, just in PLACES.

Between all these pieces are varying thicknesses of powdery leveling compound, concrete, gravel mix, something that's very dark gray that looks like it was never troweled out at all - there are chunks and gobs sticking up.
In at least two places we've found so far, BETWEEN some dimensional lumber that's on TOP - 1x10 and 1x12 pieces on top of the plywood on top of what I HOPE is the original floor, theres black linoleum or SOME kind of black sheet flooring that pulls away in chunks. Again not everywhere, just in spots.

As near as I can tell (so far), there are joists SOMEWHERE, on top of which there planks, on top of which there is 3/4" plywood - by the way, the plywood is COMPLETELY deteriorated - it' has heaves and chunks missing, it's delaminated all over - just a mess - on top of which there are places with OSB and places with wide planks running in both directions...

We're DEFINITELY going down to the bottom layer of planking, then we'll have to figure out if it slopes downhill, has a big dip anywhere, or what. MY GUESS is we'll end up pulling all the planking up, find the joists are cut, missing, sagging, or whatever, and fix it.
I may be back with more questions along the way, but for the moment we're digging our way to the bottom.
 
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Old 06-29-20, 08:07 PM
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Well y'all, I have good news and I have BAD news. The good news is nobody fell into the crawlspace. The BAD news is it was only by dumb luck 'cause there are NO joists for 8 FEET of the room - 5 joists gone.

I crawled into the crawlspace this morning to check - have I mentioned how MUCH I hate crawlspaces - and found there was NOTHING UNDER the bottom layer of planking.

It looks like a couple failed from powder post beetles - must have been a LONG time ago, 'cause there were at LEAST TWO layers of all that concrete and leveling gunk on top, along with more and more pieces of wood on top of the plywood underlayment that was on top of the tongue-and-groove planking.
With those two gone it looks like a third one split where the joist sits in the beam - you guys probably know what it's called but there's no joist hangar, it's a cut on the joist so the top part is longer than the bottom and it goes in a pocket in the beam. So the joist may be a 2x10 but only about 4 inches of it is supported in the beam.
In any case one of those split, another one has a crack that's visible. The others LOOK ok but tomorrow I'll take up the tongue-and-groove floorboards and the 1x12 planks under that on the other side of the room to see if we just need to sister joists on to where the support beam runs up the middle of the room or if we need to replace all of them full width. I'm inclined to just put 5 new joists in and be done with it.
At a MINIMUM, only having one layer of underlayment plywood instead of 4 including all that concrete should lighten the load a LOT! At the moment we've got a 5x8' hole that does down 3 feet in the crawlspace so it should be pretty easy to work with.
A question: Is there ANY reason I CAN'T use joist hangers in addition to the notch into the beam? I'll stick the ends into the beam but a joist hanger should support it from the bottom... Good idea or bad?
 
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Old 06-29-20, 09:12 PM
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Here is a general guide for notching joists. Your local code (whatever it is) might supersede this. But yeah, sounds like if you notch it more than what is allowed, a joist hanger (no taller than your beam is) is about all you could do. If they are all that way you should hanger them all. Be sure you use a mason's string line from end to end to determine where straight is as you rebuild things. The whole point of doing this is to achieve a straight subfloor. So if the beam is bowed, you obviously wouldn't notch them all the same is what I'm trying to say.

Take comfort in knowing that out of all the previous people who worked on that floor that at least you are finally going to be the one who has the opportunity do it right.
 
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Old 06-30-20, 02:01 AM
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Thanks for the reply. Yeah, we've had experience in other rooms with "interesting" supports. When we remodeled the middle, upstairs bath, before we took up the underlayment to find out what was going on, we had a corner that was bouncy. Turned out (as we understand the stories), the house was turned into a duplex after WW II and they put a second staircase to the upstairs that came into this bathroom - wasn't a bathroom at the time. When it went back to being a single home some time later, they took out the staircase but left all the joists cut where it had been and just hanging there in the middle of the room.
Sistered in new ones where needed to make the floor solid. I like the old house, or as I refer to it "The Million-Dollar Money Pit", but since the domestic associate has this periodic urge to "update" rooms, it seems like there's ALWAYS something going on...

Anyhow, I'll probably pick up a bunch of hangers 'cause they're cheap insurance. And maybe a package of Timbor to spray on everything. So far, like pretty much everything else, this joist thing is an annoyance that has to be taken care of!

As for level - I have a couple string levels and I know the floor where the joists are good is level both directions. So, if I can get the new one's in correctly, it should be fine.

AND, since I've got that 10' 4x6 beam that runs down the middle of the room for a support, I'll throw out the garbage piers they made - WHY do people make piers out of old blocks and a half dozen pieces of scrap wood and NOT screw 'em together? In this case, one of the piers had failed so the beam isn't doing anything, but we'll pick up a couple support columns (they only have to be about 3 feet tall), and put it together correctly.
 
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Old 07-02-20, 05:22 PM
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This morning I dug out spots in the crawlspace, put in the concrete plates and replaced the remnants of the piers they'd been using. turns out the beam is a 6x6, 12 feet long so I set up new columns 3' from each end. Very little clearance, so I dug down through all the crap they had sitting under the old ones - they used pieces of drywall to support the concrete blocks to support the scrap wood that fell out, and made a flat, level area for the bases, installed the columns and put them under load.
YESTERDAY, when we put the first new joist, I looked over at the one remaining joist at the end of the room. It SAGGED. A LOT. No signs of infestation or weakness, no cracks, just sagging over an inch. SO, we pulled those floorboards off and replaced that one too. I was going to sister a 2x8 to is, but the domestic associate said - why, you're changing all these, why not just change that one too... Hard to argue with that.
MY GUESS is that with all those other joists gone, and the huge weight of all that concrete for years, and whatever else was in the room, the joist just sagged.

SO, we're making progress.

BUT, yet another question (you KNEW I'd have one. The room is 14 long x 12 wide, joists run across the 12 feet. The bottom layer of floor is 1x12 planks - fer-real 1x12 planks that run across the joists. We cut and pulled out the middle 8 feet when we thought we were only going to need to do that part. We pulled up the last 18 inches from the far end to replace that last joist. We'll be opening up the remaining 4 feet to check the rest of the joists tomorrow and replace any we need to.
QUESTION IS - Do we put the old planks back down - we have them numbered, know exactly what goes where, and can put them down. BUT, they'll all butt at joists and I"m concerned it won't be the smoothest surface for the tongue-and-groove OSB we'll put on top before laying down the "Luxury vinyl planking".......
Would we be BETTER if we left OFF the planks and put down some sort of 4x8 osb or plywood or something, THEN put the T&G OSB down on top of that? Or should we just put the T&G OSB right on and joists and stick the vinyl right on that? I don't think that was be as rigid as I'd like (OSB always seems flimsy to me).
Or something else? THIN osb or plywood, then thick T&G OSB? THICK underneath and 1/4" plywood or OSB on top?
The advantage of doing the tongue-and-groove on top would SEEM TO ME to give better seams, but is there some better, simpler, hopefully cheaper idea?
 
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