How to Fix a Sagging Floor
LESLIE: Corey in Kentucky, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
COREY: Yeah, I had a question about the house that I was looking at buying.
COREY: And it’s got a major problem with the second floor. It sags probably about 6 to 8 inches; it looks literally like a bowl on the second floor.
TOM: Wow. OK.
COREY: And yeah, it’s pretty bad; it’s really noticeable. The house was built during the Civil War, so it’s an extremely old house. And it’s an old farmhouse.
TOM: Hmm. OK.
COREY: And just wondering how extensive a repair would that be. The structural engineer said it’s fine but …
TOM: Yeah. It’s somewhere between nothing and tearing the house down. Does that sum it up for you? It’s really hard to tell …
LESLIE: Does that make you feel better?
TOM: Yeah, until you really get into it.
TOM: A couple of things that you could do. First of all, Corey, have you had a professional home inspector or an engineer look at the house?
COREY: Yeah. I’m actually in the military and I had a – the Veterans Affairs actually had an inspector go out and look at it. And the structural engineer that inspected it said that it’s structurally sound because it was built with green wood but it shrank.
COREY: And he said it’s sound but if I ever wanted to resell the house, I’d have to make it better in order to be able to get what I paid for out of it, because …
TOM: With all due respect to the military and the Veterans Affairs and the guy they sent out, I sincerely doubt he was a structural engineer. You may have – you may be calling him that but it would be unlikely that they would send out such a professional. They probably sent out a housing inspector who inspects everything from homes that people are buying and need loans on to rentals.
I would strongly – underline strongly – recommend that you at least have a professional home inspector look at this. These are guys that look at homes every day and they really know how to sort the wheat from the chaff and figure out whether it’s a major problem or a minor problem. And if you’re really seriously interested about this place, the step above that is to consult with a structural engineer.
Now, with a problem like this, if you’re going to fix it and it sounds like you are, it’s very important that you do it the right way and that is that you work with an architect or an engineer to inspect the property, actually spec out the exact repair that needs to be done and then reinspect it after it’s completed and give you a letter to that effect so that now you sort of have a pedigree or proof that the problem was identified, evaluated and correctly repaired and you have the word of a professional – a licensed professional – that’s certifying that.
This takes you out of the responsibility loop. You understand what I mean? If you just had a slopy floor and you say, “Well, I fixed it,” that doesn’t really mean as much as whether or not you had pros look at it, explain exactly how it should be fixed and then certify that it was done correctly. So, if you’re real serious about this, I would get another expert to look at it and look at the specific problem. It’ll be well worth the investment.
COREY: OK. Yeah because the house is pretty cheap and I could definitely resell it for a higher value. So I was really looking into – it’s five acres of land and everything like that, so I was really wanting to get the house but I didn’t know if it was going to cost me way more to fix the house than it was to buy the house.
TOM: Yeah. And it’s definitely a cost-benefit analysis that has to be done. I would definitely recommend that you spend $350 or whatever it costs to get an inspection done.
If you go to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors, it’s ASHI – A-S-H-I – .org. There’s a zip-code locator. You will find ASHI-certified members in your area. I would use that as the first list to call. And then work through that list and have a conversation with the inspectors until you find one that you really feel knows what he or she is doing and you’re comfortable. And then hire that person to evaluate the house.
COREY: OK. That sounds great.
TOM: Alright, Corey. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
COREY: Alright. Thank you.