How to Fix a Warped Wood Floor
LESLIE: Mary in Virginia is dealing with some tricky wood flooring. Tell us what’s going on.
MARY: Well, in our bedroom, there’s a hump in the floor – I mean in the flooring. The house has all wood floors – no carpet or anything – and we don’t know what’s wrong with it. When we bought the house, a structural engineer looked at it and supposedly fixed it but he didn’t fix it. Supposedly, he put a crossbeam.
And then when you go downstairs and look up at the basement ceiling – which is the floor of the upper bedroom, right – you can see the cross piece but the hump is still there. So, we’ve had a couple people look at it. One flooring company told us they thought the floor had warped or something and we’d need new floors but we don’t know what it is.
TOM: So, the question is, is the deflection or the warping, is that in the floor joists or is that in the flooring material itself? What kind of flooring material do you have now? Let’s start with that.
MARY: It’s wood flooring.
TOM: Is it carpet? Hardwood? What is it?
MARY: No, no, no. It’s hardwood floors. No carpet.
TOM: It’s hardwood floor, OK. The work that the – the work that this engineer did, that was addressing the floor joists, I imagine, correct?
MARY: Well, I don’t know. Supposedly, supposedly. I’m not sure what happened. This was when we bought the house and supposedly, this fixed it.
TOM: Mm-hmm. Alright.
MARY: But to me, it doesn’t look like it’s been fixed, because there’s still the hump there.
TOM: The hump is still there, yeah.
Well, we’ve got to figure out what’s causing that hump and it’s not unusual for a floor beam, for example, to warp or twist and press up and cause a floor to deform. But unfortunately, I have no way of diagnosing this from this view, over the radio.
LESLIE: But you can actually take some pictures and post them on our website.
TOM: Yeah, that’d be a great idea. If you could take some photos and post in the Community section of MoneyPit.com – now, I’d ask you to take some photos from the top down and also from the basement up so we can have a look at it. We might be able to give you some further advice.
But if it is a floor joist that happened to buckle, there’s a way to lower that down and it’s a repair that we used to do all the time when – and new construction was really when that happens most. How old is this house, by the way?
MARY: I think it was built in ’68.
TOM: Sixty-eight? OK. Well, it’s a little old for this particular scenario to happen. But if it is a joist that’s twisted, typically what you do is you actually cut the joist and you can put pressure on from above and get it to sort of lay down a bit. And then you reinforce it by putting two new joists on either side of it and create a new beam.
MARY: So you don’t need to replace the whole floor, like this flooring company is telling us?
TOM: If the floor structure is not the – is the problem, replacing the floor is not going to change that, OK? But I mean if – listen, if it’s not really, really bad, I wouldn’t be too concerned about it with a house that’s built in 1968. Why don’t you just chalk it up to charm?
MARY: Yeah. But we’re trying to sell it in the spring and these days, everything has to be pretty much turnkey-perfect, you know?
TOM: OK, look. Here’s what you should do. Listen, if you’re getting ready to put the house on the market, go to the website for the American Society of Home Inspectors at ASHI.org – A-S-H-I.org. Using their zip-code locator, find an ASHI-certified home inspector in your area. Because of the market and because of the issues that you’re concerned about, have your home inspected by a professional home inspector.
You’re doing this for a couple of reasons. First of all, the inspector is an independent expert that should be able to diagnose this floor problem for you and tell you whether it’s something to be concerned about or not. Secondly, the inspector will be able to identify other potential issues that could come up in the house sale and give you the opportunity to fix them or not without a buyer looking over your shoulder.
So if the goal here is to get the house ready for sale, let’s not speculate on what’s going on; let’s get a trained set of eyes in there that is – and somebody who’s not working for a contractor trying to sell you flooring or God-knows-what-else. And let them look at the house and figure out what’s going on. And this way, you’ll know and you’ll have the time to do the job right, OK?
So, again, the website is ASHI.org – A-S-H-I.o-r-g.
MARY: OK. Thank you.