How to Level a Sagging, Uneven Floor
RUSSELL: Beola (sp) in Pennsylvania’s doing something with her wood floor. What’s happening?
BEOLA (sp): The floor is uneven. It’s like going downhill.
BEOLA (sp): And what I had chosen to do was use floor leveling.
TOM: A floor leveling compound, Beola (sp)?
BEOLA (sp): Yes, floor leveling compound.
TOM: OK. What kind of – what kind of floor are you trying to put down?
BEOLA (sp): Well, the floor is already in.
TOM: Oh, it’s already in.
BEOLA (sp): Right. But what’s happening is it has about two-and-a-half – about two-and-a-half inches of (INAUDIBLE) on one end of the …
TOM: Wow. What kind of floor was put in?
BEOLA (sp): It was a hardwood floor.
TOM: Oh, man. Listen, Beola (sp), at this stage you can’t use a floor leveling compound. That has to be done before the hardwood floor is put in. Once the floor is put in the only way to level it out is to take the floor up first. And that’s just like doing the whole job over again. If the floor was unlevel the contractor should have fixed it before he put the hardwood in; not after.
BEOLA (sp): No, this is an – this is an old, old house.
LESLIE: Well, that’s from the house settling over years.
BEOLA (sp): Exactly. That’s what it came from.
TOM: OK, so you – what you want to do is just level this floor now or do you just want to – do you want to put a new floor down?
BEOLA (sp): No, I just wanted to level this floor out.
TOM: Alright. Well, if you put – if you level the floor out you’re going to have to have some sort of a new flooring to put on top of it. The compound is not a finished floor. It’s just a material that helps you level the floor. What room are we talking about here, Beola (sp)?
BEOLA (sp): We’re talking about a middle bedroom.
TOM: A what kind of room?
BEOLA (sp): A middle – it’s a middle bedroom. I have three bedrooms up there.
TOM: It’s a bedroom. OK.
BEOLA (sp): It’s the one that is in the middle. Yes.
TOM: Alright. If you’re going to put it down in the bedroom you could use a floor leveling compound to level the floor and then on top of that you could carpet or something of that nature. But the floor leveling compound itself is not a finished floor. That’s what you need to know.
Now, structurally it doesn’t make any sense for you to try to raise this floor. Because once a floor settles like that if you try to bring it back up after all that years of settlement you’re inevitably going to do some other destruction in the house. You could crack walls, crack ceilings, pull pipes apart, separate wires and things of this nature. So at this point, the good news is it’s probably not a structural issue because it’s very common in an older house. But the bad news is you’re going to have to cover that hardwood floor with a leveling compound and then maybe carpet over that or put engineered hardwood on top of that or put carpet on top of that. But you’re not going to be able to raise the existing floor. Do you follow me?
BEOLA (sp): Right.
LESLIE: You know, it’s very common with old homes. I hate to say it but our house, in the dining room you can see, on the jamb from the dining room into the kitchen, there’s probably a good two or three inches. The house has settled that much over the almost 100 years that it’s been there. And while it’s character and charm, as we call it, it’s structurally – it’s no biggie.
TOM: Right, exactly. Because you know when they built the older homes they were – the beams were small and the spans were long so you got a lot of movement. So every old house is going to have a lot of movement. A common mistake, though, that I wanted to make sure Beola (sp) didn’t make is trying to raise that floor back up structurally. It never works out. So you’re better off …
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Well, is there a way that you could pull those planks up and then rebuild like say a platform on top of those floor joists to just level it? I mean that’s a huge project.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Well. Yeah, but it’s a – it’s a – you could but it’s – it’s a big – it’s a big, stinking mess I mean is what it is. You could tuck the floor up and you could shim out. I mean for example, in my house my bedroom floor sags and that’s right above the living room ceiling. When we worked on the ceiling we actually firred out the ceiling to take this huge belly out of the middle of it from the sag.
TOM: So the ceiling looks perfectly flat now. But the floor above is still …
LESLIE: Is still …
TOM: … is still sagged, of course, so.
LESLIE: It’s funny. I swear, in our bedroom upstairs from the dining room, which also is on the slant, I swear, if I don’t lay completely over to the side that’s slanting I swear I roll over in the middle of the night. (laughing)
TOM: (overlapping voices) You’re rolling? (laughing)
LESLIE: I’m always like, “I feel so much higher up on this side.”
TOM: I have a – I have a nightstand with two drawers in it. (Leslie chuckles) I can’t open them both at the same time because it’s already tilting forward. (laughing) It wants to roll over. I’ve had to catch it a couple of times.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Ah, character. (laughing)
TOM: That’s right. You know, the realtors have a word for that. It’s called charm.
LESLIE: And it adds an extra 50 grand.