Uneven Addition

elliot_pJanuary 27, 2009

My partner and I are considering buying a house built in 1950 - I know it's not terribly old - but we're put off by the fact that the back half of the house (though beautiful) is about three inches lower than the rest. From the kitchen to dining room is a step down, the master bedroom slopes along the same line, and even the area in the basement is uneven. It is most definitely a "new" addition, within the past five or ten years, but I don't know if it's sinking or if it was just built three inches lower. The house was also remodeled in the last year before going on the market - there are many "layers" here!

We're making an offer on it Wednesday contingent on the approval of a structural engineer...but I'm wondering if anyone else has experience with the livability of such a thing? I don't want to drown a few thousand just to figure out that it would take a second mortage to make sure the back half doesn't topple down onto that lovely back yard. Maybe there's something I can look for on my own to figure out whether this is a risk I want to take, or whether I should move on to the second choice house (oh, an ode to shag carpets and avocado walls...)?

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Why buy problems, especially in today's market where buyers are kings?

The best older home to buy is one where subsequent owners haven't made any "improvements", let alone half-a#@$^ additions.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2009 at 10:16AM
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I'm not so sure I'd like "sloping". It's really hard to say without seeing it. It sounds like you mean a physical step down as in they made it shorter and then sloping in the bedroom without the step down. I think I'd take a serious relook at the second choice. It sounds like a messy build and that could be a choice of living with it like it or a lot of money to change it.

I currently rent an older house out in Ca. It has a small og house with an addition built on. The floors on the main house are sloping here and there and it needs some serious pier work but the addition is not quite the same as the main house so the roof where the main and addition meet is in a sad state. You can actually see a small hump and the shingles there are ruined where the rest of the roof isn't in bad shape. I'd think it possilbe that your slopes could cause other problems so have it all checked good.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2009 at 11:07AM
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Sloping floor sounds like a problem to me. Step down is probably just a poor design on the addtion height.
Structural engineer inspection sounds like good choice to me.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2009 at 1:12PM
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I don't mind living with a step down to the dining room and a step down in the bedroom. We're going to rip the carpet up anyway and lay hardwoods, so we may end up with a step in the bedroom (but I want the front half as an office anyway - it's a very long bedroom)...unless I'm just being way overenthusiastic. (If we do it I'm gonna call up some friends who did their own hardwood, 'cause floor is intimidating).

As for why not another house - this one is a foreclosure, it's selling for 30k less than tax value, and the neighborhood is wonderful. Everything else in our price range is pretty sketchy in other ways (like that beautiful sprawling bungalow twenty feet from the airport, or the ranch house walking distance from the porn store/truck stop/strip joint). The foundation and walls at the join look ok, but I'm not sure if there's anything I could actually look for without the help of a professional...

Thanks for the comments!

    Bookmark   January 27, 2009 at 1:14PM
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The step down living room was all the rage in 1973. There is nothing inherently wrong with having a step in between rooms, but most people don't care for it currently.

The easiest way to tell if a room was meant to slope or just fell down would be to look up instead of down. A drop of 3 inches should be easy to spot in the roof line. Also the siding, shingles, etc would all be out of kilter if part of the addition was sagging. If everything else looks level and straight, chances are that this was an intentional part of the design. You should still have a pro look at it though because even if they meant for it to look that way, it doesn't mean they supported it properly.

As for ripping it up, plan on that being a huge expense. You don't know how they made that slope, so you don't know if it can easily be converted back to a step. It could be a cement ramp under there for all you know.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2009 at 2:10PM
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It could be a cement ramp under there for all you know.

Funny, that's how I leveled the sloping floor in a room in a reno I did--a wheelbarrow full of concrete followed by thick underpad and carpet. I probably should have used a polymer modified concrete leveler.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2009 at 5:02PM
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Our house has a sloping back portion. We finally determined that since our house is pier and beam and the sloping area is concrete foundation that this was a patio that was later enclosed for a family room. Perhaps the slope was necessary for proper drainage. Our structural engineer said it isn't a problem.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2009 at 7:36PM
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