Should a sloping wood floor be fixed?

jenp4February 9, 2008

Hello everyone. I am 1 month in to my 1912 farmhouse remodel. So far I had to remove the plaster and lath, which was very sad for me, but it was in rough shape, lots of water damage, dangerous electrical problems-- mold, leaking plumbing, you name it. The walls are now down to the studs (which look great-- nice, solid wood). I even had to take the ceilings down on the second floor as the lower stringers on the trusses were warped and sagging because of a leaking roof. I also found when I took down the plaster on the second floor, that all my walls (except exterior) were built with 2 by 2 studs! Even the load bearing walls. Yes, this has been quite the project!

Well, my question is about the floors on the second level. I have to rebuild all of those interior walls with 2 by 4s so I can run the new electric and plumbing, and before I do that, I need to decide what I am doing with the floors. They are solid fir throughout, and I definitely want to keep them (despite all of the nail holes, paint layers and adhesives). The problem is that there is a corner in the master bedroom that slops quite a bit downward. I would say that it is at least a couple inches off from the middle of the room. It is so bad, that if I were to put a marble in the middle of the room, it would pick up some speed on the way down to that corner. I believe that this floor issue is caused by the floor not settling much in the middle and other side because that part of the room is held up by the chimney. What I was wondering was whether or not I should try and do something with the floor in the master bedroom.

Some people have suggested removing the floor, one board at a time in that area, then adding wood to the tops of the trusses until level, and then replacing the floor. One friend suggested just living with the imperfection (it is an old house). I could do that if there really isn't any easy/safe-for-the-floor way, but I though it would run it by you all.

Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thank you!


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Is the master bedroom on the upper level or the lower level?

Our problem was on the lower level (it was on the upper level too, just because the bottom had sunk).

We had one corner of the master bedroom that was several inches lower than the side attached to the other part of the house. We pulled up the floor and it was much, much worse than what we expected.

We solved our problem by jacking up the north (supporting) side of the house and rebuilding the lower foot of the wall. This was not in the plans when we started taking up the floor - I hate this type of surprise.

This is what we found when we started pulling up the pine flooring in the sloped corner.

We figured we might have to replace a joist or two - until we removed the sub floor.

This is what it looked like under that.

As to shimming and raising the level of the floor -
A previous owner had done what you described in another location in the house, and then a newer previous owner had done it again at a later date. That part of the house had a cellar underneath, and we knew that part had a major rot problem. there where rusted posts put in place to hold the joists up - the base of that wall was rotted out too.

The wall was built on top of the pine flooring.

In this picture we had pulled up the shim boards and started to remove the next layer of flooring. Never know what you are going to find. It got worse as we got into the corner in the bathroom (that is on the other side of the wall, and the outside corner of the house).

I hope your problem is not as serious as ours. If your foundation is firm and the problem is settling, then shimming the floor will work fine.


    Bookmark   February 9, 2008 at 7:25PM
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Yikes, Cathy! That is one heck of a "pandora's box" of structural issues. Where are you now with this project? I suppose rebuilding the footing fixed the issue, but definitely more of a project than you wanted it to be. I had a structural engineer out to look at the house before I bought it, and it was apparent that there had been a little settling on the east side of the house--which is the side of the room that has sloped-- (maybe because the house is on a little hill side, and that side sits on the front of the hill). Well, the foundation is dry and apparently solid, so I think I am okay with that.

The master bedroom is on the second floor and since the first floor ceilings are gone, I can see the underside of the fir floor planks in that bedroom from the first level. The trusses look to be in good condition. I was leary about removing the floor in that corner because it is painted tongue and grove (worried about how dry and fragile it might be). I was so nervous, that I even thought about slowly jacking up the floor from underneath, between the trusses, just in that corner and then slipping wood in on top of the trusses, under the floor, to level it out without taking it apart. But I havent consulted anyone about that, and it does sound maybe a little silly. I have just had a heck of a time keeping dry wood unscathed as I remove trim in the house. I would hate to see anything bad happen to one of the good floors. Anyone have any thoughts on this?

    Bookmark   February 9, 2008 at 11:24PM
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I'd get some professionals in to look at it, whether a house inspector, or structural engineer, etc. (someone objective rather than just a local co. looking for work). You could end up saving money in the long run.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2008 at 5:39AM
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Is your house balloon framed or regular framed?. balloon framed is when the wall studs go from sill to rafters, and the wall joists are nailed to the studs, not sitting on top of them.

This shows ballooned framed - notice how the joists are nailed to the wall studs. We won't talk about the structural problems shown in this picture LOL!

This also shows how this addition was attached to the original structure - it was added in the mid 20's. This also made it real easy to cut an opening for the new stairway.

From what you describe as a possible solution, it sounds like your house has regular construction - meaning the walls form the support for the upper floor, and the joists are sitting on top, with the upper level wall build on top of the flooring.

You could not jack up the upper floor without removing all the exterior siding and sheathing. That is mostly what holds the whole thing together. Doing that would be way more work than I'd be willing to tackle. It would be better to jack the house up from the base. But it depends on how firmly it is attached to the foundation. We had cement footings but no anchor bolts - the house was not actually anchored to the ground/foundation at all.

With all we've found, it is surprising that this house has made it all this time. But it is one of the few - most of the old farmhouses around here are nothing more than a copse of trees with evidence there was once a foundation there. At least they are going back to nature, and not under development.

If you can see the underside of the fir boards, then that would mean there is only one layer up there. That makes it real easy to pull up. You have to work it along, loosening it little by little as you work down the board. I would usually loosen it down the length, and then actually pry it up going back the other direction. If it is t&g with the nails angled into the tongue, as you pry, it sort of pulls the groove away from the next board. The key is to take it slow and not try to pry up too far at one time.

The other good thing if you only have one layer, you can turn it over and pound the nails back, then flip it back over and pry them out. Way easier to move the nails as you remove the boards than to pile them up with hopes you'll get to it later (I have a pile in my garage that is waiting for the nails to be removed - but that is from the lower level.)

We removed the flooring from the entire upper level and are only going to put it back in part of it, so we should have enough to get this done even with a bit of loss. My husband is going to run the boards through the planer to remove the paint and finish, but not cut deep enough to remove all the dents and such - so the floor should still have a lot of character when we put it back. I've had people recommend Waterlox finish. I don't want to use poly.

This is after we started removing some walls. That would be something to look into - do you have walls on top of your floor? It was neat seeing where walls use to be and how the floor plan had been changed.

Here is the floor during removal.

Here is the flooring stacked up and ready to be dealt with. we put down a sub floor to get rid of the bounce and make it much stronger.

If you have a sub floor, it takes a lot more work and care. I used a good pry bar and a hammer. I'd pound the pry bar under just enough to start lifting (make sure to get under the board, not just the tongue) I'd get it up enough to get the hammer (make sure you have a straight claw) under to take the pressure off the bar. Then I'd move the bar down as far as I could, and pry up in the new spot and then move the hammer down. This way I'd get the whole board loosened and then I'd use just the pry bar and go back down the length prying the nails loose. I had near no luck trying to pop the nails and pull them out of the board.

My husband was looking at the pictures over my shoulder. He just groaned and said he was glad that was behind us!


    Bookmark   February 10, 2008 at 10:45PM
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