Are Slanted Floors Expensive to Repair

saphireApril 18, 2007

I came over from Buying and Selling. I am looking for a house in an area where there is no new construction and houses range from the 10s to the 1960s. A house from the 40s is not considered old

I have just been to my fourth house with slanted floors (where they dip or climb slightly so that they are not level and a marble would roll). Note I have seen many other houses that do not have this problem but of course those are unappealing for unrelated reasons

In one case it was only in a bedroom addition, last month it was in a farm ranch that had the main beam replaced 20 years ago. I almost bid on that one and it was only the slant that stopped me. Mostly noticeable upstairs. It makes me dizzy and really bothers me. Today I brought a friend with me who has the same problem and she agreed. We both felt it each time. The friend and I are both subject to motion sickness so this must be somehow related (DH who never gets sick thinks I am insane that this bothers me) The house was one I absolutely loved and is otherwise totally my style of house. It has wood floors that are original, house was built in the 40s. The main beam is made out of steel and does look like the house settled a bit as do some of subfloors for teh first floor visible in the basement. So this is a structural problem. In the house I saw last month the structural problem had been fixed, just the cosmetic slant had not.

In a the case of a purely cosmetic effect, how can this be fixed, is it expensive? Also is the problem in the floor or in the ceiling or walls? The house is expensive so anything under 30k would be almost irrelevant in the scheme of things

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A lot of people are living with slanted floors, and they seem to get along quite well, if the pitch is not too extreme. A foundation that settled is the most likely cause. Prolonged drought is one situation that can result in a foundation that settles unevenly. Generally, when the foundation moves enough for the floor to slant, the walls will show some cracking, as well, in the lath & plaster, or in the sheetrock. The structure of the house, studs,beams, and rafters, will often shift slightly to accommodate the shifting foundation.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2007 at 10:24PM
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I live in an old home with slanted floors. Upstairs the pitch is pretty extreme and some visitors have made comments about it.

I can tell you that I don't even notice it anymore. Its something I got used to in week or two after moving in. And I get dizzy pretty easily.

We did correct the slant on the first floor and its fairly easy to do. We had a new plywood floor laid down and put hardwood over.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 6:41PM
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i thought I posted on this a few days ago. But anyway, again I agree with Eric, old houses often have irregular floors. The earth moves, thus houses move. Foundations settle, wood will compress some and sometimes poor construction of additions or a bad fix-up of a bearing issue will cause problems.

Be aware though also that even old houses can be sound and solid and show minimal signs of variation of level. Make sure you check the sills and the floor joists and anywhere else you can stick your nose in to confirm that there aren't rot/carpenter ant or termite problems.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 10:02PM
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Well, my "newest" old house was built in 1910, so I don't think of a 1940 house as old at all. However, all of my houses have had somewhat of a slant towards the chimney (chimneys have all been center of house). From what I understand, most settling happens in the first 20 years or so of a house's lifetime - makes sense, the brick chimney is heavy, settles into the ground a little deeper, takes some of the floor angle with it.

I'd be more concerned if slanting were caused by a recent addition, or problems with foundation or other major structural issues, than I would be by settling that happened 50-100 years ago.

Good luck!


    Bookmark   April 25, 2007 at 9:29PM
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I have the same problem but a different cause. We have a duplex built in 1940's, one apartment on top of the other. The cause of the slanted floor is due to the main beam being cut to put in a pair of stairs to the basement from the first floor kitchen. Yes, a marble will roll as will everything else. The upstairs kitchen is much worse. Every contractor that comes to look at it will not touch it because they say the walls may crack (which I expect). I am not sure who to call to fix this or how we could do it ourselves. I don't feel like making it a 'home' because most decorating ideas end up crooked. Help if you have any ideas.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2010 at 12:07AM
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I hope others have ideas for you as mine isn't ideal. A PO of our 1920s style-free expanded miner's shack (not all old houses are attractive and well built, folks; some are just old) apparently shifted a load bearing wall as part of a 1970s remuddling. That wall had supported the main beam for the second storey. Oops.

Over the years the joists supporting the second storey began to pull away from that beam and a huge crack opened up in the living room ceiling. The PO right before us had simply filled that crack with spackle! Within months of moving in the crack reopened, of course. We'd already noted the sagging floor above. When we dug into the ceiling and saw close to an inch of gap between joists and beam, we knew why we had some sagging.

The only sure cure our contractor could come up with was a large brace to stand in for the missing wall. It runs from rear of dining room to front of living room, and is built up of triple 2x6 lumber with drywall covering it. It's set on pillars of similar composition that stand a bit proud of the walls.

It really breaks up the space visually (a nice way of saying it's bloody ugly), but it beats having the second storey fall in.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2010 at 12:57AM
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When I was in the business of renting and renoing old homes, I remember walking up the porch and then up the entry as well. Whoa! I'm outta here.

Why buy problems?

    Bookmark   December 9, 2010 at 7:48AM
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Many older homes have settled unevenly and have slanting floors. That is 100% OK EXCEPT - you can't live with it.

So, how would you fix it?

Option 1 - Raise the parts of the house that sunk. Sounds crazy, but it is usually doable. You'll need structural engineers, experienced contractors etc. You'll also crack plaster and cause other problems by shifting everything around. It will certainly be quite expensive.

Option 2 - Just level the floors themselves. That would involve ripping up the existing floors, leveling, putting in new subfloors, and installing all new floors on top. You may or may not be able to salvage existing floors. You'll still have to fix any structural issues, but suring up some joists is significantly less involved than raising a house.

Option 3 - keep looking for a house that suits you better.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2010 at 9:49AM
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I leveled the floor in our upstairs bathroom. It was out by 4-1/2 inches over a distance of 7 feet, but I might have left it alone except that the flooring and plumbing needed replacement anyway. I tore up the old subfloor, exposed the joists (which were placed in a pretty haphazard way). I sistered new joists onto those and cut tapered strips which I secured to the old joists, effectively making a 4"x8" joist. This also made it easier to install new plumbing. The most expensive part will be replacing the flooring, because I am using tile instead of the original linoleum. I chose to do this instead of jacking the whole wing of the house because I didn't see much sign that the foundation was still sinking. If there is something going on like rot or a collapsing foundation, that's a different call. The room was small, 7'x9', so nothing was real costly. Aside from my labor, there was probably less than $500 in materials, including the plumbing. Tile will add another $400-$500. Old houses are "old", and you can spend a lot of money trying to make them level and plumb, at which point they are still "old".

    Bookmark   December 9, 2010 at 2:07PM
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It depends entirely on WHY they are out of level.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2010 at 3:34PM
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I did get caught on one house where a section of a room overhanging a front porch sloped 2"-3" over four feet. (The PO had cleverly disguised the slope under furniture.) The cause was obvious: the original wood porch columns providing support had been replaced with less supportive decorative wrought iron. My "cure" was to level it up with redi-mix concrete and cover the floor with plush carpeting over a thick underpad.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2010 at 9:32PM
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Now I like the slanted floors etc we kept it all,to me thats gives the house character.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2010 at 7:23PM
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We moved into a 1800's rowhouse and the floors were slanted everywhere. It wasnt too bad upstairs and we were able to fix that ourselves by sistering the joists (that involved ripping out carpet and subflooring) then putting in new subflooring and hardwood. Some slants were less than a half inch within a 10 foot span so we left those alone.

The 1st floor was a mess though, the joists made no sense at all and it was obvious that modern needs and appliances caused the joists to sag so badly in some areas (PO did a complete kitchen renovation and put in heavy stone countertops without consideration of the structure). So we had to sister all the joists and replace some PO's "diy joists" with the help of two GC so everything was nice and level. We also put in trusses every 15 inches for the kitchen floor.

The whole project cost us 6k (in labor and materials not including the hardwood flooring) and a lot of headaches. It was well worth it to us but we wouldnt buy a house with slanted floors in the future.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2011 at 9:09AM
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Why is this complicated?

If the floor is not too bad, rip up the finish flooring, put down roofing felt and level the floor with a self-leveling floor compound. Then replace the finished floor.

If the floor is badly out of level or there are obvious structural problems, don't buy it.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2011 at 6:43PM
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There is a section of my town with houses built over a peat bog. Unbelievable. Went to look at one for sale with a friend. Wish I'd had a marble with me: 3% grade. Owners had spent a fortune trying to level it but there was nothing solid to push against to jack the house up. What a mess. I don't know if it ever sold. From the street, it looks like a lovely neighborhood. I would never buy there though.

We have one sunk pier in our house. It sunk decades ago and has been stable a long time. We're getting a structural consult before we begin, but then a construction manager friend will advise us through the jacking diy. I'm looking forward to it. I know the walls will be a mess but my pocket doors will finally close again. And yes we won't exceed maximum movement per week. We have about an inch and a quarter vertical movement total and we plan to spend months slowly achieving it, even slower than the pros would do.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2011 at 11:42AM
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"Why is this complicated?

If the floor is not too bad, rip up the finish flooring, put down roofing felt and level the floor with a self-leveling floor compound. Then replace the finished floor.

If the floor is badly out of level or there are obvious structural problems, don't buy it. "

The repair required still dpends on WHY the floor is out of level.

Is it still shifting or is the conditioncasued by old settling?

A rotted beam can cause the floors to be out of level, as can over-spanned joists.

Adding leveling compound is not going to work well on over-spanned joists.
The compound will simply break up as the floor flexes making it a temporary fix at best.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2011 at 10:41AM
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