2nd floor needs leveling

claire1980July 21, 2011

Hi all

I'm new to the site, so I apologize if I'm over lapping a topic or writing in the wrong area.

We are just waiting for a closing date on our first house which is an 1852 fixer upper ( I know great idea for a first home!)

At some point an extension was built, we think walls were built over an old staircase to the basement without adequate support. Over the years the floors have sloped to the left to the point where now there is a 5 degree angle from the center of the bedroom to the left side of the room.

My question is: How do I level the floors on the second floor? Should I just put up support beams in the basement to make it secure and then fake the level floor using plywood of something?

I'm going to be asking lots of questions over the next few months, my dad always says " there's no such thing as a stupid question", I have a feeling some people may disagree once they see some of mine!

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After you make the foundation and supporting structure sound the most commonly used options for leveling the floor are:

1. Jack up the structure from the basement using hydraulic jacks and timber cribbing that house movers use and replace the supports. Sometimes this can cause more problems that it solves so get advice from an experienced contractor.

2. Remove the flooring and sub-flooring and shim the tops of the old joists or sister new level joists along them then add a sub-floor and finish flooring.

3. Remove the finish flooring and add a second sub-floor shimming it to be level then add finish flooring.

All of these methods require any stairways to be carefully evaluated and modified so they will still be usable and code compliant.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 11:19AM
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If the walls aren't cracked, the floor may have been that way for many years, and leveling it now will cause other problems (walls, roof, etc).
I'd find someone experienced in buildings of that vintage to evaluate the entire structure, starting with the foundation.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 11:29AM
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Only a structural engineer can make determinations (that would hold up contractually or in court) as to the cause or the solutions. If you are determined to fix it permanently, the remedy could be very far ranging and costly.
We had to delve very deep into the structure of an 1815 house to fix the 7" of sag (over 11 feet!) that was the result of bad original design and made far worse by a 1920 remodeling, that removed bearing walls from an already-underbuilt floor. The solution included gutting two floors, eight footers in the basement, a new first floor system, 5 steel columns and even one steel Ibeam in the attic floor.
But the structure was saved. And the new owners are very happy with the results. And, as the preservation carpenter on site, I was very happy to be implementing an engineer's plan that I had been involved in and could stand behind. The idea of "winging it" without a very detailed plan to do structural remediation of that scale is to me unthinkable. If it only involved replacing a few members that had degraded and failed, that's one thing, but you usually don't realize the scale of a job until you tear into it.

A picture, mid-job:


    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 1:34PM
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I've seen them torn out and replaced, jacked up in place and shimmed in place. It's all a matter of degree and the condition of the frame and the stair configuration. No one can tell you more without visiting the site and making a full assessment.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 4:57PM
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Thank you for all your comments a feedback! Very useful.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 10:20PM
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"I'd find someone experienced in buildings of that vintage"

Reputable/experienced period renovating contractors in your area.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 8:31PM
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