How to Fix a Sagging Floor in an Old House:
NOV 16, 2022 by SHAUN BEZUIDENHOUT
You're looking at a home or possibly a rental property to buy. During the walk-through, you notice that there's a soft spot in floor under carpet, or maybe the owner explains to you that "my apartment floor is slanted." That may cause you to step back and decide to look at a different property.
However, that's not the way things have to be. If you're asking yourself, "should I buy a house with sagging floors?" the answer may be yes. A lot depends on what's causing the sagging. By knowing more about how to fix a sagging floor in an old house, you'll be in a better position to decide what would be best for you. Here's some information that will help you make the right choice.
What Are Some of The Causes of Sagging Floors?
While all houses settle over time, there are a number of other reasons why floors may begin to sag. Along with damage due to flooding or other adverse weather, events that weaken the flooring may be the culprit. Here are a few examples of what can lead to floor sagging.
1. Older Standards for Joist Spacing: Decades ago, flooring joists were routinely spaced at wider intervals than today. While the floors may hold up well for a long time, the amount of support that the joists provide decreases as the years pass. The flooring can often be leveled again by using a method called sistering, which adds strength to the existing joists. A professional will likely add more joists in between the older ones as a way to provide more stability.
2. Termites: Termite damage may occur in places other than the subfloor and the floor. Joists can also be attacked by termites. That leaves the joists weaker and no longer capable of supporting the flooring. In this instance, replacing the joists as well as other materials damaged by the termites will be in order.
3. Soil Movement: If the soil supporting the joists, girders, and blocks underneath the floor shifts, it could place additional stress on all the floor elements. The result is a floor that sags in the middle or to one side. Packing the soil and leveling it out may be all it takes to get the floor level again.
4. Moisture Damage: Whether from a broken water pipe or rain being able to seep under the home, moisture can have a negative impact on the floor's support system. It may be necessary to replace some of the elements in order to level the floor.
5. Tree Roots: If there are trees nearby, there's a good chance that the entire surface root system cannot be seen. Just as roots may eventually damage underground pipes, they can also grow into the ground underneath the home. If this happens, the roots could dislodge part of the floor's support, leading to sagging.
Remember that sagging can often be corrected. A professional can look at the floor from underneath as well as the surface and determine what sort of action is necessary.
The Dangers Associated With Sagging Floors
You've already answered the question about should I buy a house with sagging floors, but now you need to think about what you will do to repair those floors. The last thing you want to do is decide to live with them. Doing so would pave the way for some serious dangers. Here are some points to keep in mind.
- Doing nothing means things will get worse. Floor and joist damage does not heal; it will only increase over time. That means the floors will continue to weaken. The day will come when the floor could collapse completely, leading to injuries.
- There's a risk of increasing stress on the rest of the home. Depending on how the home is constructed, weakened flooring can cause walls to shift. At that point, you have more to worry about than a floor that sags at one end.
- You might see serious damage to a home after a natural disaster. Solid homes have better odds of holding up to strong winds and other naturally occurring events. If a sagging floor has led to other structural damage, the home could be a total loss after such an event. While repairing the floors doesn't guarantee there will be no damage after the natural weather event, it will increase the odds of being able to make the place habitable again.
The bottom line is you have nothing to lose by repairing sagging floors, but you do have a lot to gain. Prompt attention on your part will reduce the odds of having an even worse situation develop.
The Benefits of Repairing Sagging Floors
Now that you know a bit about the dangers associated with sagging floors, why not think about the benefits? Dealing with old house uneven floors can be a good thing for more than one reason. Here are a few points to ponder:
1. The floors are safer. You can relax and not worry about them falling in at the worst possible time.
2. The floors can bear more weight. Think about the china cabinet in the dining room or the heaving dresser in the bedroom. Won't you feel more comfortable if there's no doubt that the floor will support the weight of those and other heavy objects?
3. You protect the investment in the home. One of the reasons you got such a good deal on the house was that the floors needed work. If you leave them as is, that will likely mean selling the property for less than you paid for it.
4. The insurance company will show you more love. If some event led to serious damage, it wouldn't look good if the insurance provider knew the floors needed work and you put off the task. In fact, it could mean denied claims. That would leave you having to deal with an expensive repair job on your own.
5. You get to enjoy peace of mind. There's a lot to be said for walking across a floor that's sturdy, level, and solid. With so many other things in your life that create stress, it would be nice if the flooring was not among them.
Knowing how to fix a sagging floor in an old house is just the beginning. Following through and choosing to repair sagging floor will pay off in a number of ways. The sooner the work is done, the sooner you can start to enjoy the benefits.
What Sort of Expense is Involved?
How much will you pay to repair sagging floor? A lot depends on what's causing the sagging. When it's more of a matter of adding more support to what's already in place, the cost may be relatively low. When there's the need to shift soil, pack it more densely, replace and add joists, or get rid of materials damaged by termites, the cost may be higher.
Generally speaking, if the process focuses more on going under the home and leveling the floor from that side without having to take up any of the subflooring or flooring, the cost will be lower. When some of the flooring has to be removed for any reason, you can expect the expense of repairing old house uneven floors to be higher.
The only way to know for sure is to have a professional assess the floor, identify the origin of the sagging, and provide a quote for the repair work.
Conducting a Floor Inspection
There's no point in guessing what is causing the uneven floors in old house settings. A professional will inspect the floor from the top side and the underside. Doing so provides a full picture of what caused the problem and any damage that occurred as a result. That inspection also provides the means of knowing what leveling a floor in an old house will take.
The quote for the work will include descriptions of what needs to be done and the supplies that are required. You will also know how much labor costs are involved. Keep in mind that many floor contractors provide guarantees on their work, something that further justifies the cost.
The Steps Involved With Fixing a Sagging Floor
Knowing how to fix a sagging floor in an old house is the province of a professional. While the exact steps will vary based on why the floor is sagging, there are some basics that will always apply. They include:
- Stabilizing the floor is a must. This will often mean bringing in temporary supports that alleviate stress on the joists and girders. That creates a safe environment for the work that is to come and makes it possible to bring the floor back into perfect alignment at the same time.
- Securing the right supplies. If some elements need replacing, it's good to have them on hand from the beginning. Doing so makes it all the easier to replace or add joists or girders as needed while still keeping the floor leveled.
- Making sure the supports are on solid ground. If the ground is soft or has shifted, that will need to be addressed as well. Doing so will ensure the support for the flooring is even and that there will be less shifting in the future.
- Evaluating the floor after the work is completed. A professional will walk the floor to ensure it's stable and even check to make sure it's level in each corner and in the middle. If all those measurements indicate that the floor is level again, the work is considered done.
Calling an Expert to Take Care of The Sagging Floor
While there are home improvement jobs that homeowners can manage on their own, leveling an uneven floor is not among them. The most practical solution is to call a contractor who knows how to assess the floor properly. This leads to knowing what solutions would correct the problem and increase the odds of keeping the floor level for a long time. It will also mean being able to call that same professional again if something doesn't work out and knowing the issue will be corrected.
The bottom line is there is usually something that can be done for sagging floors, provided most of the materials are still in decent shape. Instead of allowing uneven floors in old house to be a deterrent, get the opinion of an expert. Once you know more about what leveling a floor in an old house will entail, you can decide if this is what it will take to make the older house into the dream home that you've always wanted.