Floors out of level

Floors out of level - do your sloped floors need attention - Where to begin - Bedroom with hardwood flooringMost homes eventually will have floors out of level with the passage of time, but they shouldn’t feel like The Mystery Spot. How much sloping or crowning is too much? What should be done about it? And most importantly, what is the cause of it?

In Belwood, Belgatos, Surmont, and nearby, having issues with unwanted slopes is not unheard of, unfortunately. Most of Los Gatos close to the hills can experience foundation and drainage issues that result in floors that aren’t flat. But those aren’t always the causes.

What causes uneven floors?

A number of causes can make floors out of level. Often it’s related to water, weight, and soil.

  • Water Leaks: Tub or shower water that gets under bathroom flooring can cause the particle board or plywood underneath it to swell, making the floors squishy feeling or unlevel. That shouldn’t be ignored, as water damage can lead to things like mold, fungus, and dry rot.
  • Rain or Ground Water: Sometimes hardwood floors get cupped and unlevel when there’s moisture in the crawl space below. A couple of our clients saw buckling floors begin to flatten out on their own after they sealed their crawlspace against groundwater intrusion. (The moisture could have several possible sources, or a combination of them. All sources will need to be addressed.)
  • Excessive Weight: Excessive weight can wreck havoc, too. A home’s components are designed for a particular load, but if that area is overweight, there can be bowing beneath it.
    • For example, a client who is also a contractor pointed out cracked tiles in a bathroom floor and remarked that the room was probably designed with a lightweight vinyl floor and when home owners upgraded, they installed tile without additional support in the crawl space for the extra weight.
    • A similar result could happen if a house was designed for a lightweight roof and later on a heavier one, such as concrete tile, was added without structural reinforcements.
    • You might see this in other parts of the structure as well. We frequently see framing around garage doors sag across the top when occupants store heavy items in the garage attic area, which is not built for it – the span from one side of the garage to the other makes it prone to sagging if weighty things are stored in the middle.  Drive down almost any residential street and you are likely to see at least one or two droopy garage door frames across the top.
  •  Foundation Movement: Foundation issues can be especially costly to rectify.
    • Foundation problems often are related to water mixing with expansive clay soils (this type of soil expands when wet and shrinks when dry) , so foundation and drainage work often go together hand in hand. (See this helpful video from Bear Engineering for more info.)
    • Tree roots and erosion can also cause problems with foundations, and those may result in uneven floors, too. (This is not an exhaustive list.)
    • Flooring can also go out of level due to additions to the home and uneven settling between the new and old footprint of the home. Clients of ours in this situation chose to replace the flooring (which was worn anyways from active use and settling) and have the installer use a leveler before installing the new material.

 

Isn’t settling normal?  When should we be concerned about floors out of level?

Homes do settle, particularly when they are first built. Ideally, that settlement would be even, and the entire structure may sink into the soil by the same amount. If your floors are out of level enough to be bothering you, pay attention. Is it just one spot? Is it somewhat even, is there a pattern to it?

(more…)