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Floor Renovations How to Fix Dropped or Unleveled Flooring

By Edited May 27, 2015 2 3

Inspect the flooring of your home

Look at the flooring of any home before buying especially the older style homes with timber flooring. Floor renovations are an art on their own and learning how to fix the dropped or unleveled floors can be expensive. Therefore it is a good idea to obtain an engineering inspection before buying one. They will advise you as to what faults are in the home.

Quite often timber homes move and often settle down after several years. This may happen because the block was not compacted enough before the home was built. The original block may have been a swamp that the developers have reclaimed by with filling.

If this is the case with your home or the one you have just bought then you could find the floors have sagged on one side or even lifted in the centre. This can happen because the beams and joists have started to bow, sag or the actual stumps may have moved, rotted or eaten away by those pesky white ants.

When you view a home it is usually full of furniture which conceals these defects, that's why an engineering inspection is advisable to find the problems and they will explain how to repair it. By finding these problems early, repairs can be fixed before allowing them to deteriorate more saving you money in the long run.

On the other hand, if you found the floor uneven after buying the home you will have to employ someone to repair it which could be very expensive. Or you can do the job yourself if you are a handyman type of person. It will work out a lot cheaper if this is the case.

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Assess your options

 

As you can see in the picture above, we had to cut a hole in the floor to access the stumps.

Assess what is required

Before you do anything have a good look under the sides of your home to see if you can work from the outside. It will depend on where the unleveled areas appear and if there is room under the home. Some wood floor homes are built higher off the ground than others, more so in flood areas.

Working from the outside

If the floor has dropped along the side then check your stumps. This is what the joists and beams rest on. These can be carefully jacked up and packed with timbers (make sure they are white ant treated). You need to jack it higher to slip the packer in then lower the jack when inserted. Check the height and if not right then insert another packer. The thickness of the packer will depend on how much the floor needs lifting.

You may need to dig down along the side of your home to gain access if you are short of room underneath.

Working from the inside

First you have to empty the affected room or rooms of furniture. Use a spirit level and assess how much you need to lift or lower the flooring in each area. A good way to get correct levels is by using a see through hose nearly full of water. By moving the ends of the hose up and down you can see how much the walls or floors are out of line. The water in each end of the hose needs to be level. Make sure there are no air bubbles in the hose as this will affect the levels.

What you will need

 

  • Nails, screws, drill and saw
  • Hammer
  • Jacks preferably hydraulic ones
  • Packers and chocks of wood
  • Torch or powered light
  • Power lead

Basic Instructions for leveling floor

Pull up the floor covering, carpet and underlay or linoleum. Then cut a hole and remove enough floorboards to gain access to see where the problem is. Organize your tools into a box or tray so you can't mislay or lose them while crawling under the house.

This will allow you to see the sub-floor. The sub-floor consists of beams and joists which hold the flooring in place. This is where you meet the spiders and all those sorts of nasties as you climb down under the flooring.

Once under the flooring you can see what timbers have moved, twisted, cracked or sunk. Depending on this damage you can either add chocks or wedges of wood to higher the timbers or lower them where needed. If there is a space between the beams and joists the wedges will take up that slack and reduce movement.

You can replace a damaged beam or reinforce the strength of one by screwing a piece of timber on either side of it.

If the flooring is raised in the centre you could sand them or the lower areas can be shimmered. Shimmering is a term used in the engineering field for filling gaps or spaces between timbers.

 

It was easier to pull all the carpets and underlay up than it was to lay it back down again.

Resealing up the floor boards

When satisfied that everything is level remove all your tools from underneath the flooring and nail the floor board back in position. If you had to cut some timbers out you will need to nail or screw another piece of timber underneath to reinforce the floor boards.

Now the worst part is still to be done you have to relay the underlay and the carpet. And yes carpet layers do not like to relay old carpets. Therefore when doing ours we had to learn how to relay our own carpets again. To strech an old carpet is not as easy as you may thingk. More lessons learned with that experience, believe me. What's the saying we are never too old to learn new tricks.

If your floor level is only slightly uneven you could use one of the self leveling compound materials although on wooden floors it is not always successful and if the stumps move in time you may have to do this all over again.  What fun! At least you will know what to do this time.

Words of Caution:

  • Always have someone inside the house while you work to be your eyes and ears, watching for any cracks or damage that may appear.
  • If you are lifting side walls that are tiled around sink walls, these could crack and will need replacing.
  • Use caution at all times especially when jacking timbers as these could crack and snap without warning.
  • Have two jacks and never ever sit or lay under the timbers that you are working on; if they break you could become trapped. Make sure jacks are on a firm surface before you begin.
  • Reinforce any floors where tiles are to be laid or the floor will move and break under the extra weight of the tiles. You can do this by laying a solid sheet or sheets of timber across the flooring, then lay your tiles on that surface.

I trust that this article will help you learn how to fix dropped or unlevel flooring.

One you have sorted out your unlevel flooring then you may need to look for another Choice of floor coverings for your Home

Instead of carpets on the new flooring you may wish to find out How to choose between laminate and vinyl flooring

Repairing unlevel floors

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Comments

Nov 14, 2010 10:32am
askformore
Thank you for a great article.
I only wish that some workers I hired a couple of years ago to do some renovation job on my 100 years old house had known (AND done) what you recommend!
Nov 14, 2010 10:47am
eileen
Like you we learnt the hard way and got caught with floors all uneven as much as 35mm in some places along the walls. It was really hard to do although we had a young guy to help do the hard work. With all the furniture in the house you could not see this problem.

But all done as best we could now. thank goodness.
Nov 16, 2010 12:01pm
Lynsuz
Great article. Thumbs up!
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