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Old 12-27-2011, 07:12 AM   #1
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Fixing Unleveled Floors


When discussing with the architect about removing a load bearing wall I also asked him about my unleveled floors. He stated,

"Existing floor joists / structure - it is very common in these 'old brownstone' buildings for the floor to dip and 'rock & roll' around. The original timber joists were not likely to have been 'sized' to meet any particular codes at the time of construction. They have been bending under weight for a hundred years or more and have settled into their current positions. They will not fail or collapse unless they are modified ( cut for piping etc. ) or affected by water or fire damage. You will not straighten the floor without adding a new support wall or beam in the middle of the downstairs room and even this has to be jacked into place slowly over time to offset the current deflection. Your only other option is to completely replace the floor structure. Bottom line, unless you feel the floor is extremely bouncy and unsafe, you may have to live with it as is."

So I'm thinking that I would like to have straight floors and had questions about the process. I am thinking of sistering floor beams to the existing floor joists and bring those sister beams from bearing to bearing. I know, as the architect stated, that they have to be jacked up first.

My question is, do I have to first jack the floor joists into place and then sister the beams? I figured that this would be the logical thing to do. I remember reading that it should be raised 1/8" per day. I also read that it should be 1/4" per day. Which is it?

Also, can I use 1 jack per beam? What is the linear foot that I should go over when using only 1 jack (just asking no sure if it applies)?

And lastly, can I do one floor joist at a time? Meaning can I only buy/rent one jack?

Thanks. Happy Holidays and New Year to everyone.

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Old 12-27-2011, 07:18 AM   #2
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Fixing Unleveled Floors


Their advice sounds correct to me. The only way to have straight/level floors is to build them new. Jacking old floor will likely cause damage to other walls.

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Old 12-27-2011, 07:27 AM   #3
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Fixing Unleveled Floors


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Originally Posted by Just Bill
Their advice sounds correct to me. The only way to have straight/level floors is to build them new. Jacking old floor will likely cause damage to other walls.
But the outer walls are brick, 12" thick. Sistering doesn't work or add support for another 100 years?
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Old 12-27-2011, 08:44 AM   #4
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Fixing Unleveled Floors


Have you got a picture or drawing?

My first thought would be to use joists wide enough to include the sag of the existing work---

That way no jacking is needed--and the new joists will remain straight--which will not be the case if you jack the bowed ones--attach the new--then release the jack--
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Old 12-27-2011, 09:08 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by oh'mike
Have you got a picture or drawing?

My first thought would be to use joists wide enough to include the sag of the existing work---

That way no jacking is needed--and the new joists will remain straight--which will not be the case if you jack the bowed ones--attach the new--then release the jack--
I see what your saying but how would the floors become straight or level without raising something. Pictures coming later today.
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Old 12-27-2011, 09:11 AM   #6
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Fixing Unleveled Floors


You would remove the floor covering--and subfloor first-- leaving only the open framing.

I didn't say it would be easy---only that it was the best way.
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Old 12-27-2011, 09:15 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oh'mike
You would remove the floor covering--and subfloor first-- leaving only the open framing.

I didn't say it would be easy---only that it was the best way.
I see what your saying. That would be tough due to having to take up the floor. The other option allowed me to go from beneath and keep the floors.

Man, tough decision.
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Old 12-27-2011, 09:18 AM   #8
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Fixing Unleveled Floors


If you have the "rock & roll" situation it is also possible your flooring planks are buckled. If it is joist deflection how far? If it is extreme you will have difficulty jacking them straight without deforming the flooring above.
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Old 12-27-2011, 10:06 AM   #9
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Fixing Unleveled Floors


Your architect is correct in their assessment, based on my experience. Certainly if you insist on having level floors, the architect will be more than happy to discuss alternative techniques to accomplish this. You have already heard one option on this forum, which is to remove the floor, install new, properly sized joists level (attached to the old joists), and reinstall the floor. Perfectly good technique, except of course you have to remove the floor.

If you cannot or do not wish to remove the floor, you can of course jack the existing joists back to level, very slowly as suggested, and in fact jack them slightly beyond level, then sister a new joist, properly sized. Your architect should know how to compute the correct amount of "overjacking", and the proper fastener spacing pattern, in order to achieve a level floor at the end of the project.

Another technique is to cut the joists at the center, and jack them to level. Obviously you need to use proper support technique, which your architect will design for you. Once each joist is jacked to a level condition, you install a new, properly sized joist to effectively replace the old joist. The exact method to attach the new joist to the walls and to the old joist will be designed by your architect, along with an installation plan, and a temporary support plan.

Any of these methods carries potentially large risks of structural failure, damage to the building, and injury. Others on this forum have performed these tasks DIY, personally I think they are beyond the average DIY skill level, and they are certainly well above average in terms of danger factor, but to each their own.
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Old 12-27-2011, 10:22 AM   #10
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Any of these methods carries potentially large risks of structural failure, damage to the building, and injury. Others on this forum have performed these tasks DIY, personally I think they are beyond the average DIY skill level, and they are certainly well above average in terms of danger factor, but to each their own.
That right there is the smartest advice thus far. Management you are in over your head and should leave this task to someone with plenty of experience with such tasks and a valid insurance policy in force. "Management" of what?

All of the building parts have developed a memory over the years and if you aren't willing to remove the old flooring and get to the bottom of the problem you are just kidding yourself. There is no set-standard for jacking structural members or floor structure components. To say 1/8" per day or 1/4" per day is simply ludicrous.
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Old 12-27-2011, 11:43 AM   #11
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Fixing Unleveled Floors


I have seen attempted jacking that caused the walls to split open. Not a DIY project.
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Old 12-27-2011, 01:35 PM   #12
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Fixing Unleveled Floors


The architect is right with respect to theory and process. However, the devil is in the details and certainly the particulars of your house. Is your house a rowhouse or single family? How many stories? Which floors (1st, 2nd, etc) do you want to level? Have the ceilings been redone with drywall? How many other load bearing walls sit on the floors? How many doors? How much deflection are we talking about? Was there a prior renovation to a load bearing wall on the first floor that was done poorly and might be responsible for the deflection to begin with? Etc...

If you start jacking up the floor you can pretty well be certain that you are going to run into bunch of consequences, more or less severe depending on those particulars. Cracking/crumbling walls, doors that need to be trimmed and rehung, detached ceilings, etc. And there are structural concerns. One of the reasons you jack incrementally is not only to allow the wood to bend instead of crack (and it might crack anyway) but to reduce metal fatique on the nails in the framing. If they fail in a key place, which they might, you have a real problem, and potentially a hidden one.

I would only level floors by jacking if I were basically gutting the majority of the interior walls down to the studs. Then you can inspect your structure, run new wiring, properly repair and rehang doors, etc.

If that were not feasible and I still wanted a level floors I would pull up the floor and subfloor, sister the joists to level, and put down new plywood and the salvaged hardwood. And that is a lot of work because you need to denail the removed hardwood before laying it back down, and you'll need to redo your trim and perhaps shorten some doors.

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