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Old 09-21-2010, 02:18 AM   #1
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Dramatically uneven floors


We recently purchased an apartment in a 30+ year old coop in manhattan. The previous owners combined two units to create a single 1100 sqft apartment. They also redid the entire combined space with the same hardwood floors throughout.

Now that we've had a few weeks in the space, we're noticing that the floors are extremely uneven in places. Not level, we can take. But this issue is a noticeable rising and falling of the floors -- a true rolling -- probably upwards of 2-3 inches from the highest point in the apt to the lowest valley with most of the rising and faling around an inch or so.

Generally speaking, the high points are along the exterior most 4 walls of the entire apartment space and the low points are in the hallway areas toward the center of the unit, almost as if the floors sink in the center.

It is basically impossible to detect to the eye, and harder to detect in shoes (which is why we never noticed it during any of the walkthroughs). But in bear feet, it's very distracting. As we continued to investigate the issue, we noticed that many doors had been cut away at the bottom to accomodate the unevenness -- leaving a 1.5 inch gap between door and threshold when the door is closed, and coming right up to the floor when the door is opened.

For the most part, the wood floor they installed appears to be in fine condition, with the beams tightly aligned with little sign of any shifting, which makes me think the subfloor must just be a mess. However, there are a couple spots -- more noticeable bumps -- that suggest something beneath is pushing upward (that part concerns me more).

First off, does the subfloor issue sound like the culprit? Given the age of the building and the couple areas of 'pushing', anything else we should consider or be concerned about?

As for repair options, what type of contractor should we consult to get a view on how extensive a repair this would be? I assume that the real way to do this is rip out the existing floor, completely redo the subfloor throughout the entire apartment, and reset all baseboards and doors to the new, flat floor? Lastly (and most scary), what would a job like that typically cost (excluding the cost of whatever floor we decide to lay).

Thanks!

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Old 09-21-2010, 08:17 AM   #2
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Dramatically uneven floors


Sounds like a nightmare. Get ready to pay for that one. Good luck.

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Old 09-21-2010, 08:56 AM   #3
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Dramatically uneven floors


I have oak flooring in my house. In the summer, there is a noticeable hump in one location, due to swelling of the wood. The hump disappears in the winter. Been doing this for 20 years now. You definitely want to have a professional,hands on opinion before you do anything, as flooring issues can be related to moisture, framing, subfloor conditions, or building movement, and require a personal inspection before conclusions can be reached.
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Old 09-21-2010, 09:29 AM   #4
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Dramatically uneven floors


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I have oak flooring in my house. In the summer, there is a noticeable hump in one location, due to swelling of the wood. The hump disappears in the winter. Been doing this for 20 years now. You definitely want to have a professional,hands on opinion before you do anything, as flooring issues can be related to moisture, framing, subfloor conditions, or building movement, and require a personal inspection before conclusions can be reached.

Interesting consideration. Might be behind the 2 more localize humps versus the elevation shifts that occur across many more feet, which I believe were simply the result of laziness when the floor was installed (also would make me feel better about the fact that we missed it during the walkthroughs which occurred in the spring). Might wait it out and see how the floor looks in a couple of months when things cool a bit.
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Old 09-21-2010, 10:08 AM   #5
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Dramatically uneven floors


I would probably by my own flooring and then call at least (3-4) flooring installers in my area to get an hourly rate and how much they can install in an hour.

I believe the going rate in my area is around $60 per hour and if you bought flooring at $ 4.00 per square foot then it would go some thing like this:

Material $ 4.00 sq. ft. x 1,100 sq. ft. = $ 4,400 + 10% for your waste = $ 4,840.00 just for your floor material plus any glue, nails or any other material if required.

Labor would be $ 60 an hour and say the flooring guy can lay about 21 sq. ft. an hour = $3,120.00 for labor.

Then the labor for removing the old floor and adjusting the door heights and renting a bin for waste is approximately $ 2,880.00

So your ball park would be $ 10,840.00
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Old 09-21-2010, 11:44 AM   #6
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Dramatically uneven floors


I hope you've just got a moisture issue or some simple thing, but one thing to ponder is whether there were ever load bearing walls below your floor in the building, and could changes in those lower flowers have compromised those load paths? In my house they removed some load bearing tree trunks and replaced them with lolly columns, but not at the same location. I have a 1.5" rise/fall in one place, from left foot to right foot, just standing there. Sunken beam where the tree trunk used to be. since your unit was combined from smaller ones, maybe the lower floors have something similar?
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Old 09-21-2010, 01:51 PM   #7
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I hope you've just got a moisture issue or some simple thing, but one thing to ponder is whether there were ever load bearing walls below your floor in the building, and could changes in those lower flowers have compromised those load paths? In my house they removed some load bearing tree trunks and replaced them with lolly columns, but not at the same location. I have a 1.5" rise/fall in one place, from left foot to right foot, just standing there. Sunken beam where the tree trunk used to be. since your unit was combined from smaller ones, maybe the lower floors have something similar?
I would hope the coop board took any such alterations of lower units into consideration before approving any projects, but I suppose you could be correct. The pattern of the rise and fall definitely has some correlation to the footprint of the original units. One of the most noticeable rises is as you cross the part of the hallway that would have perfectly aligned with the original wall between the units.

What's most frustrating is that, by all indication, the previous owners did all their remodeling around the uneven floor pattern (e.g. the doors issue), so they obviously made the conscious decision to not correct the uneven subfloor when they put down the hardwood.
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Old 09-21-2010, 02:41 PM   #8
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Dramatically uneven floors


Is there an apartment below you or are you on the ground floor. The reason I ask is can you get to the under side of your floor to see if any joists have dropped or moved.
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Old 09-21-2010, 03:18 PM   #9
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Masonry building I'll bet???

Moisture is getting in through the walls I'll bet.

The highs are only associated with the long-grain areas of the floor I'll bet.

The wood touches the walls under any baseboard I'll bet.

You should invite your insurance agent to dinner I'll bet.

He may be a badly needed friend down the road I'll bet.

Any takers?
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Old 09-21-2010, 03:45 PM   #10
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Is there an apartment below you or are you on the ground floor. The reason I ask is can you get to the under side of your floor to see if any joists have dropped or moved.

Building is a 30 floor highrise. We're halfway up.

Building itself is a brick exterior. I have more details on the specs in the assessor's report.

Supposedly there had been a leak from a bathroom in the floor above about 9 months ago.
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Old 09-21-2010, 03:48 PM   #11
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Masonry building I'll bet???

Moisture is getting in through the walls I'll bet.

The highs are only associated with the long-grain areas of the floor I'll bet.

The wood touches the walls under any baseboard I'll bet.

You should invite your insurance agent to dinner I'll bet.

He may be a badly needed friend down the road I'll bet.

Any takers?
I actually don't believe there is an rise along the long grain of the wood. To be honest, rise and fall seems to occur more along the short dimension of the floorboard (so if the board are running north-south, the dips and peaks are occurring east-west)


"The wood touches the walls under any baseboard I'll bet." -- not sure what this would mean. Could you explain?
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Old 09-21-2010, 04:21 PM   #12
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Dramatically uneven floors


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Originally Posted by mf1963 View Post
Building is a 30 floor highrise. We're halfway up.

Building itself is a brick exterior. I have more details on the specs in the assessor's report.

Supposedly there had been a leak from a bathroom in the floor above about 9 months ago.
That is what I was afraid of, there is nothing you can do with the floor from the bottom end and chances are it will be in your flooring like Bud is talking about. In the event it isn't in your flooring you can have someone come in and level your floors (under the flooring) and put the flooring back down or new flooring. It isn't an easy task but it can be done. JMHO
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Old 09-21-2010, 05:34 PM   #13
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Dramatically uneven floors


Ok I was floating some ideas to stimulate some conversation.

Here's my next curiosities (bets).

High rises use lightweight concrete for the floor structures. It doesn't like water believe it or not. It will hold moisture much too long. The subfloor also doesn't like adhesives. I wonder if the wood is glued down. What type of wood is it? Is it full 3/4" wood or is it engineered wood?

Quote:
"The wood touches the walls under any baseboard I'll bet." -- not sure what this would mean. Could you explain?
Why yes - yes I can!
If the wood is tight against the wall structure there is no place for the natural expansion to go. When the floor expands, something has got to give. Usually the flooring buckles a little in the form of upheavals. There must always be an expansion gap around the perimeter of the room and under the door jambs.

If on the other hand the flooring has been wet, you can likely kiss it goodbye. It may then be an insurance claim.
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Last edited by Bud Cline; 09-21-2010 at 05:37 PM.
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Old 09-21-2010, 05:39 PM   #14
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That is what I was afraid of, there is nothing you can do with the floor from the bottom end and chances are it will be in your flooring like Bud is talking about. In the event it isn't in your flooring you can have someone come in and level your floors (under the flooring) and put the flooring back down or new flooring. It isn't an easy task but it can be done. JMHO
This is all extremely helpful, so first off, thank you. As you can tell, total novice here.

I'm still not sure I fully understand what you mean by "in your flooring". Are you suggesting the hardwood floor that was laid is the source of the issue... or are you speaking to issues with the subfloor (which is what I have been assuming is the issue). In my mind, I see this as an issue where very nice hardwood was laid over a very uneven subfloor layer -- and I have no clue what to expect/assume regarding the state of what is supporting the subfloor)

As for pursuing a fix (which is obviously out of my capabilities), any recommendations on where to begin the search for a quality contractor -- starting with someone to come see the issue first hand? Definitely the type of thing where I'd like the piece of mind to know it's been well corrected, digging down to root causes to the extent possible.

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated!
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Old 09-21-2010, 05:44 PM   #15
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Still lacking in information.

Exactly where are you? Have you told us that already? I'm too lazy to reread this.

Could be the subfloor but that's doubtfull. More than likely it's the flooring product and the installation.

Again...which type of wood flooring is it?
1. Full dimension 3/4", or
2. Engineered?

How thick is it?

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