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Old 11-05-2010, 09:43 PM   #1
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Leveling floors in an old house


I have just perchased a 130 year old home and the major problem with it is the flooring. Both the main floor, and the second floor have warped floors. It seems like they sink in towards the middle of our home. We have taken most of the floors out an are now on the subflooring, but don't know which way would be the most efficient and safe way to level them, before putting in our new hardwood floors. We would also like to keep some of the original woodfloors that we have managed to salvage from this rustic old home. Can we keep them, or will we have to take them out to level? As for the beams in the basement, they seem in pretty good condition, a little cracked and dry, but aren't the problem (this is what the inspector said.) They are 1 and a half feet apart, and mesure a good half a foot each. Should we just put in a vertical beam to support the middle part of the home, so the slop doesn't get worst? Please help us with our more then little project!

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Old 11-05-2010, 10:02 PM   #2
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Leveling floors in an old house


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Originally Posted by cassandchris View Post
Both the main floor, and the second floor have warped floors. It seems like they sink in towards the middle of our home.
Floors sink, slope towards the center of the building because the basement beams are no longer holding them up.

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Originally Posted by cassandchris View Post
As for the beams in the basement, they seem in pretty good condition, a little cracked and dry, but aren't the problem (this is what the inspector said.)
Find yourself another inspector. At the very least get a couple good contractors to give you their opinion.

I have leveled a few dozen floors over the years. All of them were the result of structual failure starting in the basement. Level and support those first and you'll find that both the first and second floor of your home will come back close to where they were 130 years ago. Then you'll be able to salvage those old boards you removed.

Just my 2Ę based upon the information you offered.

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Old 11-05-2010, 10:13 PM   #3
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Leveling floors in an old house


Wood is a semi=elastic material, meaning that over time a loaded beam will permanently deflect in the direction of the load. Once it is deflected, it is difficult to jack it back to its original condition without causing damage to the house, i.e. cracked plaster, cracked walls.

First of all, you need to determine exactly how much the beams have deflected. This is best done with an accurate level. I use a fluid level which is accurate to approximately 1/8 inch. By preparing a level map of the entire floor and beams, you can tell how much the beams have deflected. Generally, the deflection in the beam is going to be reflected in the deflection of the floor, but sometimes the floor deflects less than the beam.

Once you have a map of beam deflection, you can decide how to proceed. Sometimes it is best to shim the floor by adding wood above the beams as needed. Just because a beam has deflected, does not mean there is a structural problem with the beam. A structural engineer can tell you if the deflection is significant, or normal deflection over time due to the floor load.

Sometimes it is best to try to jack the beams back to their original elevation. This is usually done by very slowly lifting the beam with a series of jacks, usually screw jacks because they can be closely controlled. The beam is usually jacked a bit further than level, since it is going to settle back down after the jacks are removed. Jacking is not rocket science, but it is difficult to avoid damage to the house. Adding shims is an option, which often produces less long term damage.

Your contractor can tell you how they like to do the work. If you are doing the work yourself, be careful about safety, and remember to jack very slowly if you do jack.
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