Sloping or Uneven Floors Can Tell You a Lot

If you drop a round object on the floor and it rolls down to the next wall, or, as you walk into an entry or foyer, it feels as though you are walking downhill, you might have a problem – one that could potentially be a serious problem, depending on the cause.

Walking on uneven floors is a reality many home and business owners face. Older structures, especially, tend to have more slopes and sags than newer structures do. Some people actually embrace their structure’s uneven floors as a novelty quirk. For others, however, it can be a frustrating nuisance. The truth is that uneven floors can be a sign of a very serious problem.

There are a variety of causes for uneven floors ranging from inconsequential to severe. We want to provide a brief overview of the three most common causes of uneven floors and how a home or business owner can address the problem.

A Definition of Uneven Floors:

Uneven floors are exactly what their name implies. They are floors that slope and sag creating an uneven surface. But the floors themselves are seldom the cause of the problem.

As a home or business’ foundation settles and shifts, it may cause the walls and floors to shift and bend. In some severe cases, the floors may even crack. Typically, the core problem is something entirely different than just a structure that is settling.

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#1: Extra Moisture

The most frequent cause of an uneven floor is from a buildup of moisture or from water damage. The water can come from a pipe that is hidden within a wall and is leaking or it can come from the pooling of groundwater around or beneath the foundation. This water can adversely affect your flooring and can cause wooden beams and sub-flooring to warp.

Moisture can damage the foundation of a structure when there is poor drainage around the structure. This is typically true in climates that experience a wide range of seasons (i.e., where water can freeze and expand during the winter months or where there are seasonal heavy rains that create standing water and saturated soil). In these conditions, the foundation will move and can even crack, as long as the moisture continues to be an issue.

What Can An Owner Do To Fix It?

Fortunately, both moisture problems are repairable. Naturally, the quicker the problem is identified, the easier and less expensive it will be to repair.

To repair excess moisture due to a leaky pipe or water damage, the repair will have to start with the root cause. In most cases, an owner will have to call a plumber to repair and replace the leaking pipe. The plumber can, then, also find and repair any other leaks that may be causing other water damage issues.

Once the leak is fixed, the owner may have to replace the flooring (depending on how severe the damage). Not only can a leak and excess moisture cause an uneven floor but it can also lead to more serious problems such as mold, rot, and cracks. It is important to consult with a professional to have them assess the problem and help determine whether the floor will need to be replaced.

Repairing a foundation with poor drainage can be more involved and more expensive than one might think, depending on the damage. An owner will need to consult with a foundation repair professional to have them look at the structure’s foundation and the uneven floors. From there, they can determine whether addressing proper drainage will help solve the problem or if the foundation itself will need repairing.

#2: Soil Movement

The fact of the matter is that soil moves over time. When the soil is wet, it will expand and when it is dry, it will shrink. That is simple science. When that happens, it may cause a foundation to move, affecting a structure’s floors.

Before building contractors lay the foundation of a house or building, they must compact the soil below where the foundation will reside. This helps keep the foundation in place and prevents the structure from settling and moving over time. Sometimes, the soil is not as compact as it needs to be, resulting in shifting and uneven floors.

What Can An Owner Do To Fix It?

Fortunately, a home or business owner can repair and prevent and/or retard the erosion of soil around their foundation. Again, a structure’s owner should consult a foundation repair professional who can diagnose the issue.

From there, the owner and the foundation repair specialist can decide how to address the repair of the foundation. If there is no major damage to the foundation, addressing better drainage and adding waterspouts can help direct water away from the foundation.

Other options include repairing the foundation grading or adding a slanting swale (a sloping ditch that is designed to prevent moisture from seeping back into the foundation area). Good foundation grading should have a ground slope of 3% to 5% around a structure.

Adding soil around a foundation to improve the grading is also recommended. If that is not an option, adding a slanting swale could be considered. Both options can help direct water away from the foundation.

#3: Poor Structural Design and Foundation Damage

The last major cause of uneven floors is a damaged foundation. Damage can come from those issues addressed above, but also from a poor structural design or from the just sheer age of the structure.

If the foundation problem is the result of poor design or faulty construction, it may be incapable to hold up the structure. This may be the source that is causing warping, cracks, and/or uneven floors.

The foundation of an older structure naturally will weaken as it ages. As it weakens, joists, floors, and walls can warp, and eventually, that will lead to more severe problems – such as cracks and breaks in the floor or in the foundation.

What Can An Owner Do To Fix It?

Foundation damage repair is always going to be expensive to address. Of course, this all depends on the extent of the damage. It is important to consult with a foundation repair professional to discuss the problem and what will be required to properly and permanently repair the issue(s).

Foundation Repair Specialists can address all the above issues. They use many methods, including floor jacks and foundation piers (steel push piers or hydraulic piers). These Professionals will pump grout in strategically placed holes in (or below) the foundation to raise it back to its original location.

Does Your Home Have Uneven Floors?

Whether you are a homeowner or someone that is looking to buy a home, you should never ignore the issue of uneven floors. Sagging, sloping, and buckling floors are typically a sign of a much bigger problem that can cause serious and, potentially, expensive issues down the road. Repairing the problem early on will save money and prevent the structure from falling apart.

If you have uneven floors in your home, give us a call, and let’s talk about it. We will work with you to diagnose the problem and help you find the right solution.