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  1. #1
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    Installing hardwood on unlevel floors.

    My mother bought a house and wants to install hardwood flooring. She has been having problems with water damage so my brother in law and his friends have been doing allot of work around the house.One of his friends stated that she should just install carpet because the floor is apparantely very unlevel. Would this be a difficult or worthwhile project to try. I have installed laminate before but never real hardwood. What can be done on a floor joist foundation to help accomplish this project?

  2. #2
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    Ayer, MA, US.
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    RE: Installing hardwood on unlevel floors.

    It depends. How uneven are you talking? How much effort do you want to go into?

    Unlevel isn't a problem. Uneven is. To determin exactly how uneven it is: take a string pin it at the highest point of the floor Keeping the string level rotate it around the room and mark out the low spots and mesure how deep they are.

    It depends. How uneven are you talking? How much effort do you want to go into?

    If the floor is only a bit uneven you could just install a beveled edge hardwood with short lenghts. It makes it harder for the casual observer to notice the imperfection.

    If it is moderatly uneven you could use a floor leveling product then go from there.

    More the moderate but less then severe you could rip up the subflooring shim the joists and lay new subflooring.

    Severe you could go underneath and jack and post things till it evens out. This often leads to other problems.



  3. #3
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    RE: Installing hardwood on unlevel floors.

    Just a thought...
    It should probably be pointed out that you can also lay a floor onto an uneven and unlevel surface as long as the nature of the changes on the floor aren't too sudden.
    In other words you CAN (though you might argue what's the point) fix the really bad spots to give a gradual transition over the surface and install anyway.
    Same with laminate. Theres an allowable degree imperfection to all products because nothing is perfect.

    I wish I could show you a photograph somehow of our old bedroom in NY state.
    It's a testament to installing on an uneven floor to match the rest of the house. It was enormously sloped and cupping in the middle, but it was (and this is important) stable.
    Hardwood floors don't like movement.

    For the future it makes refinishing a pain in the arse too, but it's possible.
    Probably wouldn't bother with it myself though :D

    How bad is the subfloor anyway?

    Rob.

  4. #4

    Same problem

    I have floors that are sloped as much as 1" over 8 feet. I can't take up the plywood subfloor without disturbing the entire structure. I wonder if the easiest approach would be to use self leveling compound and then another layer of plywood on top. Adding that much height may affect doorways but I think that is manageable. Any other suggestions? Thanks

  5. #5
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    Do your doors still align in their frames? If not, you could jack up the floor to level it. I have had this problem many times, as I have only lived in one new house. Many of the old farm houses we lived in only required placing a beam under the old joists and lifting the floor slowly. It would take about 30 days to lift the floor 3 inches.

    Also, check to see that the foundation hasn't settled. If everything is sound, and you can't jack up the floor, you can rip 2 by material and level out the floor placing a new subfloor over the existing one, but that really builds up the floor and will require a lot of retriming, door cutting and who knows what else you will find.
    Doug

  6. #6
    Thanks. I can't jack up the floor because it is a condo and the association owns the structure. They are not willing to do any jacking for fear of damaging the entire structure. They hired a structural engineer who did not want to take any risks. So, they reinforced the floor trusses which leaves me with a strong unlevel floor.

  7. #7
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    Now that's a real bummer! Sounds like you need to find out if the current trusses can take more load. Many truss designs don't like supports placed at certain points, messes with the force vectors.
    Taking all this in, I can tell you I've used a floor leveling compound and laid tongue and groove material over it. Then placed a finish floor over that. If you use a floor leveler, I would mix it with latex instead of water. It gives the leveler more strength and will give it some flexibility. The drawback to the latex is that you need to scrape the trowel ridges off the leveler as soon as it sets, otherwise it is so hard that you won't be able to do anything with it.
    Doug

  8. #8
    The structural engineers told me I ought to be able to have a party and invite my 50 heaviest friends without causing the floor to collapse, so I guess that means they think the floor is stable.

    Another hardwood specialist suggested using 1/4" plywood in an overlapping fashion to level the floor. I have also read about using asphalt shingles. I wonder if shingles would reduce the stability of the hardwood floor. Also, would nails tend to shatter the self-leveling compound?

  9. #9
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    Most folks uses staples on the 1/4" underlayment plywood. They will not harm the leveling compound especially if you use latex in the mix. Some leveling material has latex as an additive in dry form. If you want to feather the leveler and build up to 1", I would use a good material. There are some inexpensive materials out there and I've found them to be lacking in impact quality.

    If you completely fill the sag with leveler, even if a crack should occur, there won't be any where for the material to move into, so the plywood will still be supported. The underlayment generally calls for a staple every 6" so you won't have to worry about movement.
    Doug

  10. #10
    Ahh, that's a tough one. I would suggest either getting customized hardwood floors(which will definitely cost a lot more because there's a lot more work to be done) or change your approach, why not go with a simpler flooring than hardwood. It costs a lot and added with your current problem, it will cost more. You can also try removing the whole flooring then leveling it before putting on the hardwood, also costly.

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