When are uneven floors an issue?

At what point are uneven floors a major issue. The foundation is solid. This is a 100 year old house so natural settling. When does this cause concern?

Thank you!

If the floors are unlevel, I call it out. While it may be common for the age of the home, it is recommended to have a qualified contractor make corrections.

When you have had to much to drink. :grinning:


I carried a golf ball with me and if it rolled, I narrated that the floor was sloped.

The National Assoc. of Home Builders notes 1/2" in 20 feet, I believe, to recognize sloping floors.


I also call them out as a defect but let the client know it’s not an uncommon thing in a 100+ year old home.



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“Make corrections.” That will not work in a 100 year old home. Easily half of my residential engineering work is coming in after a contractor screws up the framing in a 100 year old home with “corrections.”

The idea that a contractor is going to solve uneven floor issues with “corrections” like scabbing or leveling up floors with sistered joists or shim boards is 9 times out of 10 just an expensive myth. Literally lipstick on a pig.

Solve the problem. Don’t make it worse.

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The reason why it’s common is because when you calculate out deflections and stress in 100 year old framing using ASCE-7 design loads, it fails 95% of the time. Folks assume that since the building has stood upright for 100 years that it’s all good. It’s not. You take your average 1910 wood joist arrangement and apply modern load cases to them, they flat out fail. Add wood creep and plumber’s notching to them, and you end up with 2 inch deflections.

Lets not overlook the floor joist connections in a Balloon framed home versus a Platform framed home.



Wood was different back then. Is that taken into consideration when calculating?


100% agree. This is why I recommend qualified contractors. To fix a symptom(s), you have to fix the cause(s). A “handyman” coming in and installing 20 lolly columns is not fixing the cause. It’s no different than recommending an engineer and instead they take advice from their buddy that was college roommates with an engineer.

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Yes. Even with old-growth wood, imposing modern load cases on older framing practices typically result in the member failing for deflection, moment, and/or bearing.

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I consider sloping floors different than sagging floors with deflection, humps or low spots.

Here in GA with these old homes, the culprit may be over spanning, moisture content and/or WDO.

Regardless, it goes into my report and the recommendation depends on what I see.


I use a small rubber ball, if i had a golf ball i would just go play some golf :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


On old houses …

I always used the golf ball on wood / tile floors OR the 1/2" in 20’ otherwise.

Then recommend repair THEN keep walking AFTER explaining that it may not be economically feasible

Oh wow… what an issue near and dear to my heart as we had a million dollar lawsuit for this exact issue +/- 5 years ago. I could write a book about the topic now but will sum it up quickly. Call it out when noticeable. As in, golf balls rolling around, skewed door frames, cracks in drywall, doors binding on frames, etc. I don’t care if the house is 500 years old it’s not “performing as intended” if the floors are sloped. Everyone else can guess how, why and what it means. Just as they can defend the house for being 200 years old. End of the day for the small amount of money we are getting paid don’t jump in front of the train and justify a defect as “normal for it’s age” or any other crap like that. It can and WILL burn you eventually.

In the end we “won” (if there is such a thing) the lawsuit so it was only 35K in legal fees. The house was only 20 years old and the defect wasn’t noticed until the carpet was removed but I still went away with a greatly heightened sense for the problem (something about watching my inspector get grilled for 5 hours on the 45th floor of a high rise stuck with me). I’m still trying to wrap my head around how you get a 1 million dollar lawsuit on a 400K house??? Anyway, when deciding when to report something I always ask myself how much it’s going to burn me if I don’t. Sloped floors? Fill the number on a blank check from your E/O carrier (or your own pocket if you’re flying naked).