There are some things that we, as homeowners, take for granted. A leak-proof roof, straight, strong walls, and firm flooring are all things we simply expect from our home. Unfortunately, these things are not guaranteed. Uneven floors can be found in many properties in and around Birmingham, Alabama, and they form for a few different reasons. Learning to spot the signs and act quickly is important for any homeowner.
While a slight dip or slope in your floors may not seem like a huge issue, it is, in fact, a sign of serious structural decay, damage, or movement. As such, you should act quickly. Here at AFS Foundation & Waterproofing Specialists, we know what it takes to rectify uneven floors, no matter the underlying cause. Here’s what you need to know about uneven flooring.
Why Worry About Uneven Floors?
Keeping your home in good repair can feel like an uphill battle. Between seasonal maintenance, yearly inspections, appliance breakdowns, and issues in internal plumbing and electric systems, it can be easy to consider a little bounciness or sagging in your floor a minor problem. Unfortunately, this is not the case; an uneven floor is a worrying issue that is generally a sign of serious damage. It can also cause problems on its own.
An Active Issue
Whether your flooring has only recently started to sag, or the issue has been ongoing for some time, unevenness in your flooring should be considered an active issue. This is because the floor will continue to sag more dramatically and could collapse, even if the underlying cause of the initial damage is no longer at work.
Once a floor has been destabilized or undermined, it will continue to deteriorate until a professional intervenes to make appropriate repairs. The nature of the repairs will depend on the extent, severity, and type of damage.
Injury is Likely
When it comes to sagging or uneven flooring in a property, one issue that is less commonly discussed is how it can cause accidents and injuries. An uneven or sagging floor can be very unstable and increases the likelihood of tripping quite dramatically. This may not seem like a huge issue, but there are other problems to consider.
Most notably, the presence of furnishings with hardwood or metal elements or sharp corners can make even a small fall quite dangerous. Furthermore, those who are already vulnerable, like young children and elderly people, and those who have mobility issues are most at risk of falling and sustaining serious injuries.
This is an issue that warrants speedy and thorough investigation and restoration actions. Acting early could save you time, money, and prevent serious injury to you and your guests. Depending on the underlying cause of the sagging, acting quickly could also prevent serious collapse in your home.
Problem Signs: What Uneven Floors Can Signify
So what do sagging and uneven floors actually mean for your home? And what are the most likely underlying issues? Broadly speaking, uneven floors are caused either by damage to your home’s structure as a whole or by damage to the joists and beams that support the floor itself. These issues can take a number of forms, however.
Foundation damage is one of the most serious issues that any home can deal with. That’s because of the way in which it impacts the property over time. Foundation issues like settlement and subsidence can be caused by many different things, but the most common causes are problematic foundation soils and defects in the concrete foundation itself.
Overly expansive, loose, or weak soils, for example, are more prone to movement and shifting (especially in bad weather) that can put your property’s foundation under a lot of stress. Concrete defects are less common, but they do occur. When defects arise, it is generally because of poor mixing or flaws in the process of laying the foundation.
Either way, foundation damage can lead to localized or widespread sinking and fragmentation that may damage floor supports and joists or separate flooring from its supports and joists. This will lead to floating floorboards, sagging, and eventually the collapse of the floor.
Bowing or Buckling Walls
If your property’s walls have started to bow or buckle as a result of structural damage or excessive hydrostatic pressure, it can have a knock-on effect on your flooring very quickly. Bowing walls are a serious issue in their own right, but when it comes to uneven floors, they tend to cause this issue by separating from the flooring and leaving it without the necessary support.
You will recognize a bowing wall by cracking and visible deformation either at one side or in the very middle of the wall. Over time, the deviation, bulging, or leaning will become more and more severe. If this issue is left to grow unchecked, it will end with the collapse of the wall.
This has implications for your flooring, and you are likely to notice gaps between your walls and flooring long before the bowing wall is in danger of collapsing. If the wall does come down, however, there is a chance that it will take the floor with it.
Over Spanned Joists
Your property’s floors are highly dependent on joists and support beams when it comes to bearing the load of day-to-day use. The width, thickness, length, and spacing of these joists must be very carefully calculated to ensure that they provide the exact amount of support that is needed. If these calculations are off the joists can be fundamentally inappropriate for the purpose. This is called overspan.
Over spanned joists can also be caused by damage to otherwise well-made and fitted joists. This damage can be caused by a number of issues, from dampness to structural movement and foundation problems. Anything that undermines the connection of a joist to the flooring or wall, or that causes cracks or reduced strength in the joist itself, can cause overspan.
Unlike many other issues on this list, overspanned joists are very localized issues and will not generally impact flooring or walls beyond their own limited scope. However, they may cause issues that have a widespread effect on your entire property.
Wood rot is a very common issue in homes that have structural damage and a persistent issue with dampness. Wood rot is caused by fungal spores and comes in three main forms: dry rot, white rot, and soft rot. The three fungi that cause these forms of rot display themselves in slightly different ways, but they all do the same thing: cause the decay of dead wood.
The implications for your flooring (and your home as a whole) are very severe where wood rot is concerned because this is not a localized issue. Dry rot, sometimes called brown rot, spreads like wildfire once it has taken root in a home.
Unfortunately, rotten wood will need to be replaced, which makes the repair process more complicated and costly than it might be in other circumstances. It also increases the likelihood that repairs will need to be undertaken to more of your home.
Each of these issues can also lead to other forms of damage in your home. As such, there are many other problem signs (beyond uneven floors) that might present themselves. It is pertinent to be on the lookout for these tell-tale signs.
Additional Problem Signs To Be Aware Of
These problem signs can help you to recognize damaged flooring, or a risk to your flooring, early. In fact, they could even help a professional to diagnose the underlying cause of your uneven floors in Nashville, Tennessee, and the surrounding areas. The problem signs that you should be most aware of are:
Mold and Mildew
The formation of mold and mildew in your home is a strong warning sign that is most directly connected with dampness. However, due to the many different potential causes of dampness and humidity, mold can be a very general problem sign of several different issues. As such, it is key to get a professional opinion where mold is concerned.
If you think you have seen mold in your home, it is important that you limit exposure to it, especially if it is black in color. Some species of black mold can be incredibly toxic to humans and animals, and may cause migraines, dizziness, respiratory problems, and even seizures.
If your flooring feels springy or bouncy underfoot, this is a sign that the flooring or its joists have already suffered some level of damage. Your floors should always be firm, even, and stable underfoot. If this changes, you should reach out to a professional to investigate the issue.
Springiness and bounciness are the precursors to sagging and unevenness in flooring, so if you act quickly, you could avoid more serious issues down the line.
A bad smell in your home that refuses to budge no matter how many times you clean and air your property is a very bad sign. This can be a sign of mold formation, serious dampness, wood rot, or even pest infestation.
Unfortunately, one of the most damaging pest infestations has no smell at all. Termite infestation is the most likely to cause sagging or uneven flooring, but it is also the least likely to cause a bad smell. Instead, it changes the texture of wood.
Change in the Look or Texture of Flooring
If your floorboards become stained, discolored, or their texture changes you should call a professional as quickly as possible. If you see a white sheen on wood, for example, this is a sign of white rot. Likewise, a burnt or cracked texture can be a sign of dry, or brown, rot.
A good rule of thumb, however, is to act whenever you notice any changes to the color, texture, or appearance of your floorboards.
Cracks in your wooden flooring are a real problem sign, but they are not the only cracks that can signal danger to your flooring. Cracks in your foundation walls are a sign that your property’s floors are in danger (though this may be the least of your worries).
Spreading cracks are those that actively change in size and shape over time, so you should be able to identify them easily. If you do, you should contact a professional as soon as possible.
If you see any of these problem signs around your home, it is time to call a professional in to assess it and the damage that has been caused. This is the first step in protecting your home from further damage.
No, uneven floors are not always connected to foundation damage, but this is a common underlying cause that should not be discounted.
Foundation damage can cause uneven or sagging flooring. In fact, uneven floors may be one of the earliest signs of foundation damage thanks to the nature of the movement that it can cause. The most common forms of foundation damage are settlement and subsidence, and while they will impact flooring in different ways, they both cause sinking.
This downward movement is most likely to cause uneven or sagging flooring because of how it can lead to floating support beams or separate joists from the floors that rely on them. This will cause instability and leave the flooring vulnerable to sagging and deformation. Foundation damage is also likely to lead to dampness and flooding that can undermine the strength and health of flooring and joists.
Internal damage to your flooring and its support systems can come in several ways. For example, plumbing or appliance leaks can lead to serious dampness or flooding and, over time, the formation of wood rot. Secondly, there is a chance that termites may be working on the wooden supports and floorboards from within your home. This too will cause sagging and damage.
Likewise, there is always the chance that the joists are overspanned. If there are inherent flaws in the wood that was used to form them, if too few joists were installed into your home, or if the flooring is bearing too much weight, then unevenness and sagging are likely. Whatever causes your uneven floors, however, it is important that you get the right solutions.
Uneven flooring can be a complex issue, and as such, there is no single fix for unevenness or sagging in your floors. You must consider the causes of the unevenness in order to get a good result. Otherwise, your solution will be flawed and, worst of all, temporary.
If the cause of your uneven flooring is structural damage of some kind, the repair solutions will be slightly more heavy duty and indirect. In fact, when structural damage has caused your flooring to sag or become uneven, the repair process will have two steps: the rectification of the structural issue and the restoration of your flooring. In the case of bowing walls, for example, you will need to install wall anchors or another form of wall stabilizing solution before fixing the flooring.
If the issue is foundation damage, however, the process will be longer still. The most effective solution for foundation damage tends to be foundation pier. Foundation piers come in two forms; push piers rely on the weight of a property to cement themselves in place, while helical piers effectively screw into the ground.
Flooring Damage or Flaws
If the damage is to the flooring or its support system locally, the repair process will be much shorter and will focus on providing the proper support. This is generally done with the installation of something like a crawl space jack or a metal joist. These solutions both offer additional support to flooring and can be used to replace damaged supports or joists.
If the flooring has fallen to rot, it may also be necessary to replace the damaged wood. Wood rot must also be treated with special chemicals to prevent it from spreading to more wooden surfaces throughout the property. This may also require the installation of a dehumidifier or some basement or crawl space waterproofing measures.
While we understand that DIY can be very tempting, we do not recommend that you try to undertake repairs to uneven floors alone. There are simply too many things that can go wrong, and professionals are trained to correct these problems for you.
Structural Repairs Are Dangerous
One of the main reasons you should not try to deal with uneven floors alone is the fact that you may need to undertake structural repairs. Diagnosing the underlying causes of uneven floors in a home can be complex. If you do not identify all the causes, your repairs will be inherently flawed. Even if you properly identify the structural issues at work, you will struggle to deal with them.
Foundation repair is very dangerous. The heavy excavation equipment required to expose the foundation can be very dangerous when mishandled, for example. Likewise, hydraulic tools may be needed to install foundation piers properly, and if these piers are installed improperly, they can bend and cause far more damage to your home.
Professionals Offer Quality
While the internal parts of floor repair are slightly less dangerous and complex than structural repairs, we still do not recommend that you try it alone. First and foremost, renting the equipment you will need and buying the products and tools required to undertake the work can make DIY costs almost level with professional estimates. This pretty much removes the main reason for considering DIY to begin with, but you must also remember the issue of quality.
Professionals are trained, experienced, and have all the best tools, equipment, and products to hand. In fact, they may even be able to get products that you, as a non-professional, cannot because of their access to professional supply stores and their ability to buy from the manufacturers directly. This means that they can give you a better result at a generally similar price. If you notice any of the above in your home, let the professionals help you get your home back to a safe and stable ground. You won’t regret it.
Expert Foundation Repair From AFS Foundation & Waterproofing Specialists
Do you have concerns about the health and well-being of your property? Have you noticed that your flooring is becoming unstable or uneven? If so, it is time to place a call to AFS Foundation & Waterproofing Specialists. Our team has been helping homeowners since 2000 in Birmingham, Huntsville, and Mobile, Alabama, and Nashville, Chattanooga, and Knoxville, TN. With decades of collective experience, we know what it takes to restore flooring to its former glory.
Whatever your situation, the process begins with a free inspection appointment. We will send a technician to your home, at a time and date that suits you, to inspect and identify the issues at work. They will then provide you with a written estimate for the cost of all suggested repairs so that you can make an informed decision. Don’t worry, however; there is no obligation to book repairs with us, either on the day of inspection or at any point thereafter.