Mike Holmes, Make it Right: Getting to the bottom of a saggy bottom
Removing supporting structures underneath to create an open-concept design can lead to sloping floors.
Mike Holmes, Make it Right, National Post · Friday, Aug. 6, 2010
I received an email from Jenna and Chris who are looking for their first home. They have looked at lots of houses, but have fallen in love with the first one they saw. They think it’s perfect, but they suspect there’s a “huge problem.”
If you think there might be a “huge problem,” that’s already a problem. If you aren’t an experienced homeowner, or a professional in the building trades, even small problems can overwhelm you emotionally and financially.
In this case, they say that all floors from the outside walls are sloping towards the middle of the house. They even feel queasy standing on the floor. There’s one wall in the kitchen that isn’t flush with the countertop.
They want to make an offer on this house, but wonder if they should.
C’mon Jenna and Chris. If you feel nauseated just standing on the floor, I think you know the answer.
That house has a structural problem; I can tell that without even seeing it, from the description.
There are clues that indicate structural problems in a house: floors out of level, windows and doors sticking, bouncy floors, or floors that sag in spots. And not all structural problems are a big deal. But if all the floors in the house slope to the middle, that says something serious. This is not a quick fix, and for a first-time homeowner with a limited budget and not much experience with houses, I’d stay away.
There are lots of reasons that might cause sloping floors in a home.
There might be foundation issues or problems with sinking. The sill beam or floor joists might be rotted out or have been eaten by termites.
But one of the most common is people cutting through the structure to run plumbing or wiring or duct work. Or, someone has removed supporting structure underneath to create an open-concept design.
Professionals can cut joists to run piping or wiring, but it’s got to be done properly, without weakening them. I suspect someone might have removed critical support. But, without seeing it, I can’t be sure. You need to bring in professionals who can assess the house’s structure.
Structural problems can be fixed. With houses, pretty much anything can be done; it’s just a matter of skill, experience, time and of course, money. Joists that have been cut and compromised can be replaced or sistered. You can jack up the whole house to replace a rotten sill beam. A crumbling foundation can be excavated and repaired. But these are big, expensive jobs. You’d better be sure the low price for your “fixer-upper” makes up for the cost of the fix.
To me, the real problem here is the fact that they fell in love with the first house they saw. Don’t fall in love with a house! Save your love for people and pets.
The housing market is like a nightclub. Every house is dressed up, looking its best, all flaws covered up. You need to have a good wingman before you go out. The first thing Jenna and Chris need to do is have an inspection by a qualified home inspector — that’s your wingman in the housing market. I’d call a structural engineer in as well.