Should I Worry About My Sloping Floors?

Walls painted white with orange color accent on the ceiling

Are your floors uneven? Can you tell that your floors are no longer flush with the trim around a room? Do your doors or windows not close all the way? There are many signs that your floor may be sloping or beginning to slope, a common problem a lot of homes.

Though floor sloping is a common problem, it isn’t purely a cosmetic problem. Floor sloping can indicate that there’s a much more severe issue at hand. Sloping floors can signify that there is significant structural damage to a home’s foundation, warped floor joists, or water damage requiring foundation repair.

Though sloping floors are one of the most common signs of severe foundation or structural problems in a home, they are not always cause for concern. If you think that your floors may be uneven or sloping, however, it’s worth taking the time to have an inspection done.

How Do Sloping Floors Occur?

Sloping floors are floors that aren’t level, meaning that they slant or sag. Floors begin to slope for several reasons. Most commonly, floor sloping occurs as a result of natural forces shifting the home over time, water damage, windows losing structural integrity, or faulty construction of a home’s original foundation. All of these different problems can cause floors to begin to slope, and indicate that something is wrong with the home.

Houses Settling Cause Sloping Floors

One of the primary causes of sloping floors, particularly common in older homes, is a house settling.

House settling is a natural process in which a building gradually sinks into the ground over time. As the soil beneath the foundation begins to shift, a home slowly sinks downwards into the earth. The problem in this house is not the house settling itself, which is natural, but rather differential settlement, in which one portion of a home moves or sinks into the ground at a different rate than another. This uneven movement can cause significant damage to a home’s foundation and can make it difficult to open doors or windows, or may cause gaps to form between windows and walls. It can also cause cracks to develop in a home’s foundation, walls, and ceilings, creating space for water damage.

Water Damage Can Cause Sloping Floors

Several different sources can cause water damage. Groundwater can rise up and infiltrate the cracks in a home’s foundation. Leaks can also find their way into cracks or rot wood, causing damage to a home’s foundation. Water damage can severely damage floor joists, causing them to sag and create unevenness in one’s floor. Floor joists — the support beams holding up your floor — can be impacted by leaks over time or from one-time events, like a sink or bathtub leaking. Wet wood warms and rots, which can cause one’s entire floor to lose integrity over time.

Weak Window Frames Can Cause Sloping Floors

In older homes, window frames often become weak, causing the floor above them to sag as the frame is no longer able to support the home’s weight adequately. This is particularly common in basement windows, which bear the burden of holding up some of the weight of the house as well.

Faulty Foundations Can Cause Sloping Floors

Finally, sloping floors can also be caused by faulty foundation construction jobs. When contractors don’t do a good job when building a home’s foundation, floors are not adequately supported, which causes them to slope as the foundation deteriorates or fails to support the structure. Sometimes, floor joists weren’t correctly installed, or the wood used to build them was substandard, causing them to weaken over time.

How Do I Know Whether or Not to Worry?

Often, people try to quantify the seriousness of a sloping floor numerically, assessing the severity of foundational damage by the angle at which the floors rest. Numbers, however, aren’t a good indicator of whether or not the foundation of one’s home is solid or not. Whether a floor is sloped by ¼ of an inch in 20 feet or 2 inches in 20 feet does not adequately describe the damage that a home’s foundation or floor joists have experienced. It is better to evaluate the severity of sloping floors by inspecting clear structural warning signs.

One can examine these warning signs fairly easily, and you can also always choose to have an inspection of one’s foundation done to get an expert’s opinion on the structural integrity of one’s home.

Go down into your basement or crawlspace where you are able to see the foundation and floor joists clearly. Perform a visual inspection for any overt signs of damage, cracks, or discoloration. Check the floor joists for any clear signs of warping, damage, or of the joists pulling away from the structure. These signs may indicate that there has been structural or water damage to the home that needs to be addressed.

Other signs of differential settlement or foundational damage may include wall and ceiling cracks, walls leaning, doors and windows sticking or failing to open, or cracked concrete slab.

What Can You Do?

Foundation and joist repairs must be done carefully, as they are the base that supports one’s house. It’s important to perform the repair correctly the first time, in order to prevent other problems from occurring.

First, it’s important to do an initial consultation and site visit, in order to have a professional examine the foundation, identify the root cause of the problem, and craft a plan to solve the problem. It’s important to choose a plan that ensures a proper and full fix, without being over-invasive to one’s home. There are a number of different things that can be done to repair one’s sloping floors and repair a home’s foundation, floor joists, or water damage.

Foundation reinforcement or replacement may help to renew the structural integrity of one’s home and help to level the floors. Foundation reinforcement can help with less serious foundational problems by adding in reinforcing rods or supports without removing any of the home’s existing foundation.

In more severe cases, foundation replacement can reestablish the structural integrity of one’s home by excavating and replacing the existing foundation. This is more costly and labor-intensive but can help solve a host of issues that may have been caused by inadequate initial foundation construction or severe water damage. Floor joists or water-warped materials can also be repaired or replaced, causing the floor to level and introducing structural integrity into the home.

Fenwick’s engineers and experts have performed repairs on thousands of homes’ foundations. They take their work seriously each step of the way, allowing years of expertise to inform their initial assessments, designs and permitting of the repairs, and completing the necessary repairs.