sloping slab floors, not related to foundation

Discussion in 'Bricks, Masonry and Concrete' started by bgaviator, Nov 11, 2014.

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  1. Nov 11, 2014 #1

    bgaviator

    bgaviator

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    Hello. I am new to this forum. I hope I can make my post make some sense, and hopefully this is the right forum, although it might be more appropriate in the foundation or flooring section.


    We just bought our first house. It is only 15 years old. When I toured our house before buying, it was completely empty. I never noticed sloping floors because I was more concentrating on the overall look of the house. During our inspection our inspector made mention of how the floors had a slope to them in the kichen due to some spilled water that had rolled down towards the dining cove area at the end of the kitchen. I still didn't give anything much though....my mind was going a mile a minute with other thoughts as this was our first house purchase.


    Our inspector didn't turn up anything majorly wrong with the house. And I even wanted a structural engineer's assessment due to the terrain our house is built on (on a hill, that slopes dramatically down just past the back end of the house.) The structural engineer gave it a green light too, and his report stated that no structural repairs should be needed to our house. Minor settlement had occursed by the notation of some cracks in the brick veneer and mortar, but I was told these were very common and I should just tuck-point them so that moisture wouldn't get in.

    Once I got moved in, I then started noticing imperfections more, and the floor was a huge one. Our house is a slab foundation.


    About halfway across the living room (carpeted), you can start to feel the floor pitch downwards......the carpet from the living room butts right up to the tile in the kitchen floor, upon which you can see where the floor tile just past the end of the kitchen counter starts to pitch down as well. It is not only noticeable walking across, but I can visuall see it as well. The floor then pitches downward again about halfway across our master bedroom which is beyond the kitchen. It's like the floor slopes and then levels back out in sections.


    I have a 4 ft level, and I placed one end at the end of our living room. I had to raise the damn thing 1 inch to get the bubble level! I slid the level down 4ft from the starting end, and I had to raise another 1/2 inch. So there's 1.5 inches of slope in just 8 ft!


    My immediate thoughts were some type of foundation issues. However our drywall had no common signs of foundation issues with any kind of cracks. The bottom trimboards all look original, and are straight. Windows open and close fine. Doors close fine. The brick around the fireplace in the living room all looks straight and level. Visually, most things look perfectly fine.

    I had one foundation company come out, and he could find nothing majorly wrong that needed fixing. I asked him about leveling the floors and he warned me that it could get very expensive and messy. He said I would have to tear up all the kitchen tiles and replace, and possibly have to re-cut the door frames that leads to our back wood deck and raise the door up. He told me and I quote "If I were you, and it bothered me that much, I would just sell the house." This left me very distraught.


    I decided to get a second opinion and called a different foundation company. This second company tried to sell me on these push-piers because when they took a self leveling laser level, he showed me on the outside of the back end of the house was lower than the front half.
    He asked me if this was something I wanted to fix right away and I told him I wasn't sure.....as soon as I said that it's like he was done with me, and I was wasting his time. He never addressed the issue about my floors sloping because what he was trying to sell wouldn't have corrected the issue I really was concerned about.


    So here's the thing with me. I'm pretty OCD about things being straight and level. It is driving me insane that my floors slope like this. I am pretty convinced the house was just built this way.....the floors were like this before they started framing because everything else is visually and structurally fine from what we can tell.


    I'm not sure why the builder would have left the floors this way, but I really want it corrected. The problem is that almost all the resources I've found on the internet, and companies I've found when I do keyword searches for "floor leveling" almost all have to do with foundation issues. Well I'm pretty convinced at this point I don't have a foundation issue, and that I just need to correct the sloping from the top.


    How would this be achieved on a large scale to include half my living room, the end of the kitchen, and going into our master bedroom? I am not even sure who to call, because foundation companies don't seem to be the answer for me.


    My wife doesn't understand why this makes me upset. She is fine with the sloping floors. I really love my house overall, but I HATE this part.....and it's aggrevating to the point where I can't enjoy living in my house because I'm constantly thinking about the imperfection. I appreciate any advice, thoughts, and suggestions.
     
  2. Nov 11, 2014 #2

    oldognewtrick

    oldognewtrick

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    First off, :welcome: to House Repair Talk!

    Have you revisited with the home inspector and engineer since you discovered the issue?
     
  3. Nov 11, 2014 #3

    bgaviator

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    I sent an email to the home inspector, and he told me my concerns were more appropriate to address to the structural engineer. i wrote to the engineer, and he never wrote back.

    the first foundation company I had come out was very familiar with my structural engineer and told me he was very good and they trusted his assessments. But i'm not sure how much stock I take in that. I'm leery and skeptical of everyone these days.
     
  4. Nov 11, 2014 #4

    oldognewtrick

    oldognewtrick

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    Instead of merely writing, I'd suggest calling him on the phone and explain your discovery.
     
  5. Nov 11, 2014 #5

    nealtw

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    Check the ceiling for level, if it is level, that would be a sure sign that it was built like that.
    Slab foundation may mean different things depending on location.
    You said the back yard slopes away does the front foundation come up above the floor?
     
  6. Nov 12, 2014 #6

    bgaviator

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    Never thought about checking the ceiling.
    So let's say it was just a builder mistake or it was done on purpose....I fully understand I'm going to have to jack up all the porcelein tile in the kitchen to get that section level.......but what kind of company/person would be good to do something like this floor leveling? Foundation companies seem to only be concerned if there is an actual structural issue. Would I hire a flooring installation company? Do they usually do these kinds of services in addition to installing new carpet/tile?
     
  7. Nov 12, 2014 #7

    nealtw

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    That would be some miner changes to the framing near the floor and having a concrete finisher re-level the floor.
    That if the back half of the house isn't sliding down the hill or water hasn't washed the fill from under the slab.
    Foundations are different in defferent areas because of frost in the winter so where do you live?
     
  8. Nov 12, 2014 #8

    bgaviator

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    Northern Mississippi
     
  9. Nov 12, 2014 #9

    beachguy005

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    I would have to believe that the house wasn't built that way. A stick built house on an uneven slab creates a lot of other construction issues. A drywall contractor can always tell if a house is built level and plumb with proper spacing on studs because their drywall fits square and tight, especially in the corners.
    My point being that I don't think any framing contractor is going to build on an uneven base because it's so easy to fix beforehand and it makes the rest of the job very sloppy, and it's usually different contractors.
    Get a good 6 foot level and check your walls for plumb. If the house is sinking on one end your walls will list a bit also. Just because everything looks original now, you don't know what it looked like before it was put up for sale.
    As for leveling the existing. There are concrete contractors that would do that. You would take up the flooring, remove the baseboard and the door trim you could undercut in place. They laser level the floor marking the walls and pour a new surface.
    There's a lot on youtube if you search slab leveling.
     
  10. Nov 12, 2014 #10

    bgaviator

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    I have a 4 ft level. I checked the walls at the end of the house. They are fairly plumb. The bubble isn't perfectly centered, but it still is within the black lines.
     
  11. Nov 12, 2014 #11

    nealtw

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    Checxking the level of the wall is tricky as you may have crowned studs that would give you a bad reading, but to give it a try is good. Hold one end of the level away from the wall and note the distance when the level is plumb. But if the house is out 1 1/2" over fifteen ft. it will hardly show on the plumb. The ceiling against the wall above the bad area of the floor is a better indicator.
     
  12. Nov 12, 2014 #12

    beachguy005

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    Frankly, I would live with it for the time being. Reasons being is that you don't know if it's stable or getting worse. Why level it now only to find out in a year the the house is actually sinking.
     
  13. Nov 12, 2014 #13

    bud16415

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    First off welcome to the forum.

    I would say you have one of two sets of circumstances. One is the slab was poured wrong and the builder went with it rather than correcting it do to cost. In that case it is what it is and all your reports hold true and it is cosmetic and a nuisance that can be fixed or learned to live with. The second option is something has changed or is changing. The next step you have to assume in that case is the previous owner repaired the house to sell it. With that degree of movement without major repairs there would be large cracks in the flooring and walls and ceilings. Doors and windows would be messed up also. Depending on the degree of repairs done there will be clues you can use to figure out what case it is.

    You have to first look at the big picture and go outside and think about where this tilting point is in your house. Look at the lay of the land etc and ask yourself is this line at a point where excavation may have ended and filling began. Soil may have been moved from virgin ground to areas that needed to be filled trying to make a flat level surface. The soil moved needed to be compacted to a point it was as stable as the undisturbed area. Over time it went down caused problems inside the house and the fix was to make it look good again if not level. In that case you now will be stable and it is what your reports said.

    Inside you can do as suggested going around with your level and tape measure taking readings. All levels are not the same as to how far a half or quarter a bubble is and keep thinking if it was repaired things could have been shimmed to bring things back closer to plumb. If you go along and measure your ceiling height you may get more clues. Are the kitchen cabinets and the tile fairly new or do they look to be the 15 years old the house is. There are lots of ways to get clues but without being there or seeing many photos it’s hard to suggest what kind of detective work you need to do. I’m just trying to give you the gist of how to go about doing it.

    Making it level might be a bit more than it first looks. Will you have to take up all the base cabinets and counter tops?

    My kitchen has close to as much sway as you are talking about because it is 100 plus years old and wood framed. I just worked around it and even though I know it’s out a mile I no longer notice it. I had a family member over and he said my god this floor is cockeyed. I said yes it is and he walked around remarking about how off it was and I said see if you can tell me where the high end is. He pointed to one end and said this is the high spot and I said well where is it low and he said over there. So I took a golf ball and set it at his low spot and it rolled up hill to his high spot. His eyes almost popped out of his head and I told him that’s why I didn’t fix it its scientific proof there isn’t gravity.
     
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  14. Nov 12, 2014 #14

    slownsteady

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    First thing first: get a grip on your OCD, because no house is perfect and if this stuff gets you crazy, you won't be happy in any house. I'll venture to say you may be lucky that the slope is there because it has captured all your attention ;)

    But now: I couldn't tell from your original post whether you were checking level on the slab or on the floor above it. I find it hard to believe that your slab would slope in steps. If it settled unevenly, it would be one continuous slope from end to end.
     
  15. Nov 12, 2014 #15

    nealtw

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    I have seen this before with a high low foundation. The front is 8, 10 or 12 ft high and the back is the height of the slab. and frost protection depth. A newbe mistake is to step the back down too deep so they don't have the required depth for the slab over the front footing. If it is not cought in time for corrective action, the house is built and the concrete finishers have no choice but to do it like this. There a simple repair they could but they never ask me.
     
  16. Nov 13, 2014 #16

    bgaviator

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    I thought I would share a little more about my house and its unique terrain situation. My house sits on top of a hill, and at the back of my house, not much beyond where the brick ends, we have a hill that slopes dramitcally downward for about 20 ft or so before leveling out. We have a wood deck in the middle back part of the house that overlooks this hill. It provides for a grand view and all, but it is worrisome from an erosion concern. It was one of the biggest concerns we had prior to buying the home.
    We decided we were willing to deal with it, as we plan on doing a multi-tier retaining wall to help with stability in the future, although my structural engineer inspection did not believe the house was going to be going anywhere.

    At the back corner of our house where our bedroom is, there is some very ugly concrete sticking out around the back side of the house and in the corner. I asked my inspector and structural engineer about this as it didn't look right to me. It was very odd looking. Neither person seemed too concerned with it, and just stated it was extra concrete to the footer, probably to aid in stability due to the terrain behind the house.

    My concern was of course whether the house was having foundation issues, and this ugly concrete was added after the fact.....cause I honestly couldn't see why this would have been originally built this way, as such an eyesore. But being a first time home buyer, and being in a rush to find a place, I went with their proffesional opinions that it was nothing to be too concerned about.

    When I pointed this concrete out to the first foundation company that came to my house, he stated that we could only speculate why the concrete was added. He said it could have been due to previous foundation issues, or it could have been done for another purpose......but that only by talking directly to the previous owners would we ever really know for sure.

    The previous owners on the home disclosure sheet had "no" checkmarked for any foundation issues or previous foundation repairs.

    Here are some pictures of the back part of my house. You will get a sense of how steep the terrain is below our house. The shots of the tall ornemental grass is by my son's room. They have a couple of tiers just constructed with landscape timbers....and they have a bunch of ornemental grasses, including Liriope.....I assume to possibly aid in soil stability. The other shots are at our bedroom. You can see the concrete sticking out along our back window. The previous owners had constructed a flower bed using retaining wall block. This past spring I filled it in with more soil and planted flowers. I still would like to know whether this was all originally like this, or done after some issue had arisen. I can't seem to get any straight answers, and I'm not sure who to trust.

    house 3.jpg

    house 1.jpg

    house 2.jpg
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2014
  17. Nov 13, 2014 #17

    bgaviator

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    pardon the weeds in the pictures.....the yard and flower beds were in pretty terrible shape when we moved in earlier this year. It's probably hard to tell, but in shot 2, the hill starts to drop down significantly not much beyond our back wall. I had a landscape company come out to quote a retaining wall system, and using 3 tiers it was going to cost about $12,000. The landscaper kept shaking his head, saying he couldn't believe they would built a house so close to a steep terrain like that without already having had some type of wall system in place. He assured me though that the retaining walls he could put in would stop any erosion/stability concerns.
     
  18. Nov 13, 2014 #18

    nealtw

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    I would go the city and see if they have the original plans permits, inspection sheets, engineers report and geo-tect reports as well as permits pulled for repairs or improvements.
    This is a red flag that should have stopped you dead at the time.
     
  19. Nov 13, 2014 #19

    bud16415

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    I personally wouldn’t spend the 12 grand on a 3 tier arrangement designed by a landscaper unless I wanted it just for the artistic appeal of terraced gardens etc. You have several opinions you paid for by people in “The Know” that say you are stable and not to worry. Having some landscaper going in with a skid steer and notching away at the bank and putting in a couple retaining walls IMHO won’t improve what you are being told you have. If you doubt the information you were provided then hire someone else to do a new study for you without any skin in the game for getting work out of his report.

    It is just my guess again and I haven’t seen any photos from back a distance to see what the big picture is. If I had to guess there was some filling done on that side of your house before it was built. The compaction wasn’t enough and there wasn’t enough cover to the soil to establish the hill in the beginning and the house went down on that end by settling or by undermining. The fix was to dig down a little and pour that berm into a ditch and up the brick wall a ways. It was to act as a key and lock in what was under the house. After they felt they got it stable (?) they went inside and started doing the best they could given the slope and the broken slab. Some filling was done to blend out the areas and tile worked good as it could be laid to the contour. Drywall fixed and all the rest and they then just lived with it. Again that’s just a possible or plausible scenario to me.

    I wouldn’t have put in the block planter on that side. I really wouldn’t be doing to disturb that side and I would be encouraging growth etc. anything to shed water and keep the soil in place. Around here the freeze thaw cycle would push the wall over and down the hill in one winter.

    Have you talked to the neighbors? Any of them been around long enough might remember the problems?

    You need to not determine for yourself what you think needs done. You need to not build things that look like they are working to hold up the hill. You need to convince yourself that the first report was correct or get another. You need to know is the hill side stable and if it is forget about it and do whatever you want inside the house to make you able to live there. If you find out the hill isn’t stable it won’t be a $12,000 fix you might be adding another zero to that number. You will be hiring lawyers along with professionals in these fields, not landscapers.
     
  20. Nov 13, 2014 #20

    nealtw

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    As usual Bud has the right idea. I would just like to know if there was a record of what was done and there should be. If the last owners didn't do or have the work done, then it was done by a previous owner or the builder and then you (could) think that it is passing the test of time.
    Up here we have rules to do with the slope away from the house. Once you go past some angle a retaining wall must be put in as part of the house foundation or further down the hill. Depending on the situation they go from slightly larger footings to extemes like 12" wall and 8ft footing with more steel than concrete. Costing any where from a few K to 100K.
    With that in mind I would not let any one move soil around in the back yard to much depth with out a geo-teck on site to take responsibility for the job.
     

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