Sloping Floors

I am looking at buying a neighbor’s home…frame, 100 years old. It’s in fairly poor shape with very little updates, but could be a good opportunity since we’re getting it before it goes on the market. Our inspector said that the floors, especially on the second floor, are sloping 3-5 degrees. He said that shifting is common in old homes, but felt that this was beyond normal. It has caused fairly good sized cracks above some of the door frames. He recommended contacting a structural engineer to find out cause, whether it will continue to slope further and how to fix.

Anyone have any experience with this? Foundation is concrete and appears to be in good condition with no cracking. Sloping is also visible on 1st floor only less so. Is this expensive to fix?

Thanks for any feedback!

I’m guessing that the cracks your seeing above doors are located on interior walls? And the slope you mentioned is a dipping toward the center of the rooms on the second floor?

If that’s the case, I would guess that the floor joists for the second floor are undersized for the distance they are spanning. To fix it you would need to access them-- either remove the ceiling from the first floor or the flooring from the second floor. After you tear the ceiling or floor out, you’ll need to jack it up, take the bow out of the joists, sister new joists to the old ones, and probably add new joists. EG, if the old ones are on 24" centers, you might be able to support the existing load with joists of the same dimension, but placed on 12" centers.

If the cracks you mentioned are on exterior walls and the slope is in a constant direction-- as in the entire second floor slopes down to the north-- then all I can think of is that one of the exterior walls is buckling under the load. Maybe it’s trying to support a roof gable and the studs are spaced too far apart? Or the studs have rotted from water damage or termites?

These are just wild guesses, you’ll need a GC or a good carpenter to take a look at it. The hard part is knowing the extent of the problem without being able to see the structural elements of the framing.

pretty wild guesses but reallllllllllllllllllllllly helpful.I personally own a home that looks like a rollercoaster ride at an amusement park .The tenants dont mind and it keeps the kids busy chasing the marbles ;D

Thanks DDavis. The cracks are interior and floors sloping inward to center.

Awful lot of work tearing out ceilings. I suppose a structural engineer might be useful before we dive into what could be a big, expensive mess. Is this something that usually needs to be addressed? At what point, if any, does it become dangerous? Sellers have been there for 40 years and are beyond noticing it. They are wondering what’s the big deal. And is it a big deal? Or should be just enjoy the roller coaster like campbellgroup… ;D

Those are definitely the questions you want to ask a structural engineer–before you make an offer. An experienced professional engineer may be able to give you a ballpark on the costs of repair.

He might tell you it’s fine as long as you don’t invite 300 NFL linemen to come dance on the second floor. ;D The nice thing about wood construction is that it almost never fails catastrophically - it usually has to look really, really bad before it’s an actual danger.

It is common for older homes to be unlevel. I bet you any amount of money that if you go into any home that is over 50 yrs old it will have some amount of slope. Heck, you could go into some new construction homes and find unlevel floors. As long as its not a major structural issue and just a minor cosmetic issue then I would not mess with it. Like you said, the sellers have not noticed it for 40 yrs and the buyers probably won’t either. Repairing it could cost you a large chunk of change that will not add value because people take good structure for granted. It is worth checking into, but unless its a major structure problem, I would leave it as is. Thats just my opinion, and I could be wrong, but looking at it from an investment point of view, I would leave it along. Exspecially if you have to lay on the floor and close one eye to tell that it is leaning, ;D LOL. If you can tell by just walking along the floor it is a different story. Just my 2 cents.


A few weeks ago, I was driving through a neighborhood of mid 1970s ranch style homes
looking for potential rehab projects.
One house stood out from all the others because it had collapsed in the middle.
It looked like Paul Bunyan had stepped on it, except the roof wasn’t crushed.
I’d never seen anything like this before.

Two thoughts came to mind for me;
either someone had removed a load-carrying wall while trying to open up the kitchen,
or termites had removed a few load carrying floor joists. :wink:

I suppose a sink-hole could have formed under the house, but that’s not very common here.
What ever the cause, it’s interesting to note that not just old houses can have sloping floors.

Such great feedback! The sloping is not minor. You can tell just standing in it and you can tell by looking at the basement stairs…they tilt. This has also causes fairly noticeable cracks in the walls, ceilings and above the doors. This is around the staircase area that leads from the 1st to 2nd floor. There is no bearing wall under the staircase this that goes from the first floor down to the basement…just a couple 2 x 4s. Could this be the problem? There’s a center bearing wall, of course, in the center of the house.

Anyway, we don’t want to fix it either. But if we buy it and then sell it later after it’s fixed up and everyone’s saying “it’s sloping”…I’m thinking we pay less for this…the question is how much less. Would any of you experienced rehabbers make this an issue for pricing?

We’ll have a structural engineer come in if we decide to go ahead with the deal.

Is it an issue for pricing? Absolutely. If it’s a problem for you, it will be a problem for the next buyer, especially when your trying to sell it for retail value-- i.e., the same price per sq. ft. as other property in the area. You need someone to give you an estimate/bid on what it would take to repair it, and use that as leverage in negotiating the price. It’s more than just a negotiating tool, you need to know what you’re up against before you start trying to make a deal.

Here’s how I would approach it:

They’ve got to understand that they will never get “market value” for a house with such an obvious problem. Right now, their only market is for people like you, who are willing to put in a lot of work to get the property up to “average” condition. They have to discount the sales price to get people like you to buy it. They need to understand that the only people who will want to buy the property in its present condition are people like you.

This can be a touchy conversation. You need to empathetic, kind, but frank. Explain to them what their house is really worth. It’s got problems; it will take a lot of money to bring the house up to “average condition.” The problem is bad enough that any bank appraiser will start raising red flags. Home inspectors will be flagging it as well. It will be very difficult to get a bank to finance the sale of this property. Structural problems are a deal killer. They won’t be able to get a deal to closing, even if they find that dream buyer who falls in love with the property. The bank and the inspectors will get in the way.

It’s also a good time to talk about owner financing-- you pay them some cash now to move out, and 9 months from now, they get paid more than they could hope to get by selling the house in it’s current condition. Or, they take less cash now, but walk away from the house with no strings attached. You should be ready to make them two hard offers. You don’t need the contracts in hand, but you will need to know the numbers. They’ve got a problem house, you’re a neighbor with a solution.

Anyway, that’s my $.02. My experience is with teardowns and gut rehabs; I work in areas where land value is high, so expectations from retail buyers are high as well–they want a nearly perfect house, because they’re paying a lot of money to live in an upscale neighborhood. So my point of view may not fit your situation.

Jump up and down on the floors, (Depending on your size) or stand on one foot and shift your weight up and down. If the floors feel spongy, or like a mini trampoline, then you might have structural issues. I’ve been in some pretty solid houses that had sloped floors.