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Sloping/uneven floors in upstairs of potential house (Victorian terrace) - problem? HELP!

(24 Posts)
Kalypso Mon 25-Mar-13 19:07:31

We have just viewed a little Victorian terrace. We are really struggling to find the right property for us - feeling a little disheartened as several properties we wanted have been snapped up by buy-to-let landlords or other buyers who can offer higher than we can.

The house we just saw is very pretty - downstairs is pretty much perfect, apart from some minor cosmetic flaws. Garden really sweet and lovely.

Upstairs felt...odd. Basically, the floors were sloping. Every floor sloped from the right of the house down to the left (although in one room there was a hump back up at the edge of the room, which we think might have been the hearth of an old fireplace which has just been carpeted over). For instance, going up the stairs you could look into the bathroom and see that the line of the floor didn't match up with the line of the top of the stairs.

Dr Google says this can be normal and not necessarily a sign of a major structural fault. The reason I felt slightly nervous is that the downstairs has been knocked into one big room, so most of the internal (but still supporting?) wall that would have been there is now gone. Assume an RSJ is in, but why are the floors sloping? Might it not have been done properly? Of course, even if it isn't structurally a problem then we would still have to fix it at some point (no funds for that right now - we have a little set aside for minor things but floors are a major thing).

Possible artex ceilings in the hall and small bedroom. Odd rectangular patch on the ceiling in the small room that looked like it had been cut out, and 'stuck out' further than the rest of the ceiling. Not sure what that means.

The outside of the house looked fine, although there was clearly a crack nearly the roof at the top of what is now the upstairs bathroom that has since been filled with cement. The cement looks quite weathered so it doesn't look like the movement is very new.

Any thoughts? Would this scare you off? My gut feeling is telling me it's a 'wrong-un' - although I really want to like it because it's otherwise so pretty - but I'm starting to feel maybe we are being too picky/cautious?

GlaikitHasHerFizzBack Mon 25-Mar-13 19:10:30

You need a structural survey done. I could be old movement that has been remedied already and cause no further issues, but I wouldn't touch it with a barge pole without a surveyor looking at it.

Kalypso Mon 25-Mar-13 19:29:43

Thanks Glaikit - we would definitely have a full structural survey done (the most comprehensive one), but the question for us is whether to risk chucking away £500+ if the survey comes back saying that it's a problem, at which point we would pull out... I guess I am wondering what other people would do in this situation!

staverton Mon 25-Mar-13 19:32:39

We have this in our old Victorian terrace too, and it's historic. No moving at moment. It's very obvious but I dont mind it, as added character b

EverybodysSootyEyed Mon 25-Mar-13 19:42:27

We had this. There was a difference in height of 2 inches!

We ended up having the bits that hold he floor up (can't think of word!) shaved or built up and we now have a level floor.

It was just an age thing.

It sounds like you need to have a survey though. Maye the plans from when the work was done are still in the council website?

Kalypso Mon 25-Mar-13 20:46:25

Thanks - SootyEyed, can I ask how much it cost to have the joists (think that could be the word?) shaved/built up and a new level floor put it? Hope you don't mind me asking; it's just that would give me a better idea with regards to a potential offer based on survey. Thank you!

EverybodysSootyEyed Mon 25-Mar-13 20:53:04

We had it done as part of other work so I dont really know. The builder wasn't that fussed to add it on to the rest of the job

It is quite labour intensive (depends how big your floor is!) but ultimately can be done by any builder - you don't need a specialist. Skirting boards need to come out and door frames adjusted. Creates a lot of saw dust too!

We ended up carpeting too (had been wood) but it is bedrooms up there

Our basement has a real slope and any balls/cars end up in one corner! We are doing an extension so that will get fixed then.

EverybodysSootyEyed Mon 25-Mar-13 20:54:36

And it depends on your slope. Our whole floor needed doing but you may find that isn't the case. The key is to ensure it is the right height at the top of the stairs so that is your zero poit that everything gets shaved down/built up to

EverybodysSootyEyed Mon 25-Mar-13 20:57:08

Oh, and we also had water, waste and radiator pipes which needed to be considered

Is it a bedroom or living space? We had to do ours because the slope was sufficient to mean ds bed sloped down and he kept rolling out! It also made some of the furniture unstable.

Ponders Mon 25-Mar-13 20:58:08

whereabouts is the house? I remember seeing one like this on Homes Under the Hammer; it was in an area that had been bombed during the war so was 70-years historic & nothing to worry about, though iirc the buyers did get it straightened out a bit (probably just to stop things falling over wink)

lookingforhome Mon 25-Mar-13 21:14:04

It depends on how much sloping. When I was looking to buy a character property, pretty much every property that I viewed had some sort of historic movement, including sloping floor. Even the property i live at the moment is clearly unlevel in the stairs and bathroom. I was told that it is pretty much common in my area (London clay!). My major thing would be to work out whether there was any movement, or is it purely old settlement of the house.
Probably nothing to worry about, but do the survey to make sure.

Kalypso Mon 25-Mar-13 21:30:16

I would say it felt pretty noticeable. We have viewed over ten terraces recently and none (except for the living room of one) felt as obviously 'wonky' as this one. We've also lived in several Victorian terraces, including in London, and while they all had some degree of sloping in places, none were like this. It made me worry about furniture being unstable, as Sootyeyed has mentioned above.

The house is in the Reading area, but not in a part known for subsidence (there were some problems in central Reading though!). I haven't got any more info about the vendor and why they are selling (despite trying to extract info from the agent!) but it appears they are selling the house very shortly after buying it, having re-done the windows and the flooring downstairs.

Argh. Really don't know about this one. It probably needs re-wiring fairly soon as well.

Kalypso Mon 25-Mar-13 21:31:02

Thanks for all the replies, btw smile

Ponders Mon 25-Mar-13 21:57:50

Reading was bombed - once!

I'm guessing your house isn't in the right area though?

morethanpotatoprints Mon 25-Mar-13 22:03:28

Sounds like subsidence to me. The sloping floor is a giveaway and it will cost alot to put right. Also insurance companies and mortgage lenders won't touch it if it is surveyed as subsidence.

Kalypso Mon 25-Mar-13 22:32:34

No, not there Ponders, although there was one a few streets away from the house I'm looking at! Morethanpotatoprints, that is my fear. I also saw a fairly old-looking, but maybe not Victorian, metal rectangular 'plate' thing attached to the wall. I wondered whether it was a wall-tie, but it didn't look sturdy enough somehow. Then again, what else could a bit of metal like that be attached to the wall for? Combined with the sloping floors, the cemented up crack running through the mortar of the bricks (it went through about 4 layers of bricks, and looked wider at the top - I think), alarm bells are ringing.

The problem is, if we are wrong then we will have missed out on an otherwise lovely property.

Kalypso Mon 25-Mar-13 22:34:44

Oh, and there was a vertical, very fine, crack running right through the middle of the ground floor windowsill slab. Lots of other properties on the street seemed to have this though, so assumed it was more likely historic settling. Then again, I am definitely no expert!

Gardentreehouse Mon 25-Mar-13 23:06:58

Pay for a structural engineer first for an opinion. Then you don't waste thousands on mortgage fee and surveys etc. go with your gut, if it worries you walk away you don't want to live with that worry for years to come.

The doors shut and don't stick
Bulging external walls
Diagonal cracks especially around windows
Steps haven't moved
Carpet hasn't pulled away from walls

Gardentreehouse Mon 25-Mar-13 23:10:41

If it makes you feel better i pulled out of a property for the same reasons. I was a bit disappointed, but had an overwhelming sense of having had a very lucky escape.

If you can get a bit more info that will hopefully allow you to make a more informed decision. I hope you find your dream home soon

Jaynebxl Tue 26-Mar-13 07:22:21

We live on a Victorian house and the whole building leans forward. We've always been aware of it cos whenever you drop a ball or a marble it rolls to the front of the house. Perfectly square furniture in the alcoves look crooked because of this. However we are selling the house now and the buyers have just had a couple of different surveys done which commented on this but didn't consider it an issue. There are cracks all over the house but again they were commented on without being an issue. In fact in both cases the surveyor made a comment to say these things are normal in a house of this age.

Hopefully it will be the same for you with this house.

AllBellyandBoobs Tue 26-Mar-13 08:51:10

Just to clarify, you might have trouble with insurance etc for recent subsidence but if it is historic then you'll likely be fine. For a start, the current vendor's insurance company are obliged to continue insurance on that property.

BuggedByJake Tue 26-Mar-13 09:09:25

morethan- mortgage lenders & insurance companies won't touch it if is surveyed as subsidence.
Where did you get this info from? This is a myth, they only avoid if the movement is on going. Our survey confirmed there had been movement in the past.we knew when we viewed the house because of the sloping floors & cracks in pointing outside.
We had no problem with insurance or mortgage.there would be alot of unsold houses around here if mortages on houses with movement were a problem.

morethanpotatoprints Tue 26-Mar-13 11:37:21

Hi Bugged.

This has been my experience with several mortgage lenders over the past and very recently when getting quotes for insurance. In fact it was exactly as you said above including movement in the past. I even argued with them as we live in an area famous for subsidence as most houses are built over coal mines.
I said hardly anyone would be able to get insurance then as all houses here had experienced some movement. They were adamant they would not be interested. In the end I rang one and lied and said there had been no movement, honestly.

imonkey Wed 27-Mar-13 12:26:04

Kalypso, I'm currently in the process of buying a house that upon viewing didn't seem like there was an issue. The mortgage valuation however noted that a full structural survey was needed as they suspected possible recent movement. The survey has come back and shows that the movement is historical.

I'd arrange another viewing and take a builder with you, that way you will have more of an idea about what you're getting in to.

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