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Floor joists not level - please help any advice welcome

(11 Posts)
strangelymad Tue 16-Jun-15 18:55:12

Hi all,

We've just bought an old flat (built 1910 ish), and are having the floor leveled and a new floor (engineered wood over an underlay) fitted. The floor was very uneven when we moved in, and the builder initially said they'd have to raise the whole floor by 10cm to make it level. I was very against this because our ceilings are quite low and I didn't like the idea of a step up into the flat. They grudgingly agreed to shave bits off the joists so that they could level it without raising it.

Now they're saying that the floor is actually moving while they do it. The guy said he'd leveled the floor the other day (by shaving bits off), and now it's moved and is 3cm(!) out again. So now they want to go back to the floor raising idea.

I'm worried for two reasons, one being the builders are... a little bit inclined to take the easy route (we're using them for other things). But I don't know enough to call them out if they're exaggerating. Secondly, if they're not exaggerating, the floor moving 3cm in 3 days seems a HUGE amount of movement to me and I'm worried the flat is going to collapse...

I'm really worried about all this - we've poured all our money into this flat and renovation and I just really want it to be perfect. Silly I know but I really don't want to raise the floor (I'd have to change my kitchen plans because of the altered ceiling height!). Just hoping that somebody here will have some relevant experience.

Please help!

lalalonglegs Tue 16-Jun-15 18:59:48

It sounds unlikely that they have moved that much without a whole lot of other cracks etc appearing. Did you get a survey done? See what that said about the floors. It might be time to talk to a structural engineer if there really is movement.

EvaBee Tue 16-Jun-15 19:34:51

Not very technical but we had to have our floor leveled and the builders used some sort of levelling stuff that spreads out - and levels. Would that be any good?

strangelymad Tue 16-Jun-15 20:59:00

Lala - yes we got a survey but only the homebuyers, since it's a leasehold we thought the freeholder would deal with structural issues. That simply said that "Floors are not precisely true and level, and there is some vibration" and went on to note that was on par for an older property. Of course now I'm wishing we got a structural one done - Ah hindsight!

Eva - Hmm, that sounds interesting. I will suggest to the bothersome builders and see what they say...

caroldecker Tue 16-Jun-15 21:16:58

The levelling stuff works on concrete, not on joists. I would think that the joists are not secure in the wall, possible need tying in.

caroldecker Tue 16-Jun-15 21:17:33

Oh and freeholder will not do anything, you are fully responsible for the flat

lalalonglegs Tue 16-Jun-15 21:19:14

Really, there is no way that it could have moved by 3cm in a few days without some very obvious structural side effects. There would be cracks, windows wouldn't open properly, door frames would be crooked etc. If the surveyor said the floors were right for the age of the building, that suggests there is nothing to worry about as surveyors tend to be super-cautious and ask for lots of further investigation if there is any chance of being sued there being a problem further down the line. And yes, if there are structural issues, then it will be a freeholder matter.

The self-levelling compound that Eva suggests would work but would raise the height of the floor which you are keen to avoid.

lalalonglegs Tue 16-Jun-15 21:26:02

I disagree with carol. Read your lease but, technically, you probably shouldn't be playing with the joists as they belong to the freeholder - you "own" the interior of the flat (the surface of the walls, the interior woodwork etc), the freeholder owns the fabric of the building. Some self-levelling compounds can be used on wooden floors.

I thought the joists might be loose but then thought (naively) that any decent builder would check for that...

yomellamoHelly Tue 16-Jun-15 21:30:33

I would say the last thing you should be asking them to do is shave some of the depth off the joists. My thought is that they help hold the building up so by making them thinner you risk the stablility of everything.
Have you got insurance? Would call them about a potential claim. (When we were worried about subsidence they sent round an expert at their cost.)

caroldecker Wed 17-Jun-15 00:18:06

lalalonglegs The freeholder may be responsible for the fabric of the building, but in most leases they can recover the costs from the leaseholder, so essentially the OP's problem.

lalalonglegs Wed 17-Jun-15 11:17:44

That is true but the costs will be split between all the leaseholders so will be less than OP taking them on herself. It may also be an insurance problem if it is genuine movement (although I think that's unlikely).

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