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My Floor Feels Uneven When Walking – What Should I Do?

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Floor feels uneven
Floor feels uneven

An uneven floor can mean anything from a weakening floor joist to your foundation sinking unevenly. But before you jump to any conclusions, find out the common causes of uneven floors, the difference between a sagging and a sloping floor, other signs of foundation failure, repair methods, and how to prevent uneven floors.

Why Does My Floor Feel Uneven When Walking On It?

If you get dizzy or stumble when walking through certain parts of your home or walking with an uneven, bouncy gait, your floors are likely uneven. There are various reasons why a floor feels uneven when walking on it, but the most common causes are subfloor issues and differential settlement.

Subfloor Issues

If your house has a crawl space foundation, the subfloor system of beams, joists, and support posts supports your floor. If any part of the subfloor is damaged, you may notice your floor feeling spongy, sagging, or sloping. Subfloor damage can occur due to various reasons, such as:

  • Water Damage – Leaks, flooding, or high humidity levels can cause the subfloor to warp, swell, or rot, weakening its structural integrity.
  • Pests – Insects like termites, carpenter ants, or wood-boring beetles can damage the subfloor by tunneling through and weakening the wood.
  • Improper Installation – Improper installation or using subpar materials susceptible to moisture damage or deterioration can lead to subfloor damage.
  • Wear and Tear – Over time, the subfloor may naturally deteriorate due to age-related factors like exposure to environmental elements, foot traffic, and general wear and tear.

Differential Settlement

Over time, it is natural for a home’s foundation to settle or sink into the soil. However, if part of your foundation settles faster than the rest, that is called differential settlement and can cause sloping floors, amongst other structural problems. Differential settlement can be caused by:

  • Inadequate Soil Compaction – Improper soil compaction during construction can create voids or pockets beneath the foundation, causing uneven settlement over time.
  • Problematic Soil – Soil with a high clay content will expand and contract during heavy rainfall and drought. This cycle can cause your home’s foundation to move and shift over time. Other soils are prone to erosion, creating voids beneath the foundation and causing it to shift and settle unevenly.
  • Tree Roots – Tree roots can extract moisture from the soil beneath a foundation, causing differential settlement. Additionally, the growth of tree roots near a foundation can crack it and exert pressure on the soil, leading to variations in settlement.
  • Excavation and Construction – Nearby construction activities can disturb the soil beneath a foundation, leading to differential settlement. Also, ill-planned additions to a building can overload the foundation and cause it to settle unevenly.
  • Earthquakes – Earthquakes can cause differential settlement by shaking or shifting the soil beneath a foundation.

Causes of Differential Settlement

The Difference between a Sagging and Sloping Floor

While determining if your floors are sagging versus sloping may seem trivial, it will help you find the possible source of the problem. A sagging floor has dips and will feel spongy when walking on it. These dips can occur anywhere on the ground floor. A steady decline characterizes a sloping floor and usually follows a pattern throughout the house, with the floors in adjacent rooms leaning in the same direction. Sagging floors are generally due to subflooring issues, whereas sloping floors can be caused by localized subfloor issues or differential settlement.

How Do I Know If My Floors Are Sloping?

If your floor feels uneven when walking on it, find out if the root problem is your subfloor or a sinking foundation, how to fix it, and how to prevent further issues.

There are many ways to identify a sloping floor, but the simplest method is to take a small ball, like a marble or golf ball, and place it on the suspected area. If the marble rolls on its own, then your floor is sloping. Another telltale sign is a widening gap between the floor and the wall or baseboards. The wider the gap, the steeper the slope and the more severe the underlying problem is.

How Do I Know If My Uneven Floors Are Caused by Differential Settlement?

If your home’s foundation is settling unevenly, you will notice other problems around your home aside from sloping floors. If you notice any of the following issues, it is time to call a foundation repair expert:

  • Cracks – Cracks in walls, ceilings, or drywall seams may indicate foundation issues. These cracks commonly appear near the rooms’ doors, windows, and corners. You may also notice cracks on the exterior of your home. Stair-step cracks are among the most notorious signs of foundation damage, but diagonal and horizontal cracks may also signal damage.
  • Sticking Doors or Windows – Differential settlement can warp your home’s framing, making the doors and windows increasingly difficult to open and close.
  • Visible Foundation Damage – Cracks in the foundation walls, bulging or bowing, or water seepage require immediate attention.
  • Gaps Around Exterior Features – Gaps around your chimney, porch, deck, or stairway often indicate foundation damage. These features can separate from the main house when the foundation sinks unevenly.

Signs of Foundation Failure

How to Repair an Uneven Floor

The first step to repairing an uneven floor is to determine the source of the problem. Don’t make the costly mistake of replacing your floors or using self-leveling concrete because such fixes are only temporary and may worsen the existing situation. Schedule an appointment with a foundation repair specialist for a thorough inspection. An expert can determine if the problem is related to your subfloor or foundation, what caused the problem, and the best repair methods. Typical repair methods include:

  • Crawl Space Repair – Damaged floor beams, joists, and support posts must be repaired or replaced. In areas where the floor sags, adjustable support jacks can be installed to level your floor.
  • Foundation Underpinning – If your foundation is settling unevenly, push or helical piers can be installed to raise and stabilize it. Differential settlement will only worsen over time, so the sooner you correct the issue, the cheaper the repairs.
  • Basement Wall Repair – If your basement wall is bowed or cracked, it could contribute to your sloping floors. Repair solutions include wall anchors and carbon fiber straps.

How to Prevent Uneven Floors

The most significant factor contributing to foundation and subfloor damage is water. Hence, the best way to prevent uneven floors is to prevent water from building up in the ground around your home. Try these methods:

  • Efficient Gutter System – Keeping your gutters clean and installing downspout extensions will keep water from pooling near your foundation.
  • Properly Graded Yard – Your yard should slope away from your home so water will flow away from your foundation.
  • Drain Tile System with Sump Pump – A drainage system will collect excessive water from the soil and pump it away from your home.
  • Crawl Space EncapsulationWaterproofing your foundation will protect it and maximize its longevity.

We offer free foundation inspections and repair services throughout Nebraska and parts of Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri. With over 26 years of experience, we are more than qualified to find the root cause of your uneven floors and fix it.

WRITTEN BY

Dave Epp

Dave is the President at Epp Foundation Repair with over 27 years of experience in the industry. Dave has worked on thousands of foundation, basement, concrete, and crawl space repair projects since 1993. Dave is involved in several civic and church organizations and enjoys coaching youth sports, mainly football, golfing, and elk hunting.

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