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Unlevel floor - is there much I can do?

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  1. #1
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    Default Unlevel floor - is there much I can do?

    We bought a property in Sydney and moved in about a month ago. The core of the house is built on brick piers.

    We had 9.5mm laminate floors (Quicksteps) installed by a builder before we moved in. The laminate was installed on top of existing timber floors and minimal leveling was done prior to installation and so the floor is uneven and bouncy. The original timber wasn't level to begin with, and there were sections (probably above the brick piers) that were more elevated than others, but the laminate makes it worse as parts of the floor are bouncy.

    The house is situated on sloping land, and the floor seems to slightly slope with the direction of the land. Should the unevenness be rectified to prevent further damage? There are cracks on the external rendered walls that seems to indicate that the lower section of the house might be moving a little. I am typically the type that wants fix a small problem to prevent it from becoming a bigger issue that costs more, but I'm not sure this is the right approach with unlevel floors.

    The other question is whether there are things I might be able to do to level the (laminate) floor, or whether that would be best done with the laminate and timber removed to expose the joists.

  2. #2
    Seasoned DIY droog's Avatar
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    The best approach is to have a good solid base on which to start any renovations.
    I have seen so many cases of people renovating and redecorating before fixing the base structure of the house. When the repair work is finally performed most of the renovations need to be repaired as fixing what is underneath always impacts what is built on top.

    If the floors are uneven start with restumping or levelling of the sub floor.

  3. #3
    Community Moderator phild01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by droog View Post

    If the floors are uneven start with restumping
    Typically Sydney construction differs to what you have there and houses here use brick piers, not stumps. The soil conditions must be different where you are as many threads on this forum point to poor soil types around Melbourne. Our soils are clay or sand and I imagine what the OP has is clay. With the brick piers the foundation pads don't go to any great depth and the settlement is usually tolerated and stabilises.

    The OP has said the core area, is the structure brick veneer that has been rendered. Strip footings will also move with the clay. A closer analysis of the movement should be made to assess the cause of the rendering cracks and if the piers are being undermined. Otherwise gentle systematic packing of the piers might be all that is needed.

  4. #4
    Seasoned DIY droog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by phild01 View Post
    Typically Sydney construction differs to what you have there and houses here use brick piers, not stumps. The soil conditions must be different where you are as many threads on this forum point to poor soil types around Melbourne. Our soils are clay or sand and I imagine what the OP has is clay. With the brick piers the foundation pads don't go to any great depth and the settlement is usually tolerated and stabilises.

    The OP has said the core area, is the structure brick veneer that has been rendered. Strip footings will also move with the clay. A closer analysis of the movement should be made to assess the cause of the rendering cracks and if the piers are being undermined. Otherwise gentle systematic packing of the piers might be all that is needed.

    I grew up in a house with brick piers in Victoria, construction is not that different. While there are areas of poor soil there are also many areas that do not suffer from this, we have both sand belt areas as well as clay.
    You will also notice that I specified “restumping or levelling” this was directly in relationship to the construction stated in the OP. Brick piers can also be affected by moisture and depending on brick quality result in brick spalling requiring replacement of the piers.
    Both restumping and levelling is normally performed by the same professionals, that is why I suggested starting there.

    Maybe I should also mention underpinning for the strip footing ?

  5. #5
    Community Moderator phild01's Avatar
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    Hi Droog, I guess my perception of Melbourne soil types came about from what I continually read here about timber stumps needing replacement which I never really hear about in Sydney. Here I only am aware of limited settlement usually due to clay conditions or houses built on fill, Sylvania Waters was once a bad example.
    Maybe the OP can provide more detail or better still, uploaded pics.

  6. #6
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    Thanks for the responses. Below are some pictures of the brick piers under the house. You can see there is a walkway that's been dug out by the previous owners. I'm not sure why but I've heard that it might be to direct water under the house. However, that walkway that was dug out seems to be close to footing of the brick piers and it looks like the soil is starting to give way. Does this look like it should be rectified soon?

    I'd imagine not, but are you able to determine what kind of soil it is by looking at the photos? I'm seeing the soil start to "crack", and it's starting to fall away and come off. It looks like it's not going to take too much before it gives way. Should this be restumped/re-piered sooner than later?

    (I've linked some images from my S3 bucket cause I found the upload mechanism a bit clunky for the forum. If I'm violating any rules let me know and I'll take the links down).

    https://531-images.s3.ap-southeast-2...001_090457.jpg
    https://531-images.s3.ap-southeast-2...001_090630.jpg
    https://531-images.s3.ap-southeast-2...001_090633.jpg
    https://531-images.s3.ap-southeast-2...001_090641.jpg
    https://531-images.s3.ap-southeast-2...001_090645.jpg
    https://531-images.s3.ap-southeast-2...001_090702.jpg
    https://531-images.s3.ap-southeast-2...001_090711.jpg
    https://531-images.s3.ap-southeast-2...001_090720.jpg

  7. #7
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    20211001_090435.jpg20211001_090452.jpg
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 20211001_090421.jpg   20211001_090427.jpg  

  8. #8
    4K Club Member Marc's Avatar
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    Hard to say from photos, but from what I can see, all that digging around the footings of the piers is not a good idea. Not sure what they wanted to achieve. It seems they tried to build storage of some description and needed more headroom to walk to it. The piers appear healthy from a superficial and remote observation, but they are of the skinny variety, one brick instead of one and a half.
    Best thing to do, is to engage a professional to make a general assessment no one here can do over a few photos as much as we would like to.
    I think that the trenches will need to be filled back, perhaps with blue metal or crushed sandstone and compacted, but that is just my idea. Need to consult a specialist.
    The idea that this are ditches to allow water to flow away seems far fetched. If true you are in a world of pain, but like I said, seems ballooney.

    Having said that in relation to the stability of the piers, without photos of the bearers and joists, and the way they engage the piers, it is not possible to understand what happened. I don't like what they did to the ground under the house, but joists sagging can have other origins, not the least, simply being undersized, poor quality construction methods, materials, or even termite damage.

    There was a member of this forum who dug out a large workshop under his house that had brick piers, and he dug over a meter down in parts, without affecting the building. He even removed some of the piers and replaced the bearers with I beams. Not suggesting you do that, just that, may be, the threnches are OK and can stay.

    Take some pictures of the bearers and joist where they meet the pier and look for evidence of movement.
    Science is never settled,
    it advances one funeral at the time.
    Max Planck

  9. #9
    Community Moderator phild01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by n00b View Post
    If I'm violating any rules let me know and I'll take the links down).
    Noob, please use the site's image uploader. Possibly you need to resize the images to a smaller file size. This can be managed in mspaint.

  10. #10
    4K Club Member Marc's Avatar
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    Hi Phil, see if you can join this two threads.
    Science is never settled,
    it advances one funeral at the time.
    Max Planck

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