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Buying A House With Uneven Floors? What To Consider

Victoria Araj5-minute read

June 03, 2021

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Picture this: You’re touring the house of your dreams and it checks off everything on your wish list – spacious kitchen, lots of natural light and it’s located in a great neighborhood. But then, you look down and realize the floor is uneven. What do you do next?

If your initial reaction is to write off the house, don’t walk away too quickly. Uneven or sloping floors are very common in older homes, and while it’s often a sign of structural damage, it doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker.

In this article, we’ll review how to work with real estate professionals to gauge the risk and potential costs of buying a house with uneven floors, as well as five factors to consider before signing on the dotted line.

What Causes Uneven Floors?

The term “uneven floors” is used to describe any floor surface that sags, bounces, buckles or slopes. As mentioned above, it’s common to find slanted floors in a house more than 15 years old due to the home’s foundation shifting over time.

However, the uneven floor may be an indicator of a larger, unseen problem with the house. If your potential new home has buckling floors, you should immediately consult a home inspector to investigate the root of the problem. Let’s review the three primary causes of uneven floor surfaces.

Too Much Moisture

Water damage or too much moisture is the most common cause of uneven floors. The water can seep in from a variety of sources, such as leaky pipes or intruding groundwater, and wreak havoc on your flooring. Extra moisture is especially damaging to wooden beams and sub-flooring, both of which support the structure of most homes.

Structural Or Foundation Issues

Structural or foundation damage is a major cause of uneven floors, and it’s usually the most expensive problem to fix. Structural damage refers to issues with bearing walls, floor framing, roof framing and beams, all of which can cause the home’s floors to warp under the weight of the problem. Meanwhile, a weakened foundation is a serious threat to the integrity of the home, causing breaks or cracks in the floor.

There are several red flags that indicate a structural issue within a home, such as bouncy floors, windows and doors that stick and, of course, floors that sag or slope in one direction. Once you’ve identified any structural or foundation issues, you should work with a building professional or a contractor to evaluate the extent of the damage.

Ground Movement

It’s a natural fact that the ground moves over time. The bad news is that it can move your foundation with it, causing the floor of your house to warp. That’s why it’s important for home builders to compact the soil beneath the foundation to prevent the house from shifting significantly as the years go by.

If you’re interested in buying a home that has sloped floors but no signs of structural or foundation damage, it may be helpful to consult a floor specialist or contractor who can provide preventative measures to restrain future sloping. Depending on the house, the professionals may recommend installing additional drainage or spouts to direct water away from the foundation.

Things To Consider Before Buying A House With Uneven Floors

Now that you understand what causes uneven floors, let’s take a look at crucial factors to consider before purchasing a home with slanted floors.

1. Always Hire An Expert Inspector

A home inspection is a vital step in the home buying process, because the professional inspector specifically looks for problems within the house and identifies necessary repairs. An experienced home inspector will not only point out the uneven floors but also evaluate whether there’s water damage, structural issues or a worn-out foundation underneath them.

The home inspector will also check uncommon areas of the house that may be causing the uneven floor, such as a leaky chimney or crawl space. If they find damage in any area of the home, they’ll provide an estimate of the repair costs. This estimate allows the potential buyer to make an adjusted offer on the home, especially if the offer was contingent on the home passing an inspection.

2. Don’t Get Stuck With The Repair Bill

It’s important to note that if you don’t notice the uneven floors until after buying the house, you’ll be responsible for all repair costs. That’s why the home inspection step is essential – the inspector will identify the problem and its estimated price tag while the sellers are still holding the bag. That way, the buyer can negotiate a lower offer or insist on the necessary repairs being made before signing off on the house.

3. Take The Type Of Foundation Into Account

If you or the home inspector identifies a problem with the home’s foundation, the obvious next step is to calculate how much it will cost to solve it. While foundation repair costs vary based on the level of damage, it also depends on the type of foundation.

The two most common types of foundation are slab and pier-and-beam. Older homes typically have pier-and-beam foundations, which are less expensive to fix since they provide easier access to the beams. Major foundation repairs can cost thousands of dollars, with the typical homeowner paying between $1,989 and $7,006.

4. Additional Structural Fixes Can Add Up

When you’re considering buying a home with uneven floors, it’s important to consider the hidden costs that accrue when repairing the damaged materials. For example, it may seem simple to replace a beam with water damage until you consider the cost of extracting the piece, replacing it with a new beam and clearing any surrounding areas with similar deterioration.

In some cases, the cost of restoring the uneven floors, plus the root problem that caused the sloping, may not be worth sticking around for. Potential homeowners should be advised to take all repair expenses into account before pursuing a home sale. 

5. Consult A Local Real Estate Agent

Never underestimate the knowledge and power of a seasoned real estate agent. If you’re interested in buying an older or historical home but you’re concerned about the long-term effects of uneven floors, talk with a local real estate agent about their experiences with homes in the area.

Real estate professionals who have helped to sell similar types of homes – especially within the same neighborhood – should be able to provide insight on how other homeowners have handled problems with uneven floors. They may even be able to recommend a trusted home inspector or contractor who’s familiar with the typical problems of older homes in your area.

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How Do I Assess The Risk Of Buying A House With Uneven Floors?

At the end of the day, only you can decide whether it’s worth the risk and expense of buying a house with uneven floors. However, it’s easiest to assess the possible liabilities after collecting the necessary information from the home sellers, home inspector and other real estate professionals.

Once you know the extent of the damage underneath the uneven floors plus the estimated cost of fixing it, you can make an educated decision about whether to take the leap. For example, if the home inspector only finds small cracks in the foundation that can be fixed by the current owners, it may seem worth it to move forward with the home sale. But if there’s significant damage that requires an overhaul of the structure of the home, it may not be worth your time or down payment.

The Bottom Line: Follow The Floor’s Slope To Find The Real Problem

If you’re considering purchasing a home with uneven floors, don’t wait to investigate the potential issues beneath the home’s surface. The slope or slant of the floor may be a minor cosmetic issue, or it could indicate water damage or major problems with the home’s structure or foundation.

By bringing in a qualified home inspector, you can limit the risk of post-sale repairs and obtain the information needed to make the right decision about your future home. Check out our library of resources to learn more about the essential steps in the home buying process.

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Victoria Araj

Victoria Araj is a Section Editor for Quicken Loans and held roles in mortgage banking, public relations and more in her 15+ years with the company. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism with an emphasis in political science from Michigan State University, and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Michigan.