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  1. #1
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    Default Sagging 2nd floor

    Just had an inspection on my townhome. It is a 2 story on a slab foundation. We have found the 2nd floor sagging which has also bowed the living room ceiling below. Inspector also found loose top and bottom chords along with a few missing plates in the attic.. Would the roof trusses cause the floor below to sag, or do you think I have two separate issues.

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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Default Re: Sagging 2nd floor

    Quote Originally Posted by sharonax3 View Post
    Would the roof trusses cause the floor below to sag
    While it is 'possible' that the roof trusses were designed to support the floor from above, it is very, very, unlikely.

    All important loads are supported from the foundation up, usually as direct a route as possible (which leaves open that a load can be cantilevered out, but very unlikely for residential roof trusses), so it is quite possible that there is an issue with the floor truss system.

    The floor trusses system could have a wall attached to it which was also attached to the roof truss bottom chords, and when the floor system sagged, it allowed the wall to be supported by the truss bottom chords, which the bottom chord was not designed to do ... it could also be that the loose truss plates are a completely separate and coincidental occurance, not related to the sagging floor issue.

    Sounds like you need a structural engineer to get the approved construction documents (plans, etc) from the building department and then cut one or more holes in the ceiling to see if what was approved is what was actually done, then make recommendations from what they find.

    A contractor or other construction expert could do the work of getting the approved construction documents and verifying that what was done is what was approved to be done (the engineer would likely bring in a contractor to do the cutting of the ceiling anyway), but the structural engineer would be able to design appropriate repairs ... which would be the ultimate goal - to correct the issue. And, yes, the structural engineer could be brought in at that time - to design appropriate repairs.

    Do you know any of your neighbors? Are there other townhouses with the same floor plan as yours? If so, you may be able to see if others with the same design townhouse have a similar issue.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Sagging 2nd floor

    thank you for the great info. not sure we would be able to get drawings of the original construction as the townhouse is approx 30 years old and that builder(town and country) is no longer in business. I also think the problem is two separate issues. I guess my next step will be to have the ceiling opened up and see if there are broken/sagging joists. It is very difficult to find someone who is knowledgeable and willing to do this type of work. I have called my HOA and they said they would be willing to look into it. This last contractor that I had for a quote wants to jack up the ceiling, but he feels that the tiles in my bathroom will start to crack.When the level is placed on the second floor, it looks to slope about 1" toward the center of the house. If it is the floor joists, is there a way to fix/repair/replace the joists without jacking up the ceiling?

    thanks so much for your response.


  4. #4
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    Default Re: Sagging 2nd floor

    Quote Originally Posted by sharonax3 View Post
    ... not sure we would be able to get drawings of the original construction as the townhouse is approx 30 years old and that builder(town and country) is no longer in business.
    The local building department may ... may ... still have those documents in their files, or maybe on micro fiche (remember those things).

    At 30 years old, unless you are the original owner (I suspect you are not), look at the ceilings for signs that a wall was removed - it is possible that a previous owner removed/had removed a wall which was supporting a bearing point for the floor trusses. Remove that bearing point and things will sag ... sometimes quickly, but usually slowly and over time ... and sometimes that 'slowly over time' reaches a point which becomes the 'quickly' part.

    One thing you didn't mention - how much has it sagged? Measure the ceiling height at side walls, at the front a rear walls, and at the lowest point in the sag - that will give you an idea of how much it sagged (there may have always been some 'sag' which was not "sag" as much as it was "construction tolerance/construction error" at the time of construction) ... but the measurement should give an idea of 'the difference in height' of the ceiling at the various locations.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  5. #5
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    illinois
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    Default Re: Sagging 2nd floor

    no walls taken down, as all the homes are the same. but I will measure as you suggested. I do know that when we put the level to the second floor landing, it was off at least an inch. funny I never noticed this when I lived there. I am in process of selling and the inspector noticed it. Now it is contingent upon my fixing it. I suppose once we cut holes in ceiling below, we will know if it is the floor joists/trusses that are the problem.

    thank you for the advice.


  6. #6
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    Default Re: Sagging 2nd floor

    Quote Originally Posted by sharonax3 View Post
    no walls taken down, as all the homes are the same. but I will measure as you suggested. I do know that when we put the level to the second floor landing, it was off at least an inch. funny I never noticed this when I lived there. I am in process of selling and the inspector noticed it. Now it is contingent upon my fixing it. I suppose once we cut holes in ceiling below, we will know if it is the floor joists/trusses that are the problem.
    Hi sharonax3

    Was this 1" over the length of the level? What was the length of the level? Many levels are 4', but most homeowners that I know own a 2' level. Either way, it sounds like a significant slope.

    Many folks do not notice uneven floors, even significantly sloped floors.

    One thing that can be done with minimal invasion is determine the joist size and the span as well as direction. Jerry mentioned floor trusses, but in my area, the floor is very rarely supported on trusses. Much more common to have used 2x joists. It is generally easier to determine if the joists are adequately sized. Trusses need a structural engineer.

    If one side of the stairway is open to the upper floor and lower ceiling (where you see the floor and ceiling edge-on), the floor joist size can be inferred (subtracting for floor and ceiling thickness). Otherwise, a relatively small hole can be drilled in the ceiling and a dowel (I have even used a straightened wire coat hanger) inserted to full depth and measured (subtracting for the ceiling thickness. Floor joist direction and spacing can often be determined with a stud sensor. This method won't tell you condition (split/cracked), but you can often get a sense of whether or not the span was acceptable. Since you indicate late 1980s, you should be well past the dates for concern about asbestos and lead.

    A list of additional questions, if you don't mind: How long have you owned the home? Any interior cracks, particularly at upstairs doorways/openings? I don't see any mention as to whether or not the first floor slab is level/uneven. If the slab settled significantly, the upper floors would likely follow (depending on joist direction and if supported on an interior wall). Is the second floor ceiling also sagging (I assume so, since you have separated roof trusses)? Does the upper floor flex noticeably when walked-on? Do the upstairs doors open/close properly with even gaps across the top and down the sides? If yes, have they been adjusted since you owned the home?

    Not that my less-invasive suggestions are substitute for an engineer, but it can give some preliminary information. As Jerry has already indicated, in the end, you will probably need a structural engineer for a complete evaluation.

    Department of Redundancy Department
    http://www.FullCircleInspect.com/

  7. #7
    Join Date
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    Default Re: Sagging 2nd floor

    Quote Originally Posted by Gunnar Alquist View Post
    Was this 1" over the length of the level? What was the length of the level? Many levels are 4', but most homeowners that I know own a 2' level. Either way, it sounds like a significant slope.
    Gunnar brings up a good point - the length of the level.

    I was thinking of a 2 foot level, if the level was 4 feet, then the slope is not that great (depending on how much this is "it looks to slope about 1" toward" ). Landings at the top and bottom of stairs, as well as the stair treads themselves, are permitted by code to slope 1/4" per foot, which is 1" over a 4 foot level.

    If the floor has always sloped that much, could be poor construction (even though 1/4" per foot is allowed, that makes for a really big 'error' over a 20 foot width of a townhouse - 1/4" per foot makes a 5" difference over 20 feet, and I doubt any contractor could "get away with" that much slope as no one would buy the place new if the floors sloped that much all the way), however, the loose/pulling apart truss plates in the attic are a possible indication that more has gone on.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

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