Custom Homebuilder Houston Heights | Leveling floors and ceilings

Written for Bicycle Bungalows

Bicycle Bungalows, Custom Homebuilder Houston Heights finds that a fairly common problem with old houses in the Heights area is discovering the houses to be out of level and the walls to be out of plumb. Being out of plumb refers to walls that are not vertical. The first step Custom Homebuilder Houston Heights takes before starting a project is leveling the house. If the house is not leveled prior to construction, the addition will not be level relative to the existing structure. Sometimes people don’t want to spend the money upfront to level their house. There can be as much as 3 to 6 inches difference from the front of the house to the back of the house or from side to side. Custom homebuilder Houston Heights recently had a project where we leveled the house at the end of the leveling process we found that the walls were approximately 1 1/2 inches out of plumb from top to bottom. There is no easy way to straighten this out. But what we ended up having to do was build outs the walls in three dimensions. Most people don’t notice this and don’t want to spend the extra money required to build out the walls so that there are plumb. Custom Homebuilder Houston Heights did not catch this until after the new sheet rock was installed and the trim was installed. Some noticed it early but did not expect the owners who want to spend the money to make the necessary repairs. This was a lesson learned for us to document everything along the way and point out these types of problems as soon as they are recognized and see what the owners what to do about them. The way that Bicycle Bungalows, Custom Homebuilder Houston Heights fixed this was to fit tapered 2 x 4‘s on the existing walls in three dimensions. The rooms were not square and the walls were not plumb. This becomes evident when the windows and doors are close to the walls and you can tell if they are not parallel.
The other issue is when the floorboards are not parallel to the walls. This is very difficult to disguise when the walls are not parallel to each other. Frequently with tiles this becomes apparent along baseboards and along ceilings where tiles that may only be one to three call are not parallel where they hit the ceilings or the sidewalls. These usually have to be floated out to make the tiles look Square to the sheet rock surfaces.

Another problem with un-plumb walls that is noticed by Custom Builder Houston Heights is where the addition and the original house meet. Historic staff is now requiring the addition to be offset from the side of the original house by approximately 6 -12 inches. Where the house jogs back from that 6 inch offset, if the original wall is not plumb and the new wall is plum it’s going to be very obvious that the two walls are not parallel. When this is the case, we will often make the new wall parallel to the original while even if it is not plumb. However from that point back, we will transition rapidly to being a plumb condition. We have to take into account the interior walls at that transition point. We may have to build up or float the walls on the inside to appear parallel when in fact they are not. This causes problems when cabinets are being fabricated and installed. When cabinets are being fabricated on site can be compensated for right away. If the cabinets are being built away in the shop or if factory cabinets are being installed, the installer really needs to take notes and care to allow for this transition point. When ceiling services are not parallel, this can create problems with the tops of door and window casings. People with a critical I can see when the services are not parallel. There are some tricks to use to adjust the bed molding on top of the casing if the casing as wide enough to allow a little bit of offset.

As mentioned earlier the problem with unplumb the walls and unlevel floors and ceilings around tile areas is that it is very obvious where tiles hit walls and ceilings. One of the problems is that framing materials are often not straight and true. It is difficult to find straight wall material with the fast growth pine and fir that it’s on the market these days. We have one tile setter that will go to Home Depot and sort through the whole rack of studs to find straight boards and he will nail them to the sides of the studs that are framed in the house to ensure that the walls are straight.

Another issue custom homebuilder Houston Heights frequently finds are roofs or ceilings that are sagging; especially in the dining rooms and Living rooms. We will often have to install beams in the attic that run below the dip in the roof or sag in the ceiling. These beans are general just build-up 2 x 12‘s. To pull up a ceiling that is sagging we will run a beam over the center of the rooms length-wise and then from below we will push up with a temporary wall until the ceiling is flat and level. From the attic side we will nail blocks to the sides of the ceiling joists and attach them into the beam that is above the ceiling joists. For the roof repair, we will attach a strongback along the middle of the rafter span where the dip is and press is up with jacks until it is where it needs to be. We will add purlins to hold the roof in the proper condition. This nothing is a cost effective solution without expensive gluelam beans or expensive hangers. There is no additional load on the ceiling in these areas that are not taking into account. The ends of these beams need to be read supported at the front wall and at the back of the dining room where another beam is installed perpendicular that goes from the center loadbearing wall to the side load bearing walls. The “t” connection at the beams is supported with a properly sized hanger. The only downside is that this takes up valuable attic space but it is worth it to have flat and level ceilings and roofs without a big dip.