Kitchen Floor Not Level – What To Do?

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You may feel a sinking feeling the first time your foot hits a soft spot on the floor of a kitchen and it seems to give, or you notice furniture is not quite as level as it used to be. This could cause tripping over the floor or, in extreme cases, balancing acts if it is significant enough to cause sliding when things are put on tables and countertops. We’ve done the research to help you decide the best solution for a disconcerting problem when your kitchen floor is not level.

When the kitchen floor, one of the highest traffic areas of a house, becomes uneven, nothing good happens. In order to level things out, consider the following parts of your flooring dilemma:

  1. The cause
  2. Joists
  3. Sub-flooring
  4. Underlayment
  5. New flooring

Uneven floors develop over time, most often from foundation problems or water damage. There may be a pervasive musty or damp smell in the problem area. No matter the symptoms, or the cause, something has to be done about an uneven floor. Continue reading for some solutions from the bottom up that will help you find the cause and provide a solution.

A wooden kitchen flooring with white chairs and a wooden table, Kitchen Floor Not Level - What To Do?

Determine the Cause

There are a few root causes of an uneven floor. More than likely, something has settled in the ground or foundation of the property, or water has intruded and some part of the joists or sub-flooring has bowed or become deformed in some way. Before tackling the uneven floor, ensure that whatever the initial problem causing the slant gets taken care of satisfactorily.

Why must a kitchen floor be level?

Kitchen floors, like any floor in the house, should be maintained primarily in order to prevent slips and falls. The kitchen floor is prone to water, which increases the chance of accidents when the floor is not level.

Also, when using ladders, or decorating with larger furniture, placing an object on a slant sets up projects for failure rather than sturdiness and success. Floors should be level to provide safety for the occupants.

How do you fix an uneven kitchen floor?

In order to fix an uneven kitchen floor, there are factors in each level of the floor that need to be considered. It is crucial that if the underlying issue stems from the foundation, then any foundation work needs to be completed before fixing the floor itself.

Also, if the repair links to water or moisture from something that needs fixing, take care of that problem first to save yourself the same repair multiple times over. Otherwise, consider what has warped in order to decide where to begin the fix.

Joists

If the joists underneath the kitchen floor has warped in some way, this is the place to start. This is tricky because it may be difficult to access and replacement can be impossible. However, floor joists that have weakened for any number of reasons can be strengthened by pairing the weak beam with a stronger piece of wood.

The other way to fix this issue is to use block inserts, the same idea as a shim, to take up the space that has developed overtime and can be creating the uneven space.

Click here to see shims on Amazon.

Sub-flooring

Sub-flooring, or the very bottom layer of what makes up a floor, may be comprised of a variety of materials. A home built on a concrete slab will have concrete sub-flooring. For concrete subfloors with small patch problems or small cracks, patching or self-leveling concrete compounds can be the most effective. Grinding, bead-blasting, or abrading are other techniques to smooth out and fix problems in the subfloor. However, these all require more technical tools.

Click here to see Flex Floor Patch & Leveler on Amazon.

Other types of sub-flooring include plywood or OSB (oriented strand board). When this type of sub-flooring needs replacement, cut out the warped or softened board, and plug in a new piece. This may provide a quicker and simpler repair.

Always consider the joists underneath the sub-floor if moisture and water is involved. Also, it’s important to take out any board that may be exposed to mold or mildew.

Underlayment

Between the “floor” and sub-flooring is a layer called underlayment. In the multiple layers that make up your floor, underlayment can also be made of plywood. Other materials may be cement board or hard board. When flooring consists of carpeting, the underlayment may be foam padding. Tile and hardwood floors often require an underlayment with more structure, like plywood, cement board, or hard board.

If a joist or subfloor has weakened or warped, chances are good the underlayment will require attention as well. Hopefully, there is just one spot that can be focused on, rather than replacing the entire flooring underlayment. As with the sub-floor, cut out the weakened or water soaked area and replace it with fresh new board, plywood, or foam padding. This will smooth out whatever slant had developed.

Click here to see FloorMuffler Ultra Seal Underlayment on Amazon.

Another alternative for this layer of flooring is self-leveling underlayment. This compound comes in handy when the problem is one that cannot be easily fixed. It will fill the gap within the underlayment and create a level field for the top layer of flooring to rest on.

Click here to see self-leveling underlayment on Amazon.

New Hardwood/Linoleum/Tile

At this point, you have determined and fixed the root cause of the problem, ensured the joists are strong, and replaced any needed sub-flooring or underlayment, providing a smooth foundation for your flooring to rest on. Do not consider a new “floor” to put on top until these important structures underneath have been given the proper attention.

If the kitchen floor is prone to water damage, it may be important to consider the type of flooring, new hardwood, linoleum, or tile, used as a replacement. Click here to read more about kitchen floors and the potential need for waterproofing. 

What happens if you put laminate on uneven floor?

Choosing laminate for an uneven floor will not hide any problems and only increase safety risks. It may be easier to prepare underlayment or sub-flooring with self-leveling materials or grinding in small places in order to use laminate as the top flooring material.

However, there is no quick fix that can help a slanted floor from the top level down. Always begin with finding the root cause of the problem so that the process does not need to be repeated.

How much does it cost to level a kitchen floor?

Leveling a kitchen floor has many factors. If the warp or reason for the floor problem comes from the floor joists, there may be as many as three or four levels of flooring in need of attention. If it is a small section of flooring compared to the entire floor, it can make a dramatic difference in the price. The type of material used in each level will also need to be considered.

With all of these factors, whether it be concrete or wooden joists, the price can range from $2 – $30. If using a self-leveler for a small project, many of these costs will be on cheaper end. When replacing wood floors in a kitchen, it may be tempting or necessary to replace them with different types. If you’re considering paint for your kitchen floor, click here.

Final Thoughts

Kitchen floors are some of the most high traffic areas within a home. In order to keep such an important living space in good condition, maintenance and repairs are crucial when something changes, such as an uneven floor. There are many options for fixing and replacing the multiple layers involved, but it is very important to check each layer to prevent having to do the same job again.

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