The electrician finally came to finish hooking up the basement electrical. We now have working lights in the basement people!! I can’t even begin to explain how awesome that is. Then the inspector came to approve everything so we could close the floors back up. The inspector was surprised when he found we had removed all of the floor layers instead of demoing the drywalled ceiling in the basement. Papa Flannel thought the same thing and we had to fight him on the idea of pulling up the floor. I guess we’re just strange. But upgrading to a better constructed all plywood floor that won’t squeak and is more stable sounded a lot nicer than re-drywalling 650sf of ceiling and keeping the old plywood/particle board floor in it’s less than stellar condition. Plus doing so gave us the change to try to even out the waves in the floor.
Lesson for the day: Just because something is typically done a certain way doesn’t necessarily make it the best way.
Originally the floors were ½” plywood with ½” of particle board on top. We were able to salvage and reuse a lot of the ½” plywood. There were a few areas were we didn’t cut away all of the plywood. Along the exterior walls we cut to the first floor joist unless we had to access the space and under the master closet we didn’t need to reach any utilities. In those areas we added some screws to help eliminate the squeaky floors. This meant our base layer had to stay ½” plywood then we topped it with ¾” tongue and groove exterior grade B finish plywood. Ideally the bottom layer would be ¾” to help span the joists but ½” + ¾” tongue and groove was sufficient over the floor joist spacing we have for the type of flooring we’ll be installing. If you aren’t sure check out the handy Deflect-o-lator here.
With everything set to go we could finally start using all of the plywood we had bought. After carrying it all in Flannel Man & I were balancing our way across the floor joists to measure what size we needed to cut them down to. We’ve been walking on exposed floor joists for over a month. The only way to turn on our basement lights or get to the master bathroom area was to walk across them. You think we’d be primed to be tight rope experts by now right? But earlier in the day FM stubbed his toe badly on the plastic boxspring corner (the big four post bed frame couldn’t fit in our makeshift master bedroom so the boxspring and mattress are on the floor). Cut to back to Flannel Man needing to walk +30 feet across opened floor joists and …CRASH!
Yup. Balancing on a floor joist with a still slighting numb stubbed toe is not a good idea. Flannel Man’s whole leg went through the ceiling below but he caught himself on the floor joist with his other thigh. He had a massive 6” long bruise on his inner thigh the next day. I’m sure the male readers are wondering…it was a close call but luckily nothing got smashed. ; )
How to fix uneven floors
I’ve heard of people using self leveling cement or asphalt shingles to level an existing subfloor but since we pulled up ours we only needed to level our floor joists themselves which made things much easier.
Before we put down any plywood down we double checked how level the floor joists were. We knew originally there were some dips in the floor that we were hoping to correct them as much as we could especially in the bathrooms. So we went to our trusty home improvement store and bought a sheet of plywood in every small thickness we could find. Then we cut them down to 1 ½” wide strips using the table saw at FM’s work (it’s so handy to be able to use big tools we don’t have at his work). We learned cutting flimsy 1/8” thick plywood is much easier when it’s stacked on top of another thicker piece of plywood.
One of the ways to forcing yourself into getting tasks done is to inconveniently place large objects in your way so that you eventually get sick of walking around them and do something about it. Here is the main artery of our house.
Bedrooms and what we someday hope to call a bathroom to the right. Kitchen, laundry, dining room (aka. box central), and living room to the right. Only working bathroom down the stairs. Yeah this trip hazard didn’t last there long.
With the strips cut we tried to decode the puzzle of what needed to go where. It was a lot of trial and error. Some places needed only one shim for a few feet others needed two or three shims that stopped at different lengths to taper down the ends. Where we had kept the base layer of plywood and it needed lifting we pulled the nails out so we could slide shims underneath.
Each layer was glued down with Loctite’s PL-400 adhesive.
We used all of the 1/8″ strips up and had to go buy and cut more before we could finish. There were a lot of the thicker strips left. Where we had less than gradual tapers in the strips we hit the corners with an orbital sander for a smooth transition between the floor joist and the fill in strips.
The corner the master bathroom is in was the worst. We think that corner of the house has settled slightly (due to some poor grading and having no gutters on the house for 35 years). We needed as much as 3/8″ thick strips in places!
Then we put down more adhesive along all of the floor joists for the plywood and nailed it down using long rim shank nails. For the best results you’re supposed to stand on either side of the spot you’re nailing to ensure everything is tight to the structure and help reduce squeaks in the floor.
In the bathrooms we wanted an even stronger floor so we used only new plywood and used screws instead of nails. They were placed every 6” around the edges and every 8” in the center. In the bathrooms we’re considering the future tile floor a permanent floor so burring screws under layers of glue and plywood was fine by us. Sophie wasn’t willing to let me get any good pictures but I thought it would be fun showing you a quick timeline. Papa Flannel calls her a cat because she always wants to know what you’re doing but we just call her curious. As usual I’ll give her a voice.
“Hey what’s up?!”
“What you don’t want to pay attention to me? OK I’ll walk over here.”
Sniff sniff sniff.
“Still working on that hey?”
“I’ll just mosey on over here for a little bit.”
“Third times the charm! Pet my big head please!”
The finished first layer of plywood in the master bathroom. The room is looking more finished everyday!