How to Level a Floor…

First, get a 106 year old farm house.

You will have LOTS of floors to work with, trust me. Haha… actually, we only have a few that are really really wonky, and the worse is my office. It’s so bad I had to move out, because the new wood laminate floor would not lay properly in there and I was rolling into the corner every time I tried to use it. Honest!

So first things, first… I carefully removed the laminate flooring in a couple big pieces. I didn’t want to have to recut more boards and all that. I was surprised that it came up pretty easily. I stashed it in the dining room next door.

Remove any funky stuff that might be there… like carpet or carpet padding.

Note to self… don’t use carpet pad to try and level an area. It was a good try but it just made a mess as the floating laminate floor would separate and was squishy and weird. Very dumb idea. Not sure why I thought it would work, but hey, it was my first time with a wonky unlevel floor. I have learned my lesson!!! Now, don’t do what I did, okay?

Now here is the fun part. You have to determine how off your floor is. I laid a 2 x 4 from the level part of the floor over to the unlevel part of the floor. I place a bright orange level on the top. And then I just slowly lifted it until it showed level and measured under the board. In my case, it was almost 2 inches off!

So, I started to lay down scraps of wood that were about 2 inches tall in the back corner. And then I found some that were 1 3/4 and 1 and 1/2 inches tall, and just laid them out in a nice slow transition up to the area that was more level. It was a bit of work, trying to find things that were all different heights. I ended up using a few of the cut offs from the laminate at the very end since they were about 1/2 inch thick and worked nicely.

I used the board again to see if the pieces touched the underside as I laid it out and if they didn’t, I would add a little more wood. It took awhile for sure, but I wanted it to be as smooth as I could get it, so that the subfloor above would be nice and level without any soft spots of no support.

Once you are happy, then screw them all in to the bottom floor. I used deck screws because I just happened to have a box of them.

It also helps to have your handy buddy Tim on speed dial for any consultations you might need. Just saying.

Next lay down either plywood or OSB to cover the WHOLE floor area. You don’t want to have any place not covered or you might have issues with the top laminate flooring. You want a WHOLE complete surface. My space is actually 6 foot 5 inches wide by 10 foot 10 inches long. I had the lumber yard cut my OSB board to 6’5″ and then I pieced together the remaining 2’10” space with the trim offs. I used 1/2 inch thick oriented strand board (OSB). I had wanted 3/4 but they didn’t have any, so I decided that 1/2 inch would work, because my laminate floor is another 1/4 or so. I figured that if I got it down and felt it was at all soft, I could always do another layer on top.

But it was fine, nice and sturdy. And because I don’t see this as a pass through or high traffic area, it should be nice and sturdy. I also used OSB because I think it’s a little stronger than regular plywood and it’s a recycled product, made from scrap wood, and that just sounded good. And it’s a bit cheaper for each piece! Win win win situations if you ask me.

Good idea at this point to pop a level down and take a look. I was super surprised to find my floor almost dead level. Considering all the homemade goofy boards and wood that went into it, I was more than willing to be just a teeny bit off center. I figured that I was in those two middle marks and that was WAY better than before and being 2″ off level!!! I suppose that you could even use like thick cardboard if you were REALLY close and wanted to just tip the level a bit. Or maybe some old political signs of cloroplast or something fairly rigid but not too thick. I was happy with my results, so I screwed it all nice and tight.

It was a breeze to lay the laminate floor back down and I only messed up one small plank in the process. They have these little grooves that the boards sort of snap together in. You really need to get the little tapping tool block, it was WELL worth the $7. I accidently missed the block on one blow and smashed the groove on one board… it was so difficult to get it smoothed back, I just used another board. I knew I have enough, so it was the only casualty of the project!

Now you might be wondering… what is that dark wood stripe in the right hand side of the flooring… well, that is a great tip that Bill gave me. He had a couple extra planks of a darker color. Not enough to do any floor project with. However, he said, if you have an area that is going to be covered up with a shelf or furniture, use these to save your good planks! Great idea. Since I’m going to be installing a set of low shelves in behind my work area, like a credenza space, I used the three off color planks to get started with! Awesome tip!

Until the very end, this was a one woman job! Yes, I did almost all of it by myself! It wasn’t that hard, just something to take slowly and carefully so that you didn’t make any major mistakes. Jessy helped me to get the last planks down, and that was wonderful. And Maggie helped me to hang my desk!

Helpers would have made this a project of a few hours. In the end, it took me about 6 or 7 hours total. Now, it was also like 95 degrees out and so I took a lot of breaks. All the bending over and piecing wood and screwing it down was tough on an old woman! Haha…

To finish off my office space, I had bought this beautiful piece of thin table top from the Sauder outlet store. Only $6! It looks like a beautiful granite and it’s very tough and durable. Best thing is that it was not super wide. Actually only 24 inches wide. My old drafting table desk was almost 4 feet wide and just too large for the skinny office space. This desk is longer and I thought it would be perfect.

I had gotten some legs from the hardware store, $5 each. They were 28 inches tall. Now, they were sturdy, but not super sturdy like you would want a work surface to be. So I decided to put up a ledger board and attach it to that as well, to make it nice and rigid.

We put the desk up again the wall and with a pen, traced the underneath where the counter top hit the wall. Then we moved the desk out and I had a piece of scrap 2 x 2 that we had predrilled a few holes in for the screws.

We screwed in the middle one and then laid a level on the board to make sure the ledger board was nice and level.

Added a thin layer of liquid nails to make sure it doesn’t go anywhere…. and then poof! You have a sturdy desk!

I have a little stain and I’ll be staining the legs to match the shelves that I want to add to the office space. Over all, a project that did take a little time, but it was well worth it. I could have just “lived” with the unlevel floor but it was so bad that pencils would roll off the desk and it just felt wrong. I even had to be careful when I sat down because my wheely chair would scoot away from me! It’s just worth taking the time to do something right. It can be hard to wait for the time and materials, but to be honest, it was not an expensive fix. The two OSB boards were $20 and laminate was a gift from friends. All the leveling wood we had in the workshop from odds and ends of projects.

How did I know how to do this?? Well, I used to be a Home and Garden TV channel junky and watched a ton of shows and just sort of learned along with them. And I asked my handy buddies what they might do. I was happy that I only had to call Tim once, and consult with him. I had considered that I should try and taper cut boards, like at angles to make the transitions smoother and he said that would be very hard to do properly and really wasn’t needed if I used a good strong OSB on the top of them. So, yes, that probably saved a TON of time and aggravation by asking questions. And I was sure to wait until I had a good free day to tackle the job. For me, nothing is worse than trying to do a complex project in a short amount of time. It just never works out easily. It was hard to have to wait a couple weeks to move in, but I’m glad I took the time to do it right… now I can move in and enjoy my new office space!!!

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About Mobymom

the banjo player for Deepwater Bluegrass, and the editor of as well as the main graphic designer of the Westvon Publishing empire. She is a renaissance woman of many talents and has two lovely daughters and a rehab mobile home homestead to raise.


How to Level a Floor… — 7 Comments

  1. Haha! I am never doing this again, though… hahaha…. I took LOTS of breaks, just sort of did it in baby steps. I had the day free and I really really wanted to be in my office, so I just said, okay, let’s getter done. The laminate looks SOOOO pretty… I’m working on the other side, to add a little storage/shelf area and can’t wait to move in all my stuff. Without your stuff, you just feel a little well, like you’re visiting or something! Good luck on your garage sale!!!!


  2. Great tutorial!

    I’m glad to see you doing this floor. I don’t know if I have that kind of ambition. But I’d sure like to try something like that in my bedroom. Since Honey has been home from the hospital we’ve slept in the guest bedroom on a ‘level bed. Our bedroom floor slants (at one time it was part of a back porch) so it makes our bed really uncomfortable. I never realized how much until now– 15 years after moving in our house! LOL… I guess I’m slow like that.
    $800 for the new mattress we bought years ago would have fixed that floor up nicely.

    You’ve inspired me!
    Love seeing all your projects, Pat

  3. It looks great. You did a good job. We’ve leveled three rooms in our house so far, it is work, but man does it pay off.

  4. Beautiful job! Love your office! I was gonna say based on the walls on one side, I suspect that started life as a porch, which is why the floor slopes, they wanted water to run off if it got wet. My parents old home has a laundry and utility type room at the back that was once a porch and the floors in there are the same way – makes leveling appliances fun! Maybe the next time the floor needs re-visiting, we’ll try this!