The ever-so-slightly-split-level living room
January 22, 2012 3:36 AM   Subscribe

My living room is on two ever-so-slightly different levels; is this going to cause problems when it comes to laying a carpet?

My living room (35 sq. m / 370 sq. ft) was once two separate rooms. The previous owner had the adjoining wall knocked through to form a single room, but seemingly couldn't afford to replace the carpets. They simply joined the two old rectangles of carpet using a strip of vaguely-similar carpet where the wall had been. All of these carpets are in shockingly bad repair, so we're going to bite the bullet and replace them with one single carpet (or that's the plan, anyway).

The only issue is that, where the wall once was, there's a half-inch (12mm as I measured it) drop in height between the levels of the floors (which are concrete, sealed with some sort of bitumen product). It looks like they did their best to bring the levels together with a little sloping section of cement a few inches wide that runs the width of the room.

Is this differerence in height going to be noticeable when I've got a seamless carpet running over it? Or would I be better off with something like a wooden/laminate floor on the lower section, joined to carpet on the slightly higher section?
posted by le morte de bea arthur to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
Yes, it will be a problem. You need to install some gradual incline, where the 1/2in tapers off over a foot or more distance.
posted by Flood at 5:05 AM on January 22, 2012

If the room feels oversized to you and you'd like to divide it into separate areas then changing flooring can be a good way to do that, but I wouldn't let a fixable thing like this transition in the slab dictate what I did with the room. Like flood suggests, you can shape a better transition that allows you to use whatever flooring you want, wherever you want it.
posted by jon1270 at 5:11 AM on January 22, 2012

That's helpful. Thanks.

So presumably I need to remove some of the bitumen from the lower part of the floor in order to extend the slope?
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 5:33 AM on January 22, 2012

If stairs can be carpeted why would a 1/2 inch change in elevation be an insurmountable issue? I would suspect carpet installers deal with this sort of thing all the time, and have a way to deal with it.
posted by COD at 6:04 AM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I ran into this problem when I was replacing all of the carpeting in my house during a general renovation. I ended up biting the bullet and relaying the subfloor for the entire house on top of the old uneven subfloor. Where it was needed, I would lay 3/4" plywood sheets down. On the other parts, I would lay 3/8" plywood or whatever thickness was needed to level the floor. It was long and hard to make all of the pieces fit, but the floor turned out very flat and I've been happy with the work. It would be a hard bullet to bite, but I would recommend adding a new subfloor with varying thicknesses to make the whole room level. On the plus side, it will make the carpet installation or whatever flooring options you choose much easier.
posted by Nackt at 6:36 AM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

You might also think about installing a proper, level sub-floor at best; at least, after making the slope more gradual, making up the difference with the underpad if you're going wall-to-wall. Using a rubber underpad rather than foam, and thicker one in the lower area might help. You might also think about a new layer of self-levelling concrete. If you do have bitumen on the floor, some adhesives might not work with it when it comes time to attach your flooring and you'd need to seal it.

I'd be concerned that an invisible slope in the middle of a room that's not gradual enough can lead to falls (says the person with the uneven floor in her kitchen and the unsteady mother who tipped over on her last visit).

If you go for two kinds of flooring, you can find floor transition strips rather than a stripe of mismatched carpet. But a single floor-covering makes the room look visually larger.

As a homeowner who bought a house with years and years and layers and layers of half-assed repairs not unlike what you're dealing with from the former owners, I'll also say you'd be doing yourself a huge favour to find a way, even if it means saving a little longer, to fix it the best way possible all in one go and making it level - rather than fixing it good enough for now and carpeting over it. If you're renting, go ahead by all means - but if you own, it's not so much that when it comes time to sell it will make a difference - it's that your use of the room will be improved ever so much for years and years by not having that slight annoyance. And, in my experience, you'll never get back around to doing it again properly, because there'll always be another thing to fix.
posted by peagood at 6:39 AM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

What peagood said. Since good wall-to-wall carpeting is going to last many years, I'd suggest doing this right, which means building up the lower portion so it's level with the higher one — not a gradual incline, which you will always notice, but raising the whole area that half inch. And, do it as suggested with self-leveling concrete — not with a thicker pad, because you'll notice the difference in softness also. If there are doors out of the lower area to elsewhere, put wooden sills there to cover the transition.
posted by beagle at 6:53 AM on January 22, 2012

Hmm. A few things to think about here.

I'm not sure I really want to bring the floor in the other half of the room up half an inch, because that creates an issue with the doorway to the hall. So far the 1/2 inch rise in the living room hasn't tripped anyone; I think people are more likely to be caught out by an unexpected wooden sill.

I'd love to just move my family out for a week and have someone level the sub-floor over the whole ground level and replace all the dodge laminate - as it is we've got problems with damp rising though our kitchen floor and slowly destroying the floor covering there. But the budget isn't really there for doing that kind of work.

Given that the room is (sort of) in two parts, which get used for different things, and given that furniture would cover at least half of the 'ramp', I'm inclined to go with the first suggestion and just even out the change in elevation.

Thanks for all the suggestions.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 7:21 AM on January 22, 2012

The uniform building code requires a 1 foot ramp to a 1 inch rise, for wheel chair access. So that would be 6 inches, but Flood's 1 foot ramp sounds better.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:13 AM on January 22, 2012

The uniform building code doesn't apply to my house, but thanks.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 9:46 AM on January 22, 2012

I'm renowned for bodgy half measures, but I would just run a strip of carpet edging over the gap and call it done. If you have lived with it being three different carpets for years, it will still look like an improvement, and it will cost $10 and take 10mins.
posted by bystander at 4:22 AM on January 25, 2012

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