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Old 06-04-2018, 12:33 AM   #1
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Join Date: Jun 2018
Posts: 26
Leveling floor, flipped flooded house, disaster hack job. (Hi! :D)

Well, hi. I've done lots of reading of this forum in my about 6 months of googling for tackling my bathroom project. My mother bought our house in 2011 or so, and the (single) bathroom gave us problems for a number of years. I guess I am "handy" but only recently started getting handy with houses. I'm actually a painter by trade now, though, which is a lot less exact field (though more exact than some believe...) than tilesetting, haha. I think starting in about 2013 we had a small leak coming from the shower. I replaced the drain seal, as it did have a minor leak, and seemingly I could fill the tub no problem, but as soon as I took a shower, leaks again. I pinpointed the problem to likely a section of wall surrounding the bathtub having loose tiles.

I could bore you guys a lot with my family drama and it'd be fun times and stories. For example, my father trusting an idiot who calls himself a GC that's in the same industrial complex as him because he's fun to drink with and does cool wheelies on his quad. Or my mother not believing me when I said "the bathroom will take about 3 weeks to remodel by myself and be hard as all hell." And instead believing said idiot that it'd be only a 5 days to week and easy and believing said idiot over her son. Anyway, said idiot also took 3 weeks with a two man crew at about 6-8 hours per day. I didn't know much at the time but at least tried to call him out on not using cement boards by the shower instead of green board, but he was a "professional" and I wasn't (though I had the same contractor license as him, but hey, what parent will listen to their kids, heh...)

So, lots of stuff went wrong in this bathroom. The main thing my mother wanted fixed was the leak, which never got fixed. Said idiot GC put green board with no tiles next to the tub where water splashes on it, and used latex caulk. He could have at least bought a sheet of plastic and caulked that, but nah. He claimed the leak was from a broken pipe connection near the shower valve, but honestly I think he broke it while demo-ing it with a sledge hammer, and fixed the leak he likely created with a Sharkbite. Anyway, so the tub surround is a vinyl one on top of green board. I tried futilely adding tiles to that section before admittedly knowing what I was doing at all by liquid nailing them on (dumb, but I wasn't paid $8000 for that...) in some attempt to stop water eating the green board up, but said GC put a wooden baseboard right next to the tub, and a wooden strip to cover the tub lip up . Anyway, after that I tried numerous times caulking the tub surround, and finally decided to try a glass of water test. Sure enough, I could pour just an 8oz glass of water on the floor and it'd go right to the kitchen instantly. Leaky floor. So from then there, I started researching tile floors, came across cement board, Redgard, etc.

Anyway, now that the mostly vent is over, lots of craziness is going on here. The short of my floor story is, firstly, the house was flipped, and I was told when the prior people got foreclosed, they left the water running with the tub clogged and flooded the place. It's not confirmed, but I've heard it from multiple people in my neighborhood there was water coming out of everywhere. So far from pulling a good amount of the ceiling drywall under the bathroom, most wood joists "look" OK with the exception of one near the tub where there's the leak. Secondly, the original floor before the Three Stooges came to "remodel" my bathroom was tile, and apparently had 1/2" Durock, which they didn't demo out for ???? reason, it didn't seem to be thinsetted to the plywood floor, either, so it'd be easy enough to pull, but ????. They apparently used mastic (I think?) on top of 1/4" plywood, on top of the old Durock and 5/8"? plywood floor under the Durock, and the mastic and 1/4" ply got extremely moldy. Worse, for mold, they did apparently rip out some of the old subfloor Durock combo, as it got water damaged in that corner by the tub, but just replaced that area with the most water coverage with pure plywood, which is now not even wood but more just a mold/mushroom colony.

Anyway, I only found out there was Durock still under all that stuff last night poking around (the tiles pull up with a 5 in 1...) From the little I could see poking away at the Durock, the ply under it looks pretty gray and old, and I'm thinking now at this point it'd just be most logical to start with fresh plywood for the whole floor, and possibly replace/add joisting as needed.

Here's my issue. The bathroom floor isn't level, and the hallway going into the bathroom also isn't level. The bathroom is about 3/4" tapering off for about 1-1.5 feet, for a 5 foot floor (not counting the tub...) and the hallway is about 7/8" off tapering over 2.5-3 feet but about 6 feet wide. Initially, before finding out the subfloor was a lot lower than I expected, and worse off, and thinking I only needed to patch the really bad area, my plan was just to use Henry Liquid Backer over the whole area, level it out, then be done and ready to set tiles as usual (Redgard/Aquadefense on the bathroom floor obviously...) I really want to make the hallway level, mainly because there's a washing machine and dryer next to the bathroom, and I've had issues with bifold doors not closing right or lining up, and I finally figured out it was due to the house being unlevel. Also, eventually all the engineered wood floor installed by the flipper in the hallway needs to be pulled and replaced with something else (due to general wear, but also shifting around and causing gaps my family trips in from a bad install, and maybe from not a level floor there as well...) either vinyl, bamboo, or tile, more than likely vinyl (I'd like tile, but logistically and price-wise vinyl is easier :/ ) but either way, I'd like the floor in that area to be flat. Obviously too, I'll check plywood condition under that spot as well, but I don't know if it's flood related, or the house just not being built level as the bathtub isn't level and is only attached at joists (these houses were built by the government as a step up from housing projects in the 1970s and were built very poorly...)

So what are my options for making a level floor out of this? Obviously I could do a pretty deep SLC pour, either Henry Liquidbacker or Custom Levelquik (Custom's requires a lath, and after reading a lot about "Jersey Mud Jobs" here, sorta iffy about that....) but the stuff is $40ish per bag, and I'm thinking I'd need 5 or 6 bags in this scenario, so a lot of money. I'm thinking I could do a layer of 3/4" plywood, and then another layer of 1/2" or 3/4" plywood, then the subfloor is super strong?, and then just SLC that 2x6 section and a light 1/4" coat over the plywood in the bathroom, probably cutting it to about 3 bags. Is there any restriction about using two sheets of plywood like that? Should I glue or not glue them together, or just screw the 3/4" down, then whatever on top with screws? The other option I was thinking was use the Henry patching stuff you trowel on manually (547) in the hallway, treat the bathroom as it's own unit, block it off when leveling and use that after to make it level with the bathroom? I feel the hallway this could be easier and potentially less money. Could I use something like 547 before laying backerboard down? As well, what about shimming? The other option too (I guess?) is a mud bed with floating mud/deck mud/Portland cement, but that's way out of my comfort zone/league, also the cure time isn't good for the about 10 days I have to finish it while my family is on vacation.

Obviously, too, for the bathroom, it is only 3/4" off for about a foot or foot and a half. I know thinsets like Versabond and Prolite claim they're medium bed mortars that you can build up 3/4". But as I understand it, this isn't exactly ideal to do? But could I just go normally and just throw Durock or Wonderboard on and build the thinset up thick under the tile? Manufacturers don't really like you to build up mortar like this, though, and failure is more likely to occur? Am I just as usual way overthinking this, and there's a big possibility that two new layers of thick plywood (if I do two layers?) will reduce my 3/4" out of level to maybe 1/4" or less where it's not a big deal and could still be resolved with just thinset on the tile application? I do hear of people doing this all the time, and 'leveling' floors this way, and one rather experienced guy I know who does mostly commercial tile more or less just told me SLC is a waste of time, and just mix the thinset thicker if the floor isn't level, put a bunch under the tile and you're fine. Though in painting, I know/have worked with a lot of other people who do stupid/inefficient/dangerous stuff as well because that's what other people do, so it doesn't make it right. But then again, he does seem to know his stuff, and was super adamant about thinsetting under backerboards for floors to me when I asked him some questions.

Anyway, sorry my venting and longwindedness here. It's been really harsh for my family, and this time doing it I want to make sure everything's done right and lasts a very long time. I wake up with burning eyes from the mold, and everyone's allergies are acting up badly and everyone is very fatigued in the house from all the mold and it's just been a nightmare. I've done only a backsplash prior to this, and it turned out fine, but this is actually structural work now, so I'm just very worried and want everything to turn out good. We've all felt our health go downhill because of the mold, and unfortunately the only way to resolve it is a full tear out and redo of everything. My mother unfortunately probably won't sue or report him. I could ask about the legal issues of this all, but for this post it's not quite relevant. Either way, just has to get done and I'm the one doing it. :/

Here's some great pictures, btw.
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Old 06-04-2018, 04:20 AM   #2
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Welcome to the forum.

I'll make my response short and simple: Start Demolishing the floor until you get to the joists so you can see what shape they're in. My fear is they are sagging or rotting, or both. To me, everything else is secondary, and you can't save anything above the joists.

I know you probably want to work on the shower as well, but I wouldn't at this point with the risk of someone falling through a rotten floor.

I'll also point out that this is no small project, and if you don't feel confident in your ability to tackle it, there's no shame in calling someone who can.

The top ten reasons to procrastinate:

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Old 06-04-2018, 10:05 AM   #3
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Hi, thanks for the response.

Unfortunately I think you may be right about the joists. I measured the hallway and only one section towards the end in the other direction is out of level, only about 1/8" at that. So that would mean likely at least the rest of the floor is in decent shape, but the flood damage could have just wrecked up all the joisting for the whole bathroom? Since the bathroom is 5 feet, and the hallway deflection is about 2.5ish feet, is it likely there's 8 foot long joists there? So just replace the 8 foot sections. Sister them, or? I'm not sure about spacing, it could be 24" (I did see with the ceiling off, but never measured...) would it be better to sister and add joists in the middle? Or just sister them so it's level?

I'm assuming as well, this would require taking the tub out as well, totally. I was trying to avoid that, but if we're in it the hard way, we're in it. :/ My mother did want a new tub of some sort, though, don't know if we got the budget for that. She wants to keep a bathtub for resale value in case a family with young children moves in. There's two 3 foot walls, one shower, one just a wall, would these have to be knocked down as well and rebuilt for adding joisting? Also, the bathroom's other walls besides these are exterior walls (so no niches for that reason...)

As far as hiring someone, economically it's not possible. I don't make enough money to pay someone, and my mother wasted a home improvement loan on this guy, and has way too much debt, and also recently got cancer, which hasn't helped the household monetarily. And honestly while I myself am a contractor, I basically lost trust in 99% of contractors from this experience, but also stuff I see working on jobs with other people just painting.

As well, for general construction quality of these houses/problems, a firefighter I know actually did tell me he fell through the floor of one of these houses in my neighborhood (they're all built almost the same) oddly not even during an fire, but during an OD call. :/ :/ :/

Last edited by mrberryman; 06-04-2018 at 10:53 AM.
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Old 06-23-2018, 03:43 PM   #4
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Well, unfortunately the guy my mom hired is like Casper the Friendly Ghost compared to the Devil. I started on demolition today a bit and stopped. The plywood under the Durock is totally 100% rotten, as in, you can drill holes in it with a screwdriver and it crumbles like an old log when you do anything to it. So the flipper just slapped Durock on top of this all, mold galore, and called it a day.

There's a picture. Thankfully the joists are OK, not fantastic, but not dryrotted to that ultra crazy extent. If it's all gotta get taken down, at least I can add more joisting to make a stiffer floor and two 3/4" sheets of plywood and make it all really strong.

As far as what's next, I'm actually unsure if I will DIY this or not, my mother may actually work with insurance to get this figured out, and there's definitely gotta be lawsuits filed against the flipper. If insurance goes through, there is one commercial guy I worked with that I trust enough to not ruin it. Though maybe statute of limitations may have ran out by now for lawsuits, who knows.
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