My house is from the 1920s, with a poured concrete foundation and floor in the basement. The floor dips pretty noticeably downward from the foundation walls towards a drain near one end of the basement. I don't think there's been any significant settling, I think this is just how it was constructed, to direct any sort of spill or leak towards the drain.

That's all well and good, except that my office is in the basement. My desk chair likes to roll away on its own, and I need shims to keep shelves and my desk from tipping over. I'm considering building some sort of a subfloor under just this part of my basement to level it. I don't think that options like How can I level my basement floor, which has a 4-inch dip? are really in my budget, or really what I want to get into.

I'm basically thinking of building something with 2x4s and plywood that I can shim up enough to be level. Is that the right approach? I'm hoping to be able to get away with only spending about $200 on this. I'm only looking to level about a 12'x12' section of my basement, not the whole thing.

Dampness isn't generally a problem in my basement, my main goal is to make my work area level.


3 Answers 3


Cheap? Shims and plywood would probably work. It certainly wouldn't be permanent. Anything permanent is going to take some time and materials.

Perhaps just get a chair without wheels?

  • 2
    +1 for the "Russian pencil" tip (chair without wheels)
    – MGOwen
    Jan 18, 2011 at 5:22
  • Yeah, I'll just try to keep the chair from moving for now, and deal with the shims under my desk.
    – pioto
    Jan 28, 2011 at 3:59

I would still recommend going with self leveling concrete. If you only need to level off a small area, then just put some 2x4s around the edge of that area to use as a form so you can get away with using less compound.

  • I edited my question: I'm only looking to do a 12'x12' area of my basement. I should also add that I'm looking to do this in the next week or two, and it's been around 25 F outside, and not exactly toasty in the basement. Our water heater failed on us and made a big mess. I want to take the opportunity to try to make this simple improvement to the floor. If I can't do it now, I still need to get some sort of flooring reinstalled down there (the old carpet & padding was declared a loss by the insurance, so we need to replace it).
    – pioto
    Jan 17, 2011 at 22:09
  • 3
    Isn't self-leveling concrete (with a form) still a good solution? Compared to building and leveling a wooden platform, you can get a perfectly level surface with a lot less measuring and carpentry. And by setting up a form (tip: spray your form 2x4s with veg oil to stop the concrete from sticking) you can restrict the work to a small area. Look at the manufacturer's instructions to confirm curing temperatures, but I think you should be fine as long as it's above freezing in your basement. Jan 18, 2011 at 23:27
  • do it right, unless it's temporary until it gets warmer to finish the job... Nov 19, 2011 at 20:52

You could build out a platform and shim it up as you describe.

  • Use pressure treated wood for anything that will be contacting the slab directly.
  • Use a taper jig and table saw to get the framing close enough to the floor that the shims will be effective.

Other than that, you should be able to build it out relatively easily, and wrap the whole thing in plywood.

My back-of-the-envelope estimate puts you in the ballpark of your $200 estimate.

  • 11x - 12' PT 2x4 - ~$60
  • 5x - 4x8 Plywood / OSB - ~$100
  • Shims - ~$5
  • Ramset/concrete nail/concrete screws - ~$25
  • Galvanized screws - ~$10

This is assuming that whatever flooring you will put down on the platform will be covered by the insurance settlement from the water damage. This is also assuming that you have the tools on hand to do the job.

  • I did not think you are supposed to use pressure treated wood indoors (due to carcinogenic concerns)? I know there is some treated lumber you can use inside but I don't know what it is called or what is treated with (borate maybe?). Either way, make sure whatever you pickup can be used inside.
    – auujay
    Jan 18, 2011 at 19:19
  • @auujay - That was somewhat true back in the day, but any new pressure treated wood you buy today no longer has arsenic in it. Jan 18, 2011 at 20:07

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