Ask the Remodeler: How to level off a garage to convert it into an office

Ask the Expert Home Improvement
an illustration of eight people in blue shirts and orange pants working on a tan home with white trim. some are fixing the roof, others are fixing the windows, and two are carrying something into the front door.
. Associated Press/File

Q. My son just bought a home in Northern California and wants to convert the two-car garage into office space, but the concrete slab/foundation is pitched for water runoff. He was told it was approximately ¼-inch per running foot, and the garage is 14 by 20 feet. He thinks the change in height is about 4 inches from front to back. The floor is in excellent condition overall, according to the foundation inspector who recently evaluated it. The floor has a thin underlayment material with vinyl plank flooring on top, but the garage isn’t usable because of the tilt. My son told me a chair on wheels would drift downhill, so he’s looking for a reasonably priced solution to level it off. Do you have a recommendation? He’s looking for a permanent fix that will not raise the overall flooring height much more than needed because the ceiling is already low. A contractor suggested using high-compression cement. Is that a reasonable suggestion in your experience? I read about leveling compounds, but think 4 inches may be asking too much.


A. Rather than go with a masonry solution (which could crack in the thin areas), you may want to consider the following: Cut 2-by-4-inch pressure-treated stock on edge into tapered pieces from the widest part down to 0 on the other end. Use them 12 inches on center, then apply a ¾-inch underlayment and, over that, a ¼-inch laminate wood floor. You would lose 1 inch in ceiling height at the high end but have a sturdy, good-looking, and level floor.


Q. Our house was built in 1808. It has its original chimney stack, three flues, and three hearths. For safety, I want to line the chimney, preferably with flexible steel flue liners. The chimney expert told me that is not possible without making the fireboxes smaller. I do not want to remodel the hearths/fireboxes; they are original to the house. Can you recommend a solution?

M.S., Vineyard Haven

A. Working with old chimneys and fireboxes is always a challenge. We used to have a chimney division where I work, and we would never advocate for the installation of a metal liner in a wood-burning fireplace. The two best options are masonry: a cast-in-place chimney lining or a sprayed-in-place relining. The cast-in-place option will probably require you to make a choice and sacrifice one of the fireplaces in order to maintain a large enough flue. The relining process doesn’t take up as much room in the existing flues and could work well. There are code issues relating to hearth size, so either way you go, consult several qualified installers.

Mark Philben is the project development manager at Charlie Allen Renovations in Cambridge. Send your questions to [email protected]. Questions are subject to editing. Subscribe to our free real estate newsletter at Follow us on FacebookLinkedInInstagram, and Twitter @globehomes.