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Raising a 1960s Sunken Living Room Floor

The once-popular sunken living room gets a modern makeover to one floor level

July 20, 2016
Raising a sunken living-room floor

Photos: courtesy Antonio Aguirre

Anyone old enough to remember The Dick Van Dyke Show may also recall the lead character’s iconic 1960s home, complete with sunken living room. The mid-century design trend boomed for more than a decade, and today many homes from that period are being remodeled to create contemporary spaces that sit on a single level. 

The photos from Dallas-based Traver Construction, are an example of modernizing a home built circa 1972. 

“The living room seemed smaller than it actually was because it was sunken and had a different floor material,” says Neil Bubel, Traver’s project manager. “This defined the space and made it feel more confined.” An added incentive for changing the home’s footprint came when the homeowner’s mother, who is older, tripped while stepping down into the sunken area. 

As part of a larger remodel, Traver is tearing down walls and raising the living room floor by 5 inches to create a large space that’s level with the entryway. Luckily, there was enough ceiling height to accommodate raising the floor, otherwise the room would have felt too claustrophobic. The team is also making the space look more visually cohesive by installing the same hardwood flooring throughout the entire area. 

Want more? Check out our Innovative Product piece on Admiral SpaceMaker outdoor flooring

Solid Contact

Like most projects, this one required a little ingenuity. The entryway floor was tile, while the living room was wood. After removing the tile and more than an inch of thickset, Bubel’s crew was left with a concrete slab that had a number of wavy lumps across its surface. Overall, the room was an inch out of level, and shims were used at the perimeter, but Bubel didn’t want to rely on them to level the individual humps.

“Shims leave gaps in places, and it’s better to have a more solid level of contact all the way across,” he says. “It provides greater strength and support.” A secondary reason for avoiding shims throughout the room was the squeaks that sometimes can result. Bubel also didn’t want to pour more concrete across the entire floor, as this would add weight and extra cost. 

Ultimately, the solution involved cutting shapes from each sleeper that conformed to the bumps in the floor. Bubel’s framers laid string line on the ground next to the pressure-treated 2x4s, which allowed them to see any areas of unevenness. Small pieces were cut from each sleeper a little at a time using a circular saw, until every section of wood fit tightly against the concrete. “This is an  instancewhere it’s OK to cut a little oversized,” Bubel says. 

Another approach would have been to scribe the sleepers using a compass. In this method, one leg of the compass moves down the concrete as the pencil marks the undulations of its surface on the sleeper to create a level floor. A construction adhesive and Ramset nails were used to secure the sleepers to the slab.

The result will be a beautiful, level floor that will last for many decades. 



About the Author

About the Author

Erika Mosse is the director of content for Professional Remodeler. Contact her at etaylor@sgcmail.com or 972.803.4014.



I have been racking my brain on how to do a floor reno in my living room. Very similar situation to what is described here. This article helped me a great deal, thank you for posting it.

I tripped the first night after I bought this house and went to ER. Nothing broken but I want this sunken room filled in. I have seen two ways to do this wood and concrete. Can you tell me how much this method cost?

Thanks for your comment. The cost of doing something like this varies greatly depending on where you're located and the scope of work. Please reach out to me directly at etaylor@sgcmail.com and I can provide you with some ideas. 


Erika Taylor, Directer of Content

I want to fill in my sunken living room and family room. What height do you recommend from floor to ceiling. i don't want to make the rooms claustrophobic.

This article is really awesome. I have seen a new way of flooring.

Really impressive project! Glad I found this.

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