Buyers: Does the marble test really work?

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Home Improvement


CHICAGO – Nov. 17, 2016 – A recent viral video shows a marble rolling across an uneven floor inside the Millennial Tower, a luxury apartment building in San Francisco after residents learned that the structure, which had been constructed on bay mud, sunk 16 inches and leans at least 2 inches.

But can rolling a marble test really reveal if other listings have this kind of a problem?

"The marble is a good way to demonstrate the floor is not level but not to tell if this means there is a problem," says Bill Neal, a structural engineer in Vernon, Conn.

Instead, there's a different tool you'll need.

"Put a 4-foot-long level on the floor. Ideally, when the level is level, the end should not be more than an eighth of an inch off the floor. If it's a quarter inch or more, the house definitely should be checked," Neal says.

An uneven floor could indicate a structural problem or possibly poor workmanship, Neal says.

But don't let a little marble get buyers bent out of shape. "The truth is, all floors are going to be a little bit unlevel," says Mayer Daham, a real estate developer in Los Angeles. "If you can notice your building is dipping, that's not acceptable. Between one room and another, if a marble rolls, you'll survive." After all, a marble could roll from room to room because of different finishes on the floor.

Joel Goodrich, a San Francisco-based luxury real estate adviser, says experts can help put things in perspective.

"The real value and importance of having a professional inspector or structural engineer inspection is that they can say whether the settling is active (i.e., worsening) or cosmetic (i.e., not structural, but a function of the age of the building)," he says.

Source: "Does the Marble Test for Floors Really Work? Try It, but Keep a Level Head,"® (Nov. 15, 2016)

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