Category: Flooring Problems Blog

Testing your home’s sub-floor, crawlspace, and crossbeams for moisture content is very important under everyday normal conditions. It is extremely important when there has been water damage due to plumbing leaks, roof leaks, etc. It is CRITICAL when there has been extreme adverse conditions like the recent flooding from Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas. In addition to testing the sub-floors, crawlspace, and crossbeams prior to re-installation, you need to have the walls and studs tested – to ensure they are dry enough to start the repair/replacement process and avoid future mold growth and product failures. You also need to make sure that the EMC (equilibrium moisture content) is achieved prior to installation of new materials. It is also CRITICAL that you find someone who is independent from the actual work being performed (and profit) to test your home.

General Contractors and Remediation Companies do not always follow proper procedure when it comes to replacing flooring, sheet rock, tile, etc. I am not saying they are all like that or even that it may be intentional, but many of them just want to get the job finished and move on to the next one. Some may not even be around when problems arise in the future. Sadly, this is probably inevitable with the sheer volume of work coming in future months in Houston. This is just another reason to hire a CERTIFIED INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL to ensure moisture levels and Equilibrium Moisture Content is achieved.

Here is a true life example and experience of what I am referring to above:

I went on three inspections for problematic wood flooring. All three were replacement flooring that was replaced due to plumbing leaks. All three were installed during the hot and humid summer months. After the second inspection, I started to notice a pattern emerging. I questioned the third homeowner more in depth about the restoration, remediation, and replacement process. I realized my assumptions were correct.  The wood sub-floors in all three installations were not dried properly nor were they checked for Equilibrium Moisture Content (EMC) prior to replacement by the contractor. All three installations failed. Why? My opinion is improper drying, restoration, and remediation. End result – excessive moisture content and product failure.

Two of the inspections were for a Restoration Company so I questioned my Client. It was my opinion that the restoration, remediation, and drying process was not performed correctly. In these two installations, they initially only removed part of the solid wood flooring during the drying process (in close proximity to the actual leak). AFTER the drying process was completed, it was determined that all the solid wood flooring needed to be replaced. So, my question was this: “Although I find it beyond my comprehension and it makes no sense to me, do you really believe you can effectively and successfully dry out a plywood or OSB sub-floor with 3/4” solid hardwood on top of it?  The answer was YES! Keep in mind that wood, plywood, and OSB react like a sponge to moisture and water.

I am not a Restoration or Remediation Expert, I am a Certified Flooring and Moisture Testing Inspector. FACT: There was no moisture testing done to determine the Equilibrium Moisture Content of the flooring and sub-floor (EMC). Moisture content of the flooring and sub-flooring was above Manufacturer recommended levels in all three installations. ALL THREE installations failed.

Excess moisture content is the NUMBER ONE reason for product failure in addition to numerous other issues. MAKE SURE YOUR HOME IS DRY AND READY for installation of replacement products PRIOR TO INSTALLATION. It’s important, REALLY IMPORTANT!

Moisture from the substrate is one of the leading causes of flooring failure, regardless whether the substrate is concrete or wood based. Excess moisture levels above Manufacturer guidelines can cause cupping, buckling, warping, delamination, and finish issues in wood, laminate, and other floor coverings. It can cause adhesion failures in all type floor coverings. Many of the adhesives currently used are more water sensitive than in the past, due to the elimination of solvent based adhesives. Alkali carried by the moisture vapor can also destroy most adhesives.
Sources for moisture are moisture vapor emissions from the ground through concrete and wood substrates, broken pipes below the substrate, surface water from leaks or poor drainage, and insufficient cross ventilation or drainage in crawl spaces.
It is of utmost importance to know the moisture content of the substrate PRIOR TO INSTALLATION. Why? Because if addressed PRIOR to installation, the proper adhesive or mitigation can resolve or compensate for the excess moisture, and eliminate most moisture related flooring issues and failures.
Most Manufacturers REQUIRE either ASTM 1869 Calcium Chloride or ASTM 2170 Relative Humidity (Insitu) testing on concrete substrates. They also require pin probe testing, proper acclimation and equilibrium moisture content (EMC) on wood substrates and wood based flooring materials.
So, Why Test for Moisture Prior to Installing New Flooring?
Not knowing the moisture content and addressing moisture related issues PRIOR TO INSTALLATION can VOID the warranty on your new floor, and cause irreparable damage.

Carpet is soft. Carpet is warm. Carpet is comfortable. Carpet is a FABRIC.
Carpet can also be a pretty easy floor covering to maintain, if you know the right way to do so. Here are a few simple tips to help you keep your carpet looking great, and maintaining it’s optimum appearance for years.

VACUUMING:
First, according to most Manufacturer carpet care and maintenance information, you need to vacuum at least once a week, and more often – “as necessary in higher traffic areas”.
TIP: The carpet needs to be vacuumed in different directions to maintain optimum appearance. Like most people, you probably plug the vacuum in at the same plug every time and move away from that plug until you run out of cord, plug it in at the next plug location and move away from that plug until you run out of cord, etc, etc, etc. Change direction and plugs every other vacuuming and work backward from the previous vacuuming. This will help “lift” the carpet pile. High traffic areas may need vacuuming from multiple directions to maintain optimum appearance. When you start to notice “traffic patterns”, go against the carpet pile to help lift and maintain the pile and appearance.

CLEANING:
You need to have the carpet PROFESSIONALLY CLEANED a minimum of every eighteen months (generally speaking) whether it “needs” it or not, or you will VOID any applicable warranties (check your specific Manufacturers guideline). Most Manufacturers recommend “Hot Water Extraction” or “Steam Cleaning” ONLY, by a certified carpet cleaner.
TIP: DO NOT USE the “rental carpet cleaning machines”, “self cleaning machines”, or let any carpet cleaner use any type cleaner with SOAPY cleaning agents. WHY? It is virtually impossible to get all the soap residue back out of the carpet. Soap molecules left in the carpet ATTRACT dirt molecules, which then stick to the carpet fibers. The carpet fibers then start sticking together because of the soap and dirt residue, almost acting like a glue. The result is termed “Carpet Matting”, which is pile crush in combination with entanglement of the carpet fibers and tufts. Once carpet matting occurs, it is hard if not impossible to correct, and generally NOT WARRANTED.

STAINS:
Most carpets currently produced have extended stain warranties. The stain warranties can be from the Manufacturer or sometimes from the actual fiber producer.
TIP: Know your carpet Manufacturer and fiber type. DO NOT USE ANY CLEANING AGENTS until you check the CARE AND MAINTENANCE STAIN GUIDES available for your specific carpet. There are different “remedies” and “recommendations”for DIFFERENT TYPE STAINS. Using non recommended cleaners or procedures can also VOID YOUR WARRANTIES. Also never “over wet” your carpet. Too much liquid can cause irreparable damage to the structural integrity of carpet.

KNOW YOUR CARPET. Make sure and follow the SPECIFIC MANUFACTURER GUIDELINES. Many of the carpet inspections I perform are maintenance related issues, which could have been prevented with proper maintenance. When PROPERLY MAINTAINED, a good quality carpet can retain an optimum appearance and life cycle.

Basically engineered wood flooring is nothing more than plywood with a certain species VENEER on the top layer. In general, they come in 3/8″ to 9/16″ thickness and are usually 5 cross ply products just like plywood. The actual overall thickness of the product is less important than the actual thickness of the top VENEER. Although a 9/16″ product is likely more stable and more likely to hide subfloor imperfections, it’s pretty much marketing. Any “thickness” engineered wood flooring should perform well if installed properly.

The factory finished VENEER is what you are walking on. This is the real VALUE for the end user. It is also a high percentage of the cost to manufacture engineered wood flooring. The VENEERS on the market nowadays range from around .065 mm on the low side, to around 4 mm on the high side. Keep in mind that .065 is about the thickness of 3-4 sheets of printer paper. “Peeled” veneers are also less durable and less expensive to manufacture vs “Sawn” veneers.

People may argue that the current U.V. cured urethane finishes with aluminum oxide are extremely durable, and take the brunt of the foot traffic. Although these finishes are highly durable against abrasive wear, it is my opinion that this is not the case. I see way too many low end products with issues that relate to thin VENEERS. They are most common in low end “specials”, and even more so in new construction homes.

Wood flooring is EXPENSIVE. Installation costs are a large portion of the expense. I’ve listened to way too many consumers with legitimate concerns tell me how much they paid for the wood flooring in their home. New construction home buyers are probably one of the most I encounter. “Builder Grade” products and “Specials” rank lowest in VENEER thickness and are some of the lowest grade products produced. Yes I know they look GREAT, but for how long? Remember you will be WALKING on it, it’s flooring and it takes a lot of abuse!

EDUCATE YOURSELF. BE AWARE. ASK QUESTIONS. How thick is the VENEER of the engineered wood flooring you are considering? Personally, I would not even consider an engineered wood floor with less than a 2 mm VENEER.

Just an example of why more and more General Contractors are requiring and specifying third party ASTM 2170 certified concrete moisture testing. This is from an actual Client after Leah performed testing on a job site that was previously “self tested” by the flooring contractor:

“I was a pleasure working with you and watching you perform your test. If they would have used you in the first place i don’t think i would be in the current position.

If the flooring installers would use a third party such as yourself it would allow for real accurate test and another source to help determine the proper steps to take.
We rely on subcontractors to perform their trade and to be an expert on the materials they install.
After researching the  Manufacturers installation manual and reading the required test, we feel they left us wide open for failure.
After doing one of the five test that was stated they did not share the test results nor perform the test in accordance with the ASTM 2170. There was no map of the area, the three test minum was not done, they failed to verify the thickness of the slab.
We are aware that these test are only good for the time they where taken. Thats why the data needed to be shared and all parties, so all parties  can review and discuss the possibilities of the future.
We had quarry tile scheduled for the project when we started. The owner asked is there a better product than the quarry. We went and disussed this with  flooring installation company . They brought the flooring product to the table. Stating it is superior floor to the quarry and was worry free. We would not have to grout every couple of years and would not have to repair.
They brought another lady in to help and was at the job with Flooring Company’s Project Manager surveying the job during construction and appeared to be taking all the steps. Thought we were in good hands.
Well i was wrong about that!
We have some projects coming up now that require testing and it is in the subcontractors court again and part of their scope. There price for testing is right where your cost is listed below.
We will ask them to please consider using a professional third party and will pass on your infomation to them. We feel it is the best route for all parties.
We appreciate your service and look forward to working on future projects”.
With timelines, deadlines, and profits at stake, it can be easy to be unconsciously self serving and take shortcuts and unnecessary risks. Hire a Professional! We can help!

There can be many different sources of high moisture content in your home and flooring. This post is in reference to an inspection done by my associate Ken Vavasseur. It illustrates an elusive moisture source that is many times overlooked.
CONSUMER CONCERN AND HISTORY:
1957 – House was built
1975 – House was bought
1976 – First Central AC unit was installed
1992 – Second Central AC (3 Ton) unit was installed
1997 – Remodel of Kitchen with addition of Laundry Room & Master Bath
Nov 2011 – Third Central AC (4 Ton) unit was installed

March 2012 – I called D****’s Heating & Air and advised that I thought something was wrong with my current AC unit. D**** was sent to assess the unit and air flow. He placed a string from an air vent in my bedroom at the front of the house and assessed the air flow and said “it was fixed” and leaves.
June 2012 – I notice the floors in my den begin to buckle. My daughter and her family came in on June 9th, 2012, she tells me that it is “too hot” in her bedroom (the bedroom in the front of the house in which ***** had just checked the air flow.) The thermostat is set at 65 degrees but there is no relief.
Winter 2012 – During the winter, I noticed that the some of the buckles in the floors had begun to lay down. They were by no means, flush. But they were somewhat better.
Summer 2013 – I noticed that the floors in the den began to buckle yet again. Along with the floors in the master bedroom. I saw J*** and again I stated I thought something was wrong with my AC unit. He assessed the unit and advised nothing was wrong.
Winter 2013 – Again during the winter, the buckled floors in the den and master bedroom began to lay flat, however not as flat as the previous winter.
August 2014 – While sitting in the den, I heard what sounded like a loud gunshot that came from my master bedroom. I ran in to find the floor had severely buckled. At this point, I called J*** and asked if both he and D**** would come assess the situation. When they arrived, I told them that when they put two more holes in my ceiling for “return air”, all the problems started. I was told, “you can never have too much return air!” Everything had been fine up until that point. They went up into the attic to check the duct work and air flow only to say “everything was fine. But, if the floors buckling was their fault; they would make it right.”
Dec 2014 – I spoke with J*** and advised him my daughter was again in town and she stated it was “too cold in the front bedroom” and she didn’t think the heater was working right. Again, we spoke about my floors and the temperature issues. At this point, J*** advised I needed to have my house assessed for termites.
Feb 2015 – I spoke with a pest exterminator. They sent someone to assess the house. I was told, I have no issues with termites but it was “raining” underneath my home (condensation dripping).
April 24, 2015 – J*** came to my house and changed out the AC unit from the 4 ton, installed in Nov 2011, to a 3.5 ton.
August 24, 2016 – The floors in my den began to buckle yet again. This time I took a few pictures and sent them to J*** with a caption “AC still not right!” His response, “would have to look at humidity in the house. Try to get there as soon as I can.”
September 23, 2016 – While changing the sheets on my bed, the floor suddenly gave way and my foot and leg went through the floor.

KEN’S INSPECTION OBSERVATIONS:
I met with Ms. N****** on 10/11/2016. I arrived at her home at 5:30 p.m. Ms. N****** showed me the areas of concern where the wood floors were buckling. These rooms were the dining room, master bedroom, living room, and two front bedrooms. The a/c thermostat was set at 64 degrees. Ms. N****** stated she kept the thermostat at 64 so that the front of the house could maintain a 72 degree temperature. This causes the back of the house to be 63 degrees. The air flow from the a/c unit is not balanced. When conducting a moisture test in the wood floor, I found high moisture content. ( See pictures of readings). The sub floor was rotting in the master bedroom and dining room.
The temperature of the wood floor inside the home from the front room was 68/69 degrees, middle rooms were 62.9 degrees, master bedroom in back of home was 63 degrees, and the kitchen was 70 degrees. I went under the home to conduct temperature readings on the substrate. The front of the home was 80 degrees, the middle was 77 degrees and the back was 75 degrees. I did not find any rotting of the substrate under the home, only from the top inside the home. The ground under the house was completely dry.

KEN’S INSPECTION CONCLUSION:
The home measures 1408 square feet. The a/c unit that was installed in November 2011 was a 4 ton unit which is over sized for that size home. Due to the unbalanced air flow from the a/c unit and the difference in temperature from outside to inside the home it created condensation between the wood floor and the substrate, causing the wood floor to buckle.

Testing your home’s sub-floor, crawlspace, and crossbeams for moisture content is very important under everyday normal conditions. It is extremely important when there has been water damage due to plumbing leaks, roof leaks, etc. It is CRITICAL when there has been extreme adverse conditions like the recent flooding in North Carolina and South Carolina. In addition to testing the sub-floors, crawlspace, and crossbeams, you need to have the walls and studs tested – to ensure they are dry enough to start the repair/replacement process. It is also CRITICAL that you find someone who is CERTIFIED to test your home.

Prior to the recent flooding in North Carolina and South Carolina I went on three inspections for problematic wood flooring. All three were replacement flooring that was replaced due to plumbing leaks. All three were installed during the normal summer months in the Carolina’s. After the second inspection, I started to notice a pattern emerging. I questioned the third homeowner more in depth about the restoration, remediation, and replacement process. I realized my assumptions were correct.  The wood sub-floors in all three installations were not dried properly nor were they checked for Equilibrium Moisture Content (EMC) prior to replacement by the contractor. All three installations failed. Why? My opinion is improper drying, restoration, and remediation. End result – excessive moisture content and product failure.

The last inspection was for a Restoration Company so I questioned my Client. It was my opinion that the restoration, remediation, and drying process was not performed correctly. In all three installations, they initially only removed part of the solid wood flooring during the drying process (in close proximity to the actual leak). AFTER the drying process was completed, it was determined that all the solid wood flooring needed to be replaced. So, my question was this: “Although I find it beyond my comprehension and it makes no sense to me, do you really believe you can effectively and successfully dry out a plywood or OSB sub-floor with 3/4” solid hardwood on top of it?  The answer was YES! Keep in mind that wood, plywood, and OSB react like a sponge to moisture and water.

I am not a Restoration or Remediation Expert, I am a Certified Flooring and Moisture Testing Inspector. FACT: There was no moisture testing done to determine the Equilibrium Moisture Content of the flooring and sub-floor (EMC). Moisture content of the flooring and sub-flooring was above Manufacturer recommended levels in all three installations. ALL THREE installations failed.

Excessive moisture content is the NUMBER ONE reason for product failure in addition to numerous other issues. MAKE SURE YOUR HOME IS DRY AND READY for installation of replacement products PRIOR TO INSTALLATION. It’s important, REALLY IMPORTANT!

 

I went on an inspection this week for “Cloudy, Hazy, Streaked Finish” on an Anderson Wood Floor by Shaw Industries. Anderson Wood Flooring features Anderson’s “Luster-Lok” finish, which a low luster U.V. cured, polyurethane finish with aluminum oxide.

The consumer stated that she only used Bona hardwood Floor Cleaner on the floor to maintain it, nothing else- as she was instructed by the Dealer who sold and installed her flooring. Although most wood flooring manufacturer’s endorse Bona Wood Floor Cleaning products, Anderson is a division of Shaw Industries. Anderson Wood Floors and Shaw Industries recommend the use of their own cleaning product – Shaw R2X Hardwood Floor Cleaner. (Make sure and check the Care & Maintenance Instructions for your particular brand of wood flooring to be sure, as this could void warranties).

The problem here was that “She only used Bona Wood Floor Cleaner to maintain the floor”. The problem with the cloudy, hazy, streaked finish was actually nothing more than dirt residue on the surface, built up over time. I demonstrated this by using a clean cotton pad with distilled water in 3 areas. There was a reddish brown residue left on the white cotton pad which was the same color as (of all things), the dirt in the yard in this South Carolina home.

I read the Bona Hardwood Cleaner Instructions. The problem here:
1. She wasn’t vacuuming or sweeping the floor prior to using the cleaner.
2. She wasn’t maintaining or cleaning the Bona Mop Head as recommended.
Per Bona Hardwood Cleaner Instructions:
• Use water sparingly while cleaning your wooden floors. Make
sure to soak up liquid spills immediately as excessive water
causes the floors to swell.
• Avoid wax, vinegar and “all-purpose” cleaners, since they
dull the floor’s finish.
• Do not let sand, dirt or grit build up. Vacuum or sweep your
floors once every week.
• Place mats or rugs near doorways and in high trafficked
pathways to trap sand and grit.
• Use protective pads or caps on furniture.
• Trim your pet’s claws to help avoid scratches on the floor
1. When your floor looks dirty, spray it with Bona Wood Floor Cleaner to dissolve the dirt.
2. Wipe the floor clean using a Bona Microfibre Cleaning Pad on your Bona Mop.
3. Rinse the pad in water as it becomes soiled and wring it thoroughly before continuing to clean. Excessively soiled
pads may be laundered.
* Your instructions say “rinse pad often to avoid streaking.” What does this mean? I was told not to use water on my
floor. If you notice some streaking as you are cleaning, it means your cleaning pad is filled with dirt. Just rinse it out with
water, wring it out well so that it is just damp, and put it back on your mop. If your floor gets very dirty you may not be able to clean the entire room before your cleaning pad gets filled with dirt.

Per Anderson Wood Floors Care & Maintenance Instructions:
Sweep or vacuum regularly since built-up grit can damage the surface of the wood. The vacuum head must be a brush or felt type. Be certain the wheels of the vacuum are clean and do not damage the finish. Do not use a vacuum with a beater bar head.
Remove spills promptly using a soft cloth and cleaning products recommended by Anderson.
Never wet-mop, damp-mop, or clean your floor with water or other products. This can severely damage the flooring and will void the warranties. Do not use hardwood floor cleaning machines or steam cleaners. See section on Improper Maintenance.
Use Shaw R2X Hardwood floor cleaner with a terry cloth mop. Always vacuum the floors prior to using cleaner. Do not allow excess cleaner to remain on the floors surface as this may permanently damage the wood fiber.
Important: Do not use oil soaps, liquid or paste wax products or other household cleaners that contain citrus oils, lemon oil, tung oil, silicon, or ammonia since these warranties do not cover damage caused by non recommended products. Use of these and other such products will harm the long-term performance of your floor and may also affect its recoat ability.
Do not use 2 in 1 cleaners with polish that may contain acrylics or urethane polish to restore gloss – the use of these products will void the finish warranty and may produce unsatisfactory results when not applied properly.
Keep pets’ nails trimmed, and paws clean and free of dirt, gravel, grease, oil, and stains.
Place protective felt pads beneath furniture legs and feet to reduce scratches and dents. Replace pads as needed.
Use a dolly and protective sheets of plywood when moving heavy objects, furniture, or appliances.
Make certain furniture casters are clean and operate properly (a minimum 1” wide vinyl surface where it comes in contact with wood is recommended). Clean wheels periodically to remove dirt and debris.
Remove shoes with spiked or damaged heels before walking on floor.
Exposure to the sun and its UV rays accelerates the oxidation and aging of wood. This can cause the stain and/or wood to fade and/or to change color. We recommend that you rearrange rugs and furniture periodically so the floor ages evenly. Exotic species such as Brazilian Cherry are more susceptible to color change during the aging process. These warranties do not cover damage from the sun and its UV rays.
Use area rugs in high traffic areas and pivot points (e.g., stair landings, room entries, etc.), especially if you have a large family or indoor pets.
Maintain the proper Relative Humidity in your home between 35% – 55%.

The moral of the story? READ THE CARE AND MAINTENANCE INSTRUCTIONS FOR YOUR PARTICULAR BRAND OF FLOORING AND FOLLOW THEM. This will insure years of lasting beauty, and in the event there is a legitimate manufacturing problem, it will be warranted.

Make sure and squeeze excess moisture out of the mop when cleaning wood flooring. Make sure and vacuum and/or sweep regularly. Two of the biggest enemies of wood flooring are dirt and water. Dirt is abrasive and will scratch the surface of the flooring. Excess moisture will damage the wood and cause permanent and irreversable finish and structural problems.

Check out posts on the left for useful information on inspections performed, flooring problems, moisture related issues, and maintenance tips!