Forum HomeCA-Modern ForumsHome Maintenance Hotline › wood floor nightmare!

wood floor nightmare!

17 replies [Last post]
Offline
Joined: Jan 30 2004

We had engineered wood floating floor installed in January. It has buckled and cupped...(floor is uneven in places and excessive bounce).
The installed came to inspect it and used a moisture meter. He acknowledges that the floor is not as it should be but claims that the problem is excessive moisture in the slab (yes, a moisture barrier was installed).
However there are no stains/other signs of water, which I would expect if this were the cause.

3 questions:
1/Can anybody comment on use of moisture meter on Eichler floors? Wouldn't the meter detect the water in radiant heating pipes? Any other
method recommended to determine if slab is wet?
2/ Can anybody recommend an EXPERT floor contractor in /around San Mateo? If so pls email (address disguised to avoid spam)
LKEHOE(AT) IX(DOT)NETCOM(DOT)COM
3/ Has anybody had similar experience?

Thanks.

Louise Kehoe Arnold

Offline
Joined: Apr 20 2003

Hi--we have the buckling problem. Moisture was blamed and we don't know where it is coming from. We think the floor has no room to breathe and so it buckles during different seasons (like now).
I am clueless as to how to fix it, or if the installers should have known a trick to prevent it. My friend says pennies between the wood slats might have helped. WE did pay $ to hav it fixed, but it didn't work.
If you find out any solution, I'd love to hear about it.
The floor is good looking oherwise.
Thanks.
Georgia

Offline
Joined: Aug 13 2003

When we purchased our Eichler about a year ago the previous owner had installed a floating Junkers oak floor that previous year. We abandoned the radient heating system when we moved in as it was leaking and there was a noticable cupping of the flooring in areas that were heated. In one location in the master bedroom the flooring buckled this last winter, probably from the high humidity from the nearby master bath.

Eventually refinishing the floor will eliminate the cupping that exists from the previous use of radient heat, and the bedroom can likely be repaired, but the impression I am left with is that although beautiful, wood floors on an Eichler slab may encounter problems.

If you find a contractor that can fix or replace buckled flooring at reasonable cost please pass the info on to me.

Dean

Offline
Joined: Mar 20 2003

Just some thoughts might help troubleshoot.

1) There is supposed to be a 1/2" gap around all walls to allow for expansion. Do you know what kind of gap was used? When the floor is buckled, what kind of gap exists (if you can see it unless it is covered with baseboard). Perhaps removal of the baseboard and making a bigger gap is required.

2) In what direction is the buckling occuring? A side parallel or perpendicular to the planks might need more expansion on the walls.

3) Your baseboards should be resting on the floor but attached to the walls. This will allow the floor to expand underneath and move slightly. If your baseboards are attached to the floor, this may prevent the floor from moving.

4) What brand of floor was used? The most popular floors seem to be Kahrs, Junkers, and Harris Tarkett. Perhaps some are more susceptible than others?

5) What type of wood is the floor? I suppose some wood types expand and contract more than others. This is probably not as big of an issue for engineered planks since there is only a fraction of the thickness that is the top wood.

6) Both Kahrs and Harris Tarkett have good customer service lines. A call to either could prove helpful.

I would give a ring to Herb Stuart from Stuart flooring in Redwood City. He has been in the business several years and might be helpful in this situation.

/Lynn

Offline
Joined: Mar 20 2003

not to sound mean, but wood floors floating on a slab with radiant heat is NOT a good idea, despite what a couple of contractors who frequent this board and what ANY floor salesman will talk you into.

It's well documented through out this site and board.

Please consider cork, ceramic tile, vct or another solid service flooring which is adhered to you slab. You will also help with heating your home during the winter by doing so.

Offline
Joined: Jan 4 2004

Any good idea can be executed poorly.
I completely agree with the points raised by Lynn Drake. To add, there are few flooring installers that take seriously the expansion issue, and do not allow for gapping where the floor meets the wall. Even top nailed or blind nailed solid (as opposed to engineered products) hardwood flooring will buckle if:
A. Moisture is present, and
B. Adequate room for expansion is not allowed (3/8"-1/2" will suffice)
We never hear from the Eichler owners that have wood/bamboo flooring installed properly as this site is intended for the benefit of owners with maintenace issues; often looking for a solution to a problem specific to having products that were not available at the time of Eichler developments (such as engineered wood flooring) applied to thier homes because of preference. While there are certainly many flooring suppliers/contractors out there that are inexperienced with these homes, there is a certain measure of steps that need to be taken in any project that may take a little extra time, but if ignored can result in problems down the road. I don't benefit from steering any homeowner away from or towards any product. My experience with these various applications is the basis for the opinions that I formulate. Not speculation, conjecture, or any such theories that can not substitiute for actually having the benefit of trial and error and direct observation; and so far, no problems have resulted from the projects with which I have been involved in which wood flooring has been applied (and I do keep in touch with them).
As far as repair, I know someone; email me for contact info.

renman

Offline
Joined: Mar 25 2005

Jonathan,

I take it from your post that you don't think that engineered woods are any more susceptible to buckling than laminates (like pergo)?

Thanks!

Greg

ps - Lynn - are you still happy with your Kahrs floor?

Offline
Joined: Mar 20 2003

Yes- I'm still happy with my Kahrs floor. It really makes a difference in the look of my house- it seems to be the first thing people notice when they come in. It gives it a real modern look.

Like I probably said on earlier posts, there is no perfect floor. In my case, we were remodeling while living in the house. Moving out and completely stripping all the black mastic off is necessary for any type of glue down floor like VCT, tile, or Cork. There are probably people who haven't removed all the mastic but you risk delaminated floor later– a risk I wasn't willing to make.

As with any floor, make sure all your radiant plumbing, domestic water pipes, and sewer pipes are in good shape before your start. I even protected my domestic water pipes with Cathodic Protection (see previous posts on this) to prevent further corrosion- and thus eliminating any future leaks.

Lynn

Offline
Joined: Sep 22 2004

We had a Pergo-style laminate put in because we were worried about the moisture, and at some point, it also buckled. However, the reason was poor initial installation -- after the installers came back and sawed off a bit of the laminate around the edges of the room, the floor settled down and is fine for
now.

Lynn's floor, BTW, looks great. If we had less moisture, and perhaps a flatter slab, we probably would have gone with the engineered wood.

Offline
Joined: Nov 4 2003

Just to add my 2 cents, I installed Kahrs wood floating floors in 3 of the 4 bedrooms myself 11 years ago. They still look fine and have not had any issues.

The radiant heat system is still in service and not leaking. What I did was install a plastic vapor barrier first then a cardbard like material over that which came from Karrs that is a cushion. Then the wood on top. I left a 1/4 to 1/2 gap along the walls. I would have preferred a tighter gap, but I didn't take any chances.

I have 2 minor regrets. One, while this flooring is engineered for radiant heat, the heat passing through is an issue. Not too bad actually in some spots and cold along the walls. (I suspect it's due to being farther from the boiler as the master is the warmest of the bedrooms) Regret 2 is that because the flooring is only in the bedrooms and thicker then tiles, there is a level change at the door thresholds. Not a big deal.

I am seriously considering removing it all and going with a flooring material that will replace the tiles in the hallway, loggia, kitchen/multi-purpose room and the 4 bedrooms with something that will conduct heat better. Either cork( but have heard all the issues with fading) or a similar type like linoleum or a mixture with tiles or stone.

If I could remove the wood flooring in more or less one or 2 pieces, I would like to see it go somewhere where it could be re-installed. Which is the way these floors are meant. Is there a venue for used flooring? They hardly have any wear!

Nelson

Offline
Joined: Mar 20 2003

I am very intrigued to read about other people's floor issues and successes, as though only a few short years ago I spoke highly of poured concrete floors, mine is now popping off right and left! I have finally succeeded in getting the bonding company to award us the concrete contractor's bond after they hired an independent contractor to state that the slab was never prepared correctly. However, I might also add that the bond award is really only enough to actually remove what was done incorrectly...and then I will have to pay $$$ to have new flooring (whatever it may be) redone all over again...
I agree that any good idea can be executed badly. I'm not sure where to go from here in terms of flooring. I have learned that it is extremely important to make sure exactly what is outlined in the contract and to doublecheck the bonding history of your contractor. Luckily our contractor was in breach of contract when he performed work differently than outlined in our contract, yet at the same time if I had been knowledgeable enough to see that his bond company had already had to award other clients part of his bond, I probably would never have hired him in the first place.

Just my two cents. I will keep reading and hopefully will someday find that perfect flooring solution!! yeah right...

Offline
Joined: Oct 14 2006

I have Kahrs wood flooring and I am considering it having it removed. Has anyone found a company who can benefit from used wood flooring? Is there a company that specializes in removing wood flooring for reuse?
My email: carrie.levin@juno.com .
Thanks,
Carrie

Nelson wrote:
Just to add my 2 cents, I installed Kahrs wood floating floors in 3 of the 4 bedrooms myself 11 years ago. They still look fine and have not had any issues.

The radiant heat system is still in service and not leaking. What I did was install a plastic vapor barrier first then a cardbard like material over that which came from Karrs that is a cushion. Then the wood on top. I left a 1/4 to 1/2 gap along the walls. I would have preferred a tighter gap, but I didn't take any chances.

I have 2 minor regrets. One, while this flooring is engineered for radiant heat, the heat passing through is an issue. Not too bad actually in some spots and cold along the walls. (I suspect it's due to being farther from the boiler as the master is the warmest of the bedrooms) Regret 2 is that because the flooring is only in the bedrooms and thicker then tiles, there is a level change at the door thresholds. Not a big deal.

I am seriously considering removing it all and going with a flooring material that will replace the tiles in the hallway, loggia, kitchen/multi-purpose room and the 4 bedrooms with something that will conduct heat better. Either cork( but have heard all the issues with fading) or a similar type like linoleum or a mixture with tiles or stone.

If I could remove the wood flooring in more or less one or 2 pieces, I would like to see it go somewhere where it could be re-installed. Which is the way these floors are meant. Is there a venue for used flooring? They hardly have any wear!

Nelson

Offline
Joined: Mar 20 2003

Kahrs flooring is very expensive. I suspect you might find someone who would remove it for you. If you post it on one of the freecycle groups (check the yahoogroup Palo Alto freecycle), you might find a taker.

You know you can have it refinished don't you?

ajm
Offline
Joined: Mar 24 2003

Another flooring data point.

We had engineered bamboo ('Bambo' brand) installed in much of our Sunnyvale Eichler about a year ago. It's a 'floating' floor installation. We've had no problems with warping or cupping. The floor is very durable and easy to clean. There is no problem with the floor flexing when you walk on it, it feels very sturdy. It does not look 'cheap'.

We've had lots compliments on how the floor looks. We went with a darker bamboo color, which we think gives the rooms a warmer feel, but a lot of people like the bright, modern look of natural bamboo.

Our heating bills were unchanged this winter. (Previously we had carpet with pad where the bamboo was.) I've never paid more than $160/month for gas, even in the dead of winter. We have a foam roof and a new Teledyne Laars boiler. Our heating bills went down noticeably after we had the new boiler installed. Based on my experience and conversations with Eichler owners I'm reasonably convinced that the boiler and ceiling insulation are far more important in terms of radiant heating cost than your flooring choice.

I think that bamboo, or wood, if installed correctly, can be a fine choice for the Eichler home. I just wanted to post a success story, as when we were making our flooring choices, many predicted disaster if we chose wood.

Offline
Joined: Oct 14 2006

I've done some preliminary research on cork flooring. The colors are exquisite and durability seems prety good. However, I'm concerned with the insulation properties of cork such that it will really reduce the amount of heat transfer to the floors. Is it supposedly higher in insulation than carpeting? If so I wouldn't get cork. I am hoping anyone can share their experiences with cork, the good, the bad and ugly (fading).
thanks,
Carrie Levin
Sunnyvale Eichler owner

Tod
Offline
Joined: Mar 21 2003

We have carpet in three of our four bedrooms. The rest of the floor is cork. The cork is definitely better than carpet as far as heat transfer is concerned.

The big down side is fading. And near the door where our dog does most of her entry/exit activity we have a fair amount of scratches on the surface. That said, we are considering replacing the carpet in those three rooms with cork to match the rest of the house.

Regarding the post about bamboo versus carpet. We have made no infrastructure changes that would affect heating in the last two years. Yet we used 4% fewer therms this winter than the previous. Without verifying with the weather service's climatic data, I assume this winter was slightly milder than the previous.

If you did not see any appreciable difference in your gas bill then I guess you are right: A floating bamboo floor is no better than carpet with padding as far as radiant heating is concerned.

Offline
Joined: Mar 25 2006

I very much appreciated all the input regarding wood flooring and will keep it in mind when trying to advise customers on what products will work on the Eichlers. Although I only deal with the boilers all these issues come up regularly, and I try to give my best input.
What I generally say is that the Eichlers were designed for hard-floor covering. Tile/stone gives the greatest btu per sq ft. True radiant heat.
I have seen many wood floors of different brands that when properly installed work well. Bear in mind that the btu output will drop 10-20%.
Carpet and pad could drop it 50%. There are some low r-value pads that help, but it's still swimming up-stream. Sometimes the moisture comes from outside through ground water, roof leaks from vent pipes, and the like. The heat isn't any more than a medium day in Palm Springs.

Offline
Joined: Mar 22 2003

Flooring was the hardest of the many upgrade decisions we had to make when we bought in 1995. It took about a year to decide.

-Ruled out all carpet, as we have allergies and carpets are impossible to keep free of dirt and dust. After it has been in your home for a few weeks, it's all over.

-Ruled out cork due to the numerous stories and personal observation about fading. It is not just UV lighting that causes cork to fade, but also any home lighting, even incandescent. So you move your funiture once, and end up with uneven-colored floors.

-Ruled out linoleum tiles (the real thing, which is still made) only because we could not find any dealers/installers that knew anything about them. If I had to do things over, I might opt for that, based on some fantastic installations I have seen in our neighborhood. Installation requires a lot of skill, however, so you have to find the right person. They are high maintenace though, from what others have said. (Waxing, buffing).

-Ruled out wood due to the moisture/buckling potential. Ruled out laminate for the same reason, and also we did not like the hollow sound that it makes when you walk on it. (It is still a viable option though, if installed correctly.)

-Ruled out a resurface of our concrete - too much time and expense, and at that time, we did not know anyone who had the skill set to do it.

-Ended up with ceramic tile (13x13) throughout the entire house. We love the look and earthy smell. When it is clean - it is REALLY clean. Like all other options, it is not perfect either, but we are satisfied with our choice in general. A few words of caution about tile/stone flooring:

-It really is noticable how hard it is on your feet (and for the elderly, the back and knee joints). No more barefooting for me or I wake up with terrible cramps in my feet. Even regular shoes are not enough. Hubby and I have to wear extra cushioned cloggs for comfort. Logical minds could ask 'how can tile flooring be any harder than putting linoleum or vinyl over a slab?' Trust me, there is a huge difference - that small additional cushioning is worth a lot.

-The grout joints are wider than we would have liked, but we just let the installers do their thing, fearing that narrower joints may result in cracking. Since then, we have seen some fantastic tile and slate installations with very thin grout lines, so it can be done if the installer is good.

-Pick something that has enough color variation (or is dark enough) not to show up every speck of dirt or dust. Dark slate is beautiful and hides the dirt, but can show dust. We used light beige tiles with some slight color variations, but not enough. They never look clean enough to me, especially in the kitchen, where every crumb can be seen a mile away.

-Everything dropped on tile will shatter in a million pieces. If you have young children, this could be a major issue. When the occasional glass gets dropped it takes weeks to find all the tiny shards of glass that have gone flying everywhere - even into other rooms.

-Tile is very slippery when wet. I have a Cheliwich runner/mat in front of the kitchen prep area for safety and appearance.

Note: there are some new "rubberized" floor tiles that are really lovely, soft on the feet, and resemble the look of the original linoleum tiles, but without the high gloss or high maintenance that linoleum requires.

Well there you have it. More than you'd ever want to know about our flooring adventures! I hope you find it helpful.

Cathye

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.