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Laminate Floors - Ridging


Jim Katen
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Anyone here with any particular expertise in laminate flooring problems?

I have a customer who had a laminate floor installed about two years ago. It’s the kind with the real wood veneer on top, not the photograph of wood veneer on top. She doesn’t know the brand.

About three months after it was installed, she started to notice ridges developing between the strips. Now the ridges are everywhere and quite pronounced. The installer has come out to look at it and suggested calling the manufacturer. The manufacturer sent out a rep out who said that:

· The moisture content is within normal tolerances.

· There’s no sign of leaks or other obvious water damage.

· There are adequate gaps around the perimeter of each room to allow for expansion & contraction.

· They questioned her carefully about her mopping habits and the activities of her pets. She swears up & down that she only mopped it once – using the recommended cleaner. She was unhappy with the result so after that she just cleaned the floor on her hands & knees with a slightly damp cloth.

The rep’s conclusion is that the product is not defective and that the ridges are due to an installation error, but he won’t say what error.

The installer insists that he followed the installation instructions.

When I interviewed her over the phone, she answered my questions thus:

· There’s been no flooding event in the house.

· Her fridge has no icemaker.

· She has two little dogs, but if one every tried to pee on the floor she’d drop kick it out the backyard.

· Her husband crawled through the crawlspace and says it’s dry down there.

· Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes. She’s never mopped the floor with a really wet mop.

She wants me to come out and sort out the problem.

I’m planning to consider the following causes:

· The installers glued down the floor by mistake.

· The customer has been wet-mopping the floor since day one.

· The crawlspace is a swamp every winter and the husband went down there during the dry season.

What else can cause ridging on laminate floors?

- Jim Katen

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For the ones where people were willing to tear stuff out to actually figure out what was happening, I've always been able to trace it to some "obvious" moisture source, and there's always been some detail that was omitted by the installer.

I'm not a fan of laminate flooring.

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Originally posted by kurt

For the ones where people were willing to tear stuff out to actually figure out what was happening, I've always been able to trace it to some "obvious" moisture source, and there's always been some detail that was omitted by the installer.

I'm not a fan of laminate flooring.

Me neither. Every time I've seen this, the floor had flooded. But I've never seen it over the entire floor -- that is, across several rooms.

What details do you see omitted?

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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I was mystified initially by seeing the same thing but I am convinced its moisture related. In this case my guess is that the laminate equilibrium moisture content was below that of the house. I bet it was otherwise installed properly but as it started coming up to equilibrum with the house it did so first swelling at the edges.

I would try and determine what the moisture content is now and then sample some pieces still in the boxes at the store if they'll let you.

I seen this happen with wood floors except the defect was warping and cupping. In the crawlspace it was dry but the subfloor was between 12% - 18% mc and the wood floor was installed bewteen 5% and 8%.

I would be surprised if they glued it down. Ask the installer did he measure with a moisture meter the subfloor and the laminate before installation. I bet you he goes "wha..t?" Where does it say anywhere about doing that?

Chris, Oregon

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Hi Jim,

I'll have to fall back on my woodworking savvy for this one. I think Chris could be onto something there. If you're going to put down hardwood, you really need to bring it into the house, sticker it and let it acclimate for several weeks while you do other stuff before you lay it. That ensures that it reaches equilibrium with its environment. I remember my Dad doing that when I was a kid but it's pretty rare that I see it done anymore, although there was one new house under construction that I inspected about 5 years ago where the flooring guy had done it and put a big cardboard sign on the stack threatening the builder's crew with maiming if they touched it. I do the same thing when I'm planning a grandfather clock project. Otherwise, I'd end up with unhappy results after I finished my project and several weeks or months later it finally reaches equilibrium.

It might have gone in dry but was installed right away and took on some additional moisture that caused it to swell - just enough to force it up at the edges and cause washboarding. Bet if she took a dehumidifier in there and ran it for a week gaps from compression set would start appearing all over the place. If there's a crawl beneath it without a vapor barrier, you can bet installing one will probably have the same result as running a dehumidifier - only it'll be slower.

It's had lots of time to acclimate now but the only cure at this point is going to be sanding it flat and refinishing it and she won't be happy with the compression set gaps left behind if it's related to crawl humidity.

My two cents - worth the price charged, I suppose.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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These "engineered" floors are a lot more stable than solid hardwood and shouldn't need the weeks of acclimation, especially for a floating system. The plywood backing is very porous and I really don't see moisture from beneath only affecting the edges. Assuming they used a normal foam-type underlayment(?), those are typically a fairly effective moisture barrier as well as cushioning. I would expect to see cupping if excessive moisture from below was a problem. From Jim's description of "ridges" at the joints, I would have to go with excessive wet mopping as a first guess. Are the ridges appearing under rugs or furniture that doesn't normally get moved? Then, perhaps, very excessive moisture in the rooms as a second guess . Does she use the bathroom fans etc? BTW...Is this a slab or sub-floor?

"The rep’s conclusion is that the product is not defective and that the ridges are due to an installation error, but he won’t say what error."

What a cop out!

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I have seen many engineered floor systems that have "cupping" or ridges along he sides of each plank, and as everyone has said it is always related to moisture. In the south we have major problems with laminate floors that are installed over crawlspace that have insulation between the joist. During the warmer months the A/C runs almost 24/7 and condensation forms between the subfloor and the insulation. It is a big mess.

That crawlspace might be dry, but I wonder what the dew point level is? Outside of that I would have to go with the mopping theory.

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Unless the manufacturer has sealed it, wood is wood and its going to swell and shrink chasing after the local humidy conditions. I don't find it any more stable in fact I find it less stable since its thinner. I see damaged laminate a lot but rarely do I see damaged wood floors. How stable it will be will depend on what is used as backer. The cheap stuff is awful and if you even mention the word moisture it ridges but the manufactures will never admit to it.

Another thing, that plastic pad like you say can create a plane where if any bulk moisture gets between the pad and the flooring it gets trapped hidden from view and causes the same thing even though you never saw a puddle however this is generally localized to the source. If the swelling is everywhere then I still have my bet on the equilibrium moisture theory.

Chris, Oregon

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It seems the popularity of laminate flooring recently has produced a lot of so-called "Master Installers". I have found that the most defects or problems with laminate flooring comes from the installation, or maintenance. It's highly unlikely in this case, but I have seen damage caused by an un-level sub floor.

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OK, I’ve been out to actually look at the floor and things aren’t exactly as she described.

There’s no wood veneer. This is a high-density fiberboard product with a plastic laminate on the bottom and on the top. The top, of course, has a photograph of wood grain printed onto it. Near as I can tell, it’s made by Columbia Flooring.

· The moisture content of the floor is about 10%. Interestingly, the moisture content of spare boards that’ve been stored in her outdoor garden shed is also 10%.

· Nothing’s glued down. There’s foam backing applied over the 2x6 car decking with the laminate on top.

· There’s plenty of expansion room at the perimeter.

When the experts came out to look at it, they identified the defects as “tentingâ€

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Sounds like your customers are just wishing they bought a different product. All wood floors will have some imperfections, that is part of the character of the product. I might make a trip to a flooring store and look at all the samples with a picture of the floor in question in hand just for my own personal curiosity.

By the way, what is "car" decking? I have never heard that term.

Jim

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Originally posted by inspector57

Sounds like your customers are just wishing they bought a different product. All wood floors will have some imperfections, that is part of the character of the product. I might make a trip to a flooring store and look at all the samples with a picture of the floor in question in hand just for my own personal curiosity.

By the way, what is "car" decking? I have never heard that term.

Jim

Think railroad cars. It's 2x6 t&g hemlock. Around here, we build our first floors with 4x6 girders every four feet and 2x6 car decking on top of them. No joists, no plywood.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Originally posted by Jim Katen

Think railroad cars. It's 2x6 t&g hemlock. Around here, we build our first floors with 4x6 girders every four feet and 2x6 car decking on top of them. No joists, no plywood.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

Jim, I often see that, in fact it is probably the norm, in 50's to 70's ramblers, but I can't remember ever seeing it on anything much newer than that or at the first floor of a two-story home. You guys still build that way down there?

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Less than the thickness of a playing card...I would agree that "imperfection" is right for that, not "defect". I can also imagine why they might be miffed by it, but when you buy lower end you get lower end.

I never liked those floors over foam from the start. They don't feel right when I walk on them.

Brian G.

Put the Wood Back In Wood Floors [:-yuck]

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Hi Jim,

I think that you're right. The milling head that cut the tongue was set slightly too high and might still be that way for all we know.

I've installed some Pergo flooring over foam and didn't have any raised edges. The stuff matched perfectly. However, I see Pergo, Wilsonart and other brands all the time that have gotten a little wet in the joints and they all seem to develop little ridges at the joints and have a washboard appearance. Mostly over slabs but I suppose that you'd get the same thing where they'd been wet-mopped.

I remember when they first came out, the big attraction was that you could use them in the kitchen and they wouldn't swell or warp when they got wet. Now I see them all the time where after 8 - 10 years they look awful and lots of people don't like the look of them anymore.

OT - Of!!!

Mike

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Originally posted by Richard Moore

Originally posted by Jim Katen

Think railroad cars. It's 2x6 t&g hemlock. Around here, we build our first floors with 4x6 girders every four feet and 2x6 car decking on top of them. No joists, no plywood.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

Jim, I often see that, in fact it is probably the norm, in 50's to 70's ramblers, but I can't remember ever seeing it on anything much newer than that or at the first floor of a two-story home. You guys still build that way down there?

Download Attachment: icon_photo.gif CarDeckFraming.JPG

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I settled a e/w case a few months back where the artificial imitation old growth oak pattern kraft paper laminated commercial grade flooring actually was cutting the bare feet of people at the seams! It was learned there is no national performance standards, but the product must have an installation and care info sheet that "must" be given to the homeowner. In this case, the sheet was lost somewhere between middle America distributor, South American Mfg and the Chinese wholesaler and "Walmart".

I, personally, do not like working this type of file - too many variables and no standards!

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I love it when they install laminate/floating floor in bathrooms...

Not only the "wetness" of a bathroom, but I actually have seen blown seals from the toilets because of the movement of the floor.

I thought Pergo, when it first came out wasn't bad, especially for the installation time/price. Now a days it seems like there is a lot of junk out there. My own mom was looking into a laminate recently. Luckily we talked her out of it, but now she wants bamboo flooring. My dad is still trying to talk her into a real hardwood floor.

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Not to turn this thread around; but I know people who were big fans of bamboo before they installed it in their own home. I have heard it scratches real easy. Now I can't recall if they installed natural or carbonized bamboo, but I am still a little skeptical about the product.

As for my mom, she's a big fan of new products; and my dad, well he's just an old fashioned Oak type of guy anyway...

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