A well-chosen remodeling project will typically improve the look and value of an outdated home. Surprisingly, 35% of all remodeling jobs are whole-home improvements. But when homeowners are looking to make one effective change in their house, floor replacement is a common go-to. And while hardwood installation or refinishing will often change a home for the better, when it’s not done properly, the outcome can be a total nightmare.
The state of Florida seems particularly plagued by flooring issues, as homeowners keep coming out of the woodwork with a host of complaints that range from improper materials to shoddy installation. Some even have mold growing beneath their floorboards.
One homeowner in Boca Raton had her engineered hardwood floors installed for only a couple of years before she started noticing issues.
Homeowner Laurie Edgar noted, “We noticed in our bedroom that one of our floorboards started to kind of pucker up a little bit.”
After that, she noticed her floorboards were starting to cup, or shift. She found out that mold was growing underneath.
Edgar went back to the company that performed the installation, Floors to Go, to find out the source of these issues. She says that the company was colossally unhelpful. Manager Tim Jones told Edgar that her one-year warranty was up and that she’d have to prove that the damage wasn’t the result of a leak prior to taking action.
“He said he didn’t really have an explanation for why that may be taking place,” says Edgar.
Frustrated and skeptical, Edgar paid two inspectors to assess the issue. A plumbing inspector certified that the Edgar home has no leak that could be causing the damage. And a certified inspector from the National Wood Flooring Association identified the problem as “installer related.”
Says Edgar, “As soon as the inspector lifted the couple of boards he looked right at us. He said, ‘I will do a further inspection, but I will tell you right now from my initial observation that this was absolutely an installation failure.'”
The inspector went on to say that the flooring adhesive used in the installation was much too thin. But Jones still won’t take responsibility, citing that the problem occurred outside the limits of the limited warranty. He also maintains the idea that Edgar’s home has a leak in the sub-floor, even though her inspection states otherwise.
Edgar is now stuck with a subpar floor, and unless she takes the company to court, she’ll likely be responsible for coming up with the money to fix the problems before they get worse.
But Edgar’s situation is hardly unique. Another Florida woman, identified only as Jane, had her carpeted floors replaced with engineered bamboo in 2013. Since bamboo flooring is considered to be much more durable than even hardwood floors — Strand bamboo flooring has a high Janka scale hardness level of over 3500, whereas most hardwood floors clock in at around 1450 — it’s usually considered to be a great choice. But after only a year, Jane started to notice that something was amiss.
“There were little tiny things, you know,” said Jane. “At first — what is on my floor? Thinking it’s fuzz or something. And I’m like, ‘What’s going on with the surface of this floor?’ And it’s all right at the entry way. And then it started to get worse.”
While Jane initially paid around $2,700 for the installation, it would have cost her $3,000 to $4,000 to replace it. She tried to get in touch with the flooring installation company for more than a year, with no luck. After she called a local news station for help, she finally got a response.
The issue was due to the glue, said the owner of Bailey Floors. However, an inspection later found that the problem was not due to faulty materials but to elevated moisture.
In a humid state like Florida, it can be difficult to maintain hardwood floors for this reason. Owners and installers in locations with excessive moisture need to take special precautions. Moisture levels need to be tested prior to installation.
In addition, homeowners should be diligent in their hiring practices. Always ask to see a contractor’s certificate of competency. While it’s not required in the flooring industry, it’s a good indication of a trustworthy business. To that end, homeowners should also do extensive research before selecting a contractor. In the digital age, a lot of what you need can be found online. Look for reviews on reputable sites like Angie’s List and Yelp, and check with the Better Business Bureau for any red flags.