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klappjack 06-05-2011 07:24 PM

Hardwood Floor Buckling
My house is over 40 years old. We live in Upstate NY and have a full, unfinished basement. About 10 years ago, we remodeled our kitchen, and a couple of years later, our hardwood floor in our family room (off the kitchen) began to buckle in the summer. It returns to normal in the winter.

On inspection from below, I have determined that the sub floor is lifting up along with the hardwood floor above it. I have looked all over for a leak and have found none. Two years ago, we placed a dehumidifier in the basement below the affected area, but this had no effect.

Right after the kitchen remodel, we put our old refrigerator in the basement directly under where the floor is now buckling. After the floor started buckling, we moved the fridge to a new location, but the buckling continued.

I realize I will have to replace the floor and sub floor, but does anybody know what caused this to begin with. I do not want to have the new floor buckle again.

Thank you

Daniel Holzman 06-06-2011 07:44 AM

Diagnosis for floor buckling requires some photographs. Also requires a description of the exact method of floor installation, i.e. nails, staples, glue. Also what type of hardwood, was it traditional 3/4 inch thick boards, engineered lumber, or glue down squares. What type of subfloor, plywood, particle board, OSB, pine planks?

Floor buckling is usually moisture related, since wood expands perpendicular to the grain as relative humidity increases. Since relative humidity is higher in the summer, at least where you live, wood expands in the summer, and shrinks in the winter. The subfloor may expand at a different rate, depends on the type of subfloor, and method of installation.

The usual method to minimize buckling is to provide an expansion gap around the perimeter of the room. The American Hardwood Flooring Association has specific recommendations for the required gap, which varies by species. If you have too small a gap, the hardwood is likely to buckle in the center of the floor in the summer as moisture in the house increases.

I have an oak floor in MA, which buckles at the center of the house usually starting in late June, then goes back to normal in the winter. Probably too small a gap around the outside of the house. A dehumidifier would help, but I don't care to pay the electric bill for such a device, so I live with it.

klappjack 06-06-2011 08:56 AM

Oak floor

Thanks for your reply.

My floor is oak on a plywood sub floor. It is the tradition 3/4 inch oak flooring. I don't know if the sub floor is 1/2 or 3/4 inch. I hope it is 3/4. The floor is nailed down. My son, who is a carpenter, thinks the sub floor is being pulled up by the nails in the oak floor.

My real question is why this did not happen until the floor was down for 30 years.

You are right about the dehumidifier bills. The appliance has not helped the situation one iota.

Jack K

nelaco 10-02-2014 05:57 AM

Hi Jack, I have the same problem you described back in 2011. Did you ever figure out the cause? My floor is 47 years old. This just started happening last summer and it is happening again now. The basement below is unfinished and only the stairs are right below it. The surface is only about 2'x2'. Thank you for any help you can give me.


klappjack 10-02-2014 06:28 AM


No, I never did figure out the cause. We (my contractor son and I) removed the buckled section and found ducts from the heating system directly underneath. We taped the joints (which was not done when the house was built), screwed the be$%#@! out of the subfloor, and laid a new hardwood floor. This was 2 or 3 years ago and, to date, the floor is flat with no sign of buckling. Or course, at the wall, we left plenty of room for the floor to swell in the summer. I'm not sure they did this when the laid the previous floor.

Good luck with your floor.

nelaco 10-02-2014 06:59 AM

Bummer, I guess I'll have to do the same. Just weird how it didn't happen for so many years and suddenly started buckling. I can see the sub-floor from underneath and don't see any obvious problems. Anyway, thank you for your quick reply Jack. Take care.


begal 10-04-2014 11:21 AM

It was probably installed without expansion gaps. So you can remove the baseboards on the long side and check it out and in which case cut out 1/2" should solve the problem.

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