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Old 01-10-2008, 02:04 PM   #1
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moisture barrier issue: oak hardwood over concrete slab


Hi,

Last summer, we had a floor professionally installed.

From top to bottom, it looks like this:

3/4 tongue and groove prefinished red oak (Lauzon)
felt underlayment
2 layers of interior plywood (7-ply birch); layers are floating and screwed to each other
six mil plastic (seams covered with gorilla duct tape)
concrete

We are in the Bay Area of California and have had some significant rain. As a result, the plywood underneath appears to be buckling, causing a gap between the plywood subfloor and the hardwood; even thought the floor is naildown tongue and groove, you can see it flex when you walk across it. I recall that they did not leave much room for expansion between the plywood sheets.

I presume that the moisture barrier below was compromised or not installed properly. We don't have any cupping just yet. What are the long term prospects? If water vapor is getting through from the concrete, will the plywood completely rot over time, or just the very bottom? We do have 2 layers of 7-ply with felt on top of that before you get to the hardwood. I want to have some idea before I insist that the flooring company tear it all out and start from scratch. Many thanks in advance.

Paul


Last edited by paul_mcbride; 01-10-2008 at 02:11 PM.
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Old 01-11-2008, 04:35 AM   #2
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moisture barrier issue: oak hardwood over concrete slab


Off the cuff I would say there is an installation issue ( Mind you this is an internet assesment).

If there is so much moisture that it is buckling exterior grade plywood , then the floor should never have been installed. There isnt a moisture barrier in the world that will hold back that amount.

Did the installer or retailer do a moisture test befor the install?

Definately get them back there to address this. This is their fault

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Old 01-14-2008, 11:53 AM   #3
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moisture barrier issue: oak hardwood over concrete slab


Thanks Mike. The plywood is interior grade (two layers of 7-ply)--not sure if that would differ from exterior grade. In any case, they said they were experts at installing on concrete slab... apparently not.

Cheers,
Paul
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Old 01-14-2008, 01:12 PM   #4
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moisture barrier issue: oak hardwood over concrete slab


Your right too. It should have been exterior grade plywood but it still sounds like a serious moisture issue
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Old 01-14-2008, 01:16 PM   #5
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moisture barrier issue: oak hardwood over concrete slab


"have had some significant rain" ?

Try a little honey before you break out the vinegar. Ask the floor installer... when would it be a good time for him to come out and help find the problem.
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Old 01-15-2008, 01:02 PM   #6
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moisture barrier issue: oak hardwood over concrete slab


Well I had some crew out from the floor company. They claim that moisture isn't the issue, as individual boards would be cupping. Instead, what I've got are waves propagating across the floor when you walk on it, as the nail down floor has separated from the plywood sub floor by as much as 0.5 inch. They suggested that the plywood sheets which are floating and not anchored could be rocking on a the concrete floor beneath. The plywood has come up so much that they had to cut the french doors by about 0.5 inch just so they would open... A veritable mess this has become, but the hardwood itself has not been affected on a board by board basis.

--Paul
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Old 01-19-2008, 05:41 PM   #7
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moisture barrier issue: oak hardwood over concrete slab


Sorry to hear about the issue Paul. To start, it is hard to give an authoritative opinion without seeing the issue. It sounds like the plywood swelled as your floor has raised 1/2" and doors had to be trimmed.

More than likely it is a moisture issue that has affected the plywood and probably hasnt reached the flooring yet. For one, the concrete should have been sealed (plastic is the "poor mans" option). Second roofing paper is not a mositure sealer for hardwood flooring. I see this all the time and one of the biggest problems was roofing felt used in lieu of a proper moisture barrier.

By the sounds of the flooring install, it seems they did float it correctly, but may have put each piece of plywood too closely together. I wish there was an easy fix, but I am afraid if it is moisture, there is not. The only way to prevent the growth and future problems, is to remove the flooring and seal the concrete.

If you have any questions you can e-mail me at jordanpeterson72 at gmail.com.
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Old 01-19-2008, 07:01 PM   #8
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moisture barrier issue: oak hardwood over concrete slab


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Originally Posted by mpeterson72 View Post
Sorry to hear about the issue Paul. To start, it is hard to give an authoritative opinion without seeing the issue. It sounds like the plywood swelled as your floor has raised 1/2" and doors had to be trimmed.

More than likely it is a moisture issue that has affected the plywood and probably hasnt reached the flooring yet. For one, the concrete should have been sealed (plastic is the "poor mans" option). Second roofing paper is not a mositure sealer for hardwood flooring. I see this all the time and one of the biggest problems was roofing felt used in lieu of a proper moisture barrier.

By the sounds of the flooring install, it seems they did float it correctly, but may have put each piece of plywood too closely together. I wish there was an easy fix, but I am afraid if it is moisture, there is not. The only way to prevent the growth and future problems, is to remove the flooring and seal the concrete.

If you have any questions you can e-mail me at jordanpeterson72 at gmail.com.
I agree. Who am I though? Well, I have been in the flooring business for 24 years. IMHO, there were several mistakes made and you, Paul, have a major problem if the hardwood has seperated from the plywood.

#1 plywood should NEVER be laid tight together.

#2 moisture is the only reason plywood will swell

Paul

What I would recomend is to contact the NWFA and arrange for an independent inspection. The will charge you, but you will also get a definitive answer (in most cases). Sounds like a ripout to me, and installer error IMHO, sight unseen. Do yourself a favor and contact the NWFA, they can help.
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Old 01-20-2008, 12:00 AM   #9
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moisture barrier issue: oak hardwood over concrete slab


To me, installing plywood over a slab, whether on grade or below is not smart. That goes double when hardwood is then installed or it. People have been trying things like that for ever, it works much of the time, but it's a high risk installation.

There are procedures to installing 3/4" hardwood over a slab, but most times cut-rate installers do not follow the rules.

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Old 01-23-2008, 01:07 PM   #10
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moisture barrier issue: oak hardwood over concrete slab


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Originally Posted by deef1999 View Post
Paul

What I would recomend is to contact the NWFA and arrange for an independent inspection. The will charge you, but you will also get a definitive answer (in most cases). Sounds like a ripout to me, and installer error IMHO, sight unseen. Do yourself a favor and contact the NWFA, they can help.
This is sound advice. I can't seem to locate inspectors in my area (Santa Cruz, CA). I will call them.

Thanks!

Paul
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Old 01-29-2008, 02:45 PM   #11
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moisture barrier issue: oak hardwood over concrete slab


Well I haven't been able to track down a hardwood floor inspector in my area (Bay Area, CA). Here is a link to a visualization of the issue that I am dealing with. Bear in mind this is a nail-down, not a floating floor. I bargained for a nice living room floor, not a trampoline. --Paul

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Old 01-29-2008, 11:20 PM   #12
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moisture barrier issue: oak hardwood over concrete slab


Quote:
Originally Posted by paul_mcbride View Post
Well I haven't been able to track down a hardwood floor inspector in my area (Bay Area, CA). Here is a link to a visualization of the issue that I am dealing with. Bear in mind this is a nail-down, not a floating floor. I bargained for a nice living room floor, not a trampoline. --Paul

Paul,

The website for NWFA is nwfa.org but it seems to be down, not sure why.

Try here http://www.inspectors-experts.com/CA_A-L.html

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation at all with them, just googled
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Old 01-30-2008, 08:52 AM   #13
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moisture barrier issue: oak hardwood over concrete slab


LOOK HERE: http://www.fitscertified.org/floorin...california.php


Paul I have one question for you. Is there a gas fireplace in this room?
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Old 01-30-2008, 03:03 PM   #14
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moisture barrier issue: oak hardwood over concrete slab


Thanks for the link, deef1999.

Bud: There is no fireplace in the house. Just forced air heat.

I did have another wood floor company come over to look and they had a hard time believing that this isn't a floating floor. They had never seen a nail-down with this outcome. I just hate to spend the hard earned cash and end up with slowly rotting plywood under a trampoline floor.

Best regards,
Paul
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Old 01-30-2008, 04:45 PM   #15
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moisture barrier issue: oak hardwood over concrete slab


That looks strange too me. Looks like all the boards move together like they are still nailed to the plywood but that the plywood has seperated from the second plywood layer. I am no expert but I would think for all the boards to move together like that it would have to be not nailed down, they didn't use very many nails or they drove every nail 90 percent through the product and they have worked their way the rest of the way through.

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