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Old 07-15-2009, 05:32 PM   #1
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New buckled hardwood floors


Hi all,

I'm new to the site as well as being new to DIY in general. I just bought my first home (yay!) which is most definitely a fixxer-upper. One of the first things that I did was to pull up the rather disgusting carpet and have Bruce hardwood floors installed. They looked beautiful at first, and I was estatic. Now, however, I'm having a problem.

The hardwood floors in the 12 x 14 foot den, which was previously a garage and has a concrete subloor, are now very buckled. The entire floor is unusable given how wavy and unstable it is. You can jump on one of the giant bubbles and it's almost like jumping on a trampoline. Not good.

The installers put down a vapor barrier on the concrete and then used metal spike things to put down a layer of plywood. The hardwood floors were then nailed (stapled) into the plywood.

The garage had been converted into a den about 10 years ago, and had badly stained carpet (from pets). There was no evidence of a moisture problem, although there are french doors that open onto the deck. The floors throughout the rest of the house are still lovely and more importantly, stable. However, there rest of the house is over a pretty dry crawl space.

I've spoken to the contractor, and he says that it sounds like a problem with moisture and the plywood. Despite his assurances, his crew has yet to make it out here to look at the floor. They've only been down about 3 weeks, so I certainly feel that it's something that they are responsible for fixing!

Any words of wisdom or advice? What caused this, and more importantly, can it be fixed? How?

This is definitely not what I was expecting when I bought a house or hired a contractor to do the work that I can't. Thanks!

Angela
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Old 07-15-2009, 07:26 PM   #2
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New buckled hardwood floors


The buckling can be caused by a number of reasons. The flooring may not have been allowed to acclimate long enough. They may not have left enough room for expansion and contraction of the plywood or the flooring. They may not have stapled it down correctly. There may be a moisture problem. there may be high fluctuations of temperature and or humidity in the garage.

In general I do not recommend hardwood floors over slabs. The only type of wood products I would use in that setting are bamboo or cork (both also are "green" products). If I had to guess I would say it is the plywood that is doing the most buckling. This could be caused by any of the above mentioned.

If I where you I would scrap the hardwood in the former garage and lay tile. I doubt very seriously you will ever get a result with the hardwood out there that you will be completely satisfied with. If tile is not an option try looking into an engineered flooring system, bamboo, or cork alternatives.
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Old 07-15-2009, 10:11 PM   #3
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Hardwood floors are installed over concrete all the time here in Texas. There are several proven methods to doing this and they hold up very well when they are done right. As previously mentioned, the buckling could be cause by several things. The liability lies with your installer, especially since it has been down only a few weeks. There is no easy fix and they will have to pull it all up and redo it judging from your description.

You need to get on the contractor ASAP. He may just be pushing you off. Take the bull by the horns and deal with the situation. You paid for installation and product that has failed and you deserve compensation. In my estimation, tar and screeds is the best installation over concrete, but other methods are acceptable.
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Old 07-16-2009, 07:30 AM   #4
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New buckled hardwood floors


Jaros is absolutely right about taking the bulls by the horn. They used to lay parquet with the tar and screed method mentioned before glues became more prevalent. It has its drawbacks as well and is somewhat labor intensive. Its great to hear that their are guys out there who still do it. Unfortunately most hardwood floor manufactures will not warranty hardwood over slabs. I would think in Texas you probably don't have much of a choice but to lay them over slabs. It's my understanding that the majority of homes built out there are slab construction.
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Old 07-16-2009, 03:11 PM   #5
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New buckled hardwood floors


Thanks for the info. I did call the "main" contractor (who's the fiance of a friend of mine) and explained the problem again and my exasperation that his contractor hasn't shown up when promised to make the repairs, or returned my numerous phone calls to reschedule. He was pretty irked and said he'd talk with him and get him over as soon as possible.

When I told them what I wanted to do, they both said it wouldn't be a problem if they put down the barrier and the plywood subfloor. If they'd told me that I could end up with the amazing wavy floor, I would have chosen a floating floor or carpet or something that would work with the concrete. I'm just really irritated because it's only been 3 weeks and it's already a mess... they should certainly bear the responsibility here.

Unfortunately, I simply can't afford to rip up the hardwoods and put something else down as the first responder suggested. I've spent around $1,500 on the flooring (materials and labor) for this room and that's all that I can afford. So they'll just have to figure out something to do since they told me that they could and since I've already paid them for the work.

If you have any specific advice on how to get the sub-contractor guy back out, I'd appreciate it. I didn't sign a contract because it's my friend's boyfriend and he was able to squeeze me in between other projects. I knew better, but let myself forget this important lesson to save some money and time. I had an oral contract, but I know that's not worth much of anything! Guess I learned something important here, but I just don't want it to end up costing me too much financially; so any words of wisdom are greatly appreciated!

Thanks again for your advice, time and expertise... especially to a true newbie!
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Old 07-16-2009, 04:23 PM   #6
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No written contract, then your probably out of luck. I think you are going to end up eating this one. Its not worth the attorney fees to drag them to court for that amount. As you said lesson learned. The best you can hope for is that your friends boyfriend has a lot of pull with the flooring contractor.
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Old 07-16-2009, 05:08 PM   #7
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One other thing that I didn't realize until my dad asked me... We (myself and the contractors) underestimated how much flooring would be required. So I bought the bulk of the floors and let them sit in the house for 6 days. When they were about half-way done with the den floors, they realized that they were out of floors, and so they went to Lowe's to get 5 more boxes. Obviously since they finished the flooring that day, it didn't have a chance to sit in the house and acclimate. Could that cause the buckling? If so, how could that be fixed?

I'm just hoping that my friend is a good enough friend to pressure her fiance, and that he likes me enough to keep pressuring the sub-contractor to complete the floors properly. I know it was stupid, and I certainly learned a valuable lesson... I just hope that it won't be such a fiscal fiasco for me!

Thanks!
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Old 07-16-2009, 06:23 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by jaros bros. View Post
Hardwood floors are installed over concrete all the time here in Texas. There are several proven methods to doing this and they hold up very well when they are done right. As previously mentioned, the buckling could be cause by several things. The liability lies with your installer, especially since it has been down only a few weeks. There is no easy fix and they will have to pull it all up and redo it judging from your description.

You need to get on the contractor ASAP. He may just be pushing you off. Take the bull by the horns and deal with the situation. You paid for installation and product that has failed and you deserve compensation. In my estimation, tar and screeds is the best installation over concrete, but other methods are acceptable.
I'm not a carpenter or floor installer by any means, but been around the trades for 20+ years & have never heard of this application. It sounds like you spread & level tar & stick the floor down into it? Not questioning whether it works or not, just curious about the installation process. Heck, I've tarred my fair share of foundation walls & screeded alot of concrete, I may have a new calling in hardwood floors!
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Old 07-16-2009, 06:31 PM   #9
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New buckled hardwood floors


I have a moisture meter and always use it to confirm that moisture levels are where they need to be before I lay the flooring. There is no easy way to fix a buckled floor but to redo it.

Another thought: Right now you are just guessing that the most recent flooring that you bought may have had a higher moisture content. It may be a problem with the slab or with the plywood or even with the fasteners used.

A word of mouth contract is still valid in a court of law. You made this contract with the general contractor and need to just deal with him. Hopefully things will work out for you. I can't imagine a real flooring installer underestimating 5 boxes of flooring. Sounds like this was maybe a cash deal too. Enough said. Lesson learned. Good luck.
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Old 07-16-2009, 06:33 PM   #10
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I'm not a carpenter or floor installer by any means, but been around the trades for 20+ years & have never heard of this application. It sounds like you spread & level tar & stick the floor down into it? Not questioning whether it works or not, just curious about the installation process. Heck, I've tarred my fair share of foundation walls & screeded alot of concrete, I may have a new calling in hardwood floors!
No, tar and screeds or cleats is where you lay out tar and lay the screeds or cleats in the hot tar. You then nail the flooring to the screeds or cleats.
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Old 07-16-2009, 06:45 PM   #11
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Jaros, Any issue with taking hot tar into an existing residence, like the odor or spillage, etc..? And is the tar enough to keep the "sleepers" or screeds fastened to the floor, or do you go back & fasten any problem areas with fasteners?
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Old 07-16-2009, 07:47 PM   #12
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A word of mouth contract is still valid in a court of law.

Yes, this is true, however the cost to hire an attorney specializing in contract law ( $300 an hour or more) far exceeds the value of the project. If there was a written contract I would sing a different tune as these are obviously much easier to prove. Always have a written contract. In many states now it is required by law anyway.

Angela,
For future reference figure the square footage of the floor rounded to the nearest carton. Then add 8%-15%, the lower number for a typical professional installation the higher number for the typical DIY installation.

As has been said there are many variables that could have caused the floor to buckle. It is considered an industry standard to let the flooring acclimate for 48 to 72 hours in the rooms it is to be installed in. If your budget is tight and you can't get them back to make it right, tear it out and lay carpet down. Carpet is very economical and easy to replace down the road.
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Old 07-16-2009, 07:58 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by jomama45 View Post
Jaros, Any issue with taking hot tar into an existing residence, like the odor or spillage, etc..? And is the tar enough to keep the "sleepers" or screeds fastened to the floor, or do you go back & fasten any problem areas with fasteners?
Sleepers are mechanically fastened to the floor, screeds are laid in hot asphalt mastic with a 6mil vapor barrier installed over top of them. To answer your question yes the mastic will hold them in place.
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