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Al's column: Monitoring moisture in wood

March 13/20, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 20

By Scott Perron

 

Screen Shot 2017-01-16 at 12.12.14 PMMore than 90% of all floor coverings installed in the lower Southeast U.S.—especially Florida—are laid down over a concrete slab. That means installers need to be particularly aware of problems and potential failures related to excess moisture.

When my family’s company relocated to Florida and first began 24-7 Floors in Sarasota, we had to learn many new installation techniques related to a simple change in geography. We initially saw many issues with laminate and even sheet vinyl flooring as it related to the levels of moisture present in the concrete, causing everything from discoloration to expansion. Last year we began seeing a huge rash of hardwood flooring failures as that product category has become very popular in our region over the last several years. In recent weeks I have conducted inspections at five different hardwood installations that revealed problems from minor discoloration or bubbling to complete failure in at least three cases.

For those installers who have been putting these products down without moisture testing or applying the proper moisture mitigation solutions, you need to be aware of the potential financial repercussions.

An NWFA certified inspector openly told me most companies that install hardwood flooring materials that are glued directly to the concrete are not following the proper procedures for testing or mitigation prior to installation. Surprisingly, he said, this is not limited to the “bucket-and-trowel” guys; full-line flooring retailers are guilty as well. Too many times the dealer pins his hopes on a premium adhesive as a cure all to moisture, but the fine print changes that in a hurry. Many of the worst cases I have seen personally are the result of purchases made at supply-only outlet centers that do not take responsibility for the installation, only the sale of the product.

We have compiled a library of pictures that show these failures, and we are educating each of our customers on the proper procedures for installation whether we provide labor or just materials. We discuss the proper process for testing, mitigation and adhesives, and we inform the customer we will not put these materials down unless the process is followed the correct way. We learned our lesson the hard way: One of our only installation issues happened on a job that failed in 13 months due to moisture. Prior to the installation, I decided not to test this home because it already had glue-down wood in the main living area so when we removed the old floor and added the adjacent areas we thought we were in the clear. As it turns out we were wrong; there were signs of excessive moisture in the other perimeter rooms. As a result, I promised the customer a full replacement. To my surprise, the customer was very understanding and actually added more areas which helped offset our claim.

A hardwood flooring manufacturing executive I know shared a few failure stories of his own regarding situations where his company’s products were improperly installed in some sizable projects resulting in the flooring contractor being sued and ultimately forced to close his doors. Being the low bidder in that scenario was deadly.

Although this is a challenge we feel will be a growing concern as we move into the future, it spells opportunity for a quality contractor to supply, install and correct the various issues that may arise.

 

Scott Perron is the CEO of 24-7 Floors based in Sarasota, Fla. He is also a motivational speaker. He can be reached at scott@24-7floors.com.