6 months in new construction, upstairs wood floors popping sounds

ayvaMarch 4, 2014

I'll try to describe everything as best I can. I would love and appreciate some input. We had a house built in VA while we were still living in NC, so we were unable to keep checking on the house as it was being built. I didn't realize until we moved in that our joist spacing (I-joists spaced 24" OC) was spaced so far apart! Thankfully, our downstairs has 2 subfloors (we were supposed to only have Advantech as the subfloor, but they made a mistake and put OSB down instead. We insisted that they put the Advantech over it. So the floor feels pretty solid despite the joists being spaced so far apart. We have white oak flooring on both levels of our home. There are no noise issues at all downstairs where there are two subfloors. However, upstairs was supposed to originally be carpeted. We changed our mind at the last minute to all wood upstairs as well, but the subfloor is only OSB over the joists spaced 24"OC (didn't realize that at the time. We naively thought they put Advantech upstairs). The first 6 months of living here were fine. Then as the humidity started rising in summer, the upstairs floors developed noises like pops and cracks (sounds really loud at night when walking down the hall trying not to wake the kids!). They have gotten worse and now we have been here a year and it is still bothersome to say the least. I understand that the subfloor and joist spacing is most likely to blame, as I can actually feel some of the boards flexing as I walk. The builder said they cannot warranty against wood movement as the house settles and wood shrinks and all. Hmmmmm. Is there anything that can be done?

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"The builder said they cannot warranty against wood movement as the house settles and wood shrinks and all." Although that is what your builder says, that assumes that the floor was installed over an approved substrate and to industry standards. The OSB (oriented strand board) must be the thickness required for the joist spacing to fall within the category of an approved substrate. If your floor is failing because of it being installed over an inadequate substrate, then there is no remedy, other than removing it and installing an approved substrate.

You may want to consider hiring a certified wood floor inspection company to find the root cause of the problems with your floor. Then, based on the findings, have an informed discussion with your builder.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2014 at 2:18PM
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I vaguely remember my floor installer suggesting if there is a loud spot upstairs, it is possible to drill it and inject something in there to stop movement.
Not sure but may be cheaper than a new floor.
Remember even new homes have imperfections.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 11:12AM
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This sounds like faulty work of one sort or another, not normal movement. You need to get an independent, certified flooring inspector in there to determine the cause. Before your warranty expires. Don't let the builder stall any longer. Go around him.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 2:06PM
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Thanks for the replies everyone....I appreciate it! Unfortunately, our one year warranty is up. I didn't push the issue because I hate confrontation, but I think I hate popping crackling even more. Probably someone who hates confrontation should not build, right? I will look into getting a wood floor inspector. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 7:19AM
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If they screwed up, they are still responsible for their work. And it sounds like you advised within the period.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 7:27AM
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I contacted an inspector and described my situation. He charges a lot and we don't have the money right now, but he gave his best diagnosis through email. He said that the fasteners used for hardwood flooring don't hold well in OSB (surprise surprise), and that because the joist spacing is so wide, there is a lot of deflection causing the fasteners to loosen. The only remedy is to tear up the floors, fix the subfloor by adding thickness, and re-install. Has anyone ever done this? Is it expensive? I've contacted the builder and let him hear a video of my husband and I walking down the hallway and the floors cracking with every step. The builder says it is most likely because of the harsh winter we had, and that the humidity of spring/summer might help the noises calm down. They refuse to fix it. So now what?

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 10:45AM
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The only way you can convince anyone, him or a judge, of a faulty install is to get a certified inspection report. He can't argue with that. Well he probably will but ...

You can get an estimate to redo as the inspector finds.

Have a good real estate lawyer write him a letter.

Think about whether you would pursue or live with it. That is really your choice here since you are not dealing with an ethical, responsible person.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 11:38PM
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Good advice, Snookums...thanks!

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 3:27PM
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Okay, the builder agreed to fix this, but he is recommending pulling up the hardwood and installing carpeting. The reason is that if we added an additional subfloor to the existing, we'd have to redo our stairs because of the height difference. If we ripped out the inferior subfloor, I think it would cause too much damage as it is glued (and screwed) to the joists. I don't want to damage the joists. Is there any other way to stiffen up a subfloor?

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 10:13AM
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