Hardwood floor Bad install?

rachelaApril 8, 2014

Our contractor was on vacation when he had our beautiful new hardwood floor installed. His installer cut up the long pieces of hardwood into small (10" or so pieces) and installed many many small pieces in the entire 1250 square foot apartment, except the bathroom.

Turns out the guy he used to do this work is a tiler, not a floor installer. He did not rack the floor properly, nor did he work outward. I am certainly a novice in the flooring department but it is evident that the floor was pieced together with 5, 6, 7 small pieces together in each row, right next to each other, row after row. Not wanting to alienate the contractor, we are waiting until he completes more of the renovation before discussing this with him.

We have learned that unless you have piles of money to pour into a renovation, contractors are a very sensitive and princelike lot in the Westchester, NY region. As it is there is a lot of price gouging in the area, and this contractors prices are fair. His other work has been great. He is very highly rated, with a badge or some special citation, on the Houzz website.
There are only 5 star reviews on him on Houzz. We believe that he doesn't want to spoil his reputation.

I think the mistake was to begin our work when he was on vacation.

What a big disappointment.

Please help to sort this out!

Can it be repaired?
How to approach this with the contractor?
What to do?

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Sophie Wheeler

Wood comes out of the box in precut lengths. No installer cuts long boards into short boards. He'd be cutting off the tongue or groove and the boards wouldn't fit together. If you wanted more long boards, you should have bought a higher grade of wood. Low grades of wood, aka ''cabin grade'', or actually seconds and thirds is full of short boards. You want clear long boards, you pay for select.

Wood floors do not get installed from the middle out. They start a an edge and work out from that. If you are unhappy with a portion of the work, then you DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THE END OF THE JOB TO SAY SOMETHING!! Constructionhas a sequential schedule, and if you want something in themiddle of the project addresses, you do it then. If you let things progress to the end of the job, things have to be torn out and your home disrupted even more to fix it. IF it can be fixed at all at that point. If you allow the baseboard and molding and cabinets to be installed on top of the flooring, then you're gonna own that flooring because it's too much extra work to fix at that point. If you don't bring a perceived problem to a contractor's attention IMMEDIATELY, then he assumes that everything is fine. And he's completely blindsided at the end, and can't really do anything about it at that point. You're setting yourself up for resentment on both your parts with that type of passive aggressive behavior.

When people in an expensive area of the country label a contractor's rates ''fair''' they usually mean cheap. And they get what they pay for, as in lower quality components, and hidden low quality work. If you have expectations of high quality, then there is no way to get it other than paying the price for high quality work. Or DIY. Fast. Good. Cheap. You only get 2 of 3 of those choices. Choose wisely.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 7:42AM
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Hollysprings, I appreciate your imput. We still have an entire box of wood remaining. The boards in that box are all long. Cannot imagine that this final box was the only one with long boards.
Fair pricing, yes, because the contractor is from an area further north of us, ie more rural. Charging $12,900. to prep and paint walls in a 1250 square foot apartment is price gouging. That was the price charged by the previous contractor. I wonder which part of the country you are in to give you authority to comment on the validity of the pricing mechanism in Westchester county NY.
The base molding is not in, none of the other items that you mention are in either.
My plea was for help!

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 8:53AM
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Can you post a picture?

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 9:46AM
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Read your contract first. Be sure you fully understand the products and services that you purchased. If it's not in writing, it doesn't exist. Then, with that knowledge, talk to your contractor. He can't fix something that he doesn't know bothers you. No need to be afraid to communicate with your partner in the project. He's there to do the work he agreed to do, so if you don't think he's doing that, you have to actually say something for him to know that.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 10:57AM
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Do NOT wait to address this with your contractor. If he's good, you won't alienate him if you use a professional approach. He should be as horrified as you are at the hack job. So call him up TODAY and say, "please come look at this floor. We have concerns about the workmanship." Then calmly walk him through the issues that you've laid out above. Don't take a tone of accusation, assume the mindset that as a craftsman himself he'd want to know if anything wasn't done to a high level of quality, so he can fix it. Then expect him to replace it--on his dime or that of the installer--and be firm if he tries to duck out of it.

There is no argument for waiting. And it makes you look scheming/unprofessional. (If it really bothered you, why did you wait 3 months to say something?) Waiting won't make him more amenable to fixing the problem. In fact, he might be less amenable, because at that point he's almost done with the job, so he's not got much to lose by blowing you off. And if he's the kind that would shirk his responsibilities, he's not someone you want doing the rest of your remodel work.

There is not a way to repair short little pieces; they'll need to be torn out and reinstalled using the original sized long pieces.

BTW, it would help if you post a couple photos of the floor here so that people can confirm that, in fact, it's a shoddy job.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 2:01PM
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Weedyacres ~ Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply. We are currently carrying 2 locations until we can move in. We did not have a good experience with the first contractor. It took several months to finally find someone willing to complete a relatively small job in one of the most upscale areas of the country. (DH works in the town) We so much want to finish to be able to move in. That was the motivation to wait to address the floor until more work was completed. Definitely a poor excuse but dealing with the reality of the high cost of dragging this out even longer.

I completely agree with you, if the contractor is truly a craftsman he would be horrified as well. As I said to dh, the contractor probably knows himself that it wasn't done correctly. The floor looks good except for the short pieces (to my inexperienced eye).
That said, I will definitely post pictures by tomorrow Thank you so much, this really helps.

This post was edited by rachela on Tue, Apr 8, 14 at 15:04

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 2:40PM
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We still have an entire box of wood remaining. The boards in that box are all long. Cannot imagine that this final box was the only one with long boards.

Was this an unopened box that has all long pieces in it? Or it is what was left after the install? As mentioned above, if you cut the boards, you would be cutting off either the tongue or the groove.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 6:32PM
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You should be able to tell by looking at the ends whether they are cut or finished edges.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 11:04PM
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Please tell me, which boards am I looking at? The new ones left in the box?

DH says they were all long boards. I will get the invoice and call Columbia Flooring tomorrow. And post photos. DH does not care, he thinks the floor looks great.

thank you all, so good to have support on this.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2014 at 11:13PM
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I doubt the floor looks great, to each his own, but will await photos. What type of wood? Colombia, but what line/style of flooring?

The cut, installed floor boards would appear cut compared to the unaltered boxed ones. Look at the edges you think were cut and compare to the finished edges of uncut boards.

Was the box of longs unopened?

Crazy things happen on installs. Even when you have a flooring store responsible for the work. Nothing would surprise me.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 12:24AM
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The box of longs that is sitting on the floor is open but full or close to full. It is Columbia Flooring Silverton line Snow White Ash, 5" hardwood. We chose a very light color to open and brighten the space.

I think the only way to access a photo online on an ipad is to post the link to it.

Thank you so much. Will go up there tomorrow, over an hour from here, take lots of photos and post.

Here is a link that might be useful:

This post was edited by rachela on Wed, Apr 9, 14 at 0:44

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 12:32AM
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It is ilogical to cut long lengths into shorter pieces; makes no sense at all.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 1:02AM
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Just an idea-- could it be that he used all the pieces that were around the same size and culled the very large ones? Maybe the box you have leftover is full of the very long pieces he thought would look out of place with the others. Was the leftover box unopened?

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 1:06AM
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I know that it makes no sense. That is what is so disturbing. When I first saw it, I said, whoa what is wrong with this guy?

The great responders to my post have reframed the possibilities for me and I have some investigative work to do.

The offer online for the product from the company that it was purchased from mentions only width and thickness, not length. Other than getting the invoice, calling Columbia Flooring, and examining the ends of the wood to see what the cuts look like, I don't know how else to figure out if this was short pieces right out of the box. Will report back tomorrow.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 1:28AM
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Threepinktrees may be on to something. Perhaps those few long length boards are the culled pieces.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 1:49AM
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Long boards in our flooring tended to be much more warped than the middle and short lengths. We cut most of the really long boards for beginning and ending rows due to the twist issues. Ours was site finished red oak and at the end the majority of culls were the long boards.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 5:26AM
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Check the boards in the box to see if they are warped in any way, bowed or not straight. See if they fit together easily and lay flat.

"is evident that the floor was pieced together with 5, 6, 7 small pieces together in each row, right next to each other, row after row. "

I didn't understand this before. You are saying he laid the floor in a grid type tile pattern, not staggered joints?

Your GC should jump on this without hesitation as soon ad he sees it, without you even having to mention it. Joints should not be aligned for strength reasons, not just appearance.

I see the 3/4 thickness comes in 12 - 60 inch lengths and that it retails for $8.50/ft. The website you linked seems to sell a 1/2" version without detailed specs. What thickness did you get and how was it fastened to the subfloor?

When does he return?

Here is a link that might be useful: 3/4 floor

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 9:09AM
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You are my hero.Thank you so much for your support. I feel that we will get to the bottom of this.

The pieces are staggered, I just didn't know how to describe it. I linked to that site solely for the photo.

We purchased the flooring from Quality Floors Direct in Massachusetts. The information that I saved at the time of ordering states 3/4" thickness. Posting the link for the product.

Now going to call Columbia Flooring.

Here is a link that might be useful: Quality Floors Direct Columbia Flooring Snow Cap Ash Solid

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 11:25AM
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Columbia Flooring said to file a claim with Quality Floors Direct, and tell them to file a claim with their sales rep at Mohawk.

There is only one "character grade" of plank. So there is no possibility these were seconds. Supposed to be randomly mixed lengths 9" to 72". Columbia Flooring customer service said that this has happened before and to file a claim!

Will post photos later.

This post was edited by rachela on Wed, Apr 9, 14 at 11:45

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 11:43AM
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In addition to looking closely at the ends to see if they appear to be cut, try pushing down on one close to the end. If they're not tongue-and-grooved together, you should be able to budge one a tad without impacting the one next to it. If they're properly T&G'd, they'll move down together. That'll give you a better clue to whether they're cut.

I'm scratching my head with everyone else as to why anyone would undertake the extra work of cutting down planks. Especially for a worse final product.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 3:48PM
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Sophie Wheeler

There's ''Select'' grade, which is pretty expensive, where the boards are mostly all longs above 36'', with minimal color variation.. Most people end up with #1 due to budget. It has nice color variation and usually 60% of the boards are 36'' or longer. When you get into #2, you get a LOT more knots and color variation, and the board sizes are about 40% over 3'.

When you go below #2, anything goes. Warped boards, gaping knots, giant mineral streaks, etc. And, mostly short boards. It's sometimes called ''cabin grade'', but what it really is is scraps that didn't make the cut to get sold for the higher grade. That's what ''character grade''really is, and there is no manufacturer that would even support a claim on it. The only warranty that such wood has would be for the finish, if it's prefinished. Expect about a 20% cull rate from such wood.

Here is a link that might be useful: Look at ''cabin grade''

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 8:34PM
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Well, I contacted the company flooring was purchased from. I sent photos. We have established two things:
1. There are too many short boards.
2. The installation is really bad. There is not one, but many different ways that the install was not executed properly.

I am told, if we have it evaluated for the short boards, the independent evaluator will throw it out because of the poor install.

What to do?

This post was edited by rachela on Thu, Apr 10, 14 at 11:15

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 9:53AM
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Wow, that's really poor layout. Your GC needs to foot the bill for a new floor (or make his sub do the same). Has he seen it yet?

Could you verify for sure that the boards were cut and not just all small? I do see a few long boards in there.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 1:46PM
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Cool looking floor.

This is something you get the GC involved asap. Dont wait. The short boards are a problem to a degree. But the biggest issue from what i see is the install job.

I think your focus should be on the install job. Not the short boards. A real pro would have peppered in the short boards sparingly. Thus not drawing youre eye to it.

Fix the install and the short boards should take care of it self. Two birds one stone.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 6:19PM
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Went there yesterday. The shorts were shipped that way. I do not believe the installer cut them.

The only way to fix the install is to redo it?

Anyone have a great, kind, and available contractor in the Westchester, Dutchess, or Putnam County area?

I am so afraid that we will alienate the current one, which I know I shouldn't care about. A serious aspect of this is that we need to move in the next 2 months.

I cannot thank all of you enough. It is beyond wonderful to have your support.

This post was edited by rachela on Thu, Apr 10, 14 at 20:00

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 7:52PM
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It is such a shame and never should have happened. This is what you pay all that money to a GC for. When does he return? See how he handles things when he inspects the install. Hopefully he will take one look and step up to the plate.

Good luck getting this resolved. So much easier said than done.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 9:42PM
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GC has been back for weeks. Who knows if he picked up the cardboard that was covering the floor to protect it while other work was done to see how the floor looks.
We are caught between a rock and a hard place. Have to get our C of O so we can move in, but on the other hand I do not have confidence in this guy. DH just wants to move in. He doesn't see how could the floor be unstable.

I posted on Houzz as well. The contractor has a Best of Houzz 2014 badge, which is some sort of special citation. I was told on Houzz that the way the joints are so close to each other make the floor unstable. It was suggested that if the contractor doesn't agree, that we bring in an inspector to write it up.

All of that doesn't get us any closer to moving in. I am thinking to let him put in the kitchen, under very watchful eyes, then address the floor.

What a big mess! Thank you so much. Your support means so much to me!

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 9:56PM
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Do not wait to bring up the floor!!!!! Youre GC has a right to know so he can at least make an attempt to make you happy! Now if he doesnt do anything then you bring in a certified NWFA inspector.

As others have said why install or finish anything thats near your floor only to have to ripout/ reinstall and or finish again??

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 10:05PM
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Do you know what to expect when the NWFA inspector evalluates?

What impact can that inspection ultimately have on the contractor?

Thank you all. I am very grateful that you are there.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2014 at 10:15PM
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Sophie Wheeler

Ash can make a beautiful floor. Select and #1 boards lets the grain be the feature. Better quality wood costs a LOT more though.

The whole floor needs to be removed. NOW. Waiting means you accept the install as is, just like the installation constitutes acceptance of the material as being acceptable. It's an install issue, and it's up to the GC to get with the installer and address it. I highly suggest that you allocate additional funds to choose a higher quality floor. While the install is 90% of the issue, it's compounded by the product being so, ahem, rustic (by design). It's an unsuitable mmaterial choice from the beginning for someone who wants longer boards. Buy something better you have different expectations about board length. Just be prepared to pay for it. No such thing as a free lunch.

You can't have expectations of a problem being addressed if YOU won't even address the problem.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 7:51AM
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Amidst the horror stories on this forum of contractors who shirk their responsibilities, there are regular stories of people who are paranoid of confronting their GC, who proceed to do so and have the GC completely agree with them and redo the problem area without question. You shouldn't necessarily assume that he'll react by storming off the job, especially given his high Houzz rankings, assuming they mean anything.

Think through the possibilities carefully.
If he's a lout, then if you bring it up now he could storm off the job. If he's a lout and you bring it up later, he'd just storm off the job later. And it sounds like you're calculating that he's potentially a lout, so you want to wait to bring it up so you get more done.

If he's a good guy, then if you bring it up now he'll fix it. If he's a good guy and you wait to bring it up, he might say "hey, if you had told me sooner I would have fixed it, but now it's going to cost me a lot more because I've put trim in, etc., so you're stuck with it."

THAT's what we're all trying to warn you about. You run the risk of alienating a good GC by waiting. That's neither fair nor reasonable. And you said you have confidence in him. Why, then, are you acting like you know he's a lout?

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 5:02PM
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The inspector will look over everything and take some measurements. And he will have the final say over if the install meets NWFA standards. He may find that only a small section is bad. Or he may find everything needs to come up.

If your GC doesnt do anything the inspector is youre knight in shining armor when you take him to court over this.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 6:55PM
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Honestly, he should "notice" all by himself.

The manufacturer said all the shorts were a mistake. What grade is the flooring?

So how much does Hollysprings think you should pay for good flooring?

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 7:26PM
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All, thank you. You are making this infinitely easier to figure out and address.
Thank you for being my flooring community!

Ok, Hollysprings, How much do you think we should pay for good flooring?

We liked the look of this floor for the lightness of it. We looked everywhere, and this was the look that we most liked. Not the shorts, but didn't know there would be loads of them.

DH said that the contractor told him that he would put putty in the gaps. So, it appears that Mr. Best of Houzz 2014 doesn't know what he is talking about. When I mentioned the putty to the technician at NWAF, his response was, OH No!

The flooring is character grade. As someone on Houzz said, it has too much character. NWAF technician said if he knew what he was doing he could have used many of the shorts in closets. Which, by the way, he did not.

NWAF is sending out an information packet that will explain how a correctly installed floor should look.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 9:35PM
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what happened with the floor?
did the GC replace it?

    Bookmark   June 5, 2014 at 6:24AM
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