wood flooring installed without proper acclimation

firsthome26June 24, 2013

Hi Everyone,

We are building our first home and were shocked to find our builder installing our 3.25" red oak floors in 80 degree, 65% humidity weather without properly acclimating the wood. Our house is still open to the elements and without a working HVAC system. We spoke to the builder and he states that they measured the humidity of the flooring and the subfloor and since they only varied by 2%, they went ahead with the install. I expressed my strong concern regarding the boards expanding and contracting, but he told me my concerns were unfounded. He did suggest that we could have our lawyer draft a contract which states that he will replace the floors should any problems arise. We plan to do this and were hoping to get some advice as to what specifically should be include in this contract. My concern is that I will find the gaps in the wood unacceptable but that the builder will say that the gaps are within the normal range and not related to the install (when they in fact are). I'm very frustrated by all this and greatly appreciate any and all help.
Thanks in advance!

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Are you getting unfinished or prefinished wood installed? And is it solid or engineered?

By humidty in wood you mean the moisture level. If the subfloor and the wood are within 2% as your contractor says. Then thats perfectly acceptable.
Acclimating the wood is designed to allow the subfloor and wood planks to reach a common reading in moisture content.

If the humidty outside was at 65% and you have no ac its not a deal breaker but there should be some way to control the indoor levels to stay at a constant.

Wood floors move. Regardless of how well kept your environmental conditions are. You cant stop the wood from expanding and contracting. You can minimalize the amount by keeping consistent conditions but you can stop it. Meaning your floor will open up in dry weather(winter) and close up in wet humid weather(summer)

If you feel a contract will make you sleep easier ok. But given the information youve given nothing is throwing up a red flag.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 10:49PM
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Thanks for responding. I'm happy to hear that you don't think this is too concerning. Everything we have read seems to stress that acclimation and a constant environment is key to a good quality install.

To answer your questions, it is unfinished solid oak flooring and there is no control over the indoor humidity and temp (doors and windows wide open all day, if not all night).

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 11:07PM
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Your windows and doors are not installed??

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 12:01AM
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Sophie Wheeler

With that much humidity in the home, the boards will absorb it and swell and cup. You'llalso have pretty darn large gaps in the winter. MUCH larger than if your flooring was installed into a humidity controlled environment. The HVAC should be on and running for at least a month in a new construction environment. There is a LOT of water in all of the wood, drywall mud, and everything else. The HVAC will pull that out. Yes, the flooring and subfloor should be close in moisture content, but that's for a controlled environment with the new construction moisture already reduced to acceptable levels. That's not for an uncontrolled environment. You have issues.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 7:49AM
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Hello again,
The doors and windows are installed, but the construction crew leaves them open - which I presume is because it is so hot and humid (which is terrible for the floor!).

The expansion/contraction, cupping, and excessive gaps is exactly what I am worried about. Does anyone know how this can be quantified for our second contract? Something along the lines of "gaps larger than X in the summer and X in the winter are unnacceptable" - can anyone fill in the X?

Thanks again!

This post was edited by firsthome26 on Tue, Jun 25, 13 at 11:42

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 11:32AM
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Specifing a specific size of gap could potentially cause issues. Even if your contractor signed the contract stating a certain size. All he would have to do is get a floor inspector and if that inspector can deem that you didnt keep the inside conditions properly then he might get off the hook in court.

Im not saying your screwed. But i think whatever contract you draw up wont protect you 100%. I think at this point i would start by hiring a certified floor inspector. This way he can be aware of the situation and will be in early enough to where if you do have issues he will have prior knowledge of your situation.

It wouldnt hurt to get a dehumidifier running to try to draw out some of the moisture. Take steps now and try to avoid any hassles

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 5:34PM
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The fact you're already concerned about winter gaps tells me you'll never be satisfied and rightfully so. Have you considered a humidification system for the home to be used in the winter months?

All night? I'm guessing a lot more moisture is creeping into the house than you may think. Think dew point.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2013 at 7:51AM
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Problem is the flooring is already installed and since it has been installed without HVAC and or proper acclimation it may never be right!

    Bookmark   June 26, 2013 at 9:10AM
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I don't know what it is with builders and the wrong order of operations. You should go over to the Building a Home forum and read threeapples saga about the exact same thing. She lost all of her leverage over having it fixed because she took her builder's word that he would take care of the issues after the fact instead of ripping it out and starting over. Now, the project is still having issues, and other things have been installed afterwards, and the flooring would be more difficult to remove, and the builder still doesn't want to make things right. That's your future right there unless you can get a certified flooring inspector involved now to tell the builder to replace it NOW.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2013 at 9:28AM
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There are two important criteria here. It sounds like only one was considered.

The first is the one considered. The moisture difference between the flooring and subfloor should be very small.

The second is the moisture difference between the flooring when installed and the flooring during normal living conditions. Ignoring this is inviting great surprises once the house comes to a near steady state condition post construction.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2013 at 2:10PM
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Thanks to everyone for their input. Needless to say I am very frustrated that my builder refuses to follow well-known guidelines (and refuses to acknowledge that it could lead to a problem). We are getting a certified flooring inspector involved and with his assistance will try to construct a contract that will protect us in the future. While it would be a terrible inconvenience to have to vacate our home to have floors replaced in the future, unfortunately this seems to be our best option at this time. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2013 at 1:03PM
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