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buckling floors, trippin hazard!

I'm going to try and give you all the info you need and probably more!
I live in Texas (College Station) and have buckling hardwood floors. My house was built in 1957is 1500 sq feet with 75% being pier and beam, the rest is concrete in converted garage and porch. The soil is clay. I have lived in the house for four years. The floors were refinished approximately five years before i bought the house. the first spring i lived in the house we had record setting rain, over 15". my contractor had framed in the crawl space with 2x2's and finished it out with 2x4's covered with a screen.this kept any water from draining out...which of course shouldn't be a problem. during a rain i realized there was water leaking under the wood on the crawl space so i removed the cover. i had a river of water running out from under my house for an hour. i had a foundation person come out and check things and he could see water marks and said it looked like i had 3-4" of standing water. he said that everything looked good otherwise...the water could have been there for as long as a month.
i do not have gutters d/t the large pine trees that are constantly dropping needles on my roof, and my inability to clean them. i do have a drainage problem and do get some standing water in one corner of the house. at this point i need you all to understand that i have a chronic illness that can be incapacitating and as i live alone it has kept me from getting repairs that i want to do in a timely manor so the point of all this is water around and under my house is nothing new.

in February i noticed that the wood floor in a five by five foot area near the wall in the middle of my living room were cupped. this is the side of the house that is pier and beam.
i was to ill to look into it. as the months went on the cupping spread to the entire living room. about four months from the start of the cupping the buckling started. the first few buckled areas were more like speed bumps, smooth and about three inches tall.the buckling at that time was only in the space that the cupping started near the wall in the center of the living room and did not go under the wall into the next room. slowly the cupping had started to spread to the next room (all the problems are over the pier and beam part of the house. there are hardwoods on the slab in the old garage that was done a long time ago as all details, trim, windows, wood floors etc. match the rest of the house. these floors have no problems)

we did have an unusually rainy spring/summer.

i had an inspector out and he confirms it is moisture with a meter. he notices the roof is sagging in one place which he feels is foundation shift, however my prepurchase inspector did not get on the roof and only briefly looked at the front of the roof and said it looked good so it could have always been like that, my prepurechase inspector didn't have a ladder.
I also have a wall that is bulging, but did not read moisture and the doors on either side of that bulge are do not open or close properly. this wall is in the converted porch room and there is beadboard on the walls. the wall which is drywall on the other side is not effected.

the new inspector looks under the house, but does not go under the house, and said it was wet under there and i needed to get gutters, regrade the yard, and have more air vents put around the house. at this point the buckled areas in the floor have gotten taller and longer, and there are at least two new ones.

i have a plumber out the next day to check for leaks since the main house supply line runs under the living room (all other water pipe bathrooms, kitchen etc are along the back of the house). he goes under the house, finds no leaks and says it is dry under the house.

i have a sewer line that appears to have been replaced since the clean out drain cap is plastic. i'm worried about a leak since the side walk it runs along is undermined and sunken. i have a camera run both directions with no leaks detected.

i have a city engineer and they just say it's not their fault as there are no water lines near the house.

I speak to a foundation person who says he has had a lot of calls this year about buckling floors sue to the rain. he does not come out.

the only changes in the house are a new HVAC unit placed last july. i went from a two ton to a two and a half ton per the recommendations of the installer. after the ac is installed i have all kinds of problems including the house smelling moldy which it never did before, condensation from one of the vents dripping on the floor, air leaking around the...don't laugh can't spell..flew. it was also supposed to have a multispeed fan and humidistat to help take moisture out of the air which it didn't, and it wasn't cooling properly. a carrier rep from Houston came out and looked and said the unit was running as it should. they also said part of the problem was that i needed more insulation in the attic so i had more blow in to R-19.
the floors are continuing to get worse. over four days the largest buckle comes up. it is at least six inches tall and the tongue and groove of the wood floor is exposed and pulled apart at least an inch. this one goes the length of the room. other ones are forming and old ones are getting worse.

because of the only change being the ac and insulation i have a different ac person come out to look at the system oh and i to keep the house cool d/t my health, around 65. i also have to keep the ac set at a low temp or it doesn't run enough and the air gets warm and humid.

the new ac company actually took pictures of my install to show their people how not to install a unit it was so bad. on thing they did was to run the gas line through the return air! so they are telling me that i need to have insulation put under my house, an inspector look at the unit and that i might have to rip the entire unit out and replace it. they look under the house with a flashlight (only the plumber has actually gone under) and they tell me that it is all wet and moldy under there and all the wood is rotting.
they also said i need to put insulation under the house.

i have a contractor out to look and give estimates. he doesn't think i need as many air vents as the inspector did, and that i need a third roof vent.

i have a friend who has his builder come out and he as everyone agrees it is a water problem. but he is unimpressed with the rain or drainage problem as they are not new. as he said this house has been standing here for fifty years and this never happened so something had to change. he does not feel it has anything to do with the joists.
he wants his ac people to look at my unit and his insulation person to look under the house. the problem is it has been two weeks since he has been out and i have not heard back. he is a high dollar builder who is doing this as a favor for a mutual friend. and in the time since he has been here the floors continue to get worse. i'm afraid that i will get a buckle in from of the front door and not be able to use the door.
I will say that along the back wall of the living room the floors are not as bad, and actually read dry when the inspector was out, but that is where the sun sets and it gets hot.

so i have many different opinions and the only thing anyone agrees on is that it is a moisture problem but nobody know from what...

HELP! does anyone have any ideas suggestions? i have already spent 600 to have all these people out and have not gotten anything fixed yet!

i have put a dehumidifier in the living room and don't know what is safe to set the ac on if it even makes a difference.

thank you in advance for any help suggestions
sorry for the novel

Re: buckling floors, trippin hazard!

i forgot to tell you that the ac people put a humidity monitor in the house and it ran between 60-70 with some spikes over 70.
Thank you,

Re: buckling floors, trippin hazard!

"the first spring i lived in the house we had record setting rain, over 15". my contractor had framed in the crawl space with 2x2's and finished it out with 2x4's covered with a screen.this kept any water from draining out...which of course shouldn't be a problem. "

??????? Water trapped under the house would be/ is... a big problem. Sounds to me like this is *big change #1*. And a fundamental mistake at that...in this instance. Inadequately drained and/or vented and the entire crawl space is then turned into a *humdifying chamber* for the flooring and structural members. If water runs into this crawl and can't escape/drain out, then it pools/ponds under there......in every depression deep enough to hold water.......particularly so if you have clay soils. In our locale (upper midwest), crawls would have layer of plastic laid down over the soil to prevent soil-contained moisture from evaporating/wicking upward under the house. Clay soil serves much the same purpose as a sheet of plastic, but if water is getting on top of this "sheet of plastic" and consequently can't escape downward rapidly via drainage.......then you've got a humidifying chamber.

Why was the crawl space enclosed? For appearance? Vermin/rodent/critter problems?

I feel for ya as regards that chronic illness. No fun I'm sure. But that being said, I'm afraid the lack of gutters and those pesky pine tree needles aren't going to cut you a special break as regards rainwater collecting under the house and causing problems. I have a neighbor who has a similar situation. He doesn't want to mount gutters as he'd then have to occasionally clean them......or pay someone to do so which he also doesn't want to do, doesn't want to pay for gutter covers so he wouldn't need to clean them, doesn't want to regrade the soil around the foundation because "it's too much time, hassle and expense"..........but complains loudly every time it rains a substantial amount and his basement takes on water. Then my phone rings yet again and he once again asks what can be done to stop this. I tell him again and get the same old responses. This has been going on now for nearly twenty years. I can expect at least three calls per year concerning the situation. Now I drive the 1/2 mile over there and get a couple free beers while we discuss the matter. He does have good taste when it comes to beers and will spend the money on that. So...... there is an upside for me as concerns his obstinancy. :D

Why did you/the HVAC contractor install a larger AC unit? Was the two-ton unit incapable of keeping up with the peak demand? If so, then more/better insulation, some manner of window shading, better insulated windows, etc would have likely been the better/more appropriate approach rather than getting a bigger AC unit. Dehumidfying the air is a by-product of cooling the air in the house. Too big of a unit and the house air is cooled to the target temp too fast and consequently no meaningful dehumidification takes place. End result is a cool and clammy interior. This could/would also explain why you have moisture dripping from AC vents inside the house. The warm humid interior air is coming in contact with the cool surfaces of the ductwork while the AC is running and the moisture condenses on those surfaces. Condensation and dripping results. I'll bet you also have mold/mildew growing inside those ducts......hence the moldy smell in the house. This will continue so long as the AC unit is oversized for the task at hand (little.... if any....dehumdification will take place).

Here's the likely deal with the rep from Carrier; He came out in an attempt to appease/assure a disgruntled customer (you).......on behalf of both his company .......and the guy who purchased the unit and installed it. So the Carrier guy shows and tells you that the unit is running as it should. It probably is. He made no comment about the size of the unit for the job at hand or about the competency of the installer, did he? This because most company reps won't openly criticize installations or installers for fear of offending them and losing that HVAC contractor's business. Simply put..... Carrier needs to sell their equipment because that's what they do for a living/profit; make and sell equipment. The same holds true for all equipment manufacturers. The Carrier rep who came out may not even have a clue about what size is appropriate for your circumstances. Did he do an evalution of the house, it's windows or insulation and calculate the best size? I bet not. That's not his responsibility or concern. The company warrants their equipment.........not the installer or the installation.

Consider that if you have no insulation under your floor, the underside of the flooring is getting quite cool as well. So under the house in that crawl is hot humid air coming in contact with the cool flooring. This results in more moisture condensing on the bottom of the flooring than if the house was not being ACed at all. As a result of this increased condensation on the bottom of the flooring, it becomes even damper and swells all the more. More buckling ensues...... unless there is adequate expansion space around the perimeter of each room for the finish flooring to expand into. Considering how much moisture you likely have there.....it would take a huge expansion gap to prevent this buckling under the circumstances. The very same may be true of the subflooring, depending upon what comprises the subflooring. If that's solid lumber also, the subflooring would have to have the same amount of expansion gap.

Bottom line, IMO, is that you have a big moisture problem and several basic problems need to be simultaneously addressed to remedy the situation. None of these will be cheap, but the forces of physics care little about the condition of our wallets/bank accounts.

If the flooring has actually heaved up 6" and the T&Gs have come part......there is virtually no chance that the flooring will lay back down once the moisture issues have been addressed/resolved. You *may* be able to cut out portions of the flooring and patch in new....... once humidity levels are back down to where they should be. Impossible to say with certainty from here. At the levels of moisture you now have, this return to normality will take quite some time.

I'll also suggest that you find a contractor who owns a digital camera......or tell your current contractor(s) to bring one along. Then instead of taking anyone's word as to the condition of various areas under the house.....they can show you. I carry a dig-cam with me at all times and use it for this type of communication purpose. Very few of my clients will, for example.........climb the roof with me to see what/where a problem might be. So I take pics, then load 'em up on the laptop (much bigger screen than the dig-cam has) so that they can see for themselves. This also helps me explain to them what will be required to remedy their problems and why it will cost...... what it will cost.

It won't/doesn't surprise me to hear that you have an HVAC guy who tells you that you need a bigger AC unit and an insulation guy who tells you that you need more insulation, etc. I have a hammer, you need a nail. Find someone with a better comprehension of the various involved physics and better diagnostic skills would be my advice. The guy who is poo-pooing the run-off and water under the house is overlooking some of the changes that have taken place as regards that crawl and the larger AC unit.........and the lack of insulation under the floor. The floor is telling you and everyone else that something is seriously wrong and no one (it seems) is seeing the big picture.

If you insulate under the floor, I would be inclined to use either XPS sheets or sprayed-foam. You need an insulation that also serves as a superior vapor barrier to prevent the flooring from taking on moisture from the hot humid air under that crawl.

And you need better ventilation under that crawl, IMO. The faster you can rid the space of water/moisture that does collect there......the better. Moisture that gets in and can't get out means you have a humidifier. Might be a good place to store cigars, but not a good place to store lumber. It's apparent that you can't very well keep all the humidity out of the crawl in this instance, but you can minimize the humidity level and therefore the damage it does. As it is, it's likely 100% RH under there much of the time when water is present. Even dropping that to 85% would be an improvement.

Another option, albeit expensive, is to totally enclose/seal the crawl space and then condition it (dehumdify it).........to keep things dry under there. This may or may not be practical, possible or even advisable. It would depend upon a number of factors........including being able to prevent any substantial amounts of water from entering the space at all.

Since the flooring/house didn't seem to have these serious problems until your guy enclosed the crawl.....there's suspect number one. Seems like everyone else is now trying/suggesting/selling various approaches to overcome the problems caused by that and no one has hit the bullseye yet. Sounds like things are getting rapidly worse instead of better.

Re: buckling floors, trippin hazard!

Hi and thank you for your response. I think I may have confused the issue some with the standing water under the house and the enclosed crawl space. it was covered to keep varmits out, but did have a screen it the frame work to allow ventialation. the reason i mentioned it was that was four years ago and i had standing water under my house and nothing happened to the floors then. and my health has kept me from getting someone out to regrade etc. but that is another point, why if i have always, and this house has probably always had water problems are the floors doing this now? when my prepurchase inspector was out he didn't go under the house but the termite guys did and found it to be wet. the owners came back early and blammed it on a broken water pipe from the day before, but now i realize they were not being truthful, as there were many problems with the house that were not disclosed and i have had to have repaired, but that is another story...

the house has also gone fifty years without gutters. the main reason i was afraid to put them up is if i can't get someone to clean them in a tiemly mannor d/t my health...
i know it is hard to understand, but as i said i am alone and handling things like this is difficult at times especially when i am bed ridden,getting to the doctor and food in the house is hard enough..
but anyway i have heard you can do more damage to your house if the gutters overflow along the roof line.

the ac unit was increased in size at the recommendation of the installer. and the extra attic insulation was put in because that is what the ac guy said was causing some of my problems.

the new ac guy i had out since this problem with the floors started said that the ac was the cause and i needed insulation under the house.he also said since the unit was improperly installed and would not pass city code that fo fix the problem i will probably have to replace the unit that i already paid 7,000 to have installed last year!
when you mentioned insulation you said it could be blown on? i was told it would be regular insulation with plastic over it. is one better than the other?

the builder that came out and said the house had been there for fifty years and not had this problem i think made a good point, something had to have changed to cause this...is it the ac?

i'm sad but not surprised to hear that the floors will not go back down.

but to summerize do i belive the ac people and repalce the unit. the new inspector and add ventilation, the contractor who says i need another roof vent etc. i know the problem is moisture but why now after all these years?

i really appreciate your help and don't mean for this reply to sound defensive i'm just not feeling well and am so frustrated with the floors and my health. if i could have had people out when the floors first stared to cup i would not have ruined floors. i know it is going to cost me a lot of money to fix and that doesn't make this any easier.

thank you again,

Re: buckling floors, trippin hazard!

i'm sorry i re read your post and you did answer many of my questions. but one thing i want to clarify is when i said it should be not big deal when taliking about the water not being able to get out from under the house d/t the cover, i miswrote that. i meant that covering the crawl space should not have been a problem as water should not be collecting under the house.
i wish i could have you out to look at the floors and talk to me in person, i never got good grades in english as i don't relay written information in a consice manor, and i can't spell :)
sorry again for the confusion and thank you again for taking the time to reply,

Re: buckling floors, trippin hazard!

oops...and the cover on the crawl space was never replaced after i took it off four years ago...

Re: buckling floors, trippin hazard!


Bottom line here is that your floor is taking on copious amounts of moisture........and that's why it's swelling and buckling. This is obvious and "a given".

Basic recommendations remain the same; 1 - prevent water from entering the crawl in the first place, 2- remove any and all impediments which now prevent entering water from immediately draining out of the crawl, 3- get much more ventilation under the crawl (screen the whole perimeter), 4- insulate the underside of the flooring above the crawl with a type of insulation which will serve both as an insulation AND as a vapor barrier. (This means properly installed XPS foam sheeting and not EPS foam sheeting.... or apply/install a sprayed polyurethane foam insulation) 5- downsize the AC unit so that meaningful dehumidification takes place when the AC runs.

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