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Erin
New home with buckling floors

We recently moved into a new construction home and within a short time found that the floors are cupping and buckling. In most of the research I have done this seems to be related to moisture issues, but we have carefully controlled the humidity in our garage and crawl space with dehumidifiers and moisture doesn't seem to be the problem. One red flag that might provide some explanation is that the baseboards were installed before the flooring, and the flooring is wedged in tightly against the baseboards with no room for expansion. The deformed boards seem to be worst in the areas where the flooring is wedged in the tightest areas such as the hallways (see photos). It is difficult to show how bumpy the floors are without the right light, but it is crystal clear when you walk on the them. The floorboards are all chipped and beat up where it was clear that someone had to use some muscle to wedge them in between the baseboards, and in some places the baseboards are pulling away from the wall due to the pressure put on them by the floorboards.  My question is, what can we do to fix this?  Do we need to redo the floors completely, or is it possible that by removing the baseboards the floors might flatten out once they have room for expansion? If that would work could we then reinstall the baseboards so that they sit on top of the flooring? I am really hoping that we don't have to redo the floors completely so I'm hopeful that someone in this forum will have some good news for us.

HandyAndyInMtAiry
Re: New home with buckling floors

Erin,

You may have caught the issue in time. And you are correct about removing the base board to allow the wood to expand. You can remove the base board and then install it to sit just slightly above the wood on the floor. I cannot tell from the pictures if the wood has "cupped" making the edges move in an upward direction. Just leave a slight gap between the bottom of the base board and the top of the wood on the floor. Nail the base board to the wall, not the floor. That will cover the gap that the floor should have had when installed. You can use 1/4 round molding to then cover the gap.

After looking at the pictures again, I do see some of the boards have cupped just a bit. You can sand them, or replace them. The wood will not become flat again. If you replace them, I would purchase the wood long enough to span the entire width of the area. That way there are no joints in the field. That looks like oak, which is very common and easy to find. The wood floors in our house run side to side of the rooms completely without a joint. Some of the rooms are really wide(28'x36'), and the hallway is really long, almost (60'). It makes the floor look fabulous when there are no joints in the field.

Andrew

Handy Andy In Mt Airy NC

Erin
Re: New home with buckling floors

Thanks, Andrew, I have read that you shouldn't sand floors that are cupped because if the floorboards go back to normal once the underlying cause is addessed, the result could be crowned floors. I am thinking that perhaps we should remove the baseboards, then wait and see how the floor adjusts before making any next moves. Does this sound right?  We are dependent on the builder to honor his warranty and it has been a difficult process getting him to take responsibility for his work, so we want to equip ourselves with as much information as possible on how to address the situation in case he tries to cut corners with whatever solution he proposes.

HandyAndyInMtAiry
Re: New home with buckling floors

Erin,

I have found from talking with folks that warranty on a house will never pay in the long run. It is always better to have a professional come in and do the work and be done. And not to reply on some warranty that is never worth the time or effort. I do all of my own work on most everything. Even though I do not like to do roofing, I sat up on the roof the entire time the company was up there to install the slate and copper. They had to sign off and follow my contract to the letter. I inspected everything as it was being installed and at the end of each day. I paid by the hour instead of by the job. If I saw anything that was below standard, they pulled it out and installed new once again. While the job was progressing, not after the entire job was complete. Any good reputable company will not want any money up front. Once the job was completed to my contract and my full satisfaction, they were then paid in full. This also included testing with a lot of water. Most people do not test a roof until the next big rain. Not me.

They are hoping that you will get mad and just go away and not bother them any more. Delaying and taking more time. Then they can go out of business, change the company name and open up with the same people and a new company name. It has been done that way in the past. I would not bother with having them come back to work. They are already upset they are coming back for free, so the quality of work goes further down hill.

This is the kind of thing that happens while a contractor hires people that does not take pride in their work, and thinks completing the job faster is the most important thing. I never allow anyone on our property that cannot speak, read, write and understand English fluently. Because I am the boss on site, and they better understand exactly what I say.

It is your house, it is your decision. I would just do that work myself and never bother the builder again. They did the work incorrectly the first time. And that was on something that any 1st year, high school shop student would know how to do correctly. There is no telling what other things they cut corners on.

Andrew

Handy Andy In Mt Airy NC

Erin
Re: New home with buckling floors

Thanks, Andrew, we are learning that lesson exactly as you described, our builder has already breached our warranty for other defects in workmanship so in a best case scenario we will take him to court for monetary damages rather than having him come back and do the work. The fact that he and his family live and own several other properties locally makes me hopeful that he won't just pick up and leave town but he does seem like the type. In any case, your advice is really helpful and appreciated, we'll get a pro in here to inspect things.

HandyAndyInMtAiry
Re: New home with buckling floors

Erin,

I hope that things work out for you on this. Please post any other questions that you may have, that I hope I can help with. It is sad that this country has turned to allowing things like this to happen. Folks used to take great pride in everything. We live in an old Victorian house, and it took the craftsman almost 3 years to build this house. Using the wood that was on the property. We have timber and beams in the house, basement and inside the walls that still have a bit of bark on them. That was amazing when we first found that and knew then the timber was hand cut. It is amazing the changes that have happened over the years. When folks now want to get away and not take responsibility for their own work.

I wish you the best of luck with your situation.

Andrew

Handy Andy In Mt Airy NC

Erin
Re: New home with buckling floors

I agree, Andrew, I think that's why I like TOH so much, it shows that there are at least a few people out there who take pride in their work. We should use the builder's name in every forum where we have to get advice on fixing his work to shame him into action, but will hold off on that unitl we've explored all options for settlement.  

The upside of this experience is that it has increased my interest in learning more about home improvement and building in general. I never thought I'd need to know EVERYTHING about building a house but the amount we've had to learn since buying this stinker is astounding.

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