What we will tell you here, will make you think twice before you even consider buying a new home from a builder, without really checking up on his reputation first. Even if you have to talk to people that bought from him before.
At the end of last year, an elderly gentleman called us to set an appointment for an estimate. He had some problems with loose floor in his home. Our representative arrived at an address in a new subdivision. Brand new homes, build by big, award-winning, well known, local builder.
Client opened the door, and... his BRAND NEW floor was visible right from the door step. Entire floor was loose. You could see the gaps; when you walked on the loose floor boards, you could feel the movement beneath your feet. There was no doubt, the squeaking noises were telling a horrible story.
We were there to determine the cause, the cure and provide a "second" opinion. Builder, as well as the company that installed the floor, already expressed their opinion... They blamed the home owner for his loose floor...
He was accused of causing this problem by not maintaining the optimum environment conditions in his new home for the floor to expand and contract properly.
The fact was, he did. He purchased and installed both the humidifier to use in the dry winter months and dehumidifier, to make the summer months less sticky and humid.
The blame was elsewhere. Even though the builder already agreed to replace loose hardwood floors in several other homes in the same subdivision, he refused to do the same for this particular Client. In his frustration and desperation, the Client called us... He could no longer trust the builder, who already cashed all his checks. Hardwood flooring cost alone amounted to over $14,000.00. The Client only wanted what he paid for: a beautiful, hardwood floor and not the loose floor garbage that was dangerous to walk on.
After reviewing the situation and looking closely at the type of sub flooring used, it was our opinion that the cause of the problem was just beneath the floor-boards. Sub flooring material used was OSB board, approved by Ontario Building Code for new construction, but not suitable for hardwood floor installation.
Each flooring manufacturer has his own requirements for acclimatization, installation procedures and structural requirements for base material for each type of flooring that they produce.
In this case, the base material requirements were just a fraction of an inch greater then the sub flooring material actually used by the builder. The result: not sufficient support for the nails or staples used during installation, resulting in loose floor and squeaking floor boards, nowhere near as beautiful as the one that the Client paid for...
After talking to the Client, we discovered that the builder was trying hard, to pin the blame on anybody else but himself. Company installing the floor was also blamed by the builder, although there was no visible evidence of any wrong doing on their part. It could have been the case, but it could not be determined without removing some floor pieces to actually see the nail marks, which was never done.
So what did the builder suggest to address the loose floor problem? "Sure we can FIX it", he said! "All you need to do is to nail the floor again, through the gaps. EASY!"
Now, please understand that there are ways to fix problematic loose floor boards. The methods would include nailing the boards through the top surface, then filling the nail marks with wood filler, followed by sanding and finishing. This can be done if the floor is not finished in the factory to start with, and if the movement and gaps in the loose floor are minimal. Sometimes, it may be possible to do just what the builder suggested, but again, movement would need to be located in isolated areas and not through out entire floor. Floor would also need to be unfinished to start with.
This was not the case here. Entire floor was moving, every single board was loose, there were gaps big enough to fit a quarter in them, and... the that loose floor WAS factory finished. Prefinished floor can not be repaired in this way! If any one is trying to convince you that it can be done, they are not exactly truthful.
Not only nailing through the gaps would not address the problem of those large gaps itself, it would also void any manufacturer's finish warranty if any of the nails were applied through the top surface of the floor, (in certain areas, that is simply unavoidable).
Based on clearly visible evidence of the use of inadequate subflooring material, that could be seen in the unfinished portion of the basement ceiling, we suggested that entire floor needed to be replaced and proper subflooring material, required by the floor manufacturer should be installed prior to new floor installation.
So how does the story end? Is the home owner finally happy in his new home?
Well, in Spring of this year, we were contacted by the company that installed the faulty floor, and even though, we never blamed them for any wrong doing, we were threatened by them. We were told, that we need to admit to making a mistake, and to change our opinion about the state, cause and solution to this flooring problem. If we did not comply with this "request", legal action would follow. By this time, the home owner was in the middle of a legal battle with the builder himself. In the end the judge has ruled in his favor. He made his decision after looking at pictures of the loose floor that the home owner provided.
We stood by our opinion and our findings in this matter, we supported the Client, and finally he is enjoying his home and his new floor in it.
One more point that needs to be made here:
It is quite difficult to prove any wrong doing to someone like a prominent, well established company with many lawyers at their disposal. Keep in mind, that it is easier to prevent the problems, than to deal with them latter.
In the process of working with this home owner, we discovered that there were not too many hardwood flooring companies that were willing to provide their professional opinion to be submitted in court. In some way it is understandable, like you, we all have families that we need to support, we also have contracts that would prevent us from providing certain opinions or even stating facts, simply because by doing so, we would be loosing those contracts, and income that comes with them. By getting involved in the problem of this home owner, we were forced to end a 12 year long relationship with one hardwood flooring company...
In order to prevent such situations and problems associated with them, please be sure that you know what you are paying for, and what your obligations are, as well as the obligations and responsibilities of the builder that you are dealing with.
After reading this story, please go back to buying hardwood from a builder page, to once again review the suggestions that you should seriously consider when you are in the process of new home purchasing.
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