New homes are now turning over in less than 60 days compared to 90 days several years ago. The housing builders continue to push the flooring contractors to install sensitive flooring products well outside the flooring manufacturer’s guidelines and then stand behind the products. The issues I see are:
- Flooring is too early in the building schedule. I feel flooring is way up to far in the building schedule. This presents a number of issues from not having the recommended job site conditions to having other trades tear the flooring apart before the homeowner even sees it. Flooring should be the last item installed in the home and when all other trades have completed their work. Drywall dust with handscraped hardwood has recently presented issues in new home construction. Drywall is being sanded after the handscraped hardwood is installed and not completely covered up. The drywall dust gets into the rough handscraped edges and will not come out. Trade damage from other trades working on top of installed flooring damages the recently installed flooring.
- No HVAC. Resilient flooring is a sensitive product and reacts to fluctuations in temperature and humidity. Hardwood requires a temperature of 60°F to 80°F. Vinyl flooring and Luxury Vinyl Tile and Plank recommends; The area to receive resilient flooring and the flooring materials and adhesives should be maintained at a minimum of 65°F for 48 hours before installation, during installation, and 48 hours after completion. Maintain a minimum temperature of 55°F thereafter. Patching compounds and adhesives require the same conditions. Not having these conditions retards the drying and curing process of the flooring installation which can result in a failure. I have heard instances where the hardwood flooring has been installed and the home does not sell and is closed up for months. They come back in the home months later and the hardwood flooring is cupped, cabinet doors are swelled shut, the ceiling fan blades are sagging and the builder wants to know why the flooring is failing. Last winter in Raleigh, NC an installer was wet setting an in- stallation of LVT. When asked why he was wet setting, he replied he had to because the adhesive was freezing on him if he let it open to long. Now that’s a problem!
- Homes today are very air tight and do not breathe. Minimizing air movement in and out of a house is key to building an energy-efficient home. Many of the materials used in a house as struc- tural and finish components also act as air barriers. Sealing all the holes and seams will reduce air leakage. The most common air barrier material is house wrap, which is wrapped around the exterior of a house during construction. Sealing house wrap joints with tape improves the wrap’s performance by about 20%. During construction, the new home is saturated with moisture from weather elements to other trades like painting and drywall spackling. The efficiency of the home and the loss of air exchange helps keep this a very wet environment and will not allow the environment to dry out. This is also related to having no HVAC. For the environment to dry out you need to dry the air first and having HVAC running can make a huge difference.
- Wet subfloors. A concrete floor under good drying conditions (600F to 800F) and low humidity on average takes 1 month per inch of concrete to dry. So a 4′′ slab of concrete under good drying conditions will take 4 months to dry. The problem is, the houses are being turned over in 60 days or less and these slabs have not seen ideal drying conditions. The “All In One Hardwood Adhesives” has really helped the wood flooring in builder work. Now, Luxury Vinyl Tile and Plank is becoming hot. The problem is, the adhesives for LVT are not quite as moisture resistant as the All In One Hardwood Adhesives and have presented some problems on these wet subfloors. Wood subfloors are saturated and do not have the time or the capability to dry out because of not having proper HVAC up and running. Complaints about underlayment show through are on the rise in the builder market. Staple down hardwood flooring squeaking complaints are also on the rise. This all comes back to having wet subfloors. Vinyl and adhesive manufacturers are now starting to give a wood subfloor moisture guideline limit of 13% for their products. A wood subfloor at 14% at the time of installation and it goes through one full heating season, that original 14% subfloor moisture can drop as low to 6% moisture. That is a lot of shrinkage/movement in a short amount of time. Add this to cheaper OSB subflooring and we wonder why we have underlayment fasteners and hardwood fasteners coming loose. As stated above, drying the air out with HVAC up and running will help dry out these subfloors.
- Value flooring. We used to have Good/Better/Best. Now just for the builder market, every manu- facturer has added a value flooring product. The builder market is all about hitting a price point, not the value or quality of a product. The flooring keeps getting thinner and thinner and the wearlayers follow the same trend. I believe this is also a contributing factor to underlayment show through as well. A thinner vinyl product glued to an underlayment installed over a wet subfloor is a recipe for underlayment show through. The homeowner thinks they have picked out this wonderful floor only to be disappointed in the long run. Ever wonder why first time new home buyers have a bad taste for vinyl flooring. Bottom line is, we are putting the cheapest flooring possible in the absolute worst conditions and expecting it to perform.
- Trade damage. Trade damage falls right in with #1, Flooring being too early in the building process. The flooring is installed first then having some sort of protective barrier put on top of it. Problem is, the protective barrier gets ripped and damaged from other trades. Then you have trades dragging equipment and appliances over the unprotected flooring, drywall being sanded with no cover underneath them. The flooring is being beaten to death. There are so many repair areas/board replacements done prior to the homeowner ever setting foot on the flooring itself.
- Maintenance. You have completed the punch list and repaired all items. The house is sold, the cleaning crew comes in and you get a call that all the hardwood flooring is cupped. The cleaning crew comes in with big mops and buckets of water and starts wet mopping the hardwood. The hardwood flooring, which has made it through everything else, is at the mercy of the cleaning crew whom cleans hardwood flooring like they clean ceramic tile by wet mopping it. The hardwood flooring cups. Even though there are still puddles of water on the hardwood and those big wet mops are being shoved in the minivan, everyone denies they use water on the flooring. Now, you are asked “what’s wrong with your hardwood” and you are expected to fix this problem.