During my travels over the past year in new construction markets, I have been experiencing job site conditions that just continue to erode with no sign of improvement.
In the Residential new construction market, issues such as hardwood squeaking and popping, sheet vinyl with underlayment show through all can be attributed to poor to no job site environmental conditions (no heat or electric). Some residential housing units are now turning over in just 60 days. Jobsite conditions along with lower cost subflooring materials have created many issues not just with hardwood, but also vinyl flooring. I am not sure when builders decided flooring needed no environmental conditions, but this has created a mess in the flooring industry. With the lack of environmental conditions, these homes are saturated with moisture and have no chance of drying out until it is occupied and goes through a heating season.
An OSB subfloor that has even slightly high moisture content or was previously wet from construction can have diminished fastener holding ability. The maximum 13% subfloor moisture content that it is listed in the guidelines at time of hardwood flooring installation can drop to 6% in the first heating season in many new homes. This is a frequent cause of noisy floors. The OSB subfloor dries out after the new home is finished/occupied and the fasteners become loose. Subfloor deflection and friction combine to make noises. I have had instances with 1⁄4′′ plywood underlayment staples backing out of the plywood underlayment and showing through the vinyl flooring as the OSB subfloor dries out.
Armstrong/Bruce Hardwood has just come out with this recommendation for staple/nail down installations with their Engineered Hardwood when joist spacing of 19.2” or greater is used;
Note: As flooring manufacturers we are unable to evaluate each engineered subfloor system. Spacing and spans as well as their engineering methods are the responsibility of the builder, engineer, architect or consumer, who is better able to evaluate the expected result based on site-related conditions and performance. The general information provided below describes common, non-engineered joist/ subfloor systems. Engineered flooring systems may allow for wider joist spacing and thinner subflooring materials.
When wider joist spacing of 19.2” or greater is used, additional plywood subfloor material must be added to reduce the potential for squeaking and cracking and popping of the floor. The subfloor will have less movement and deflection.
In addition to the use of mechanical fasteners assisted glue applications can be used. The glue should be a premium grade urethane construction adhesive applied in a serpentine pattern to the back of each board. Then follow the recommended fastening pattern.
With wider spacing of 19.2” or greater apply a bead of Armstrong EverSeal to the bottom of the groove this will lock the tongue and groove together. This will eliminate movement that may contribute to noise. Then follow the recommended fastening pattern.
Our products will not be warranted against squeaking; cracking and popping associated with a staple down or nail down installations. When wider joist spacing of 19.2” or greater please follow one of the above methods to reduce noise associated with a mechanical fastener installation.
Shaw and Mannington Hardwood have similar recommendation.
Hardwood manufacturers require permanent air conditioning and heating systems should be in place and operational. Installation sites should have a consistent room temperature of 60°-75° F and humidity levels of 35-55% for 14 days prior and during installation and until occupied. At these conditions, hardwood flooring is a stable product. When these conditions are constantly going up and down, the hardwood flooring is moving (shrinking & expanding) with these changes.
Resilient Vinyl flooring also requires that the area to receive resilient flooring should be maintained at a minimum of 65°F and a maximum of 100°F for 48 hours before, during and 48 hours after completion. During the service life of the floor, the temperature should never go above 100° F or fall below 55°F. The performance of the flooring material, patches and adhesives can be adversely affected outside this temperature range.
The other question and issue I have in Residential new construction is why vinyl flooring and hardwood are in the beginning of the builder schedule and carpet is at the end of the schedule?
In Commercial new construction we face the same issues. With no environmental conditions, the concrete subfloors are saturated with moisture. With no HVAC in operation, these saturated concrete subfloors do not have a chance to dry out to acceptable levels. When the building is finally occupied and does start to dry out, things begin to move and people want to know what has happened to the flooring.
These tiles did not just decide to shrink, they are following the subfloor movement. I am constantly asked for vinyl flooring adhesives that work up to 97% or greather relative humidity. I just don’t have any of those in my bag at this time.
The rules and guidelines for flooring have not changed in my 33 years in the business. Builders and General Contractors have pushed the boundaries way out of control and then want to hold everyone else liable.