As we close out the 3rd Quarter of 2018, most of us in the middle Atlantic States have endured one of the wettest summers in history. The Carolinas have been hit with Hurricane Florence that dumped tremendous amounts of rain. With all that moisture, we have endured challenging installation issues. Homes are filled with high humidity levels that have affected acclimation of Hardwood Flooring. Subfloors are at peak moisture levels and take forever to dry out to the recommended levels to reduce cupping issues.
In the Builder Market, these homes are saturated with moisture and humidity. When the heat is finally turned on in these homes, they will experience excessive shrinking and that’s when the problems start. My definition of the Builder Market is; we put the lowest cost products in the worst-case environment and hope and pray they will work. Builders refuse to give the proper conditions required for the flooring. There are some counties that will not allow power to the home until occupied. Flooring manufacturers require temperature and humidity control for their products. Builders haven’t quite yet figured out that vinyl Sheet and LVP are sensitive to temperature change and Hardwood needs humidity control. Vinyl expands when warm and contracts when cold. The Flooring Manufacturers know what kind of poor conditions their products are going into with the Builder Market and they continue to sell into these markets and then have the gall to turn down your claims.
I truly expect to see a lot of installation issues this fall when the heat goes on in both the Builder, Remodel, and Existing Home markets especially with Loose Lay Floors as expansion zones become compromised and gapping in Hardwood Floors that were installed in wet/ humid conditions when the homes start drying out. My nail down Engineered Hardwood has made more cracking and popping noise this summer because of the high humidity this year and I ran my Air Condition in the house and a Dehumidifier in the basement and my humidity levels are still high in my home.
Good news is that we are starting to see more and more LVP products that can be installed in enclosed 3 season rooms. These products are not sensitive to sunlight and hot and cold like the traditional LVP Products. Problem is, these products will rarely be used in the Builder Market because of price points.
LVP, SCP, EVP, and Rigid Core products have been the hottest product category and still growing for some time and with that come issues and a lot of questions;
- Is my LVP Product Waterproof? “Waterproof” is the most overused word in the flooring industry. What waterproof really means is that the when exposed to water it will not swell, buckle or lose integrity. It does not mean the installation will not fail, the product will not come delaminate. If these products are so waterproof, why do they have concrete moisture limits? I have seen glue down LVP with higher moisture limits than a floating “Waterproof” LVP. Why do some of the “Waterproof” products with cork backing require plastic beneath them if they are waterproof? Just my humble opinion, but the word “Waterproof” is overused, oversold, and well over marketed!
- Should these be acclimated? The answer is yes if they have vinyl in them. Have you experienced End Gapping? Some of this can be contributed to not be acclimated. LVP is temperature sensitive. If it is stored in a hot warehouse and then taken to a conditioned home and installed right away, it going to gap. It expands when warm and contracts when cool. I have seen cartons of LVP laying in the driveway in the middle of this sweltering summer and the installers then taking and installing it in a conditioned home. This product saw a 30º swing in temperature, it’s going to gap.
- How large an area can I do before having to use a Transition piece? This will depend on the product. I have seen some say 40′ x 40′ , 26′ x 40′ and others give no limits. You will have to check the instructions, it varies from product to product.
- Do I have to use a Multipurpose Trim piece in the doorways? I have never seen in writing that you must. But I will warn you that if any floating floor is going to fail, it most likely will happen in a doorway. If I’m going through one doorway, I limit my chances of failure. Undercut doorways back to the stud and run the material just under the trim so it is not seen, and it has plenty of room to accommodate subfloor movement. If I’m doing an entire first floor of a house, I am probably going to want to have some breakpoints, especially in new construction.
I have given you the Bad and the Ugly on these products, now for the Good. Below are some tools for these products that I wanted to share with you that have worked well for me.
Better Tools Gorilla Concave Hook Blades for cutting LVT and Armstrong D10 Products. These blades work well on Urethane Coatings, Solid Core products. I use these blades for LVP and for cutting in Sheet Vinyl.
Bullet Tools Vinyl Glider. Cuts LVP Planks in the width up to 9.5” wide and LVP between .080′′(2mm) and .325′′(8mm) thick. Check out this tutorial.
Bullet Tools 909 Magnum Shear. The reason I like this is because of its versatility. It is designed to cut Laminate, Engineered Hardwood, Solid Hardwood, Parquet, and LVP products. This heavy-duty cutter is designed for products up to 9 inches wide and 1 inch thick. As I get older, once I’m down on the floor on my knees, I am staying there (unless I need a bathroom break) and the Magnum Shear allows me to do that. Yes, it is an investment, but I can cut materials right where I am working. No up and down or running outside to use a chop saw. If you are only doing LVP products or products wider than 9″, there are cheaper models and wider cutters.