5 Flooring Installation Mistakes

How proper material selection, planning and installation can prevent costly flooring mistakes. A building project is a success when your team of owner, architect, contractor, installer and wood supplier work together to design and create a space that seamlessly matches the style and character of the occupants. Combined with using the most beautiful materials available, when these elements come together, the result is a stunning space that will be remarkable for many years to come!

We are all fortunate to work with a diverse network of trusted design, building and manufacturing professionals who support a building assignment from start to finish. Typically this is a well executed process with rewarding end results. However, in any project that requires patience and rigorous attention to detail, demanding deadlines can threaten the integrity of the process. Even the most seasoned, conscientious contractor or installer can succumb to direct pressure to quickly finish up a job, compromising the installation process and long term quality.

Competent contractors and carpenters know when they can push a little faster, and when they need to slow down a little and proceed with care. Sometimes, in a given task, there will be a little of both - take flooring for example, one of our specialties.

Laying a whole house of hardwood flooring can take days. We know it can be tempting, knowing how much work lies ahead, to just unpack the flooring and start laying it. This might work out fine, but the potential risks are huge with something that will be used by and looked at every day by a building's occupants for 75-100 years!

There are plenty of trustworthy publications that go into the technical details of how to properly ensure a quality hardwood flooring installation. One of the most thorough, not surprisingly, is from the National Wood Flooring Association.

It is well worth the time to read, to ensure that everyone has an educated conversation on all aspects of the process, including the building owner.

Having this detailed conversation matters. Nothing can be more discouraging than warping and gaps in new flooring due to a careless or rushed installation.

To avoid a potentially costly, time consuming reinstall, here are a few critical conversation points to have that we think are important- some are basic, some are more technical.

1: Species Matters: All wood moves. Its width changes. It gets wider as it picks up moisture and it gets narrower as it dries out. However, some wood, and cuts of wood, are more stable than others. Take the time to consider the characteristics of each wood that is being considered for a given project. If the job requires a hardwood floor to be laid in a “problem” area that will be subject to high swings in seasonal humidity, it is best to install a dimensionally stable species, engineered floor, or vertically sawn floor (and the narrower the better - for both stability and sustainability). Your flooring supplier will be able to point you in the right direction.

2: Moisture Meter: It is fairly easy to figure out whether or not a beautiful flooring option might cup or gap, before it is installed. But it does require knowledge of the product chosen, and the proper use of a moisture meter. A competent flooring installer should never tell a building owner something like, “It feels OK to me,” or “Well, I let it sit over the weekend, it should be fine.”

3: Professional Expertise: Build your team with people in the know! Nothing can beat the experience of a good local flooring installer, or a quality minded flooring supplier. They will know what the indoor equilibrium moisture content should be for their specific area as well as regional weather trends.

4: Damp Locations: Beware of ground and slab moisture. Just as some valleys and mountains have microclimates all their own, a building can have areas that are much wetter than the rest of the building. Floors laid over slabs, and floors over poorly sealed crawlspaces can be subject to much more moisture than a floor over a dry basement or on a second floor.

Damp slabs and crawlspaces should be dealt with properly before hardwood floors can be safely laid over them.

5: Dry Locations: Just as a house can have areas of high moisture, they can also have especially dry areas. Most installers know to be extra careful with species selection when planning out a floor with radiant heat. Floors over radiant heat will be subjected to a continuously dry environment during the heating months, and will likely shrink comparatively more. However, do not overlook other dry areas, like mechanical rooms and the areas around cold air returns, when selecting your flooring species.

We hope these top 5 reminders will encourage attention to detail from selecting the perfect species to factoring in installation variables during the building process. A little extra planning results in a well laid floor that flawlessly stands the test of time.

Have a favorite tip or piece of advice critical to the process to share? Or a horror story of an installation gone bad you might have been called in to correct? Please share your comments below.

For more information about flooring and installation options, give us a call and talk to our team: