LESLIE: Matthew in Georgia is on the line with an issue with some hardwood flooring. What’s going on?
MATTHEW: I have – I think the brand name is Mohawk – engineered hardwood floor in my house. And I’m having some buckling, raised edges where the boards meet each other at the ends.
MATTHEW: And so I was asking the builder about it. And they said that it’s acceptable to have some moisture inside there because of the concrete-slab foundation. Even though they use a moisture barrier and it is a glued-down floor, they still will have some moisture in there. So I was curious as to what is an acceptable amount of moisture and should that moisture be causing the boards to buckle?
TOM: If the boards are buckling, something is not right. Those boards are not designed to be – to buckling. Buckling is not a normal condition of hardwood floor – of engineered hardwood floor. And if that’s what you’re seeing, something’s wrong. What exactly the level of moisture should be in that floor? I really don’t know. There’s going to be a spec that the manufacturer is going to say that if the floor is more than X-percent damp, don’t use this product.
I’ll tell you, I know that engineered hardwood is popular today for these types of floors but you’re much better off with an engineered vinyl plank than engineered hardwood. First of all, it looks just like hardwood – I dare say you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference – and the stuff is totally and completely waterproof. You’re not going to have issues with swelling. And if this is a newer house and this floor was put down, I think you’ve got a potential claim here because it certainly should not be buckling.
MATTHEW: See, they’re telling me that they’re not going to do anything about it because the edges raised up are less than 1/8-inch.
TOM: Oh, well, that’s outrageous.
LESLIE: It shouldn’t be buckling at all.
TOM: That’s outrageous, yeah. And whose standard is that, less than an 1/8-inch? An 1/8-inch buckling is OK. Are they going to give you a letter from Mohawk saying, “You know what? You put our floor down and the edges buckle up 1/8-inch, that’s no big deal. That’s how we designed the product.” I don’t think so.
How old is this house? When did you move in?
MATTHEW: I bought it in March and it was built in November.
TOM: OK. Does it have a warranty on it?
MATTHEW: Yes, it does. It has a one-year warranty for things like this, for trim being out and things like that, creaky floors and stuff.
TOM: Right. OK.
MATTHEW: But then it has a 10-year warranty for structural issues. And so that kind of leads into my next question for you. Having some issues with my yard draining. So I took a line level and I measured the grade of my yard and it’s actually a negative slope. It’s about 1/8-inch per foot back downsloping towards my foundation. So what …?
TOM: OK. So, hold on for a second here, Matthew, OK? Because you’re getting away from yourself.
MATTHEW: OK. I’m sorry.
TOM: We’re going to break this up, OK? Alright. I understand you’re excited. You’ve got a lot going on. But there’s something very, very important you have to do right now.
TOM: And that is: did you craft a letter to the builder and to the warranty company reporting all of the things that you have found wrong with this house? You’ve got to do that, not just notice to the builder. But you’ve got to notice the warranty company, too. Because notice to the builder does not constitute notice to the warranty company. So you have to notice both of them before this year is up.
So it sounds like you’re getting very close to that now, so I want you to draft a letter and I want you to send it certified mail, return receipt requested, to both the warranty company and the builder. Put everything in there that you suspect so that it can be proven that these claims existed before the year was up, OK? That’s the first thing you’ve got to do.
MATTHEW: It seems to me like the warranty and the builder are the same entity, though. You get what I’m saying?
TOM: I understand what you’re saying but there’s going to be a …
MATTHEW: Like it has no – but the warranty I have is Quality Builders Warranty and then – but every time I call the warranty office, I get the builder’s office – customer-service office.
TOM: Well, look, whatever address is on that warranty and whatever address is the builder, you’ve got to protect yourself here by documenting that these things happened. Look, I used to do a lot of arbitrations, as one of the many jobs I had sort of over the years, for these warranty companies that were backing builders. And I think the warranties, for the most part, they try to sell it to you like it’s a warm blanket but I find it’s a wet blanket and it really doesn’t give you much coverage whatsoever. And I also have seen builders that like to be Mr. Nice Guy up until the day after that first year expires. And then they become like ghosts; you never see them again.
TOM: But you need to notice them that this is a problem and you need to demand that it be fixed.
I would also, after you get done with that letter and that notification process, I would also contact Mohawk, speak to their technical service department – these are not just people that answer the phones; these are experts – and tell them what you’re seeing. Send them photographs. Get their expert opinion as to whether or not this is acceptable or not. Because I don’t think it is. I have never heard of a flooring company that would permit an 1/8-inch lift of a board like that. I think it was just …
MATTHEW: I’m writing all this down, so …
TOM: I think it was done wrong, OK?
TOM: So, write the warranty company and the builder with this and anything else you suspect is wrong with that house. And then, also, once that’s done and off and on the mail – send it by email, send it by certified mail. Just document that it’s been sent.
TOM: And then after that, talk to Mohawk simultaneously to any conversation you have with the builder. And find out what their specs provide for. But I would be shocked if they told you that having an 1/8-inch lift on the board – because it’s a tripping hazard; someone can get hurt on that – was acceptable.
TOM: I don’t think it is acceptable. And I think that floor has to be torn up and replaced.
MATTHEW: Yeah. I was told if I – if they can slide a credit card over top of it and the credit card does not get stopped, then it’s within tolerance.
LESLIE: Yeah. But an 1/8-inch you can.
TOM: Yeah, 1/8-inch would probably be about 10 credit cards.
MATTHEW: So, I guess going onto my second question, would the yard draining back into the foundation, could that raise the moisture levels inside the concrete slab?
TOM: Certainly, yeah. Because what happens is a slab is very absorbent, it’s very hydroscopic. So if you have a lot of water that’s collecting at the foundation perimeter, it could definitely raise the moisture level of the slab. Also, if you didn’t have gutters that were properly installed or properly extending their downspouts away, all of those things, it should be …
LESLIE: Or the downspout is not connected.
TOM: Yeah, those could all lead to additional humidity and moisture in that slab that could lead to the condition that you’re seeing right now.
MATTHEW: Awesome. Thank you so much for your help. I really do appreciate it.
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