New engineered hardwood installed by contractor, many hollow spots

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chorchie

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Hi all,

We are having a bunch of construction done at our house and one was to remove old tile and replace it with engineered hardwood. The contractor who installed it cemented it to the cement slab without any underlayment, which I was told would be fine - we are in Southern California, so moisture is not as big an issue, I guess.

I am noticing many hollow sounding spots, though, and there are a lot of gaps between the floor and the baseboards, which I guess means the cement slab isn't perfectly level. I also noticed one board in the kitchen that seems to have a tiny amount of flex when I step on it. It is not really visible by looking at it, but if you put your finger on the edge of the board, you feel the slightly raised edge go away when you step on it.

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Are these issues I should be concerned about? Am I going to have trouble in the future? Or is all this normal?


Thank you,
David
 

C.J.

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If it ain’t good now it certainly won’t get better later. I’m curious as to what kind of prep was done to the slab after the tile was removed. Was the existing thin set ground off and was the slab within acceptable flatness specs? Or did the installers just spread glue over what was there thinking the glue would fill in all the crud.
 

chorchie

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Thank you, @C.J. - I do know that the existing thinset was ground off....as far as checking the slab for acceptable flatness specs, I have no clue.

I do know the slab was in good shape (no cracks) but no idea what the flatness was.

Would it be worth having another flooring company take a look for an expert opinion?

Thanks!
-David
 

C.J.

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What did your current installers say? Have you contacted your sales person or GC? You gotta give them a crack at fixing it first but getting an opinion from someone else couldn’t hurt. There should be no hollow spots. If there were no hollow spots and the base was the only issue I would say put up some shoe molding to deal with the gap. Sounds like you got some phone calls to make. Let us know what you find out.
 

chorchie

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Thank you, @C.J. I went back and looked tonight - the gaps under the baseboards are unfortunate, but I think I am being overly picky with them. I don't know that anyone else would notice.

I did take a ball with me, though and bounced it around the floor. There are many hollow spots and some sound very hollow and I noticed that the ball doesn't bounce as well on those spots...making me think that there is some play in the boards in those spots?

Should this be a big concern? I spoke with my GC who said that this is because the slab wasn't totally flat and the only way to have made it flat was to pour concrete...which I know isn't right...but it might have needed high spots to be ground and low spots to be floated.

Anyway, could this cause a bigger problem down the road? Would I be wise to bring in another installer or a flooring inspector to look at this before we wrap up construction and move everything back in?

Thank you for all your help!

-David
 

C.J.

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I spoke with my GC who said that this is because the slab wasn't totally flat and the only way to have made it flat was to pour concrete

And that right there is where your GC hung himself. He just admitted the floor wasn’t installed properly and he knows it. It’s the installers responsibility to make sure the floor is installed properly. Grinding down high spots, filling in low spots, pouring self leveler… Since that wasn’t done you now have a bunch of hollow spots and a wavy floor. Might as well just light a pile of money on fire.

Is this a finished floor you are willing to accept? I wouldn’t for what I’m sure you paid for it. You still owe money for the floor? That’s your leverage to get it fixed or replaced. Having an inspection done will cost you but will help should you have to go to court.
 

C.J.

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Something to ask the GC is if they knew the slab wasn’t flat, why didn’t they address the issue before they proceeded with the installation. Sure I would expect additional charges to make the slab flat but now you’re looking at a complete redo to fix the issue so I’m sure you’ll receive some pushback because that will cost the GC or the installers time and material.
 

Incognito

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Something to ask the GC is if they knew the slab wasn’t flat, why didn’t they address the issue before they proceeded with the installation. Sure I would expect additional charges to make the slab flat but now you’re looking at a complete redo to fix the issue so I’m sure you’ll receive some pushback because that will cost the GC or the installers time and material.
I don't believe you ought to bid demo tile/install glue down hardwood without having this conversation FIRST----------From experience you need to know there's going to be a lot of work getting the slap clean of thin set and then flat
 

chorchie

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Thank you, everyone. I am so frustrated and upset by all this. The GC never even had a conversation with me about needing to flatten the floor. The first conversation was when I confronted her about the unevenness under the baseboards and she said it was not flat and wasn't in the budget to fix. I would absolutely have paid out of pocket to fix the slab if she told me it was an issue.

So now, I assume my warranty on the wood is also void since it wasn't installed correctly?

I guess my recourse now is to withhold payment until a resolution is proposed? She is working on such a small margin from insurance, I know she is absolutely not going to agree to fixing it on her own...so in that case, how do I proceed?

Thanks,
David
 

C.J.

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You’re in California? She’s, or the installers, is/ are on the hook whether they like it or not. If you can’t get resolution throughout conversation then you will have to escalate things. I would try the peaceful approach first since it is the easiest.
 

chorchie

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Yeah, I am in California. I don't have anything from her in writing from before the installation saying that she was not leveling the floor. Will I need that if things escalate? Or is the fact that it was not done and not in any bids enough for my case in case it does escalate? Just not sure what I will need for my case if it comes to that. Thank you all so much for the help!!
 

Incognito

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Yeah, I am in California. I don't have anything from her in writing from before the installation saying that she was not leveling the floor. Will I need that if things escalate? Or is the fact that it was not done and not in any bids enough for my case in case it does escalate? Just not sure what I will need for my case if it comes to that. Thank you all so much for the help!!
SHE is the one who would need to have it documented that you would waive her liability should the floor fail due to flatness issues that ought to have been corrected. SHE is responsible for installing the wood over conditions meeting manufacturer's AND Industry Standards. Any and every construction trade has specifications for architects, GCs, foremen, workers, inspectors and end users to reference.

It's Floor Prep 101..........grade school stuff for any professional that the PREP IS EVERYTHING. If she thinks her budget dictates quality specifications she needs to find another line of work because she's going to just screw one customer after another with substandard workmanship and FAILURE.

Her State Contractor's Licence Bond will cover the repairs if she refuses AND she will lose her license for failing to honor the contract. You are owed a professional installation and what they did was substandard------------by your description. Should you got this route you would almost certainly need an Independent Inspection. Of course you want this ti be settled amicably rather than go down that long road because it's not a quick and easy process. Good luck.
 

chorchie

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This is a stress I didn't need! Everything else was going so well.

I am going to meet her at the house and show her the hollow spots. I know she will tell me that her installer will come to fix those areas, which is just putting a bandaid on the problem. I will tell her I need to speak it over with my wife and then will send her an email (so it's in writing) that says that we are unhappy with the work and we are unhappy that we were not presented with the option to correct the uneven slab before the floor was installed. I will also tell her that I would prefer to work this out between us and that I will not accept the floor in this condition. I will tell her that the floor will have to be removed, the slab prepped and leveled (which I will pay for) and then new flooring will have to be covered at her bond's expense.

Does this all sound good? Anything else I should include or anything above I should not say?

Thank you!!!
-David
 

Jon

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Wonder if you can get a copy of the standards and laying instructions, even off one of the boxes so you can read what is exactly specified to be done before installing your flooring so you have more understanding of the process needed?
 

chorchie

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Thank you, @Jon - yes, I am trying to track that down. I have 2 boxes still in my garage, so I will see if I can get it from there, or if I can get the manufacturer info from the boxes, I can see if they have it on their website or phone. Thanks!
 

Jon

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Another thought here in New Zealand the installer is seen as the expert not the customer so if things arent done correctly the installer owns the floor
It does help to have an independent report as the legal people really need some correspondence to say if installed correctly or not as they arent flooring people
 

C.J.

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She’s in a tough spot for sure. I know insurance work doesn’t pay much but, as incognito said, the responsibility is on her and the installer. Who did you sign the contract with? That’s who you need to deal with and it is up to them so seek recourse from the installers if they aren’t the ones you signed the contract with.

Yes, they will likely want to attempt to fix the floor first. That route always made me mad because now you have a chopped up bandaid of a job that will likely need to be replaced anyway so why not just do it right from the get go.

Whatever you do, DO NOT sign anything regarding your work being completed or hand over any more money until you are satisfied with a finished product you can live with (within reason of course).
 

chorchie

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I just met with the GC. She said the hollow sounds are no problem because they used a ton of glue - and that they used glue to fill the low spots. She also said she has been doing this for 20 years and never had a problem with a floor. I'm not sure I like that answer.

She wants to send the flooring guy to replace the one board that I definitely see moving.

What would you suggest should be my next step? Do I need to hire a flooring inspector?

Thanks,
David
 

C.J.

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I just met with the GC. She said the hollow sounds are no problem because they used a ton of glue - and that they used glue to fill the low spots. She also said she has been doing this for 20 years and never had a problem with a floor. I'm not sure I like that answer.

She wants to send the flooring guy to replace the one board that I definitely see moving.

What would you suggest should be my next step? Do I need to hire a flooring inspector?

Thanks,
David

I would hire an inspector. The inspector will no doubt find more issues that you haven’t found yet. Right now she’s telling you anything cus she’s trying to get the hell out of your house any way she can with the least amount of work.

As far as what the GC says, that’s a bunch of crap because if they used TONS of glue you wouldn’t have hollow spots and a moving board. Think about it.

I would hire an inspector before you let the installer back in to fix anything. That way you have a list of issues to address and if the list is that bad then you have ammo for a replacement cus she sure as hell ain’t gonna offer one without a fight.
 

Tile Tom

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This is indeed a shitty situation. When gluing down engineered hardwood there's always going to be spots that need to be weighed down. Cupped/warped planks, Minor low spots, etc. The whole situation probably could have been remedied with a few sandbags, glue buckets, tool boxes...... anything with some weight.

The good news is that it can be saved by a competent floor installer. It'll take some time and finesse but can be done. If the areas that are hollow aren't that big and the low point is not that low, pulling the planks, regluing & weighting down the area should take care of it.

But as said above, document everything and don't sign ANYTHING until the job is acceptable to you and the wife. And most importantly, hold on to any money owed for that part of the job!
 

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