FLOATING FLOOR NEGLIGENCE

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I have customized my Google news feed to receive flooring news. Boring I know, but hey, that’s what I do. Most flooring news that gets published are paid puff pieces about the merit of some flooring company somewhere. Sometimes news of a flooring failure makes it way through and I get stirred up enough to comment. Usually I comment to myself but in this particular case I felt like banging on some keys this Saturday morning.

As it goes, a floating floor was installed somewhere in Australia and it came apart. So what’s new? Here’s a link to the article. For those who aren’t sure what a floating floor is, it’s a finished floor covering that’s not in any way attached to the sub-floor below.  Often it’s attached to itself from floor board to floor board by the use of a glue-less locking system milled into the material at the time of manufacture. An example would be the proprietary Uniclic system pictured below. 

uniclic locking system

Floating floor boards can be attached to each other through the use of a bead of glue placed in between the tongue and groove [T&G]. Many engineered wood floors are manufactured with a traditional T&G so that they may be installed using various techniques. They may be glued directly or mechanically fastened using cleats (nails) or staples to the wood subfloor below; and the boards may be glued together as a floating floor. A traditional T&G doesn’t have a built in fastening system. It must be somehow attached to the subfloor or itself by a fastening mechanism at the time of installation. There are other types of floating floors that I won’t get into in this blog post because they’re not relevant to this discussion.

To the point, here’s what I picked up on in this article:

  • This was a floating engineered oak floor installed on a plywood subfloor that failed throughout.
  • The failure was that the boards split apart at the joins, up to several hundred millimeters”. Holy shit!
  • The supplier blamed the consumers maintenance technique and schedule for the failureas they so often do. Consumers, follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance procedures. You’ll be glad you did.
  • The supplier claims no failures from the same batch of floor installed at other locations. This is a common defense. Obviously he couldn’t prove it or the outcome may have been different.
  • The builder (I assume they are referring to the installer) was also blamed for the failure by what could be perceived as edge damage to the boards by applying too much force.
  • The builder’s director (the installer’s boss?) boasts about his experience, not necessarily about the experience of the guy who installed the floor. Maybe he was a schlub? And he happens to have a two-year-old cut-off piece of the floor as evidence to explain to the tribunal what he perceives is a manufacturing defect. 
  • The director put on a better show and was able to convince the tribunal that it was not the fault of the installation but that of a defective product. The consumer gets a new floor, which is a happy ending. Another puff piece in where the tribunal, Australia’s form of the AZ ROC, does it job protecting consumers.

I have a differing opinion, in my conclusion the consumer still gets a new floor but the director, not the supplier or manufacturer [the man] pays for it. The installer is the last line of defense. He, she (she is less likely but for my favorite feminist friend, know when I write he for the sake of brevity, I also mean she) should be able to recognize defective material and cull out such. Questionable material should not be installed, it’s written on just about every installation spec, tucked in just about every carton of material shipped from the man. If the director has so much experience and the floor comes apart by simply walking on it why had no one thrown up a red flag at the time of installation? The installer knows if he’s created a join with integrity. This is a case of negligence, pure and simple.

I’ll present an even crazier scenario, and it’s not a hypothetical, I saw it with mine (sic) own eyes. I get a call from Ms. K, she tells me her recently installed engineered, floating, hardwood floor is coming apart everywhere at the joins, more so in high traffic areas like the kitchen and hall. The floor is installed on a concrete subfloor, on-grade in the living room, kitchen, hall and powder room (restroom with no tub or shower), in Phoenix, AZ. I go out and take a look. Her concern is spot on, the floor is separating at the joins almost ten millimeters in some places. Take a look at the pictures below and imagine 100s of millimeters. A hundred millimeters is about 4 inches. 

As it turns out, the so-called floor guy Ms. K hired from Craigslist to install her couple thousand dollars worth of material forgot to install the fastening mechanism, the glue, in the tongue and groove…and now the dude is in the wind. She got the typical Craigslist tail-light warranty. To add insult to injury, not only does she pay me to fix it, I would have charged her no more to install it than she originally paid the shyster who took her money and vandalized her home. 

Could this be what really happened in this Australian case? Its possible, and even more likely than the fiction presented by the director. I’m no fan of the man, but its very rare that they ship so much defective material, quality control does exist at the manufacturing level, contrary to popular opinion. Bad material does get through and even get installed by people who make mistakes. Let’s call it like it is, at the very least the installers failed to exercise care. 

I know the AZ ROC isn’t what it used to be. I hear it all the time from consumers who have been wronged by licensed contractors and aren’t being properly compensated for their losses and/or the offending contractors are not being punished severely enough for their misdeeds. Its sad that no longer is the money that’s paid into the consumer recovery fund by licensed contractors like myself being used for consumer recovery. I’ve heard those revenues are being deposited into the State’s general fund and being used for things other than what the legislature had originally earmarked if for. Whether that’s true or not I know consumer’s are having an increasingly more difficult time being able to count on the ROC as a regulatory body, supposedly operating for their protection. 

That being said, the ROC is a tool the State provides free of charge for you to perform your due diligence. If the guy you’re considering to install your floor has a license then odds are he at least knows what the law is and just maybe he has some respect for it and he’s a law abiding citizen. In the end, no one controls your fate but you. It’s in your best interests to be a discerning consumer.  

Hardwood Floor SeparatingHardwood floor separating in bathroomTongue and GrooveSomebody forgot to use the glue.

PDF of original article if previous link is broken.

The best way to contact me is by email: Ken@FloorMaven.com
SERVING THE VALLEY SINCE 1995 | 623-915-1760
dba Kenneth J. Frango | AZ ROC C-8 108590
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