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yiayiacheryl

cupped hardwood floors

yiayiacheryl
8 years ago
We remodeled our house 3 years ago. We had 3" white oak hardwood floors installed on the entire 1st floor of the house along with the upstairs master bedroom. The wood sat in our home for 3 weeks before installation. It looked perfect for about a month then it started to cup. The contractor keeps telling me that the floor was installed correctly and it must be a moisture problem within the house. Our basement is a bit damp but has never had water. My husband is thinking of taking the insulation off the basement ceiling and replacing it with styrofoam. But, my bedroom floor on the second floor is cupping too so I don't think that would help that room?? Should the floor be sanded?? Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Comments (68)

  • Lee Seeger
    8 years ago
    Cupping is almost always the result of different humidity levels between two different levels in the home. Try to bring the humidity levels to the same reading on the first and lower level. This often will solve the problem. Hope this helps.
    yiayiacheryl thanked Lee Seeger
  • yiayiacheryl
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    There is a full basement. The floor was finished in place..and no, we don't have any spare boards :-(. Since the basement is moist my husband is thinking of taking the insulation off the basement ceiling and replacing it with styrofoam then run a dehumidifier. I have sent an email to the contractor yesterday asking if he can check the moisture content of the subfloor etc....haven't heard back yet. The thought of spending a lot of $ on this problem is making me sick. But, I want it to be right.
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  • yiayiacheryl
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    Lee...What is the best way to control the humidity levels? A dehumidifier on each level?
  • _sophiewheeler
    8 years ago
    57% is really high for a conditioned space. You might want to get a tech in to check your AC system.
  • PRO
    Cancork Floor Inc.
    8 years ago
    Sophie is correct. If your 'upper' area of your home is "high" for relative humidity...the basement is going to be worse.

    A wood floor prefers to see relative humidity around 45%. Even though some wood states 45-65%...the 65% is not realistic. I like to see hardwood between 45-55%.

    Try reducing the humidity in the home - around the 45% mark. One place you might want to spend money (if we are right...and it is the humidity) is on adding a humidi-stat to your furnace/AC set up. You may not have to do anything to the flooring...but throwing a thousand or two towards a humidistat on the furnace will go A LONG WAY!!!

    First things first...we have to MAKE THE CUPPING go away. To do this, we have to run portable dehumidifiers for a few weeks to see if this resolves the problem. You can rent dehumidifiers or your contractor might know where to get them. These types of products are used during clean up after water damage, etc.

    If the problem resolves with change of humidity = PURCHASE and add-on a humidistat to furnace/AC unit. If it DOES NOT help...you will probably need to change the flooring. The changing of the ceiling in the lower level won't do very much.
    yiayiacheryl thanked Cancork Floor Inc.
  • apple_pie_order
    8 years ago
    Can you move your humidity meter down to the basement to get an new reading over the next day or so? Morning, evening, noon are good times to read.
    yiayiacheryl thanked apple_pie_order
  • yiayiacheryl
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    Just heard from our contractor and he has made a few calls to some folks to help us figure this out. In the meantime, we are going to put the meter down the basement tonight to start getting some readings. I hope to God it's going to be an easy fix such as using dehumidifiers.....I don't want to change the flooring.....I really won't be able to afford it :-(
  • Lee Seeger
    8 years ago
    I think you will find the humidity hi in the basement. A dehumidifier or two should cure the problem in a week or two.
    yiayiacheryl thanked Lee Seeger
  • Danielle B
    7 years ago
    What progress have you made with your flooring issue? I hope things have worked out for you. I'm very curious.
    yiayiacheryl thanked Danielle B
  • yiayiacheryl
    Original Author
    7 years ago
    Thanks for asking. We are running a dehumidifier down in the basement 24 hours a day. We are not seeing any improvements at all. Very disappointed. I haven't heard back from the contractor either :-(
  • PRO
    Cancork Floor Inc.
    7 years ago
    What are your humidity readings in the basement? Have you been able to record humidity in the rest of the home BELOW 50%?

    Adding styrofoam between the joists at this time is not something you want to do. If the subfloor (should be plywood of some sort) is saturated like the floor, trapping moisture in the subfloor is not something you want to see happen...mould LOVES trapped moisture in wood. We need to DRY OUT all the wood in the home to see what type of problems we have "left over". Adding something like styrofoam isn't going to help and it could hinder what you are trying to do. It will probably be an extra expense that is wasted.

    Your installer SHOULD have taken moisture readings of the subfloor (plywood or concrete...doesn't matter) a few weeks PRIOR to installation AND at the time of the installation (two different sets). S/he should also have taken readings of the FLOORING at the time of INSTALLATION (third set of numbers). S/he would have had a meter on hand and testing throughout the installation process. Technically these numbers belong TO YOU. You can/should ask for the WELL DOCUMENTED moisture readings taken at time of installation. If the installer hmmms and haaaas over this, then we have a STRONG INDICATION these numbers do not exist and therefore it is possible we are looking at "improper installation".

    Ask for those numbers. If they do not exist then you need to get a certified flooring inspector to come in and take a look. They cannot "lay blame" but they certainly will tell you where the problem is coming from and what the remedy is. At that point, there can be enough evidence that points to installation errors. That can be enough to get a flooring installer to step up and take responsibility.
    yiayiacheryl thanked Cancork Floor Inc.
  • yiayiacheryl
    Original Author
    7 years ago
    The humidity reading in the house is between 50-55% and the basement is 68%. My husband is thinking of taking down the insulation in the basement ceiling and getting a stronger dehumidifier. You are probably correct that that the installer did not take any readings.
  • PRO
    Cancork Floor Inc.
    7 years ago
    Yep...the basement needs to be dealt with. To really ramp this up you will need a dehumidifier on every level going 24/7 for a few weeks. Your electricity bill is going to be through the roof but there isn't much to be done right now. You will find that the 'heating season' (ie. winter) helps dry out the air.

    The dehumidifiers (one on each level) together with your heating system (you are going to be pumping this up ASAP to help dry things out) should get things going. DO NOT DO ANYTHING until you have a flooring inspector come in and look at this. Anything you do without prior knowledge of the installer = your own money....no compensation.

    Don't do damage if it isn't necessary. Pay for the inspection and have it put in writing. Once you have the inspection done, you can use it to leverage the installer. We need to do this quickly. Some wood floors will 'recover' and others won't...they stay cupped. We never know which ones will recover vs. which one's won't. What we do know is the sooner this is dealt with the better the chances the floor will recover.

    You need an inspector ASAP and you need a plan of attack. We've seen some floors recover after 6 months. Some floors have recovered after 8 months...but if you leave this much longer you might not have a floor to save...it might be too late.

    Save your money and labour and pay for the inspection. Take the information you have from the inspection and begin looking at full home moisture mitigation before attempting another wood floor. If you do not get the moisture fixed you are looking at working with a floating engineered floor. Glue and nail downs just won't work with moisture levels that high....and even then the engineered wood floors "want" 45-55% humidity levels MAINTAINED or you loose your warranty.

    How old is the floor? What type of flooring did you buy? How was it installed.
    yiayiacheryl thanked Cancork Floor Inc.
  • yiayiacheryl
    Original Author
    7 years ago
    3 inch white oak and was installed in February 2011. Tongue and groove nailed. Not pre finished. Where do you get an inspector and how much does that usually cost.
  • _sophiewheeler
    7 years ago
    Have you had your AC system looked at? Any home with humidity that high inside it has soething wrong with the HVAC.
  • PRO
    Cancork Floor Inc.
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago
    You can look up on the NWFA's website (National Wood Floor Association) to find certified inspectors for your area. I've reread your post and you stated this problem started about 1-3 months after installation = spring 2011. That means you hare 3+ years of cupping. It was installed in the "driest" time of the year...which means the heating system would have been keeping the moisture down...but not completely dealt with.

    There is a reason why we aren't seeing much change in appearance of the wood with the use of dehumidifiers: it might be too late to get this wood to 'recover'. A wood floor that has cupped for 6-8 months MIGHT recover. A floor that has cupped for 36-48 months...probably will never recover. Wood can rebound but only after a very short about of time. Several years is too long to have it recover. Even if you get the humidity down completely AND you keep it down, the cupping may never resolve. It is possible to sand down the floor ONCE THE HUMIDITY IS DEALT WITH PROFESSIONALLY, but the floor as it is may never recover to its original appearance. I'm sorry but it is probably too long.

    A flooring inspector, at this point in the game, might not have much more to say. To be effective (ie. help bring the installer to some sort of deal), the inspector would have had to have been called as soon as the problem started = summer 2011. It is very possible that something has caused this other than installation error. Because it has been 3 years you would be hard pressed (and so would a judge) to prove that this is installation error. Unless you can prove (in a court of law) that for 3 years you have been calling and calling and calling about your floor cupping and they have ignored you, you may have to live with what has happened.

    I've seen hardwoods like this refinished AFTER THE HUMIDITY has been dealt with. It would be the cheapest option...other than living with them for another 15 years and refinishing them "on schedule" as you normally would.

    @Sophie - I think you are quite right. A leaky roof, a weeping basement, cracks in the siding can all contribute to high humidity inside a home. I'm wondering what is causing all this moisture from entering in the first place...which is where the real solution lies.
    yiayiacheryl thanked Cancork Floor Inc.
  • PRO
    Expressive Interiors
    7 years ago
    What is the subfloor material? It definitely looks like a moisture problem. Just had this happen in a clients home this past week. It was from a toilet overflowing but it was still a moisture problem. When we install hardwood floors we put down a moisture barrier so that moisture from the subfloor doesn't damage the floor.
  • PRO
    Select Hardwood Floor Co.
    7 years ago
    @Expressive Interiors... :-(

    Never like seeing water damage!
    Looks like there must have been plenty of standing H2O...
    Agree with you re: moisture barrier/retarders, although as you mention, they only help with moisture from below.
    Your pic looks like an engineered product... prefinished?
    Just curious.
  • yiayiacheryl
    Original Author
    7 years ago
    Just made an appointment with a certified inspector that I got from the NWFA's website. He is coming on Oct. 27th. I will report back on his findings. Thank you everyone for all your advice.
  • PRO
    Gray & Walter, Ltd.
    7 years ago
    Many factors can cause this: poor humidification in winter, leaving windows open excessively in steamy humid weather in summer, leaving windows open when it is raining. I would have a floor expert come out who has not worked in your home before and get an unbiased opinion.
  • imzadi
    7 years ago
    If the flooring was fit too tightly when laid it will cup. Also if you have high humidity in the house it will do the same.
  • yiayiacheryl
    Original Author
    7 years ago
    looks like he have high humidity....looking to find out why.
  • PRO
    Valley Floors
    7 years ago
    Ouch! Sounds like the humidity level in your basement is the likely culprit...68% is extremely high. Running a dehumidifier is a great place to start, keep in mind it can sometimes take a couple of weeks for the wood to "settle down" again, so don't give up hope just yet!
    I'm curious as to the cause of the humidity level in your basement...we're in New England, too, and it has been relatively dry here lately so it seems a bit strange. I think that is something that warrants further investigation, you certainly won't want a repeat event!
    Best of luck, I hope this will all be resolved soon for you.
    yiayiacheryl thanked Valley Floors
  • bgfuqua
    7 years ago
    do you open windows on pretty days? wood floors seem to do best when homes are kept closed with heat or air set to come on.
  • yiayiacheryl
    Original Author
    7 years ago
    Thanks Valley Floors...It has been dry around here except for a few weekends ago. Our soil is clay so I am not sure if that is holding the moisture. We do open the windows on nice days. It is hard in NE because the weather fluctuates and I hate to run the ac on nice days. So frustrating. I can't wait to hear what the inspector finds. Though the thought of it being major makes me very nervous. I will keep you posted
  • PRO
    Valley Floors
    7 years ago
    It's been the same here, we've had very little rain this fall. I'm curious what the inspector finds and if he or she will be able to help you find the source of the excess moisture...you shouldn't be afraid to open windows on nice days, we have to take advantage of the nice weather here when we have it! I would recommend buying monitors for each level of your home to keep an eye on the humidity level in the future, hopefully it will help you "catch" any weird levels before anything happens. Keep us posted, and best of luck!
  • yiayiacheryl
    Original Author
    7 years ago
    As we suspected the inspector determined that it was a moisture problem...The floor was installed correctly. The humidity level in your basement is about 68% and the floor read 9.
    In the house it read 58% and the floor right outside the basement door read 15. We are now in the market for a dehumidifier. We are leaning towards buying 2 Frigidaire FAD704DWD and put them on opposite ends of the basement. We were thinking of buying an industrial one but the cost is over $1000.00. Not sure if we should just bite the bullet and buy the industrial?? Any thoughts? The basement is about 1700 sq ft.
  • PRO
    PPF.
    7 years ago
    Where is the moisture coming from?
  • Carol Johnson
    7 years ago
    It's either excess moisture from underneath or maybe the floor was installed with out the expansion gaps against the walls...?
  • yiayiacheryl
    Original Author
    7 years ago
    The moisture is coming from the ground.
  • yiayiacheryl
    Original Author
    7 years ago
    The floor was installed with expansion gaps....The inspector told us the floor was installed correctly.
  • _sophiewheeler
    7 years ago
    Find the actual source of the problem. The problem is that moisture is entering your home. Dehumidifiers only address the *symptom* of the problem. It doesn't make the actual problem go away. Do you have gutters on the home that have downspouts that extend outwards from the home? Is the site grading universally sloped *away* from the home on all sides? Have you changed any of the soil height around the home by adding planting beds? Do your basement walls have a perimeter drain system and external waterproofing?

    If you don't find the source of the moisture entering your home, you will have much worse long term problems with the entire house, not just your flooring. Moisture is the enemy of all homes, and treating the problem with a dehumidifier alone is like inviting a burgler in for tea and cake. Eventually, he'll get tired of the hospitality and get back to the business of robbing you of your valuables. That is moisture infiltration to a T. Keep the moisture and the burgler out of the home in the first place.
  • yiayiacheryl
    Original Author
    7 years ago
    We have gutters that go into the perimeter drain system. We have external waterproofing and the grading is sloped away from the house. We are built on clay soil with a brook along the side of our house and a pond across the street. There are 6 homes on our street and every house has more than one dehumidifier in their basement.
  • yiayiacheryl
    Original Author
    7 years ago
    The only reason we noticed the problem was that our new hardwood floors cupped. We then started to ask the neighbors if they were experiencing the same problem.
  • PRO
    Valley Floors
    7 years ago
    I'm glad to hear that your floor was properly installed. It also sounds like you have proper drainage in place, it sounds to me like the source of your excess humidity is the stream and pond near your property.
    I don't know a lot about humidifiers, but I think you may be better with a larger unit. You'll probably be running it year-round, I suspect that you may save in the end with a larger, better made unit.
    Good luck to you, hopefully once you get the humidity levels stable everything will return to normal for you!
    yiayiacheryl thanked Valley Floors
  • yiayiacheryl
    Original Author
    7 years ago
    We ended up buying 2 dehumidifiers....We are running one in the basement as the other is on back order. In 21/2 days we collected 14 gallons of water.
  • PRO
    Valley Floors
    7 years ago
    Wow...that's crazy; glad to hear you are heading in the right direction!
  • apple_pie_order
    7 years ago
    Thanks for posting update. Hope the dehumidifiers keep the problem under control long term.
  • PRO
    Charles Ross Homes
    7 years ago
    Basements can be challenging. Moisture can be transported through the concrete slab as well as the walls. If the basement is unconditioned, there is no regular circulation of air and no means of dehumidifying the space short of installing a dehumidifier. It is likely that you'll need continuous dehumidification to manage the humidity level in the basement and control the moisture content of the subfloor above.
  • rhdrico
    7 years ago

    Does your basement show any wall or floor seepage? Is the basement wall concrete or concrete block? I had my basement (900 sq.ft.) water proofed last winter and there is no seepage at all. This June we had record rain of plus 10 inches, my basement dehumidifier shows less than 35% humidity, and doesn't extract any water if I run it for 12 hours (just checking). The sump pump moves a fair amount of water (I hear it trickling in the sump pit after heavy or long rain storms). I also run 2 24" box fans in the basement for air circulation.

    I never open windows when it's cool (if you check the current conditions, with the cool temperatures I have +80% humidity...I'm in west Illinois). Room ceiling fans keep me comfortable with the a/c set at 74-76 degF (humidity less than 55%).


  • yiayiacheryl
    Original Author
    7 years ago

    We don't have any seepage at all and our basement is concrete. We are running 2 dehumidifiers in the basement now. They are emptied every other day. Our floor have settled a little bit.

  • Gloria H.
    7 years ago
    I had the cupping occur on several occasions. Once when the dishwater flooded the wood floor and once when a vase fill with water hit the floor. The floor had to be redone twice! Also, be very careful not to use "water" when cleaning your floors. Use bona products. Excessive water when cleaning can cause damage too (seen a little of this myself). My builder--in our new home--said if we didn't get a humidifier in our new home, he would not cover our wood floor because our winters are so "dry".
  • rhdrico
    7 years ago
    last modified: 7 years ago

    yiayiacheryl-does your exterior basement waterproofing have a sump pump, if so how much is it running?

    As I mentioned I had my basement waterproofed (along the inside footings and drilling weep holes at the base of the bottom concrete blocks). Before this was done (in Jan 2015) my dehumidifier was pulling several gallons of water at least once a week. This was in the winter with no visible seepage. After the water proofing and despite getting 11" of rain in June my dehumidifier never removes any water...humidity shows as less than 35%.

    Even if there is no visible water, moisture can seep through the porous concrete wall. It did on mine.

    What's your exterior sump pump pit look like?

  • PRO
    Cancork Floor Inc.
    7 years ago

    A 3 year old hardwood that has cupping issues for may not "settle down" more than what you see right now. Hopefully you can get a year or two of drying in (again, you will want to look at a full HVAC install and not just portable dehumidifiers) will help a little bit more.

    Once wood gets puffy, it takes a LONG TIME to settle down. And it rarely goes "back" to original. The longer it is left at "puffy" the harder it is to get it "back to normal". You might get a bit more improvement...but don't get too upset if it never gets any better than it is today.

    I would invest in a whole house humidistat. If you don't, you will be emptying your dehumidifiers every 2 days for the rest of your home's existance (even if you move out, the new owners will then have to continue on with your work).

  • hola90
    6 years ago

    I special ordered some oak flooring and it took a month. It arrived and about half way through the first box the wood was warped, all different widths and thickness and some were even chewed up. I told my contractor to do the best he could thinking I would deal with a refund later.

    Well after 2 months of ignored email, and not returned voice mail calls, they sent me a copy of the instructions which in few small print says that if any wood is installed that is defective they will not pay for anything. The admitted it was defective but because I installed it, it says that I approved of the flooring. Nothing they can do about it.

    Be very aware of these shysters. My contractor had told me that they will find some reason not to pay and he was right. Big companies don't give a d***.

    Do a google search for lumber liquidators complaints and you will find at least 800 bad reviews. The only good ones are those that are just installed and they have not had to deal with trying to get it replaced when it starts to shrink and buckle.

    Presently there are 103 class action suits against them and they are being investigated by the DOJ. I believe the stock drop not only has to do with the tainted wood from China but with customer satisfaction.

    I will be selling my stock at a huge loss. I suggest no one buy wood from them or their stock if you don't want to get ripped off.

    BTW you get what you pay for and less.

  • Nancy Walton
    6 years ago

    It sounds to me that a moisture barrier was not installed under the slab when they built your house, You might also want to do a Radon test to make sure that isn't too high. The Radon mitigating system would also pull some of the moisture from the basement.

  • yiayiacheryl
    Original Author
    6 years ago

    We are running 2 dehumidifiers down in the basement. Our floors have settled just a little. The humidity level has improved because of the dehumidifiers. We are not going to sand the floors in the near future....We will probably wait till we get ready to sell the house :-(


  • notamused
    6 years ago

    notamused

    We are nearing completion of a new house and recently noticed the wood flooring on the entire first floor is noticeably cupped. The lower level flooring, applied over cement with an appropriate moisture barrier seems to be ok so far. We are scheduled to move in in two weeks but I certainly don't want to do so if the ultimate solution is to replace the floor. I suspect (don't know) that there were several moisture issues. About 5-6 weeks prior to the floor being laid (it was done in mid-February) we had a couple of inches of standing water in the lower level. The Advantech used on the main level had been heavily wetted since its installation and, again, at 5-6 weeks before the wood floors were installed there were still areas of significant moisture - particularly near doors (no doors installed at that time but they were in my the time the flooring was installed) and where the roof leaked in the room. I am not a pro but my guess would be that the AdvanTech was not properly dried before the flooring went in. It probably didn't help that on some of the days the flooring was installed it rained. Also, the HVAC system still isn't up and running so that is of no help. Right now the builder is using a dehumidifier in the basement. Don't know if it will help. I have asked for an AdvanTech rep to come out to meaure the moisture content in the floor. I don't think it was a failure of the Advantech, I suspect it was improper drying and maybe a lack of MC measuremts of both flooring and substrate. I really don't want to rip out all the flooring - it's the entire main floor! But I also don't want to move into a house with a floor that we consider unacceptable. The builder has a certificate of occupancy and though he sounds willing to work with us, it's pretty clear that what he wants is for the basement humifier to help "calm the floor down" so that he can then have the cupped edges sanded down and call it good. Will the humidifier help? Should we go ahead and move in? Who is responsible for this mess?

  • Nancy Walton
    6 years ago

    Notamused, since you are posting on a dilemma that is 1 1/2 years old, you would be better off posting your own, new dilemma. You will get many more suggestions than you will here.

  • PRO
    Cancork Floor Inc.
    6 years ago

    @notamused...I agree that it would be best to cut and paste your post into your own dilemma. You have a complicated issue that will get more complicated by using someone else's thread/story.