Problem with Brazillian Teak flooring (Cumaru)

September 25, 2008

Hi Everyone. I've never posted before, but have been lurking forever. I love this place! I apologize for not posting on the flooring forum but I know this gets more traffic. We started to build our home last Oct. and moved in in May. We chose Brazillian Teak after seeing Lindy Barts and gardenchics beautiful floors! They are gourgeous! We decided to go with the brazillian teak in the kitchen, great room, dining room, front office, half bath, basically just over 1300 square ft. on our main floor. It is a stunning floor! We get so many complements. Except recently we have noticed HUGE gaps! And I'm talking a lot of them! I did a search on here and I saw one other post where I saw where Lindy was having issues also? We live in Illinois. We have not even gone through a winter yet, so I'm afraid what will happen then?! One gap is large enough that a Quarter won't even stand up straight.

What do you guys think? Common problem with Brazillian Teak? We researched the wood and went with this beacause we have a chocolate lab who is almost 100 lbs. and it is such a hard wood.

To add insult to injury, we called our builder to talk to him about this, he told us that the place we bought our wood from went belly up. So we can't even call the guy who sold it to us and complain. We do have a whole box of wood left but I'm not sure what good that will do?

Thanks to anyone who may be able to help shed some light on this for us.

Also, I've attached a couple of pictures I took late last night. Sorry about the quality of them. It was late and I was frustrated and tired. Sorry about the dirty floors too! :) Two kids and a big shedding dog! I didn't realize they were that bad till I saw them on the computer monitor, lol!

Comments (35)

  • lindybarts

    Oh Wow, those gaps are huge. My biggest gap doesn't even fit a dime into it. I would bring this up as a warranty item for sure. The place you bought it went belly up but can't your builder help?? Our flooring guy used the filler on some of ours and it looks much better but he said it will continue to expand and contract so it may need to be filled again at some point.

    I still love this floor though!

  • kami_luvsjamj

    Thanks lindy! Our builder did say he'd help in anyway he could. He's going to bring in some sensor to check the moisture level in our house. Maybe it's too dry? I really don't know what we can do besides the filler though and our gaps are bigger than yours so I'm not even sure about the filler? And we haven't even gone through a winter yet, isn't that when it will get even worse? Oy! It's always something.

    I still love the floor too, it really is beautiful. Everybody who sees it just raves about it. I'll keep you posted!

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  • alto

    kami who manufactured your floors? I wonder if others who have gaps are from the same manufacturer?

  • worthy

    The site below says that Brazilian teak is "Very unstable when used in dry climates and it is prone to shrinkage. It is naturally seasoned and kiln dried to prevent shrinkage. Shrinkage volumetric 12% moisture content: radial 5%; tangential 7.6%."

    I would bet that neither the floor installer nor builder took moisture readings before installation.

    In our cold climate, I have seen similar shrinkage during the winter (without humidification) on site-finished red oak, but during the summer it closes up.

    Your profile only says United States. That covers a lot of territory.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Better Hardwoods

  • lsst

    I do not have an answer but I do understand. The company that installed our hardwoods, carpet and tile went belly up, too.
    They had a "lifetime guarantee" on all installations! LOL
    We have major issues with our carpet and no resolution.

    I hope everything turns out well for you. Your builder should have a hardwood inspector come in to evaluate your floors to determine what can be done to remedy it.

  • whidbey

    Wow... I am totally bummed. This is the floor I had decided to use. I think I'm going to go with Brazilian Cherry (my original plan). I sure hope your contractor remedies this for you.

  • kami_luvsjamj

    Thanks for the replies everyone!

    alto~ Great question! I wonder if the same manufactuerer is responsible for most of the problems going on around here? I'm not sure who manufactured the floor, we have an entire box left in the basement, I just need to go down and dig through and get to it.

    worthy~ Great site! Thanks! We live in central Illinois. Very warm summers and cold winters. You are correct that nobody took moisture readings(at least that I'm aware of) before installation.

    Here's the deal...we have been running a dehumidifier in our basement due to a musty smell in our basement bedroom closet for a few months. Our builder told us to do this when we first moved in b/c we complained that we smelled the musty smell. I'd say this had to be back in June.

    Today when my husband spoke with our builder, our builder asked if we were still needing to run the dehumidifier, when my husband said yes, and that we needed to empty it at least every day or two our builder said this in itself is a problem and needs to be looked into and should have not needed to be done longer than a month after moving in. He said we may be pulling too much moisture out of the house, therefore making the wood shrink.

    1sst~ sorry to hear that you went through something similar. Lifetime guarantee on installation? WOW! Now I know our hardwood has a 25 year warranty on finish but they will say this is installation. Good luck, I hope it works out for you and you finally get some sort of resolution.

    I truly appreciate any advice or feedback I get from you guys! This forum has been a life saver for us in many respects!

  • kami_luvsjamj

    whidbey, I hope you don't rule it out yet! Wait and see what happens once they do the test to determine the amount of moisture in my home. We really love the floor (but for the gaps) :( . I am posting some pictures I've taken that show how pretty I think it really is. I'm like lindy, I still love the floor, I'm just really disappointed in it at the moment. Hopefully it will get resolved.

  • kami_luvsjamj

    Well, today our builder came and brought someone who used an instrument and took moisture readings at different areas in our home on the flooring. He said the levels should be between 9 and 11%. For example, in our dining room away from the window it read 6 but in our great room we have large windows where the sun shines in all day... here it read 0!

    So good news is we can correct this by putting a humidifier on our furnace and by no longer running our dehumidifier in the basement. This gentleman said there are a few things we can do in the meantime to help speed up the process to get the hardwood to get back to normal. We can fill our bathtubs with water; do lots of dishes which I already do ;) and to not run our bathroom fans.

    He did say it would take approx. 30 days to shrink back to normal, so that's not too bad in my opinion. I am so thankful it can be resolved!

    I appreciate the feedback I got from you guys here. If you have any questions, let me know, I'll be glad to try to help!

  • carolyn53562

    I would not just stop running the dehumidifier in the basement. What you need it a humidistat to measure the humidity in your basement and then adjust your dehumidifier so that the humidity stays between 50% and 60%. If the humidity in your basement is higher than 60%, you're probably going to get that musty smell back down there and you may also promote mold growth, and if you have a finished basement yo don't want that to happen. Also if you put a humidifier on your furnace you are going to want a humidistat to measure the humidity levels on the floors above the basement (ideal is between 30% -50%) because if it gets too humid you will promote mold growth.

  • worthy

    I would not just stop running the dehumidifier in the basement.

    Absolutely correct! But keep the RH a max of 50%.

    New concrete releases thousands of pounds of water into the air for at least a year after the pour. Plus, the vapour drive from the air and soil around your basement never ceases. I bet the basement was improperly insulated with fiberglass and a heavy poly vapour barrier to the interior that is already trapping water in the walls. That musty smell is mould.

    Localized humidifiers for the wood flooring upstairs might be a better bet than whole house humidification.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Basement Insulation Systems

  • kami_luvsjamj

    Thanks carolyn and worthy. My hubby picked up a humidistadt on his way home from work tonight. In our basement it registered a 43 and in the bedroom closet where we had the musty smell it was 45%. Up on the main floor with the hardwood we got a 49%.

    Thanks for the tip about the humidistadt! Our builder mentioned getting a barometer but nothing about a humidistadt!

  • susanlynn2012

    The Teak floors are very beautiful. I was wondering if the humidistat helped and now that you are keeping the moisture level at a certain percentage if the gaps have closed up?

  • mightyanvil

    There is no reason to keep emptying the bucket; run a hose from the dehumidifier to a sump or drain. Don't run it at the full setting full time or it won't last long; it needs to cycle on and off. Get an extended warranty and tape it to the unit; they often fail during the normal warranty period. It's good to have two so you have one to use while the other is being repaired.

    It is common to need to run a dehumidifier in the basement and a humidifier in the upstairs in an old house but there should be no reason to have to do it in a new one. If there is no insulation or waterproofing on the outside of the foundation wall, or no footing drains and sump, or no vapor retarder under the slab, your builder has some explaining to do.

    If you have a musty small upstairs don't necessarily assume it is from the basement.

  • jwins

    Hi Kami...
    I just read this thread from September. I was wondering if your problems are resolved. We are considering this floor for our kitchen and I wanted to know if you still love it and how the gaps are doing. Did you find out if it is Cumaru especially that does this, or if it would have happened to any wood you installed? Also, how do you find the color with dust, dirt and dog hair? Does it show up a lot or a little? Ive heard the darker floors are a nightmare with this, especially dust. This floor is sort of medium, so i wondered how much it shows. And..one more question....did you ever find out the manufacturer on the floor.

    Thank you in advance for answering all of my questions!!!!

  • bthomeowner

    I am learning that Brazilian Teak wood floors can be tricky with regard to gapping this species being one of the more unstable of the Brazilian exotics. I bought 4" clear grade unfinished Brazilian Teak hardwood from a reputable distributor who said that the mill dries their wood properly from the onset. I did all the right things when I installed mine acclimated for a week and checked both many pieces of hardwood boards and many areas of subfloor for moisture content with a moisture meter all were within acceptable ranges. I used the best water-based sealer and coaters ( by Basic) and even wiped the floors down with acetone right before I applied the first coat of sealer to remove any residual oils from the wood that could cause slow or spotty drying. I then did a second coat of sealer and then the 1st coat of satin finish waiting to do a second coat just before we move into the new house. Moved in, but havent put the final coat on just yet.

    I installed the floor in the summer with the AC running. I am told that normal moisture content within a house in the summer should be around 50-60% - which Ive always had. As we moved into the winter I started to notice some gapping so I also installed whole house humidification for the winter because I am running air-exchangers which are constantly bringing in fresh (dry) winter air. My moisture reading in the winter on my humidistat now reads a consistent 39-42% with the humidification - which I am told is in the perfect range. So my indoor environment is controlled the way it should be.

    With all of this I still have a few areas of dime-sized gapping and 1 or 2 areas of quarter sized gapping. There are other areas where you can see very, very small gaps (mostly just under natural light conditions). Id prefer the floor to look like one sheet of hardwood with no gaps like it looked when it was installed. With all of my efforts to control the humidity my big gaps have not gone away. Ive done some reading and it seems that with Brazilian Teak that my gapping is probably here to stay. Ive read and have been told that after the wood has been in for a year or so it pretty much is going to stay where it is at this point (at least with the big gaps) no matter if winter or summer. It seems that this species doesnt really have any memory and all the humidity in the world might not bring it back once it shrinks.

    It is interesting to note that some of the decent size gapping is right in front of my kitchen sink. My theory is that because the forced air (both hot air and cold with AC) register under the sink is positioned in the toe kick it is actually pushing air directly across the floor rather than straight up into the air like all of the other floor registers. I believe this has caused over-drying in this area the gaps here have never left and came about only after the cabinets where installed (before they were installed the air was just going straight into the air without a cabinet to defect the air down). Maybe a concentrated blast of a localized humidifier might help out a bit in this area, but it wouldnt make any sense to put a humidifier near the kitchen sink not only would it be in the way, but I just really wouldnt want to look at it all day. And again, these gaps havent closed in the summer with indoor humidity at 50-60%.

    I just got off the phone with a gentleman at a local Lumber Liquidator (even though I didnt buy the floor there) just to discuss issues with Brazilian Teak. He made some phone calls and called me back. His sources say that if you have controlled conditions and the gaps are not closing up then the wood is probably going to stay where it is going to stay especially after a year. They suggested filling the gaps and putting my final coat on, which is what I will probably do. With unfinished I can at least make the floors look good even with the filler because I am coating after the match the finish. Its harder with prefinished floors because you would have to fill with what amounts to a matte type filling trying to match a semi or satin finish the only saving grace is that this wood is darker so it might not be as noticeable.

    I think that the big issue is that Ive installed the floors in New England, which has very humid (summer) and then very dry (winter) climates. New England, as with other states in the United States, has extremes in temperatures very different than where this wood comes from. Ive been doing some reading and have found that a lot of distributors dont feel comfortable selling Brazilian Exotics into New England and other states with similar climates because the temperatures and conditions have such a wide range of fluctuation. Ive learned that most dont like to sell above 3" widths (I have 4") to these climates because the wood can cup.

    I bought this wood for the extreme hardness (my wife is accident prone and drops everything!), but I guess the trade-off is the instability of the wood.

    Id be interested in knowing if anybody has been able to close the gaps with this species?

  • jlynn12

    To kami luvsjamj - just found all these postings as I am researching problems with our teak floor. It looks exactly like yours!! I have been talking to a couple of installers who feel it is the quality of the floor. Do you know your manufacturer name? Ours is Hawa. I would be interested in knowing if you were ever able to resolve your problems. Our gaps have never closed.

  • nsskin

    my floor is 2 1/2 years old and has bad gapping. I was thinking of sanding , puttying and re-finishing.

  • bunti

    I am planning to have brazilian teak cumaru flooring. Do you still have the problem?

    I want to know your feed back.

    Thank you.

  • scott_klenke

    The flooring is normally not the root of the problem. Make sure your flooring contractor checks the moisture content of the flooring and your subfloor to make sure they are within tolerance before installing. Then make sure to maintain a "fairly" constant temperature and humidity and you should be good to go.

  • discjockey

    I wonder if it makes any difference if its wood from Burma or Brazil.

    Secondly does it make a difference if its engineered wood or solid.

    Thirdly, does it make a difference if its square cut finished ( no bevel) or if its a kissing bevel?

    Does it also matter whether there is a sub floor or not or whether its glued right on the cement floor?

  • tessinseattle

    Anyone have experience with this wood in the Pacific Northwest? Was looking at Cumaru (we also have a dog with nails that scratch wood so we want something hard) but I'm worried about any exotic species. My understanding is that Cumaru gaps in climates that are unlike it's climate of origin (S. America) and Brazilian Cherry cups. We have experience with awful Brazilian Cherry cupping in our old residence, despite months of acclimatization of wood, it cupped horribly in the winter. I think only woods native to N. America are immune from this dimensional instability.

  • PRO

    We live in Southern California and have these floors in our home. We did the entire house and I do love the warmth, texture, and overall look of the wood. Unfortunately we also have gaps in our flooring and the wood putty in between doesn't really help. I will say that these floors are tough. We have a dog, parties at the house, our kids scooter and use the plasma bikes all over the house - and the floors are fine. We did solid wood so we can always refinish them later if needed. As all choices in life, there are trade offs to every decision. Engineered wood might "look" more perfect initially but it's difficult to replace/sand later on when it gets damaged. I would choose these same floors again because I think the benefits outweigh the few gaps we have around the house.

  • PRO
    Springtime Builders

    The real problems with Brazilian and other South American hardwoods are the irresponsible ways it's being harvested. Rainforestrelief.org has a great article on flooring. There are many quality and interesting woods grown right here in murica (and Canada). GBA just put up an article on the importance of sustainable forestry and distinguishing between FSC and SFI certifications.

    Attention buyers of exotic hardwoods, this is what you are probably contributing to without FSC or better certification:

    The real shame comes as much of the cheaply made engineered flooring is tossed into a landfill after material failure or aesthetic problems caused by bad acclimation or poor building envelopes and mechanical designs.

  • gappyfloors

    Wife and I decided on cumaru floors in our old house that we are fixing up.

    We're in san diego area and the house is on a subfloor so there is airspace below. We did the 3-1/4" boards, nail down (cleats) and its on the premium moisture barrier from lumber liquidators.

    About 3 years ago I installed one bedroom and it gapped pretty badly after not very long. I did not moisture check the flooring nor do I know what my relative humidity is. I have another bedroom to install flooring in now (its a slow remodel) and I have the exact same floor that Ive been storing in the house for 2 years and its spent the better part of the last year in a sea container which gets very warm and stays very dry. I assumed my gapping was due to a rookie mistake of installing too soon without acclimating the material. I knew it needed acclimation but I "didnt have time to wait".. So I risked it and installed it, and now Im paying the price as it will have to be pulled up and reinstalled, salvaging what I can. (Im the type that cant see anything BUT the gaps now. Dime to quarter to even larger sized gaps are completely unacceptable to me. If they were hairline gaps I'd live with it)

    Now that Im ready to do room #2 and armed with a moisture meter, I brought the stuff in to acclimate, and its reading 0% moisture content right out of the boxes. I am going to go ahead and install it dry and see where it takes me. In the end if it gaps, I will probably tear it all out and go with something different, probably an engineered floor or wood-look tile or something like that.

    Seems to me the shrinking must be done by now and it should stay put, possibly swell up and buckle a bit. If it does that, its all going into the dumpster.

    I am a carpenter (not a flooring guy) with a lot of experience with lots of species of wood, and Im familiar with moisture content and the tendencies of lumber. I am not an expert. With that said, my thoughts are that the wood is probably dried to a maximum usable moisture content and then milled, finished, immediately boxed up and shipped (wet). At which point is never going to acclimate or dry out beyond that. By the time the end user gets the material, its still way too wet to use, and being as ultra dense as it is, finished on nearly 50% of the surfaces, its going to acclimate VERY slowly. No way its going to dry out in a few days or a week.

    Im going to install this dry material within a week or so and I'll give an update if anything out the ordinary happens.

    I forgot to mention that the floor has remained seemingly very "stable" since its initial shrinkage. I watched it during some wetter months, and dryer months and there was no appreciable change (improvement).

    Its a real shame because the material is absolutely gorgeous. And its not cheap. I would be devastated if I had a whole house with gapped floors. I consider myself "lucky" to have it limited to a couple hundred square feet.

  • PRO
    Chicagoland Flooring

    Just as with many standard domestic species, moisture problems are an
    issue with exotics. Some exotics take a much longer time to acclimate to a job site than what you expect. Also, many exotics appear to be dimensionally
    stable when tested in a lab but seem to behave differently on actual job
    sites. Moisture testing of wood with
    the right adjustments on the moisture meter for the species used, together with understanding of wood acclimation process is critical. No rushing of the job.

    Use NWFA (National Wood Flooring Association) or similar professionally trained and certified installers to have best results. (www.woodfloors.org).

    Many times independent NWFA certified inspectors could help you and your installer with evaluating jobsite conditions, testing it and providing advice and required documentation prior to the installation start so potential problems are avoided.


  • Tricia Kelly

    Do not buy Brazilian Teak! We loved the look and hate the huge gaps. Purchased from Lumber liquidators and they would not do anything to help us. Although it looks pretty, the gapping is terrible. Wish I researched this wood before making such an expensive mistake. If anyone knows how to fix the problem, please post. We may have to rip up entire first floor and re-do with a different wood. Again, do not buy brazilian teak, especially from lumber liquidators.

  • cpartist

    Try posting on the flooring forum.

  • sàn gỗ Song Thắng

    I think it was happened because you set heavy furniture in corner that makes teak flooring couldnt expand in vertical

  • millworkman

    "I think it was happened because you set heavy furniture in corner that makes teak flooring couldnt expand in vertical"


  • Dr. Maize

    I read the comments on this blog and in general they are good comments offering sound advice. I too am from central Illinois but now I live in ARIZONA, where an 8%

    humidity is considered a chance for rain. They have to work hard every morning to come up with a new adjective to describe a prefect day.........".Today is going to be bright and sunny, tomorrow we'll have abundant sunshine, glorious streaming sunshine through the weekend and health giving sunshine through next week, before a chance of rain comes in the forecast. There is a tropical low off Funafuti, Tuvalu, (Sounds like a discount fruit bouquet place) that will come into our sphere of influence if everything remains as it is. It will bring us a 10% of rain in the next week with accumulations projected at 5/100 of an inch in some isolated parts of the valley."............Back to the blog...........My office has a brazilian teak wood floor that I love an as dry as it is here, I've seen no signs of shrinkage. It is glued to a concrete base which may help keep it dimensionally tight.

    Concerning dehumidification/humidification...........Don't mess with potential molds. Keep your basements to less than or equal to 50% humidity. Make sure your basement/crawl space is properly insulated with a vapor shield in the right place. Make sure you have good foundation drainage and an adequate sump pump. Water flows down hill (Its a basic premise of soil and water hydrology. Where does your basement foundation drain? if the outlet is prone to flooding, the water will not drain properly away from your home and if the outlet is not deep enough to get flow away from your house you will build up water pressure on the outside of the basement walls. If there is enough pressure, the walls will sweat or leak in cracks. Also check for underground rivers in the area (some professionals don't believe in subsurface rivers but I had a neighbor who flooded his basement for 4 days about 6 ft deep because he was in the middle of an underground river while we, 1 block away, did not have any difficulty keeping up with our sump pump.

    If you have a sump pump, keep and eye on it and test it periodically. Also have a well sized back-up. Set the backup about 2 inches above the inlet of the primary sump pump. This puts the backup sump in parallel with the primary. Replace the whole set up every eight years or so and don't try to squeeze out a few more years. the thinking is that the system is redundant and should have good safety inherently because one of the pumps should work.......Right? Well I woke to 6 inches of water in my basement 1 day before I was putting it on the market. Talk about bad timing. State Farm took good care of us and made everything right.

    Sorry for rambling. Bottom line.........do everything you can to keep your house dry. Add humidity when needed but don't get above 50%. Molds can grow at relative humiliates of greater then about 60%. Its not the amount of water that grows mold but the relative humidity at the site of the mold. Every biological and non biological product has a moisture isotherm which relates the % moisture content of the product to the relative humidity expressed by the product. For example, put a piece of bread into a closed container with dry (less than 6% moisture) wheat and two day later the bread will be hard and dry and the wheat will increase in moisture. Let dry wall absorb water from a leak, it will give off a relative humidity greater than 60% and in a short time you may have a runaway mold problem.

  • lolarn

    After reading all the comments I feel somewhat better about our selection of Brazilian Teak. We live in north Florida which is humid year round even with the AC running 8-9 months per year. 50% humidity is a fabulous dry day here. I’d be interested to know if anyone has had gapping problems if installed in a humid environment.

  • tcgalbraith

    Kami - I know this post is ancient but I am looking for a box on Brazilian Teak. what was the thickness of your floor. Mine is 5/16". If you still had and wanted to get rid of the old box of flooring and it is 5/16" x 3", I am interested.


  • PRO
    IndoTeak Design

    Next time check out our reclaimed teak engineered flooring.

  • HU-941453212

    We had unfinished Brazilian teak floor installed in a kitchen/dining room remodel in 2012. We have had no problems of any gaping and absolutely love it. Also, the installation was a breeze for the contractor who is our son-in-law. In 2017 we remodeled the master bedroom suite with walk-in closet and again installed Brazilian teak. Flooring material was purchase from the same dealer and installed by the same contractor on both projects.

    The wood had more than 7 months in the room it was to be installed in to acclimate to the indoor environment. Our son-in-law had a lot of problems with the installation on the bedroom project. Installing the flooring took more man hours and we are convinced that the second batch of wood came from a different supplier. It seemed to be a lower quantity even though we were told that it came from the same supplier. There are some gaps but after having the salesman we dealt with inspect the flooring he had them filled before his finisher completed his work. We absolutely love the floor in both areas and wouldn’t hesitate to use the same material if we were to ever move.

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