My folks (who are totally ignorant about this sort of stuff) had to
totally rebuild their 80 some odd year old cottage up on the atlantic
coast in maine after a bad n'oreaster damaged it beyond repair. For
the most part the workmanship on the new place was superb when it was
finally finished recently, but i noticed that the new oak floor that
had been installed looked odd (this is an actual oak floor - not some
sort of laminate or whatever). The oak strips (not sure if that's
what you call them) in the floor are higher on either side of their
width and lower in the center. This warping is very modest, but it's
definitely noticeable and does NOT look normal. This creates a sort
of subtle rippling effect in the floor, which you can even see in the
right light and you can definitely feel if you run your hand over the
floor. we asked the contractor - who is a very honest guy generally -
about it and he said something to the effect of "well, that's
something that happens sometimes out here and can't be avoided when
you're so close to the water" (the place sits about 25 yards from the
ocean). I was very skeptcal of his remark, but my folks basically
bought it mostly because they were happy with the majority of the work
and glad to be finally done with the project and able regain use of
their beloved cottage. My suspicion is the contractor knows it's not
right, that it didn't become apparent to him until the floor had
already been installed and he realizes fixing it now would require him
to rip out the entire floor and install a new one - something he
obviously wants to avoid. I am pretty much a neophyte with all this
too, but i do recognize something when it's wrong, and this just
doesn't seem right. Any advice you can offer would be greatly
appreciated - including whether this can be fixed by sanding or
something short of totally ripping out and replacing..THANKS!
As Dad in OH says, it is "cupping" and _is_ moisture-related. As he
says, also, sanding will/can flatten it again at the time it is done and
refinished. Need more info to have any chance at all at guessing
whether it would have much likelihood of remaining more nearly flat
1. How wide are the individual planks/strips?
2. Was this a prefinished flooring or was it sanded and finished after
3. What is the HVAC system in the "cottage" and how well is it
sealed/weathertight and particularly, what is under this area of floor?
4. When was the floor installed (time of year/weather) and what was the
condition of the house at the time (enclosed, HVAC on, environment
stabilized wrt temperature).
5. How long was the flooring acclimated to the environment before it was
6. Etc, etc., ...
There are several sites dedicated to wood flooring with much
information, so won't write a treatise here. The Wood Flooring
Manufacturers' Assoc is one of the best. It discusses applications and
requirements for various climates, subflooring, etc., ...
But, in general, wood moves w/ temperature and relative humidity. Best
that can be done is to achieve equilibrium before and control moisture
changes -- it's the _changes_ that cause the movement more than the
absolute value itself.
So, if it were narrower strips so that individual movement was less per
strip and the environment is now stabilized and the proper
subflooring/vapor barriers/etc were used and the environment is
reasonably well controlled from now on after occupancy instead of
uncontrolled during construction, then there's a chance a refinishing
could improve the situation. Lacking all of that, not so much.
thanks for all the great advice ! really appreciate it..
my guess is the contractor probably tried to steer them clear of a
traditional oak floor, but they probably insisted. this is the
standard oak floor you see everywhere - i guess the strips are about 2
inches wide and i believe it was pre-finished material that was
installed. The environment is fairly damp where the house is
situated, so i guess there's a significant risk of this kind of thing
happening with this type of flooring. Also, the house is only up on a
sono-tube type foundation - there's no basement or anything and the
insulation is minimal since it's pretty much just a summer place. The
consensus seems to be from folks here who've offered opinions - a)
should have used something else for the floor, b) the wood that was
used should have been prepped better, etc, but even then there are no
guarantees, c) the problem could improve over time on its own and d)
in any case, at some point sanding/refinishing might improve things -
but there's no guarantee.
I have oak floors 20 ft from water they are fine. I dought they were
aclimitised to the houses humidity level for the correct period of
time and perhaps no area for expansion was included at the edges, pull
off the molding and see if you have a 1/4" gap, if not one could be
cut in then have them sanded. But it still may be an issue.
Sanding flat is probably a waste of time and money. The flooring
irself should have been either quarter sawed boards to resist the
warping or a moisture resistant laminate. Given the choice for a
second home or cottage, I would go the laminate route. But if real
wood must be put down (people have their reasons), an old timer's
trick is to put some sort of finish on the bottoms of the boards to
slow down the effects of humidity and temperature changes.
As the demand for wood flooring has increased the last few years,
seems to me some of the material in the marketplace has gotten rather
sorry compared to what I saw years ago. Good luck on your choices.
The contractor is mostly right. Coastal areas are hard on
lumber, and whether something like prefinished flooring cups or not
will vary somewhat between batches/suppliers/species, but is likely
to be present to some degree regardless. If the wood had been
dried to a lower equilibrium than the house, the unfinished side
will soak up moisture, causing it to cup away from that side.
The best way to minimize it is to let unplaned wood season and
equalize _in_ the area, and then machine it into floor planks _after_
it's dried out as much as it's going to in that local climate.
Which means a local manufacturer. You probably don't have one anymore.
When you import prefinished real hardware flooring from elsewhere
(which most stuff is these days), things like this will often
happen to one degree or another.
He might have been able to minimize it somewhat by priming the
backs of the planks. A lot of extra work for no real guarantee,
that I suspect nobody does.
Be patient. It's probably still equalizing. It may well get better
over the course of a year. But it might get worse. Watch the warrantee
If it gets too objectionable after a year or two, get it resanded/finished.
That should fix it permanently - it'll have stopped moving, and
resanding will take out the cup.
A new public school built near us had a full size hardwood gym floor.
Unusual in these days (most new schools get much smaller gyms). Awesome
stuff from one of most reputable flooring manufacturers in the world -
the guys that do floors for professional basketball teams etc. Swedish
I think. To the level of having manufacturer's engineers fly over from
Europe to spec the floor, and then have inspectors onsite to supervise
installation by guys who had to meet their certification requirements.
These guys know what they're doing, and charge appropriately.
A year later, it had split. Very badly. 1/4" and more cracks everywhere.
Everyone appalled, especially the manufacturer. Fly whole new floor
over, fly over inspectors to try to figure out what went wrong,
and do again, no arguments at all, redo probably cost them close
to $200K. They still don't know for sure what went wrong. But
they stood behind it.
It happens even to the best.
Age and Treachery will Triumph over Youth and Skill
Strip flooring is a bad choice, as it is solid wood it will swell in summer
from the dampness and shrink in winter with the heat on. A better choice
would have been an engineered wood floor (not laminate) but a floor with a
good plywood base -- avoid softwood or MDF based engineered floors. I
installed a good plywood based engineered floor in our kitchen, and while
working on the plumbing I had a small flood one week after it was installed.
There was about 1/4" of water on top of the floor and it also ran under the
floor. We instantly mopped it as dry as possible with towels but it was
still wet between and under the boards. The next day there was a little
distortion visible on the surface, but it dried out over a couple of weeks
and is flat as the day it was installed.
We put down 3.5" wide maple plank flooring last year, it shows a little
It was unexpected, but certainly shows that the floor is a 'real wood
I say, don't worry about it. It's a wood floor. If it was supposed to be
perfect, another material should have been chosen.
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