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Cottage Floor Help

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by 1750, Oct 9, 2013.

  1. 1750

    1750 Feeling the Heat

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    I know we have some knowledgeable folks here, and was hoping to take advantage of the collective wisdom.

    I've just finished building a cottage and am really struggling with the flooring. It's close to Lake Michigan, and the relative humidity is always 50% - 80%. We keep the place open when we are there and closed up when we aren't. We don't have AC, and keep the heat about 40F during the winter.

    The floors are 3/4" maple, and within two months of installation started cupping and even buckling in some places. They are a mess.

    My neighbors all have solid wood flooring, no AC or dehumidifiers, and have not had a single problem. I've got a dehumidifier in there now, but am looking for a long-term solution. I was thinking now that they have swollen up, if I go back and cut additional expansion gaps along the edges, the buckling would likely settle down.

    Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

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  2. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    I sense your disappointment, and I don't know of a fix. My first thought is whether or not you allowed the wood flooring planks to equalize with your environment before installing them. Second thought is whether or not the flooring was properly dried in the first place. In my experience, and I have installed up to 18" wide solid white pine plank flooring, is to do the install in the winter (or when the humidity generally is the lowest), let the planks sit for about 2-4 weeks on stickers in the area where they are to be installed to equalize with the ambient moisture, then install. I've put in 3 wood floors in our house, same procedure, and no problem with any of them.

    The time usually that I see cupping is when a board which is flat to begin with is ripped into two boards. That changes the internal stresses within the board which were stable to begin with but now are not, and cupping or other warping can result.
  3. gzecc

    gzecc Minister of Fire

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    A moisture meter may give you some insight.
  4. Retired Guy

    Retired Guy Feeling the Heat

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    Vapor barrier under the flooring? Crawl space or cellar? I have seen some properly installed wood floors exhibit minor cupping when the indoor temp. drops close to 30F.
  5. 1750

    1750 Feeling the Heat

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    .
    Yes, they were installed during the winter, but I don't know how long they were acclimated. The installer had a moisture meter and said both the maple and the subfloor was very dry. The manufacturer (Milstead) sent out an "independent investigator" who said the fault was mine for not maintaining relative humidity between 35-55%. The site is along the lakeshore and the humidity is always quite high (50-80%). If I had known we had to maintain humidity so closely, we would have never used this type of floor.

    At this point, I'm thinking about pulling them up and reinstalling them with new gaps now that everything is acclimated. I can live with the cupping, but the buckling really is driving me crazy .
  6. MDFisherman

    MDFisherman Member

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    Did you leave a large enough gap from the floor to the wall to allow the floor to expand?
  7. 1750

    1750 Feeling the Heat

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    At the time the inspector was there he said the RH was 61% in the house. 9% in the subfloor and 7% in the hardwood.
  8. 1750

    1750 Feeling the Heat

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    Roofing felt as vapor barrier. Full walk-out basement, insulated and finished. The interior temp has never been below 42F.

    My understanding is that the cupping is related to moisture, as is the buckling.
  9. 1750

    1750 Feeling the Heat

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    I didn't install the floor myself, but the guy who did says he left 1/2 inch, which the inspector said is standard. Obviously, the floor has swollen and eaten up that gap. I'm wondering if I reinstall now, with everything acclimated to the humid coastal area, and leave the gap, if things will be more stable. The one room where the buckling floor actually "broke" the floor is now flat as a pancake (it was amazing... a 5 inch wave in the floor finally unhooked the tongue and groove, and the pieces just collapsed in a pile).
  10. Swedishchef

    Swedishchef Minister of Fire

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    Wow...it seems to be a moisture issue.

    Perhaps pulling up the floor and trying another install is a good idea. It seems the wood wasn't acclimatized properly.
  11. 1750

    1750 Feeling the Heat

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    Thanks. I think that's the working plan at this point.

    Pulling out all those nails is what I dread the most.
  12. Frozen Canuck

    Frozen Canuck Minister of Fire

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    I am going to guess the wood was less than 14 days in the building & all wood removed from packaging prior to install. That's problematic. The good news in a bad way is that the wood has acclimated now.

    You say that site MC varies between 50 - 80% that's going to be problematic for maple or other hardwoods. Jim's pine floors will be much more accepting of this swing in MC. As well as the generally high MC content to begin with.

    At inspection moisture was 61%, 9% in sub floor & 7% in hardwood. The maple flooring has no choice but to head toward that 61% with the result that you have noticed. It simply has no way to keep the MC out & it will seek equilibrium with it's surroundings. Just the way wood is.

    Roofing felt is not a vapour barrier, it is a secondary membrane for asphalt roofing. Wrong product choice. So if the area below is of higher MC, unsealed concrete for example this is going to further complicate the situation as the moisture (vapour) will travel through the felt into the flooring.

    You say full walkout basement, is the floor constructed of wood or a plywood overlay on concrete? The reason that I ask is that different nails would be used in either situation & the nails matter.

    What to do now? As I see it until I get more info you are down to a few choices.

    *Remove all flooring & replace with a more suitable product, laminate flooring will be much more forgiving in the circumstances you describe.

    *Remove all flooring & re-use, if you choose this route I would suggest that you do some research into a glue together wood floor (yes I typed that right), not a glue down or a nail down. What you in your situation with a cabin that is unoccupied & allowed to go down to 42::F in the winter is get your entire floor to behave as one piece of wood, shrinking & expanding with the seasons & temperatures. Then you will simply need to install thick enough baseboard & trim to accommodate the size changes. Note this is not normal wood glue but rather a glue that has a high tack (holds on to what it touches) as well as high elasticity (plenty of stretch) & a wide temperature tolerance (won't become brittle when cold, wont run like water when hot). Best to use a hardwood flooring shops glue as they make their living at this & can't afford under performing glues. BTW use different company than the installer above as your options should have been explained to you prior to buying & installing a product. Providing of course that you explained the situation at the cabin to them.

    Sorry for the bad news & yes getting those nails out without damaging the flooring is a real PITA. For that job make a bench or a solid plank on two saw horses, cover the work space in foam (blue board) to protect the flooring, leave a small gap/hole for the nail to be pounded down into & be patient, this is going to take time.
  13. 1750

    1750 Feeling the Heat

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    Thanks for taking the time to provide such a detailed response, FC.

    The wood floor is on the main floor. It's on traditional wooden joists. The walkout below is carpeted. The nails that I saw look like big staples, about 1.5 inches in length.

    I agree that it's very unlikely the floor was acclimating for two weeks. Now that it's acclimated, wouldn't the 60-80% humidity be alright if the floor is relaid? If I create new expansion gaps along the sides, I'd hope this would give the floor room to move.

    I've looked at laminate and vinyl flooring. My wife loves the maple, and wasn't impressed with either of the others. I also would really struggle to throw away 800 sf of that gorgeous maple -- though absolutely realize this might be the smartest course of action. It mystifies me that my neighbors have full thickness oak, walnut, ash, bamboo, etc in their places without incident. No AC and no dehumidifiers.

    Thanks again. I really appreciate your (and everyone's) thoughts on this.
  14. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    An option to consider which would allow your flooring to float. In addition to the 18" wide pine plank in our main level, nailed to the sub-floor with square head nails for aesthetic effect, I also installed the same wide pine plank flooring in our basement over a concrete floor, but I laid down DRIcore panels on the concrete, and then screwed the planks into the DRIcore without penetrating the plastic bottom on the DRIcore, leaving of course an expansion gap around the perimeter of the room. The entire plank floor now is a floating floor. It has worked perfectly, no warping, cupping, splitting, etc.
  15. 1750

    1750 Feeling the Heat

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    That's an interesting idea. Those floors sound beautiful. Do you think the moisture problems I'm having are coming up through the bottom? I was sort of assuming it was just the ambient moisture that was swelling up everything. It seems like the flooring nailed to the subfloor wouldn't be much different from your panels nailed to the DRIcore, or am I misunderstanding this somehow. Is there any reason a softer wood, like pine, would be more forgiving of the RH changes than a hardwood?

    Thanks again.
  16. Frozen Canuck

    Frozen Canuck Minister of Fire

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    Ok now that I am clear that this is a main floor install & not a basement, you can proceed to salvage as much as you can. It won't be 100% so if you don't have a few boxes left over buy some before the manufacturer discontinues it. They do this regularly, just a heads up. The staples you describe are the wrong fastener, unless approved by the flooring manufacturer (doubtful). You can rent a flooring nailer from home depot & others as well as buy the nails there. Nails should penetrate the subfloor so without seeing the flooring or the subfloor you are likely looking for 2" nails for the nailer. Maple & other woods with a lot of natural variation, burls etc need more nailing per lin ft than say oak which has a longer & straighter grain. Flooring nails are ringed nails, the ring is there to hold better in the subfloor. If your uncertain about the nails & nailer off to the flooring shop you go & ask a pro. BTW do rent a pneumatic nailer as opposed to an old spring loaded one, it will save you hours of hard swinging. I will assume you have or can get a small compressor. Ditch the plastic vapour barrier as it can only trap & hold moisture against the flooring (a bad thing). Don't use an asphalt impregnated roofing felt (from your earlier post) this will slowly off gas in the home & will get worse with increasing temperature. Your also going to have to level the staple holes in the subfloor that would cause the flooring to rock back & forth (any high spots due to the demo). Biggest heads up when re installing is to always start dead straight, buy a new chalk line that will leave a crisp clear line not a wide fuzzy one that an old line leaves. If you want to make your re install easier use a standard roll of craft paper as an underlay for the flooring, it gives you a nice smooth surface & the flooring slides easily on it. At this point you really have nothing to lose by trying a re install other than your sweat. If the problem re occurs you know your buying an alternate flooring product that can better handle the wide temp & MC swings.


    As above any wood product will seek equilibrium with it's surroundings once it has done that it should be dimensionally stable in that environment.

    This is a guess on my part but the variables of occupancy & temperature when unoccupied may be a large factor, different wood species a much smaller factor. Spend a bit of time with this thought & ask them what temp they have the T stat at when unoccupied.

    Your correct it is the environment that the wood flooring is in.

    Yes & it has to do with the cell structure of the wood, not something you can control unfortunately. Simply put softwoods can take on & release much more moisture than hardwoods while still remaining dimensionally stable.

    Sorry for the lengthy reply, hope this helps.
    cygnus and Swedishchef like this.
  17. 1750

    1750 Feeling the Heat

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    You've got to be kidding! I really want to thank you for the time and thought you put into my situation.

    I think I'm going to go ahead and reinstall and see what happens. I think even more than the $$, the thought of throwing away 800 sq ft of that beautiful maple makes me want to take another whack at it.

    Again, thanks so much to you and everyone else who took the time to respond.
  18. Swedishchef

    Swedishchef Minister of Fire

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    See, when I read a post by Frozen Canuck such at the one above, it makes me have hope for us Canadians :) Eh?!
  19. 1750

    1750 Feeling the Heat

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    I used to live in Ontario -- I've always had a good feeling about denizens of the Great White North. :)
  20. Frozen Canuck

    Frozen Canuck Minister of Fire

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    You're welcome, I hope it works out well for you. Don't get me wrong I love hardwood floors but with kids & pets laminate is my friend. Much more durable.
  21. Swedishchef

    Swedishchef Minister of Fire

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    +100000. Hardwood is a trend but it is not practical. I have amazingly nice American Cherry hardwood on my entire main level. I now put blankets around my 1 year old's high chair because just dropping his sippy cup dents it!

    Meanwhile my basement has laminate and sparks were coming off my mitre saw blade as I was cutting pieces. The aluminum oxide coating is amazing. I took a rock rake to try scratching it, not luck. And it was half the price of my hardwood!
  22. Frozen Canuck

    Frozen Canuck Minister of Fire

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    Yes hardwoods are well suited to retirement. Well...until the grandkids visit that is.
    Swedishchef likes this.
  23. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    Just to clarify, use of a product like Dricore allows the entire solid wood floor to float. The Dricore is not hard-fastened to what lies underneath it.

    I think dents, scratches, wear, etc. are what is called "character" in wood. IMO use of hardwood or softwood or laminates are questions of perceived aesthetics, not of longevity. We have kids, grandkids, dogs, and lots of wear and tear. We have a white pine dining room table built in the mid-1950's that sits a dozen people. The top is a "mess" of wear and tear, rings and stains from spilled beverages, dings from kids pounding the silverware on the table top, etc. Yet when people sit at the table, they marvel over the sheen and appearance of the worn wood. Our pine floors will outlive us and probably live the life cycle of our house, multiple generations. That's long enough.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2013
  24. Swedishchef

    Swedishchef Minister of Fire

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    You're absolutely right!!!!. And in certain homes it fits the charm/character and is really really nice! If my house were older, victorian or colonial style, I would want a floor like that.

    However, a new home (3-5 years old) with floors torn to hell are not what most people want. Floors come with a pre-installed gloss/shine. And when those are scratched to rat chit, some people don't like it. I know lots of people who have purchased homes and there are 2 things they do to the house upon moving in: 1- re-finish the hardwood flooring, 2- paint. It's the same concept as a car: shiny new paint, waxed and buffed but with scratches on it.

    Now if I had pine flooring, etc, I wouldn't care. I have rustic pine furniture (coffee table, end tables, etc) and they are dented all to hell, even colored on with wax crayons (that I scratched off) and I find the more dents on the table, the better it looks. But it's just not the same concept on my Cheery hardwood floors.


    PS, there's a difference between dents that add character and long scratched from moving furniture, sliding chairs, etc. Especially when your floor has a dark stain.
  25. EatenByLimestone

    EatenByLimestone Minister of Fire

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    My cabin is on the shores of a lake. In April '11 there was a flood and we had 16" of water in the cabin. I had buckling down the center of the cabin where the floor was pushed up when there wasn't anywhere else for it to expand to. It went back down as it dried out, but it really took around 2 years to get enough air over and under it to do it. Having the subfloor and such is working against you in this case.

    Maybe you can pull it, sticker it and let it equalize and it will flatten out again.

    Good luck.

    Matt

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