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Home » Troubleshooting/Inspections » Gaps in Engineered Flooring

For problem floors and inspection-related issues.
2/16/2011 8:43:11 AM

Woodman
Woodman
Posts: 29
A friend in the wood flooring business called me, also someone who deals with solid wood 99% of the time, and said he had a claim to look at with gaps in an engineered floor only at the ends. Now I have always heard that engineered flooring can get gaps between strips at ends, but I have never dealt with a claim like this. I have my own thoughts on the problem, but my experience with engineered wood flooring is minimal, so I throw this out to see what the experts have to say. This was in a coastal area of the south on a concrete slab, new construction. All parties involved say the flooring was tight together at installation and just after installation last fall, 2010. The gaps occurred in the last 5 months or so, and they are found with enough frequency throughout the floor that they draw attention and are therefore a problem. I would think that the structure of the engineered floor (3 ply, 2 1/4" wide, 5/16" thick I think) might be the reason for shrinking in length for the engineered rather than width like with solid, but there might be other items to consider. I was given minimal information to go on, so I know waaaayyyy to many details have been left out for any solid conclusion here, but any insight and direction would be most appreciated. What do you generally look for when attacking a problem such as this? What have been your conclusions? Please help. Thank you.
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2/16/2011 5:14:55 PM

TDMAC
TDMAC
Posts: 1359
I have seen this phenomenon a few times. On a 3 ply i can only assume that the centerply is a material that was wet and has shrunk enough to end gap. Maybe Howard Brinkman might see this and answer. Of all the 3ply engineered I have installed since 1976, I have only seen it twice. when the sheets of plywood are glued together, as I saw at Center Texas Bruce Plant, that center sheet must have not been dried as much as the top & bottom layers I also wonder what center core was used..
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2/16/2011 5:39:24 PM

Stephen Perrera
Stephen Perrera
Posts: 1011
Like it didn't shrink in the boxes already. How long after manufacture to installation? Why does wood shrink? Are the home owners maintaining proper rh in the house? Temp and rh at time of install, and now. Should be documented.
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2/17/2011 9:19:10 AM

Woodman
Woodman
Posts: 29
I definitely consider the center core as a potential culprit, but aren't these products baked fairly consistently when they are glued together and cured up? I would think that movement would have happened before hand (in the box as Grooving said), and it also would result in other occassional problems such as delamination in some pieces. But that was not going on: the only problem with the floor was gaps at ends. A couple of thoughts that come to mind are: (1) settling or movement in the concrete slab and (2) a problem with the glue or with how the glue was applied. I would think that a string run from one end of the house to the other, with the long direction of the flooring, could show settling of the concrete. But how much settling does it take to cause gaps? If one or both ends just drop by an inch or so, maybe not enough to show damage in the concrete, then do you think that is enough to cause gaps to pull occassionally through the floor? As for the glue, if it has too much flexibility can that allow the flooring to move and show gaps? Can this happen in the middle of the floor or only at the perimeters? Can this be from too much or too little flash time? Or from an improper spread rate (wrong trowel used)?
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2/17/2011 9:19:36 PM

TDMAC
TDMAC
Posts: 1359
Concrete settling is a phenomenon that would also cause the wood to separate on edges and ends. Most all concrete slabs will crack but the scenario you desribe is not a practical solution to the end gapping problem in my opinion.
Rotary peeled vs slice faced is not a problem either. The only reason is that the center core was wetter than the top & bottom layers and NO it will not dry out in a sealed box for months.
Of course they are supposed to be baked consistently but when made in large sheets that obviously didnt happen. Have you ever bought sheets of 3/8" plywood that became crowned when you got it yo a job?
The conditions of humidity in the home is also NOT a factor as that center core is of unknown wet material that can shrink the slice face or rotary peeled face and bottom. Adhesive is also not the culprit unless the edges separate like the ends. I see no other logic.
cheers,
Tom
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2/22/2011 2:29:06 PM

rickjonesllc
rickjonesllc
Posts: 13
Engineered floors move lengthwise when they expand or contract as a rule. If there is end gaps the engineered woood flooring has lost moisture. The question of when, how or where this moisture came into the wood, is as varied as any other wood.
1. Could it be the core is wetter or drier that the face or back, the answer is yes. Some companies have the core made at another location and sometimes by another company. I have worked at manufactures where they either purchased from another of their company plant or an outside vendor. I have also seen the core a lot wetter or drier that the face and back veneer. This can cause several issues with the materials, depending on how long it sits to stablize before being cut into planks or if it is used to make planks too quickly. I have seen the core too dry rather than too wet but I have heard of the core being too wet from a manufacture last year that had gapping issue.
2. Many times I see Engineered floors gap when they take on moisture from the site it was stored or acclimated and then lose moisture and gap on the ends. The moisture can come from the subfloor, adhesive, site (new constructions or no climate controls in use) mopping by cleaning people on new construction or if the moisture was much higher in the wood than what it will live in under normal, lived in conditions. It seems very few people check the moisture content of the engineered wood before they install it. They sometimes check the subfloor but rarely the wood, in engineered floors. It is simple, if wood is on the dry side and takes on moisture from the site, glue or subfloor, it will grow then will lose some when the controlls go on or the excess moisture leaves as the wood dries.
3. To say the core was too wet at time of installation cannopt be proved unless testing was done in the back, back and core prior to installation or if the manufacture will supply this information if there is numbering, run dates etc relating to this specific wood that is installed.
4. To say the wood was too wet for the region when installed, would require the same answers to questions as with #3 above.
5. It can be concidered consistent with elevated moisture in the subfloor if testing of the subfloor was done prior to installation or if a water based adhesive was used and you know the moisture content of the subfloor and wood at the time of installation along with the trowel size used and average water content of the adhesive. Note: With many, but not all, water based adhesives are used properly, the floor may peak or swell slightly but go back down within only a day or two. Problem comes in when the trowel used is leaving too much adhesive, more times than not, on a site that is uncontrolled with Humdity Controll system, such as an operational, running, turned on HVAC system. Note: With the lack of the HVAC system being used before, during and after the installation and with or without the use of a water based glue, problems usually occur in high moisture regions during the wet months or non-heating months.
6. Moisture was in or came in, engineered grew length wise then the extra moisture left, leaving gaps on ends. It has been this way ever since engineered floors were made. Uneven subfloor can cause a localised gap where the subfloor in out of flatness specs but is not the norm and there would be more indicators on un-flat subfloor as the problem.
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2/22/2011 9:38:42 PM

Stephen Perrera
Stephen Perrera
Posts: 1011
Concrete shrinks but not enough to show gaps in engineered like that unless it was a very green slab or after a very wet period of rain.That said wouldn't the opposite be truer to the shrinking issue at hand?

I would hazard a guess in saying it is a memory problem with the adhesive having flashed off to much. Especially if it was dry at the time of installations. But heck, most urethane adhesives give you twenty or thirty minutes even in dry conditions.

The way you drop you engineered into the glue makes a big difference. I drop the end joint in first then sldie the long side in last just to keep that scenerio from happening.

Speaking of the 3/8 ply crowning. If I am in a house with low rh and taking engineered out of a plastic wrapped box, you can visually watch the planks curl. Thats why I have bought a portable humidifier to take to jobs where there is low rh. After that, it's the owners problem to maintain it. smile
edited by grooving on 2/22/2011
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2/23/2011 2:55:01 PM

rickjonesllc
rickjonesllc
Posts: 13
Acrylic Urethanes and what I would concider water based glues do have a memory and can pull back witht hey cure. Moisture cured Urethanes do not have a menory that I know of or have heard of.
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2/23/2011 4:47:05 PM

AustinFloorguy
AustinFloorguy
Posts: 52
The engineered was installed wetter than it is now, with the end gaps.

It is not a phenomenon, it is wood science and to orientation of the cells in the cross plies of the core.

A 3 foot long board, is actually a 3 foot wide board under the veneer.
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2/23/2011 11:00:43 PM

Selva Lee Tucker
Selva Lee Tucker
Posts: 162
Perry,
so, it is a three by three foot square board?

how you been anyway, working? wife still have the flower shop? if so, did you get any rest last week?

--
"Life is just too much damn fun to die"
slt
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2/24/2011 4:40:17 AM

mike zeman
mike zeman
Posts: 20
the adhesive used on this project probably water based acrylic, I have seen this few times during inspections. I will ask Steve Marley at NWFA and see what his thoughts are on this.

mike
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2/24/2011 7:13:23 AM

Woodman
Woodman
Posts: 29
Thanks to everyone for your valuable information and points of view on this engineered gaps issue. You give me and many others much to think about when we have to approach these problems. Please, keep the thread going and if you have a thread topic to start put it out there. IMHO this forum is here to help people install better floors and solve flooring problems, and it can't be done without you, the experts, asking questions and providing information.
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2/24/2011 8:02:36 AM

Stephen Perrera
Stephen Perrera
Posts: 1011
rickjonesllc wrote:
Acrylic Urethanes and what I would concider water based glues do have a memory and can pull back witht hey cure. Moisture cured Urethanes do not have a menory that I know of or have heard of.


Rick,,,,is that a definitive answer or a guesstamation? lol
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2/24/2011 6:50:18 PM

thelonecajun
thelonecajun
Posts: 9
As an ex Trainer from Armstrong, yes i came from the wood division, I saw this problem many times when either the slab was too green or too hot, we also saw this a lot when a lot of patching was done which left lots of moisture in the slab. The wood is absorbing all of this moisture and expands just a little. The sides are too small to see, but the normal ends of the products, 3 or 4 feet long show it. This actualy happened at the Triangle Pacific office in Dallas when a new product on installed in the foyer the day after the entire slab had been floated.
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2/24/2011 8:56:01 PM

Stephen Perrera
Stephen Perrera
Posts: 1011
Don't even get me started on Armstrong/Bruce installation requirements. They have become so DIY oriented it is not even funny. Whaaaaa?
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2/24/2011 9:38:22 PM

Selva Lee Tucker
Selva Lee Tucker
Posts: 162
Has Armstrong ever had a problem? I mean, ever?

How much "Far East" wood do they import, I know the cartons it is shipped are made in America, but, the wood?

ok, is it true Armstrong has gone to All Pro Inspections for their inspections?

oh well, maybe another rumor from the rumor mills.

--
"Life is just too much damn fun to die"
slt
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2/25/2011 7:00:27 AM

thelonecajun
thelonecajun
Posts: 9
FYI. When Armstrong wood division and vinyl division merged, they took 5 of the wood experts from Triangle Pacific, me being one, the question I asked was, are they going to get as much information from us as they can and then get rid of us, everyone said no, I should of known better. So right now you have a vinyl company running a wood company. Their sales are less right now than when they first hired me and that is with 4 more wood companies. When I looked at complaints I called it the way it was, I hated blaming the installers because, I am an installer, started when I was 15 and now I am 60, you do the math. I have no compassion for them, they have made their own bed.
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2/25/2011 10:44:20 PM

Selva Lee Tucker
Selva Lee Tucker
Posts: 162
tell it like it is brother!

lets do a shot and call it a night.

--
"Life is just too much damn fun to die"
slt
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