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Home » Installation » Advice needed re: expansion space

Unfinished, prefinished, subfloor prep, etc.
2/17/2012 11:00:06 AM

Kim Wahlgren
Kim Wahlgren
Administrator
Posts: 111
This question was submitted to our website. Thoughts?

I sub for a big box store along with running my own business on my own. I am looking for some technical information about a 3/4" oak installation. I went out to a jobsite to meet a customer and their builder for a new construction job. Most of my business is residential remodel, this was my first new construction estimate. I told the homeowner that they would need a 3/4" expansion gap for the product that they picked and they told me that they didn’t want that much because they didn’t want any shoe molding in front of the baseboards. To help, the builder said that they always use 1/4" expansion and had never had any problems. I don’t usually deal with builders, but it seemed like he was a better expert in flooring than me (I am also CFI certified, if that helps my case any). My question is: How do you deal with people that insist on incorrect installations? I know that if they had a problem and it went to court I would be responsible because I am the installer. They also wanted me to butt the wood with no expansion up against the wooden railing plates, HELP!
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2/17/2012 11:19:50 AM

Plepine
Plepine
Posts: 123
When you are not confortable with something that they ask you, dont do it. Always trust your feeling or you will say after :damn i knew it.. When the customer or contractor know my job more than me, than i tell him to do it himshelf..
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2/17/2012 11:43:40 AM

TDMAC
TDMAC
Posts: 1359
Yes it is a quandary, HOW do you cover yourself?.
Well maybe you should tell the contractor and clients you want a video conference to discuss the situation. If they agree get your video camera and shoot your discussion and your explanation. Then as they agree, go do the job and then put it on YOU TUBE!!! That always seems to settle things.
I know this is crazy, but what else can we do when some people Know everything.
One post said that a Judge would hold you responsible. I have broken that rule here many times but in our climate we can get away with it.
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2/17/2012 1:55:30 PM

johannes
johannes
Posts: 417
They can get what they are asking for if you remove the baseboard and undercut the drywall also along the parallel side if they don't want shoe. Than you can charge for reinstalling new base board and make some more profits without compromising the recommended expansion gap.
At the walls where the flooring butts into you don't need as much of a gap as long you cover the gap with baseboard.

Johannes.
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2/17/2012 4:18:31 PM

Avi Hadad
Avi Hadad
Posts: 244
Yes, you can install the floor without a 3/4" expansion gap. A thought for the technical discussion: In a perfect world the product and the installation would be of quality and the end user would maintain the floor as recommended. So, why does one need a 3/4" gap to all vertical objects? Is the floor going expand that much in place? One claim in the trade is that if the floor expands it has "room" to expand. Well, then you need to determine what would cause it to expand that much, can you control it before installation begins? The other is that if the floor is flooded it will give the floor enough space so that the fasteners will release from the sub floor before the floor pushes out the walls. Also, if you must leave 3/4" expansion around walls what about doorways? Think about it. Today most homes have 1/2" thick casings and 7/16" thick baseboards so either cut all the sheet rock or get over yourself, don't live in an absolute world of guidelines or you are bound to have a rough time. Guidelines are there to give you a general direction. It is your job to use common sense.
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2/17/2012 4:40:22 PM

Stephen Perrera
Stephen Perrera
Posts: 1011
Or if they're buying QS it wouldn't be a big deal. I di cut sheetrock all the time. I'ts miserable but I charge a Ducat per ft for it.
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2/17/2012 6:25:06 PM

moderntech
moderntech
Posts: 194
I agree. I also love it when they use the fancy door casings that have the 1/4" thick curve in the profile of the molding.
Avi Hadad wrote:
Yes, you can install the floor without a 3/4" expansion gap. A thought for the technical discussion: In a perfect world the product and the installation would be of quality and the end user would maintain the floor as recommended. So, why does one need a 3/4" gap to all vertical objects? Is the floor going expand that much in place? One claim in the trade is that if the floor expands it has "room" to expand. Well, then you need to determine what would cause it to expand that much, can you control it before installation begins? The other is that if the floor is flooded it will give the floor enough space so that the fasteners will release from the sub floor before the floor pushes out the walls. Also, if you must leave 3/4" expansion around walls what about doorways? Think about it. Today most homes have 1/2" thick casings and 7/16" thick baseboards so either cut all the sheet rock or get over yourself, don't live in an absolute world of guidelines or you are bound to have a rough time. Guidelines are there to give you a general direction. It is your job to use common sense.
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2/17/2012 7:05:41 PM

TDMAC
TDMAC
Posts: 1359
Avi,
In the majority of cases when a solid Wood flooring product expands, basically uniformly, the center of the room will be the first area to buckle.
That is the center of the mass of combined pieces with nowhere to go but UP!. With all the flooring pieces fastened down expanding at .20 thousands of an inch, only a few of the outside boards will move into the expansion gap. The Center area will be mostly damaged Expansion at the walls is a small accommodation.
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2/18/2012 12:33:40 PM

Avi Hadad
Avi Hadad
Posts: 244
Tom, we need to talk off the forum. Email me at Avi@avisfloors.com
Thanks
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2/18/2012 4:54:24 PM

Ken Ballin
Ken Ballin
Posts: 338
This was a question that I sent in to the magazine. There is no baseboard but the drywall guys put the rock right on the subfloor so I will be cutting the drywall to get my 3/4 expansion. I understand that sometimes installers do things that arent exactly what the instructions tell us but why shouldnt we expect more from ourselves as professionals to do the best we can do for every customer? The reason I am so worried about keeping my expansion is that I am from south jersey (please no jersey shore jokes. the locals arent like those wonderful tv stars) and everything is so wet around here that we have to leave more expansion than what would acceptable in other spots in the country. I have two small children and cannot afford to buy this customer a floor if anything was to go wrong. If an inspector came out to look at my floor, the first thing they would do is pull the base and check expansion. I appreciate everyone's input, I suppose the point was to see what everyone else usually does to compensate for the expansion in tight spots.
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2/18/2012 9:36:45 PM

Avi Hadad
Avi Hadad
Posts: 244
Ken, you sound like a good man. Please keep on participating here. We need more people like yourself. I would like to add some thoughts to your comment. Just some things to think about.
1. Doing the best you can has nothing to do with the instructions and guidelines. Nothing is absolute. I met some young students at one of the NWFA schools who were horrified when I suggested to run the buffer across the grain or use your scraper on a diagonal at times. My point is that one must pursue knowledge in any form to get better all the time. The more educated you are about your trade the better installer you are. Guidelines are a small part of what you do. And about the worried part you mentioned; the more educated you are the more confident you get. People who don't know enough usually overkill and work too hard.
2. The inspector thing: Yes, there are a lot of bad inspectors who determine that the cupping happened because there was not enough expansion gap left. Well, guess what? if the floor expanded then yes there would be no expansion gap left!
3. You are a proud father of two kids and you think of them when you make your decisions. That is rare and I respect that.
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2/18/2012 10:58:32 PM

TDMAC
TDMAC
Posts: 1359
Ken,
I see your questions, Cutting the Sheetrock is perfect. More that that with expansion is a rarity and there must be a cause for that moisture to that excess. Take pictures and document whats you did.
It would take a flood to cause you to see that excessive expansion.
Floods cannot be warranted , they are Insured by clients insurance companies!! I did 3 this last 3 months. Expansion was NOT an issue!
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2/19/2012 10:04:19 AM

Ken Ballin
Ken Ballin
Posts: 338
I appreciate everyone's input. I took moisture readings and they ranged from 7.6 to 12.0 in one spot and off the top of my head the RH was around 45% if I remember correctly. The HVAC has been running for a couple weeks (i think its supposed to be on for 14 days for new contruction) so I think it will go well. They also wanted me to butt the wood right up to the wooden railing plates that sit on the floor. I would have used a threadhold so the flooring still had room to move but the builder told the customer that it wouldnt look good and they always butt it right up without any problems. I suppose my main issue was that this builder was downtalking me in front of the customer because he was obviously older than myself and I must not know what Im doing because Im so young (almost 30). The customer purchased this install through the big box store that I sub for so the builder really has nothing to do with my part of the job. Like I said, I appreciate everyone's input and will continue to post in the future. The best resource for information is other good installers.
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2/19/2012 10:29:28 AM

hbrickman
hbrickman
Posts: 147
A properly installed nail-down solid wood floor fastened to a substate that is attached to the structure of the building will have very little movement around the perimeter. The major hazard associated with the failure to leave "proper expansion space" is the opportunity for an incompetent inspector to use the lack of perimeter expansion as a "cause" for the failure. The fundamentals of installation should be focused on moisture content of the subfloor and flooring AND maintaining the interior environment at real world occupancy levels as measured by moisture content of interior wood components. Using time as the metric for measuring conditions is terribly flawed. In real estate the top three important factors are 1-location, 2-location, 3-location. With wood floors the top four important factors are 1-moisture content, 2-moisture content, 3-moisture content, 4-moisture content. Did I mention measuring MOISTURE CONTENT??? AND BY THE WAY IT NEEDS TO BE DONE ACCURATELY!!!

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Brickman Consulting
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2/19/2012 10:35:51 AM

Ken Ballin
Ken Ballin
Posts: 338
I take moisture readings on every job. The subfloor along with the flooring before it is installed. I also took RH readings. Now with moisture readings as scattered as the ones I took, the wood isnt going to be withing the 2 percentage points that Bruce says is required so Should I just average the readings and go off that?
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2/19/2012 11:32:01 AM

hbrickman
hbrickman
Posts: 147
Ken Ballin wrote:
I take moisture readings on every job. The subfloor along with the flooring before it is installed. I also took RH readings. Now with moisture readings as scattered as the ones I took, the wood isnt going to be withing the 2 percentage points that Bruce says is required so Should I just average the readings and go off that?



When you average the readings does that make the high MC places dryer????????????????

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Brickman Consulting
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2/19/2012 11:48:26 AM

Ken Ballin
Ken Ballin
Posts: 338
I suppose not but would you turn down a job because the wood and subfloor isnt within 2 percentage points in every location? I would imagine not.
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2/19/2012 12:04:42 PM

Avi Hadad
Avi Hadad
Posts: 244
Let's get more technical: do you know the reason for two points? Does it make a difference if it is three? What if you have readings at 8% overall but only a few that are at 12%? What does it mean for your floor? Is your moisture meted calibrated? Do you know your area well enough to know what to expect? Why 14 days for HVAC? Do you really think it enough to dry out all the gallons of water emitting into the air from framing to drywall?
This is exactly why one is better when educated and involved in the trade. It is important to understand what is behind the guidelines as it is to know them by heart .
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2/19/2012 12:20:02 PM

Ken Ballin
Ken Ballin
Posts: 338
In my area a good subfloor reading will be from 7-12%. The meter is definately calibrated, i have delmhurst on the phone if I ever have an issue, they are awesome with customer service by the way. As far as the HVAC is concerned that is simply the number we got when checking with the manufacturer. I may be a bit over analytical when it comes to manufacturer specs but I have NEVER had a call back on one of my wood floor installs (knock on wood) and I like to think its because I follow the specs so closely. As far as education in concerned, I have taken and passed the CFI course for wood and laminate (the CFI guys are great) but being in jersey the NWFA classes (which I would love to take part of) are near impossible to get to without plane tickets and a hotel room, which are a bit out of the budget right now. I absolutely want to go through the entire school. I am a firm believer in further educating myself and I dont think its a waste of time at all, which is what most installers say around here. I think we have to constantly better ourselves to keep up on the latest installation techniques and to keep ahead of every knucklehead with a pickup truck that says they install floors.

On a side note: I had a debate with an "older" floor guy who said he never tests for moisture because theyve been doing it for hundreds of years and never tested for moisture. To which my reply was: "Theyve also been smoking for longer than that and look what kind of reputation that has."
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2/19/2012 12:20:45 PM

johannes
johannes
Posts: 417
Ken,

If the high of 12 was in one spot I assume it is the subfloor that measured that high?

If so, that sheet can be replaced by a dry one. What is the average without that high one?

Regarding the railing plate: that depends where the railing plate sits in the flooring plan. I personally would have preferred if they had the railing plate installed after the floor was installed. I would not worry too much about that detail though.


Howard,
I am somewhat agreeing with you on the flooring expansion limit if it is installed properly (nailed not to wide) Only in a catastrophic event will you see excessive movement that you need that 3/4 inch expansion gap, good to allow for that though, but normally speaking you never see this rate of expansion unless a severe moisture problem develops.

If the floor is nailed good it is my experience also that expansion is fairly limited and controlled by the installed floor itself. But, when expansion in a loosely nailed floor occurs and when the flooring shrinks next you will see the permanent development of gaps. In other words the fasteners loosen up a bit with the expansion due to a higher RH/MC and will not retract in the subfloor (they can't). Often creaking floors also become evident with that scenario.

A good/tight nailed floor often exhibits raised edges on boards when expansion occurs due to higher RH/MC because the tighter nailing pattern holds things in place. During the heating season RH/MC drops and the flooring lays down again (edges drop).

So the question here which is the least or worst evil, permanent gapping or seasonal raised (slightly) edges.

Johannes.
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