The Professional’s Responsibility

Doing the right thing isn’t always easy. However, when it comes to the proper installation of hardwood flooring, neglecting to speak up can lead to failed floors, damaged reputations, and upset customers.

For Adam Shaw of Adam’s Hardwood Flooring in Lebanon, Ohio, ensuring a proper installation required an uncomfortable conversation and a lot of extra work from a general contractor who had been in charge of preparing the workspace.

“I initially was called in to look at a job that had existing 4” white oak flooring in a kitchen that met up with a carpeted living room. Nearby, was a covered porch that the homeowner wished to convert into additional living space,” explains Shaw. “We were asked to install new 4” white oak flooring in the living room that would lace into the existing hardwood flooring in the kitchen. They also wanted us to install flooring into what would be a newly converted porch area.”

Shaw says that a significant concern arose while he was preparing the estimate, and it was one that he was sure to mention.

“I noticed that the decking boards for the porch ran in the opposite direction as the existing hardwood floors inside. I mentioned this to the customer, and I was told not to worry as she had a contractor who would take care of it,” says Shaw. “I noted clearly in my written estimate that the existing joist system on the deck would need to be changed for the new flooring to go the same direction as the existing flooring.”

Several months later, when Shaw arrived to do the flooring installation, he saw that the porch had been converted successfully to living space. The contractor had done exceptional work and had even installed a beautiful stone fireplace.

However, Shaw soon realized they had neglected to change the direction of the joist system.

“I had to break the news to the homeowner that the contractor had neglected to follow my instructions,” says Shaw. “I was going to be forced to install the new flooring going parallel with the existing floor joist. Without a major revision, her vision of flooring that ran in one direction was simply not possible.”

“If I would have installed this floor as requested, guess who would have been responsible when the floor eventually failed? It would have been me,” says Shaw. “It would have been a very costly mistake, and if it failed, it was my reputation.”

During a frank conversation with the homeowner and the contractor, Shaw advised the best way forward was for the OSB subfloor to be removed, 2” x 8” blocking installed between the floor joists to provide support every 16 inches. The blocking Shaw suggested would carry the hardwood flooring weight above it.

“Based on my recommendation, the contractor tore up the entire subfloor. It was a big re-do, as they had to cut around the stone fireplace, and they also had glued the subfloor to the floor joists,” says Shaw. “But once again, when I saw their final work, it was not at all what I expected. I saw they instead installed bracing, and not the blocking that we had discussed.”

Needing to verify that bracing would suffice, Shaw reached out for professional advice.

“I wanted to make sure what I was going to install flooring on top of was, in fact, correct,” explains Shaw. “I was concerned bracing might not be enough support, but after a conversation with the NWFA, we agreed the subfloor modifications should be more than capable of supporting the new floor, without future issues.”

Shaw finally then was comfortable installing the floor to his, and his customer’s satisfaction, something he says would not have happened if he had not voiced his concerns.

“As wood flooring professionals, when we see something, we cannot be afraid to point it out. When we see a problem, we have to trust our instincts and make it right, even if it is unpopular,” says Shaw. “When in doubt, or if you’re feeling outnumbered or pressured, take a moment to stop and reach out to resources like the NWFA to get the guidance and information you need. Ignoring that voice in your head can be a huge mistake, not only for the customer, but for your professional reputation.”

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