What is wrong? Defective flooring? Poor Installation? Effective troubleshooting can determine the real problem.

Understanding the specifications, job-site requirements and installation guidelines are critical for all wood installations. Installers and retailers need constant updating to keep up on the latest techniques. Periodic educational seminars are a wise investment for the distributor and the retailer/contractor. It can be the beginning of a bonding relationship. If and when a problem arises on the job site, the distributor needs to respond.

Contractors must also realize and understand their responsibility in resolving issues with the end user. Neglecting that responsibility can transform a small/simple repair into full blown major surgery. The distributor/manufacturer should only become involved when the retailer/contractor has exhausted their expertise in resolving the complaint.

Let's review some typical questions that I have encountered throughout my career in the hardwood flooring industry. There are definitely some sweet rewards in troubleshooting if approached in a less than bitter state of mind.

Q: After the installation was complete, the flooring began to show separation and/or cracks between the boards. What is wrong? Defective flooring? Poor installation?

A: First, RESPOND to the homeowner and inspect the floor. As you can see, the homeowner's imagination begins to run wild. If you don't take the time, I can guarantee you that an attorney will.

Now let's address the question of separation and or cracks. Has the moisture content been established? When did the cracks begin to form? The only way to establish the job site conditions is to ask pertinent questions. This particular installation began in the late summer.

The installation was completed to the customer's satisfaction and the boards were nice and tight. During the heating season, the boards began to separate. I asked her the location of the installation. She responded with St. Paul, Minn. When asked if she was advised that a humidifier would be advantageous she responded with an affirmative "no." Additionally she responded that she has had hardwood flooring before in another home and never had this condition. Further questions exposed the fact that the other home was over 50 years old with a brick exterior. The hardwood was also finished with wax. This particular installation was in a new home that was job site finished with urethane. First of all no two homes environmental conditions are exactly alike. Older constructed homes were not insulated the way new homes are today. Brick allowed for both air and moisture to penetrate the interior of the home.

Today's home are virtually shrink-wrapped to minimize HVAC cost in operation. The trade off here is an extremely dry home during the heating season. I also advised her of the "necessity" for a humidifier and that the fan switch should be in the "on" position vs. "auto" allowing the moisture to be consistent in application even when heating isn't required. In addition, the wax finish on the older constructed home allowed air penetration but also required additional maintenance to preserve the desired flooring appearance. After our discussion, she realized that the commentary was an apple vs. orange comparison. The humidifier was installed, and the flooring began responding to the monitored moisture.

Q: My finish is showing signs of scratching. Is this normal and when should I recoat the floor?

A: First, depending upon the traffic and the number of occupants and pets in the home, scratches can occur. All hardwood flooring (with a 5-, 10- or 25-year warranty) can be scratched. The warranty expressed by the manufacturer is for walk thru and not scratches that may occur from usage. I would recoat if the scratches are numerous and affecting the overall appearance of the flooring. Enjoy and live on your floor. When the right time comes, then recoat.

Q: My floor is beginning to buckle at the doorway leading to our patio? Was the floor installed too tight? I was told that the contractor failed to leave expansion which caused the problem.

A: There appears to be a moisture/water problem at the doorway threshold. Have a contractor examine the door/threshold and reseal/ replace the door if warped. The warped door/threshold is allowing wind driven rain to damage the floor. This is not an installation problem but a very common one that can occur and is correctable. Allow the flooring to dry for several months after the repair and replace the damaged area only if the flooring remains cupped.

Troubleshooting is just as much a learning process as mastering the talents required for installation, sanding or finishing. Just as wood absorbs moisture, Wood or Wood Knot will always be here absorbing current knowledge and then flow that information on to you, our valued readers.