Courtesy of Lumber Liquidators
Industry guidelines regarding home owner or installer responsibilities, as set forth by the National Oak Flooring Manufacturers Association (NOFMA) National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA)
These guidelines are provided so you can get the most from your flooring project. Before your flooring is even delivered the job site, several things should be considered to determine if it's ready for installation.
Job site conditions
Acclimation; Wood flooring is a dynamic, hygroscopic material. Like a sponge, its shape can change as a result of environmental temperature and humidity changes. Because of this, it is in your best interest to ensure that the flooring installed be climate controlled with temperatures of 50° to 80° F, preferably 65° to 75° F. humidity of 30% to 55% preferably 45% maintained. When wood is correctly acclimated to these values it becomes relatively dormant, neither growing nor shrinking. The HVAC ventilation system must be fully operational; the rooms should not be closed off from normal air flow. Also if the flooring was shipped with protective plastic wrap, open the ends of the container exposing it to air flow. Wood, laminates and cork flooring should NEVER be stored directly on bare concrete substrates or stored in garages or out buildings without climate control, as the boards can absorb some moisture and be edge cupped right in the box. Really the point of acclimating wood flooring before installation is to condition the material to "normal living conditions" that the floor will experience once the structure is occupied, thereby protecting it against "shock". It does no good at all - in fact, it is likely harmful - to store or work with wood flooring at the job site under poor environmental conditions that do not accurately reflect the outlined acclimation values.
Moisture testing and acclimation go hand-in-hand. Only when the correct moisture values of the flooring and that of the subflooring has been verified and new flooring has been properly acclimated is the flooring ready for installation. With these values in mind the installation could actually take place the day of delivery or several days later. In addition depending on the species, oily or dense exotics may require as much as one to two weeks of in-home monitored acclimation before installation.
Installers and homeowners should understand the dynamics of water and wood and make educated judgments about proper acclimation. The paid installer should know the basic industry set guidelines for product handling and installation, be aware of the consequences if they fail to follow them. Improper acclimation can be the source of all sorts of problems such as: cracks between boards, cupping, stress fracture splits, face checks, engineered delamination, splinters, raised grain, and finish problems.
If installing over a crawl space verify that 6mm black plastic sheeting is correctly installed in the crawl space over the soil as a moisture barrier. Wood flooring should not be delivered if job site moisture conditions are excessive. Otherwise flooring can absorb moisture from the Job site environment.
The moisture content of 2 1/4" strip wood flooring should be no greater than a 4% difference of the sub floor. The subfloor moisture content is to be 6-9% not over 12%. For planks that are 3" or wider the moisture content must be within a 2% balance of the subfloor. If the moisture content varies more than the measurements outlined the installer should wait and not start the installation until the wood flooring and subfloor achieve an equilibrium or balance. Moisture content of both the flooring and the subfloor should be checked with a moisture meter and recorded before any work begins. In addition, if the flooring is delivered on a damp day or during rain, the boards may absorb moisture. If installed in this condition, the flooring may shrink a few weeks later and show cracks. Wood flooring should not be delivered to the job site until all wet work; plastering, ceramic tile work, plumbing work, and painting are completed and dried, moisture from this wet work can be absorbed into the flooring.
Another condition that causes flooring to pick up moisture during construction is installing solid wood when the heating or air conditioning is not fully operating or running correctly. Sometimes floor cupping is a direct result of a malfunctioning HVAC system that is installed under the home's crawl space. Ensure that the HVAC system’s drain tube is not draining under the home
Pre-installation product inspection
Milling/Grading/Handling Defects: Occasional defects in wood flooring sometimes do occur. The installer has the final responsibility to cull or select out visible defects prior to installation. Visible defects are defects that can be detected by sight, either in the face, in the milling, or in the finish of the flooring which become apparent during installation –and are judged from a standing position.
As a natural product, standard trade practices allow a tolerance of up to 5% of an order to contain milling or finish defects. In addition, there may be some handling defects. Typically, when your flooring order is placed, an extra 5-8% should be added to the actual square footage needed as allowance for on-site cutting waste as well as occasional miss-milling or better board placement.
*Should an installer find a recurring problem or waste too excessive, please stop immediately and contact BELLAwood or LUMBER LIQUIDATORS Customer Service at 1-800-366-4204 to review a problem before proceeding. DO NOT install flooring with visible defects. The installer is the final judge of acceptable quality. Therefore, once the flooring has been installed, you have deemed it acceptable (Board nail is board approved). Neither the seller nor the manufacturer shall be responsible for any costs associated with repairing or replacing flooring installed with visible defects.
Variations in Color or Grain: Wood floors can have a full range of color. It is the installer's responsibility to cull or select out any unwanted pieces of flooring. These pieces should then be used in inconspicuous areas, or not at all. Otherwise, the customer may reasonably object to a completed floor in which one "rogue" piece (varying greatly in color or grain from its surrounding neighbor boards) was set right in the middle of a room.
These issues can best be decided with the customer during the installation. Most wood flooring manufacturers’ state in their installation instructions that it is the responsibility of the owner/installer to inspect the goods and ensure the job site conditions and the job site sub floor are environmentally and structurally acceptable before installation is started. For pre-finished floors the use of touch up markers and fillers during installation is acceptable. Prior to installation, the owner/installer is responsible for the final inspection of materials and is encouraged to report any deficiencies in grade, manufacture, and finish directly to the seller. Again, should an individual piece be questionable it should not be used.
With the exception of "clear" grade every grade of wood will have varying degrees of marks or characteristics. No two boards are alike. Again, it is the installer's responsibility to closely examine the wood flooring product for visual defects and ensure proper board placements. Furthermore, wood flooring is manufactured and intended to be installed in random lengths therefore avoid board grouping; short sizes should be mixed in throughout the job. If the end of a board has a nick, splinter, or flaw, etc., then the problem area should be cut off and the rest of the board installed. If the area of concern is in the middle face of a board, then the affected portion of the board can be cut out and the two shorter boards installed next to walls. Narrow boards should be set aside or used in closets. If an individual board is EXTREMELY lighter or darker so that installing it would give an undesirable appearance the boards should also be set aside, this is NOT considered a manufacturing defect but a natural color variation. For example bamboo products unless topically stained are listed as ether a natural or caramelized (boiled till its sugars turn a caramel color). These can have wide variation in color within each box, and therefore shade variation should not be viewed as a defect but an interesting exotic style of flooring. Installers should inform and discuss this with their customer and have a full understanding of natural color variation and board placements -BEFORE installing any wood flooring.
*If milling or quality issues are suspected, most manufacturers and distributors agree that 100 square feet of flooring installed should be enough to stop and determine the quality of the installation. Once the flooring is completely installed, all of the parties are assuring that the material is free of visual manufacturing problems and the installation is correct.
These few basic guidelines are provided so you can get the most from your floorings resulting in a beautiful wood floor you will be proud of.
Enjoy your flooring!
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