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Failed Wood Floor

Sid Bourne says not all carpenters can install wood floors

HAVE said it before, but for whatever reason, nearly every consumer who books me to investigate a complaint says they deliberately employed a carpenter to install their wood flooring.

It sounds sensible, I suppose. But, with all due respect, most installations I see where the installer has been a carpenter it is rare to find one with expansion being left or subfloor made good.

Most carpenters also completely ignore moisture. Yet you would think that they’d get the job done right because most carpenters have served apprenticeships. So you’d assume they understand wood and why you must leave provision for expansion. Instead they usually try to fit the floor inch perfect to all sorts of shapes.

Now before I get angry calls from all you retailers who employ Mr Chips, let me explain that I am talking about the carpenters I come into contact with in my role as independent inspector of failed flooring.

For example, let me tell you about some recent jobs I have inspected where the installer was a chippy.
On one site visit (See above) I actually met the carpenter who had been rated by the consumer as the best around. I knew at first glance that he had floated the solid onto a wet concrete subfloor and left no expansion.
He confidently informed me that the subfloor was dry and that you can float a solid no problem with no expansion. Scratching my head, I was completely lost for words, which is very rare.

I asked how long he been a carpenter? Twenty years, he said. OK, I said, and I take it you served an apprenticeship? Of course he had. I said I presume he had been taught how wood works. Naturally, he said.
After a further discussion he expressed his conclusion that the product must be faulty. The consumer who was listening in, immediately started shouting in the background. ‘Yes, that’s right,’ said the consumer. ‘You tell Sid that the product is crap!’

I kept my mouth shut and then politely left. After completing my report I sent it off to the consumer.Within a day she phoned me to gives me a good telling off! How dare I blame Mr Chips! ‘I will be taking this further,’ she threatened. She then hired another independent. But I wasn’t surprised to hear that the other independent came to exactly the same conclusion as I had. He also got a rollicking.

The consumer eventually decided to take the matter court. The result? Not unexpectedly the manufacturer won in an open and shut case.

In another complaint the chippy had installed the wood floor onto a fibre board and used PVA adhesive to bond it down. A week later all hell broke loose. I was called in by the angry consumer, who refused to believe that the installer was at fault.

I arrived on site and carefully measured the lengths. They were all per fect. I explained to the consumer that the floor had opened because it had moved. The glue was not doing its job, so the floor moved apart when you walk on it.

‘You people are always trying to blame ever yone except the culprit,’ was the immediate response.

‘OK,’ I said. ‘Who would you say is the culprit?’

‘Obviously it is the flooring that is faulty. It has shrunk,’ she stated.

Meanwhile, the chippy was sitting there happily smiling, drinking his tea, having a chocolate biscuit, enjoying the sight of me getting it in the neck from the consumer.

Eventually, when she had stopped her ranting, I turned to the carpenter.

‘Right Mr Chips, let’s take part of the floor up shall we?’

His smile turned to panic! But the consumer started egging him on. ‘Yes Mr Chips,’ she said.

‘You show him you done it right!’ But he waited for me to act. With a suction cap I had in the car, I simply pulled one plank straight up out of the middle, The fibre board was still intact and the adhesive had soaked up into the fibre board. This is true!

Well Mr Chips and Mrs Consumer, what do we think? The consumer’s face went bright red. But then she turned on the chippy and let fly. So eventually there was a happy ending for me.

But she was just one of the many of the consumers I meet in my work who believe, for whatever reason, that any trades person can install a floor at least as well as a professional floorlayer.

Who do I blame? Well I think it’s the manufacturer! (There goes all my work). I say that because manufacturers do nothing to dispel the belief that installing wood flooring is a DIY job.

That may be fine if you are installing a small porch. But in ever y other case, the manufacturer should make every effort to ensure that the flooring is installed by a qualified professional with flooring NVQ qualification, or someone who is properly experienced.

I have spoken to many suppliers about this. They reply that they would lose business or that it could never work. Of course it can work. The British Wood Flooring Association can help any supplier make it work.

And yes we can also help chippies, but only when they are qualified under the umbrella of the BWFA or CFA and have proved that they can do proper subfloor prep, understand how wood works, have the correct moisture meters for the job, have the right tools and so on.

Should any warranty be given, this surely would help the consumer decide that they will employ the ser vices of a professional and nine times out of 10 the job will go per fectly.

Consumers say this to me on a daily basis. Unfortunately, as a result of the experience, they also say they will never have a wood floor again. Next time it will be new carpet.

To conclude, just look at the photo here of an attempt at sanding and finishing last December done by a chippy, considered by the consumer as the best person to employ. But she soon found out she had made a major mistake.

The picture (above) shows the old floor which required sanding. The chippy did not use an edger; he left major chatter marks and applied only one coat of finish; he never applied to the edges. He also left dust and all sorts in the finish. No joke, I found at least 12 staples in the finish and even a refill for a pen.

The chippy thought he had done a good job and that the consumer was too fussy.

Believe it or not, the chippy actually booked me to look at the job and write a report.

Needless to say when he received it, he was not pleased. But he wished me a merry f&%£$ing Christmas or something likethat.


T: 07841 500940

This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal website. You can find them at