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Commercial Flooring News

Higher Joist Gives Builder The Hump

Sid Bourne solves the riddle of a ridge in wood flooring

I RECENTLY inspected a wood floor problem where the consumer (the lady of the house) complained about a large ridge or hump in newly installed flooring. The manufacturer had sent a rep who was at a loss to explain the phenomenon.
The lady was adamant that the ridge wasn’t there before the wood floor was installed. The manufacturer then commissioned me to get to the bottom of the problem.
Knowing that a ridge cannot suddenly appear out of nowhere, I asked her what work, if any, she’d had done after the flooring installation.
Work had been carried out by none other than Bob the Builder in whom she trusted 100%. Bob wouldn’t have made any mistakes, she said, so clearly the product was at fault.
But unless the manufacturer had milled different thickness of between 20mm and 40mm then the flooring was unlikely to be the problem. So I continued asking questions.
She revealed that she previously had a thick carpet. But this was removed and she decided, after the refurbishment, she would only have wood flooring.
So I told her that there could have been a problem with the subfloor, and that it needed further investigation. No, she protested. Bob the builder would have done whatever was needed.
I am not blaming anyone, I assured her. But if we are to resolve the issue, I had to take up the flooring. She agreed as long as the wood floor manufacturer agreed to pay. I explained that to prove conclusively if the product was at fault, which she believed, I had to look underneath to examine the subfloor which, in my view, was to blame.
She immediately began singing the praises of Bob the Builder who was brilliant and could do no wrong. I later phoned the manufacturer and explained the situation. Bravely, the manufacturer agreed to pay all the costs (within reason) if, in fact, the product was faulty.
So I arranged to re-visit the site a week later. But it was time enough for the lady of the house to summon Bob, as she explained, to ‘protect his good name’. He arrived with all guns blazing. ‘Of course it is the product,’ he went on, giving me all the usual rubbish. ‘How can you say there is nothing wrong with the product?’
Whoa there, Bob, I interjected. Do you think that the manufacturer milled flooring at different thicknesses to be installed in one particular area, and deliberately set out to create a ridge in the floor?
‘I wouldn’t put anything past them’, replied Bob while getting more hot under the collar.
‘But you would still have had to put a tongue and groove in it to create the ridge,’ I said. Bob merely glared at me. I smiled back in return.
He continued glaring, while I started to pull up the floor row by row with Bob lending a hand. And with each row I said, ‘look Bob, the flooring is all the same thickness. How funny is that?’ Bob didn’t find it amusing, and kept on glaring.
Eventually I got to the subfloor, which was plywood fixed to the joists. I lifted the plywood and immediately found that the joist in the location of the ridge was a different thickness.
The fixings over the thicker joist were also very rusty, indicating that the joist was very wet at some stage. The consumer who was now standing behind us, still supporting Bob, asked: ‘Are you certain it is not the flooring at fault?’
‘No’, I said, ‘there is no problem with the flooring’. ‘Then whose fault is it?’ she asked.
I turned my head in Bob’s direction and he looked as if he wanted to kill me. Luckily he was only acting the part of a cowboy, and he didn’t have a real gun!
And, even with the proof, he wasn’t ready to hold up his hands. ‘The previous builder is the person at fault,’ he said.
‘He has put in different size joists!’ ‘Typical!’ said the consumer, butting in. ‘You cannot trust anyone today!’
Turning back to Bob, I asked: ‘Then why did you not spot the odd joist and make a suitable adjustment before installing the floor?’ Game, set and match!
He was left speechless, and I was able to explain that the ridge had always been there, but having previously had thick carpet and underlay, she did not notice the hump until the wood floor went down.
The solution, which I organised, was to plane down the joist and reinstate the plywood.

Abracadabra, the ridge had vanished! Why did Bob not do this in the first place?
Your guess (as they say) …
Meanwhile, the lady of the house, showed cheek that you wouldn’t believe. After being extremely rude to the wood floor manufacturer, threatening to damage their name on the internet, she went back to the same company and asked – as a ‘gesture of goodwill’ – whether they would supply new flooring.
That had only been necessary because Bob had damaged most of the flooring he had taken up, whereas I made sure that the planks I removed could be re-used.
You may think it spiteful of Bob to do that, and that I should have told him so. But after my earlier comments, which seriously angered both Bob and the consumer, I may have been lucky to escape with my life. This could have been the last straw for Bob and the lady.
So I politely retreated and made my getaway. Anyway, who am I to tell Bob what to do?

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