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Plywood Problems – ‘Supplier Turns His Back’

DURING my time as an independent expert inspecting failed flooring, I have seen a problem that is becoming far too common, plywood failures. In this two-part article, I will discuss what I have found.

The most common plywood faults I find range from 4mm up to 9mm. For example, I was on site inspecting solid wood flooring which had lifted from the subfloor. On a closer look I found that the installer had left good provision for expansion.

The retailer advised that the subfloor was the existing softwood floorboards with a moisture content of approximately 11% wme. This had been overlaid with 6mm plywood. The solid wood flooring, a locking system type, was installed as a full trowel bond.

The consumer confirmed that the plywood and solid wood flooring had been delivered to site a week before installation was due. The retailer had kept all the readings from the subfloor and solid wood flooring. All was perfect, he said. So I assumed that the problem was because the installer had not pinned the plywood down correctly or he had used the wrong nailing machine.

The retailer showed me the machine used by the installer was correct. The staples were also correct, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Nevertheless, I still assumed that the plywood was incorrectly pinned. So it was agreed that we uplift part of the solid wood flooring to check all was as stated. Everything appeared to be perfect. I could not fault anything the installer had done. This proves that it pays to uplift a floor, if possible, rather than pre-judge what may

have happened.

Still without an obvious cause for the failure, I suggested that we invite the manufacturer of the staple gun to visit the site and confirm if his machine or staples were at fault. The manufacturer turned up and, as you would expect, he said the staples were not at fault, so it must be the plywood.

I immediately suggested that he put this in writing. No, he said, ‘we don’t do reports and we are not experts’. He then admitted that the plywood supplier was one of his best customers and that he didn’t want to risk

upsetting them.

This response was shameful. In fact, I had originally suspected the plywood, but I first wanted to eliminate all other factors which could have caused the plywood to lift from the subfloor so dramatically.

Unfortunately, I cannot name and shame the staple gun manufacturer or the plywood supplier as this matter is subject to legal proceedings. After the case is concluded, I will name both companies, so readers can make up their own minds on whether to deal with them.

After speaking to the staple gun producer, I contacted the supplier of the plywood. He wasn’t in the slightest bit interested and said that the failure of the plywood had nothing to do with him. He even refused to visit the site and virtually washed his hands of the whole matter.

The retailer agreed to replace the flooring at his own expense. But I promised the consumer that I would do all in my power to get justice, as I consider the actions of both suppliers to be disgraceful.
I am the first to condemn installers for bad workmanship but I now wonder how many have been blamed for floors lifting when the fault is not theirs, but down to the plywood.

I NEXT MONTH I will reveal in CFJ some of the comments from floorlayers on their experiences and problems with plywood, as stated on the website of my son Matthew:

T: 07841 500940

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