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Sid Bourne On Misleading Advice On Some Websites

DURING one of my many site visits to view failed wood flooring, as usual, I received information from different parties involved. On this occasion I heard from the installer who was, you guessed it, Bob The Builder, and also the consumer and a surveyor representing the builder.
The problem was the wood flooring had buckled and had lifted around 150mm off the subfloor in many areas of the installation, which was a large lounge some 40sq m and through to the hallway which was nearly 3m wide and then through to the two bedrooms.
In every part of that installation the floor had buckled. The property had been renovated with new concrete subfloors with the flooring installed onto what was a piece of 1mt wide underlay with double sided tape running down it every 300 mm, I had never seen this product before until now.
When I got a sample on site it was so easy to rip apart, just like rice paper, and that is no exaggeration. The solid wood flooring had expanded and torn the underlay everywhere.
On discussing the subfloor, Bob was quick to point out that it was dry. Of course I asked what he had done to confirm this? The surveyor immediately backed him up, confirming that the subfloor was dry.
I asked the surveyor whether he was present at the time Bob checked the subfloor, to which he replied, ‘no but I know Bob very well and believe what he is saying’. So I asked Bob for a more detailed explanation of the state of the subfloor. He informed me that he had put his hands on the concrete to test. It did not feel cold, so it was dry.
Retaining my professional courtesy, I asked Bob where he had learned to test the subfloor using this method? On the internet, he told me. He actually gave me the website address, and so I was able to check it.
Not surprising, it was a DIY site created by another Bob the Builder who advised innocent householders that if a subfloor is not cold then it is dry! A handy tip to save you the cost of buying expensive moisture suppressants!
I was gob smacked! The surveyor again backed up Bob, saying ‘he knows his stuff.’ I nearly told the surveyor, ‘it’s a shame you don’t know yours.’ But again being the ultimate professional I just swore under my breath and twitched a bit.
Back to the complaint. I found numerous issues with lack of provision for expansion, the rubbish DIY underlay with cheap double-sided tape and so on. I completed my report and not surprising Bob was not best pleased with me. However he offered me a pair of brand new concrete shoes, which I declined due to athlete’s foot. But even if I didn’t have athletes foot, I would have accepted what a nice man he is, even though my report went against him.
After what Bob told me, I was intrigued and went on a mission to hunt through the internet for floorlaying ‘advice’, looking at all types of information, and suppliers’ instructions. I was amazed at the total rubbish that is easily available online and which will get you into trouble.
There is some sensible information, but be careful! It was clear to me that many of these suppliers are only interested in selling their products to the innocent DIYer, and not in giving strictly accurate or correct advice.
Some of them just present as ‘instructions’ things that sell their products, rather than suggesting to householders that they would be better off employing the services of a professional wood flooring expert or company. Notice that I said professional wood expert or company, not Bob.
My simple advice is to be careful what you read and follow, particularly if it is on the internet. To be honest we could dismiss a lot of the nonsense information that is being put about today by joining a flooring association like the BWFA (British Wood Flooring Association) or CFA, where you can get the correct technical information as a member.
A final note on the underlay I mentioned above. I approached the company that sells it. They said it is something they import. I asked if they as the importer had any test results. As they hadn’t, I offered to have the product tested at the BWFA. The answer I got was, ‘thanks, but no thanks, we just sell the product.’ And then the person from this company added a comment that left me gob-smacked: ‘It is the installer who should get the product tested!’
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This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal. You can find them at