Floors popping after nearly 5 years

Q: My Shaw engineered floors have been down 4.5 years, and one area recently started to pop when walked on. It spread to 4 boards. Then there are two pops under my oriental rug. Then one board in the bathroom started, and finally an area of 3 or 4 boards in a hall.

The floor guy is mad at me because this happened! Why, you might ask, as I ask? Apparently he doesn’t know what to do. The floor under the pops feels spongy when walked on. The floor is on concrete, glued down. Having not been educated on laying floors of any kind, I’m at a loss also.

I read a lot on your website, will that injectable glue work on these floors? An independant inspector came out and just said it was not the manufacturer’s fault. His report was so vanilla, that one could make it mean anything or nothing. The installer paid the 150, and he thinks it means that he is in the clear. Can I expect this to continue to happen in other spots? This occurred about 3 months ago, and I’m wanting to put my house up for sale, but wondering if no one will want it due to these 4 areas of popping wood. Can you help me? I live in upstate South Carolina. We did have heavy rains this past winter,but there is no smell of moisture in my house and I use no humidifier. The report said that the inside conditions were 55% RH and 70 degrees F. Moisture presence in the flooring measured with a Tramex moisture meter averaged 15.6% with 24 total checks made.

A: Clearly something has changed in the environment. It sounds like your floors have swelled and this side pressure is causing the floor to raise in these areas. 15.6% moisture content in the wood I consider high and not normal. Is it possible you have a slow, hidden leak someplace and moisture is creeping under the floor? The moisture level in your floors will need to be corrected before you can think of going to other measures such as injectable adhesive. Did the inspector think this reading was fine?

Follow-up Q: Thank you so much for answering. Do you mean a leak in a water pipe under the floor? What do I do to find out? The areas where the popping occurs are far apart. Each place involves 1-3 planks. There are 4 places, rooms apart. The inspector was not useful in my opinion. He was working for the guy who laid the floor, so it seemed to me he thought it was the installer’s lack of preparing the floor, but didn’t have the courage to say so. He kept speaking about how an installer had to prepare cement because it was never even, but put nothing of the sort in his report. What do you think should be my next move? I want to sell in a few months, and need to have everything in good condition. Thank you again. There is no change in the appearance.

A: I would contact The National Wood Flooring Association and see if they have an inspector near enough that he would come out for an inspection. They will give you an impartial, honest appraisal. It could be that for some reason he didn’t get real good grab between the adhesive and floor. But why is this all happening now after 4 years? The spongy feel in those areas and the what I consider a high moisture level reading tells me to suspect something else.

I’d be interested to know the results if you are able to get one of the NWFA inspectors out to look.

Second follow-up: Good morning, I have consulted with my water provider, and there has been no change in the amount of my water usage, thus no indication of a water leak under my concrete. That’s a relief. Still eager to hear where you think I should start.

A: I don’t know what you should do at this point. As I mentioned in my last email, if you received it, the inspector who was there is NWFA certified. His report seems to indicate concern with the high moisture readings in some areas, 15.6%. He mentions in his report that some boards should be removed to check the concrete. I think you should phone him and discuss his report. He is certified. He has inspected the job site.

Third follow-up: Thank you, so much. I’ll let you know how things turn out, as you requested.

A: How old is this house?

Fourth follow-up: It is a 20 year old, middle unit of 3, one floor, brick condo. I have lived here 12 years. Previously it had carpet. The other owner spent more time at the beach than in the home, so it was not used much the first 8 years. No one in the units next to me have had problems with moisture. One still has carpet, and the other one has some type of laminate (Pergo?) that has been there the whole 20 years. The floor is still in excellent condition.

Only person in our neighborhood who had problems is one lady who had her Mohawk floor, mine is Shaw, installed just before I did, by the same company who did my floor. She has had the same problem. They cut into her floor and replaced the boards. I haven’t seen it, but she says it is bad looking. I will try to go by to see it soon. No one else in our neighborhood used the same company that we did. Both of us are widows. The other lady is older than I, and not very well. I think she just gave up. I haven’t asked her what they told her was the reason her boards were popping.

A: Interesting. I can only do so much. I’m far away. It seems odd your floor was down without any issues for several years and now you have these areas with high moisture content readings. I don’t see the point of changing the boards unless the cause is identified. How is the floor being cleaned? Is a lot of water being applied? Do you have a cleaning person helping you?

Last follow-ups: I use only Shaw hard surface cleaner which is what Shaw company told me to use when I contacted them soon after my floors were installed. Thank you again. Since I don’t really have any faith in my installer and it appears not to be his error? Where do I start to get to the bottom of the issue. Plumber, builder or who?

Thank you so much for your time. This has been very upsetting to me, and the installer has been so rude. He is so scared that it is his fault, that he would not help me get to the bottom of this. I definitely will do as you have suggested. In case I misunderstood the anything in the inspector’s report, I am including it in its entirety. After your response, I will begin my quest, and will definitely let you know what the final verdict is.

I appreciate your help very much.

A: Okay, this inspector is NWFA certified. He basically is concerned over the same issue I mentioned. High readings for moisture in certain areas which would require removal of some of the boards to expose the concrete and then test the concrete. My question is why it took this long for this issue to appear. Perhaps something has changed around the building? A drainage issue? I don’t know. The excessive moisture appears to be the immediate problem.

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