The National Wood Flooring Association considers gaps as wide as a dime to be normal

Q: We’re buying a gut-reno’d home in Boston. We did a walkthrough to talk about some changes yesterday and found that the heater is malfunctioning. In the finished attic, the temp was 100+ degrees, and on the second floor, it was 90 degrees. It has been at this level for ~3 days. There are a few spots where shrinkage has happened (along with some separation of the moulding in some spots).

Gaps to ~1/8 inch. Builder wants to wait a week and see if it all goes back to normal, but I’ve heard from a General Contractor friend that there may be permanent damage.

This is all complicated by the fact that the floor still needs it’s final coat of finish, so they can’t leave it for long (will need to be finished in about a month).

One more thing – The builder said ‘if the cracks don’t close, we can put in some putty’ but I’m saying no to putty as it’ll still be there in the summer when the boards expand again and we could then have problems from the expansion. Right to hold my ground there?

Currently, if boards go back to the way they were in 1 week, then I’m thinking we’re OK, if not, only solution to relay both floors (~1500 sq ft..)

A: If this shrinkage is only in a few places, perhaps they can replace the affected boards. This is a bit of a tricky issue because wood does react with environmental changes, as you know. Cold winters brings shrinkage usually because of the heating systems and lower RH in the home. Sooner or later you are very likely to get some gaps. The National Wood Flooring Association considers gaps as wide as a dime to be normal.

Follow-up: Interesting, so sounds like, if the boards expand back to previous status, then you’d say they’re OK, and if a few gaps, then replace just the effected boards? Sounds reasonable.. let’s see what happens.

I guess one more thing – you noted sooner or later, there will be gaps. These floors are brand new, and there were no gaps up until this week, so seems it’s all due to the excessive heat. I’m crossing my fingers they go back to normal!

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