Installers error or not

Q: I bought an older house and decided to have wood flooring installed in the sunken living room (on concrete slab). Before installing the flooring my contractor said there was a spot that was not level, he charged me $400.00 to level the spot before he would install the wood flooring (not laminate).

I paid him to level the spot and he installed all but the last two feet wide and twenty feet long section. Within the first week the floor buckled up over that spot. He came back and removed the flooring over the supposed leveled spot and said I must have a water leak. He now wants $500.00 more to replace the flooring over that spot, nothing about even finishing the job (the 2’x20′ section). From everything I’ve read in researching probable causes for this problem, it seems that he didn’t install properly. The spot was NOT leveled and there are uneven levels of concrete where he “leveled” the spot. When he removed the few planks of buckled flooring, the pieces left are cracking if you step on them, where the concrete is unleveled and there is nothing under to support it. I can find no signs of a water leak. What can I do to make the contractor fix and complete the job right? How do I prove it was installers error and not the supposed water leak?

A: You don’t tell me what type of flooring this is exactly. Is it 3/4 thick? I assume he is gluing this to the concrete. I am not a big fan of that approach myself, though it is likely possible with today’s adhesives. Did he check the concrete for moisture before he started? What kind of patch did he use to level the concrete? Does it require so many days to cure? What I am asking is: Did the floor fail in that area because moisture is still dissipating from the patch material itself? Is the floor failing anywhere else?

Examine the boards that were removed. How much adhesive is actually on the boards? It is possible that he did not use the proper notched trowel, hence did not get good transfer with the adhesive between the concrete and the wood floor.

It seems too much of a coincidence that the floor failed so quickly where he patched to blame it on a water leak. Is there any blackness, wetness on the underside of the boards? There has to be some sign that this is caused by water.

I think I do pretty well with my approach. It will never get me rich financially. I apply the “golden rule” to my business and give my best because that is the way I would like to be treated. Not perfect, but I always to my best. If something goes wrong, I would want to know the reason.

Perhaps what you need to do is find someone in your area who will do an independent inspection and provide an informed opinion as to what the problem is. Perhaps your home insurance company can provide you with a name of someone who does this.